Axolotl Lakes Recreation and Wilderness Study Area


Axolotl Lakes Recreation and Wilderness Study Area
Axolotl Lakes Recreation and Wilderness Study Area

The Axolotl Lakes are in an area of grasslands, meadows, forests and numerous small lakes southeast of Virginia City off of County Road 249 (the Varney Road). In addition to the excellent fishing, the area offers hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. There's a lot of wildlife out here, too, including grizzly bears: it's highly recommended that you store your food properly and carry bear spray.

The Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area is made up of a number of small lakes adjacent to the 40-acre recreation area. The property is on the northern edge of the Greenhorn Mountains at an elevation close to 6,900 feet. The area features lush meadows, rocky ledges, large outcrops, rolling foothills and has riparian and wetland areas interspersed throughout. Upper Twin Lake (part of the Axolotl Lakes Recreation Area) offers a fish hatchery where brood stock is raised for the reintroduction and recovery of Arctic grayling in Montana. Most of the lakes and potholes are unnamed and offer excellent fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout.

The higher points on the property offer excellent views of the Madison Range to the south.

County Road 249 travels between SR 287 and US 287 south of Ennis. Between Virginia City and Ennis on SR 287, turn south on CR 249 and go 7-8 miles. At Shining Mountains Loop Road, turn west and follow the signs to the Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area. Between Ennis and Cameron on US 287, turn west at the road to Varney Bridge Recreation Area (CR 249) and go across the Madison River. The road will go right (north), follow it until you meet the Shining Mountains Loop Road, then turn west and follow the signs to Axolotl.

In the area of the Axolotl Lakes Recreation Area there are some commonly used pull-outs but there are no developed parking areas. The county roads can be great in excellent weather but at any other time: Fair warning!

The nearest lodging, gas and supplies are in Virginia City, about 10 miles to the northwest. The nearest hospital is in Ennis, about 27 miles to the east.

A view in the Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area
Another view at Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area
Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area area map
Axolotl Lakes Recreation and Wilderness Study Areas area map
Photos courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management
Map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!