BOB MARSHALL WILDERNESS
“The Bob” is the fifth largest wilderness in the lower 48 and home to some of the wildest back country in the country. Almost 2,000 miles of trails, traveled only on foot or by stock carefully lace their way through spectacular rock formations, such as the Chinese wall, which averages 1,000 vertical feet and stretches out about 22 miles in length.
Established by the Wilderness Act of 1964, this is the wilderness by which all others are measured. Alpine lakes, waterfalls and dense old-growth forests punctuate the landscape between some of the most dramatic mountains, ridges and outcroppings anywhere in the country.
The Bob Marshall is also well known for its wildlife, particularly big game such as; moose, elk, mountain lion, wolverine, big horn sheep, black bear and grizzly bear – the US Forest Service believes that the grizzly population is higher here, than in any other place in the country outside of Alaska.
According to The Nature Conservancy, “The Centennial looks very much as it did more than a century ago.”
This broad east-west valley is home to extensive wetlands, in fact, it is the largest wetland in the entire Yellowstone Ecosystem. Two large lakes, the Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes dominate much of the valley. Situated just north of the 10,000 foot Centennial Mountain Range separating Montana from Idaho, a rough 51 mile seasonal dirt road winds its way between Henry’s Lake, Idaho and Lima, Montana and provides the best access to the valley.
Of the approximately 385,000 acres in the valley, only about 100,000 acres are privately held, and much of that land is protected by conservation easements. About 90% of this private land is controlled by 15 large ranches. Home to less than 100 people in the summer (far less in the winter) cattle far outnumber people in the valley.
The 45,000 acre Red Rock Lakes National Refuge was established in 1935 and is home to over 241 bird species. At a wide spot in the road is Lakeview, Montana, the headquarters of the refuge and a great spot to stop and get first-hand information on this remote and beautiful area.
ABSAROKA BEARTOOTH WILDERNESS
Located along the northern border of Yellowstone Park, the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness contains the highest peaks in Montana, among which is Granite Peak, at 12,799 feet and the highest point in Montana.
The wilderness is composed to two distinct mountain ranges – the Absaroka Range rises to the east of the Paradise Valley, south of Livingston, while the Beartooth Range is west and south of Red Lodge Montana. The Absaroka’s are primarily steep volcanic and metamorphic mountains with imposing ridges and deep valleys while the Beartooths are more like alpine plateaus laced with lakes.
Over 700 miles of trails are located in this wilderness along with hundreds of lakes providing some of the best alpine hiking and fishing anywhere in the entire world.