I will be the first to admit that any backpacking done in this household is not done by me. The hubby on the other hand (foot? feet?) loves to backpack. In our travels about the country in the fifthwheel he had the opportunity to head into the back country in many states. Me, I’m all about scenic drives like the Beartooth Highway. He has been good about taking me on scenic drives in Montana but he hasn’t had many opportunities to pursue one of his favorite hobbies – backpacking. I asked him for 5 places to backpack in Western Montana and he gave me his answer; 4 that he’d like to visit and one that he has.
Preparing for a Montana Backpacking Adventure
Before you head out for a backpacking adventure it is wise to learn what you need to take with you. This is not as stupid as it sounds. Every year there is at least one story on the news here of someone going out into the woods, getting lost and either being found a week later in poor shape or well, even worse with bad news for the family. Often times they are people who hike a lot in their state and think that it’s the same when they get here. The weather can turn on a dime in the mountains so you need to be prepared.
It’s advisable to find a good, local store to where they are knowledgeable about the area and can offer you advice and suggestions on what you need for where you are going to hike. The hubby loves The Trailhead in Missoula, MT. He goes there for a lot of his hiking needs. He is also a fan of REI. Both places have the equipment he needs and good customer service personnel with the knowledge of the places he wants to go.
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Backpacking Books Are a Great Resource
A good resource guide will also help you get ready for your backpacking trip. Backpacking 101 by Heather Balogh Rochfort is a great addition to your adventure library. It shows you how to buy the right gear, plan your trip and be ready for emergencies.
A Montana backpacking guide would also be very helpful for helping to plan your trip. This would allow you to research the trip, know what you will encounter and allow you to plan for how long it should take and what you need to pack.
5 Places to Backpack in Western Montana
There are so very many places to hike and backpack in this beautiful state – they can hardly be counted. I’m only including a teeny tiny percentage of the possibilities open to visitors to Montana.
- Glacier National Park – this is a pretty obvious choice and only available for part of the year as winter hits this National Park hard. That being noted it is an absolutely stunning part of the state and there are a multitude of trails for the backpacker to utilize.
- Bob Marshall Wilderness – The Bob as it is known is the fifth largest wilderness in the lower 48. It is roadless and extends 60 miles along the Continental Divide. It covers 1,009,356 acres. Since it is a designated Wilderness there are no mechanized vehicles allowed – not even bicycles. Sounds like a delightfully quiet place. Going into the Bob can offer deep forests, lakes and waterfalls as well as lots of wildlife such as bear, elk, moose and deer
- Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness – OK, this is a Montana/Wyoming thing but like Yellowstone Montana can stake her claim. (After planning a trip to the Beartooth Highway for several years the hubby and I finally were able to make the trip and it was a truly stunning drive.) This Wilderness area is 944,000 acres and contains two mountain ranges; you guessed it – the Absaroka and the Beartooth. (Fun fact – the Absarokas are mostly volcanic and the Beartooths are mostly granite.) There are 30 peaks over 12,000 feet and the Wilderness is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Just writing that hints at how beautiful the area is.
- Gallatin National Forest – also called the Custer Gallatin Forest, it like the Absaroka Beartooth is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It.Is.Beautiful.Down.There. A truly gorgeous part of Montana. The Forest includes 6 mountain ranges – the Absarokas, the Beartooths, the Crazy, the Bridgers, the Gallatins and the Madisons. (So I guess technically this is not a new one from the one above but it is so much bigger. Let’s just say I have a love affair with the area around Yellowstone and leave it at that. So does the hubby.) The Lee Metcalf Wilderness is within this Forest. It’s pretty huge at 1,819,515 acres so that gives so many opportunities for glorious backpacking with sights like that beautiful waterfall above.
- State Line Trail – As the name tells you this trail is on the line between Montana and Idaho. The hubby has hiked/backpacked pieces of this 18.3 mile trail. It is in the Lolo National Forest. As one walks along the trail many alpine lakes are sighted, some named, others not.
There are often sightings of mountain goats as well. This trip is not as well known as others in the state but it is a stunning trip for anyone wanting to walk the line between the two states.
Are You Ready to Backpack in Western Montana?
Have all of these beautiful photos and descriptions enticed you? Are you ready to back your bags and head to Montana for an exciting backpacking trip? If not Montana you can also look to a book like National Geographic’s 100 Hikes of a Lifetime for a backpacking adventure.