Rattlesnake National Recreation Area & Wilderness


Established by Congress in 1980, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness is located on the Missoula Ranger District, northwest of Missoula and southwest of Seeley Lake, Montana. This area is an iconic recreation destination for those visiting Missoula.

The National Recreation Area

The National Recreation Area (NRA) lies south and adjacent to the wilderness and receives heavy recreation use, particularly in the South Zone, within about three miles of the main trailhead. It is a popular area for hiking, biking, trail running and horseback riding.

The Rattlesnake Wilderness

The Rattlesnake Mountains, located four miles north of Missoula, Montana, and adjacent to the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, form a rugged and scenic vista for the Missoula Valley. This Wilderness is characterized by scenic lakes, forested ridges, open cliff-banded slopes, and mountain peaks. Elevations in the Wilderness range from 4,200 feet at the southern boundary to 8,620 feet at McLeod Peak.

Visit Wilderness Connect for more information about the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area.

Photo of rounded hillsides in the low-angled sunlight. Area in the foreground is in shadow. Photo of an alpine lake. Trees and craggy mountain in the background. Photo of steep peaks and snow. Photo of a lake nestled in the mountains. Snow at the shoreline in this photo. Photo of a lake nestled among craggy, alpine mountains.

At a Glance

Restrictions: Please view our Rattlesnake (RNRAW) Restriction information.
Closest Towns: Missoula, Montana
Water: No drinking water available
Restroom: Accessible restrooms are available at the Rattlesnake main trailhead and horse trailhead. All other
Information Center: Missoula Ranger District, 406-329-3814

General Information

Directions: From Interstate 90 in Missoula, take the Van Buren Street exit #105 and head north. Van Buren Street will turn into Rattlesnake Drive. Stay on Rattlesnake Drive for approximately 3 miles until you reach the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area entrance.
General Notes: You can purchase a copy of the "Rattlesnake Wilderness and National Recreation Area" in our Maps and Publications section.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Mountain Biking

Recreation areas with activity Mountain Biking:

Lake and Pond Fishing

Recreation areas with activity Lake and Pond Fishing: There are many alpine lakes located in the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Fishing is regulated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. You will need to obtain a copy of the current regulations and a state license. Fishing in Rattlesnake Creek is only permitted above Beeskove Creek at milepost 6 up the main Rattlesnake corridor. Little, Worden, McKinley, and Carter lakes are popular spots to fish.
Fish Species westslope cutthroat trout, and westslope cutthroat trout hybrids

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking: Proximity to the city of Missoula offers locals a quick getaway to recreate in the national forest. This is a very popular recreation area with many trails to choose from. Difficulty and duration of your hike will vary based on your choice of trail.
Elevation desc 3600 feet to 8620 feet
Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Backpacking

Recreation areas with activity Backpacking: Many hiking trails of varying length and difficulty are available in the area. See map and/or individual trail information on this web site for details.
Elevation desc 3600 feet to 8620 feet

Horse Riding

Recreation areas with activity Horse Riding:

Big Game Hunting

Recreation areas with activity Big Game Hunting: Hunting is regulated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Hunters need to obtain a copy of the current regulations and a state license. Rifle hunting is allowed outside of the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area South Zone. Bow hunting is permitted within the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area South Zone. Hunting is prohibited within 150 yards of an occupied area or developed recreation site. Discharging a firearm, air rifle or gas gun, including an air or gas-powered paintball gun, is prohibited in the South Zone.
Species white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Recreation areas with activity XC Skiing/Snowshoeing: Proximity to the city of Missoula offers locals a quick getaway to recreate in the national forest. There are many trails to choose from, and the difficulty and duration of your ski/snowshoe trip will vary based on your choice of trail. Consult the area map for details.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Click here to read current alerts and closures
  • Click here to learn about staying safe and following the rules of bear country.
  • Click here to find a map to take on your adventures.
  • Click here to find out more about obtaining permits or passes for certain activities on the forest.
  • Click here to find avalanche infornation

Location

 
  Latitude : 
46.966419

  Longitude : 
-113.871773