Montana’s Wilderness Areas

Montana's Wilderness AreasThere are 16 federal wilderness areas in Montana. These unspoiled places are part of what make Montana special. They exist because people had the courage to fight for their protection.

The following Montana Wilderness Areas are ranked by size from largest to smallest.

Bob Marshall Wilderness

Location: West of Great Falls
Size: 1,063,503 acres
Description: The most ecologically complete mountain wilderness in the country, with rugged peaks, big river valleys, lakes, large meadows and extensive coniferous forests.

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

Location: Between Billings and Yellowstone National Park.
Size: 920,343 acres
Description: Consisting of two major ranges. The Beartooths are on the east side and are rugged and glaciated, with huge alpine plateaus and 29 peaks above 12,000 feet. The Absarokas to the west consist of steep ridges, grassy meadows and heavily forested canyons.

Great Bear Wilderness

Location: South of Glacier National Park
Size: 286,700 acres
Description: Knife-edge ridges along the Continental Divide, heavily forested mountainsides, gently sloping meadows and open river bottoms.

Scapegoat Wilderness

Location: South of Great Falls
Size: 259,966 acres
Description: Thousand-foot limestone cliffs stretching for miles and scattered subalpine forests of spruce, white bark pine, and fir that open onto grassy parks and gently sloping meadows.

Lee Metcalf Wilderness

Location: Southwest of Bozeman
Size: 254,288 acres
Description: Spectacular alpine peaks, high sparkling lakes, U-shaped valleys, meadows and deep canyons.

Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

Location: West of Hamilton
Size: 251,443 acres
Description: Treeless and austere granite peaks towering above gentle ridges, hanging valleys and heavily forested valleys with surprising pockets of bogs and marshes.

Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness

Location: Southwest of Butte
Size: 158,615 acres
Description: Old-growth forest, windswept ridges, alpine meadows and rugged alpine peaks along the Continental Divide. Cirques with alpine lakes and glacial moraines make for spectacular scenery.

Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

Location: Southwest of Libby
Size: 94,272 acres
Description: Receiving more than 100 inches of precipitation annually, the Cabinets consist of snowcapped peaks, glacial lakes and valleys cut by streams and waterfalls.

Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness

Location: Southeast of Polson
Size: 89,500 acres
Description: Established in 1982 by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, this wilderness area has an abundance of water from perpetual snowfields that feed one of the densest concentrations of alpine lakes in the northern Rockies.

Mission Mountains Wilderness

Location: North of Missoula
Size: 73,877 acres
Description: This wilderness area encompasses the east side of the Missions with elevations ranging from 3,500 to 9,820 feet, and features hidden basins, hanging valleys and 350 lakes.

Rattlesnake Wilderness

Location: North of Missoula
Size: 32,976 acres
Description: Winding ridges with steep east-facing cirques, lake-filled basins in sloping forests and secluded hanging valleys with waterfalls and steep-gradient streams.

Red Rock Lakes Wilderness

Location: Centennial Valley within the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Size: 32,350 acres
Description: This remote basin holds an amazing, interconnected system of lakes, streams, and marshes all managed for wildlife, especially the 215 bird species observed there.

Welcome Creek Wilderness

Location: Southeast of Missoula • Size: 28,135 acres
Description: Steep, rough breaks covered with old-growth forest and topped by exposed ridges. Deep canyons sweep down to one of Montana’s premier blue-ribbon trout streams, Rock Creek.

UL Bend Wilderness

Location: South of Malta within the CMR National Wildlife Refuge
Size: 20,819 acres.
Description: Isolated within the Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge, this broad bend on the Missouri River consists of dramatic breaks, short-grass prairie, and some of the most productive big game habitat in North America.

Medicine Lake Wilderness

Location: South of Plentywood within Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Size: 11,366 acres
Description: Preserving a portion of northeastern Montana’s marsh–filled prairie, this wilderness area consists of rolling dunes, a shallow lake and sand hills within a national wildlife refuge.