Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness
The Kitchen Sink Rapids on the Madison River in Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness
Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness is a 6,347-acre parcel of BLM-administered land that is one of the 4 units of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, northwest of Yellowstone National Park. Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness surrounds a 9-mile run of the Madison River through some incredible 1,500-foot cliffs. Rafting the river is one of the premier whitewater adventures available in North America, especially the run through the Class IV-V "Kitchen Sink" area.
For hikers and fishermen, there's the Bear Trap Canyon National Recreation Trail that winds along the lower reaches of Bear Trap Canyon beside the river for about 9 miles. The trail head is at the north end of the canyon, where there is also a parking area and toilet. Because of riverside cliffs encountered along the way, there is no through-hiking. To get there, go to the Red Mountain Campground on Montana SR 84 and turn south, follow the Bear Trap Road upstream to the trail head.
Rafters and floaters will start just downstream of the powerhouse below Madison Dam. To get there, go to McAllister on US Highway 287 and turn east on the Ennis Lake Road, follow that to the Wilderness Boat Launch. There is a boat launch, picnic area, parking area, toilet and interpretive site there. There is a developed take-out area at Warm Springs on Montana SR 84, about 20 miles northeast of Ennis.
Registration is requested at the boat launch site and trail head but permits are not required for non-commercial recreational use of the area. Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness is open year-round, but if you're intent on running the river you might want to check river levels and water temperature first: once you commit to running the canyon, you commit to completing the run.
Looking down the Madison River into Bear Trap Canyon
The boat launch area on the Madison River, just below the dam
Floating on the Madison River, upper end of Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness
Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness area map
Map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!