Helena National Forest

Helena National Forest
The Big Belt Mountains - Helena National Forest

Containing some 976,000 acres, the Helena National Forest is broken into several sections. On the eastern side is the Big Belt Mountains and the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness. On the west is the continental divide and part of the Scapegoat Wilderness. To the south are the Elkhorn Mountains.

Typical of a western National Forest, the Helena lowlands are covered with a mix of native grasses and sagebrush with islands of Douglas fir, larch and spruce interspersed. Nowhere do the mountains here exceed 10,000'. In the Scapegoat Wilderness you'll find a sizeable population of grizzly bear while most of the forest sees black bear, moose, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goat.

The forest contains more than 1,000 miles of designated trails with several lakes and numerous trout streams. Many of the trails become cross-country ski trails and snowmobile trails in winter. For almost 80 miles, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail crosses the Helena National Forest as it journeys southward from Scapegoat Wilderness to Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. As for campgrounds, more than a dozen are developed on the Forest.

Historically speaking, there are sites here ranging from prehistoric Indian cliff paintings to historic mining ruins.

The famous Mann Gulch fire occurred here in 1949, claiming the lives of 13 firefighters.
Upper photo of Helena National Forest courtesy of the National Forest Service.
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