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



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Horse Riding & Camping

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Winter Sports

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Areas & Activities


  • 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


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