Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex


The North Fork of the Blackfoot River flows between and over rocks with a mountain in the background

Together, the Great Bear Wilderness, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the Scapegoat Wilderness form the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, an area of more than 1.5 million acres. This is the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states. They are managed by three national forests - Flathead, Helena-Lewis and Clark, and Lolo, and five ranger districts - Spotted Bear, Hungry Horse, Lincoln, Rocky Mountain, and Seeley Lake.

Seeley Lake trailheads on the Lolo National Forest offer access to much of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex for hiking, backpacking, and horse packing. Motorized and mechanized uses are prohibited in wilderness. Visit the BMWC Page for regulations including food storage requirements, and to access information on trail conditions. The BMWC is grizzly bear country!

The Lolo National Forest manages a large portion of the Scapegoat Wilderness within the Complex. To read more about the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wildernesses, visit the BMWC Page. Continue reading below to learn more about the Scapegoat Wilderness.

Scapegoat Wilderness

The United States Congress designated the Scapegoat Wilderness in 1972 and it now has a total of 239,936 acres. The entire wilderness is in Montana and is managed by the Rocky Mountain and Lincoln Ranger Districts (Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forests) and Seeley Lake Ranger District (Lolo National Forest). The Lolo National Forest manages nearly 76,000 acres, and the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest manages the other 184,000 acres.

The Scapegoat Wilderness was designated through a community effort and earned a place in history as the first citizen-initiated wilderness area in the nation. In the 1960s, community members joined together to advocate for the protection of the Lincoln Back Country, a 75,000-acre stretch of undeveloped Helena National Forest-administered lands. Eventually, the proposed designation was expanded to nearly 240,000 acres to capture the Scapegoat Mountain region. During legislative hearings regarding the designation, Tom Edwards, a member of the Lincoln Back Country Association, passionately shared: “Into this land of spiritual strength, I have been privileged to guide on horseback literally thousands of people … I have harvested a self-sustaining natural resource of the forest of vast importance. No one word will suffice to explain this resource but let us call it the ‘hush’ of the land. This hush is infinitely more valuable to me than money or my business.” Finally, on August 20, 1972, Congress passed Public Law 92-395 and Scapegoat joined the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The long northwest border of Scapegoat Wilderness is shared with Bob Marshall Wilderness and the massive limestone cliffs that dominate 9,204-foot Scapegoat Mountain are an extension of the "Bob's" Chinese Wall. Scapegoat's rugged ridge tops slope down onto alpine meadows, heavily forested hillsides, and timbered river bottoms. Fish are plentiful in the 14 lakes and 89 miles of streams. Elevations range from about 5,000 feet on the Blackfoot River to about 9,400 feet on Red Mountain. Wildlife includes wolverines, moose, deer, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bears, and numerous grizzly bears.

Click each thumbnail photo below to enlarge the photo. Photos 1, 2, and 4 showcase the scenic beauty of the Scapegoat Wilderness with the North Fork of the Blackfoot River running through the forested, mountainous landscape. Photo 3 is Smokes Cabin Bridge. The Smokes Cabin bridge crosses the North Fork of the Blackfoot River via Hobnail Tom Trail #32 at milepost 3.1.

A scenic view of mountains, trees, and river within the Scapegoat Wilderness The North Fork of the Blackfoot River flows between and over rocks with a mountain in the background A bridge near Smokes Cabin crosses the river in Scapegoat WIlderness A hiker along the Blackfoot River in the Scapegoat Wilderness

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Trail Conditions. Trail conditions can change quickly, and areas may be closed during emergencies such as wildfire. Please contact the Ranger District for the area you will be visiting before you travel into the back country.
Restrictions: Please see our Seeley Lake Area restrictions for important information about food storage to protect you and bears from unwanted encounters.
Closest Towns: Seeley Lake, Montana
Water: No drinking water available
Restroom: None
Information Center: Seeley Lake Ranger District, 406-677-2233

General Information

Directions: From the junction of Montana highways 83 and 20 (also known as ""Clearwater Junction"") travel east on Montana highway 200 for 19.5 miles. Turn north on North Fork Blackfoot Road #5550 and follow the signs 10.5 miles on a gravel road to the trailhead.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

River and Stream Fishing

The Scapegoat Wilderness offers many fishing opportunities. Please refer to a map of the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat Wilderness to find a destination right for you.

Backpacking

The Scapegoat Wilderness offers many backpacking opportunities. Please refer to a map of the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat Wilderness to find a destination right for you.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Horse Riding

The Scapegoat Wilderness offers many horse riding opportunities. Please refer to a map of the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat Wilderness to find a destination right for you.

Big Game Hunting

The Scapegoat Wilderness offers many hunting opportunities. Please refer to a map of the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat Wilderness to find a destination right for you. And remember that hunting is regulated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. You will need to obtain a copy of the current regulations and a state license.

Small Game Hunting

The Scapegoat Wilderness offers many hunting opportunities. Please refer to a map of the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat Wilderness to find a destination right for you. And remember that hunting is regulated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. You will need to obtain a copy of the current regulations and a state license.

Related Information

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 : 
47.244335

  Longitude : 
-112.911438