Three Great Montana Backpacking Destinations — An Overview

Montana may be known as “Big Sky Country”, but the scale of its primary landforms — sprawling prairies and towering mountains — is equally big. So are a number of its protected Wilderness areas and national parks, at least by 21st century standards. And many of her native populations of wildlife are also big and healthy. Yet, ironically, most folks don’t realize that the wildest regions of Montana are actually along its shared borders with Wyoming, Idaho and Canada. Let me explain.

A large-scale map of the northern U.S. Rockies displays three very distinct regions where both protected Wilderness and unprotected roadless areas dominate the landscape. First, along the Canadian border is the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, the vast Bob Marshall Wilderness complex just south of Glacier Park, plus the Mission and Rattlesnake Mountains just north of Missoula. The NCDE also includes a few hundred thousand acres of roadless national forest lands that could someday be designated Wilderness. Same goes for Glacier Park’s million acres of semi-protected backcountry; like Yellowstone and the Tetons, the park back-country has not yet been designated Wilderness. Big Wild Adventures runs guided backpacking trips in the vast and iconic Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The second distinctive wilderness region is the rugged Greater Salmon-Selway Ecosystem of extreme western Montana and central Idaho. Here is a large complex of unprotected national forest road-less lands that surround the protected River of No Return, Selway-Bitterroot and Sawtooth Wilderness areas. Most of this wildland region is in Idaho, but the beautiful Bitterroot Range, which occupies the eastern half of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is a particularly striking and wild chunk of this domain. It sits astride the Montana/Idaho border. Accessing it from the Montana side, Big Wild Adventures runs an annual Selway-Bitterroot trek each July, and if you like big trees, sparkling lakes (with good fishing) and towering granite walls in a big and wild setting, this trip is for you!

Finally, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, our homeland, includes a vast complex of protected Wilderness and unprotected public land, roadless areas, in and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The GYE may be the most ecologically healthy remaining temperate zone wild-land complex on Earth! Most of the GYE is in Wyoming, with a small portion in Idaho and a respectable chunk here in Big Sky Country. Big Wild Adventures runs trip throughout Yellowstone, plus in the Wind River Range, Wyoming Absarokas, the Gros Ventre Wilderness and the sky scraping peaks of the Beartooths, in southern Montana. For more on our specific Montana trips within our bio-region, stay tuned…..

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