Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest


A view in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Down a trail in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

At 3.32 million acres, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the largest National Forest in Montana. There are Forest Service offices in Butte, Philipsburg, Dillon, Whitehall, Boulder, Ennis, Deer Lodge, Wise River, Sheridan, and Wisdom. The Lee Metcalf and Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Areas are located here. In season, there is excellent downhill skiing available near Anaconda at Discovery and near Dillon at Maverick Mountain. There are quite a few cross-country ski trails available, too, in season.

The Beaverhead and Deerlodge National Forests were designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. They were administratively merged in 1996. In the original declaration, the Deerlodge was then called the Big Hole Forest Reserve. Roosevelt primarily set the land aside to stop the Anaconda Copper Mining Company from clear-cutting the entire upper Big Hole River watershed. Between the smoke pollution from Anaconda's smelter and the horrific erosion resulting from Anaconda's logging operations, that whole area of Montana was quickly being destroyed.

Lewis & Clark crossed this region of mountains and forest in 1805 and worked their way to the top of Lemhi Pass (7,323'). From there they caught their first glimpse of the Columbia River watershed. In crossing that pass they crossed what was then the western boundary of the United States. In descending the other side, though, they came to the Salmon River in some nasty, torturous countryside and quickly realized this was not the way west for them.

About 2/3 of the forest lands are actually treed, with Ponderosa pine, juniper, and several species of spruce and fir predominant. The rangeland areas that make up 1/3 of the forest are a mix of native grasses, sagebrush and various cold-tolerant cactus. Elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, black bear and pronghorns are found almost everywhere but the lynx, grizzly bear, gray wolf, bald eagle and Arctic grayling are a bit more reclusive.

A view of Comet and Saddleback Mountains from high in the mountains
Comet and Saddleback Mountains

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and the Nez Perce Historic Trail both pass through the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Elkhorn, Coolidge and Granite, three ghost towns from Montana's boom and bust mining history also still stand in the woods out here. The Forest offers a lot of great scenery, many good fishing lakes and 50-some small-to-medium size campgrounds. There's also more than 1,500 miles of trails in the woods, many of them reaching the summits of the highest mountains in the area, just above 11,000'.

A view of Torey Mountain
Torey Mountain
Looking down on South Meadow Lake
South Meadow Lake
Looking eastward into Montana from the summit of Lemhi Pass
The Montana side of Lemhi Pass
 
Photos courtesy of the US Forest Service
 

Campgrounds

Dillon Area

Campgrounds Elevation Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
Dinner Station Campground & Picnic Area 7,200' Mid May - Mid Sept 8 16' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water available 12 miles north of Dillon on Interstate 15, take Apex exit, travel 11.5 miles west on Birch Creek Road.
East Creek Campground 7,000' Mid May - Sept 4 16' Toilets available 48 miles south of Dillon on Interstate 15 to Lima, then drive north .8 miles on Frontage Road, drive west 7 miles on Forest Road 179, drive south .5 miles on Forest Road 3929, drive southeast 1.5 miles on Forest Road 3930.
Grasshopper Campground & Picnic Area 6,900' June - Mid Sept 24 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 3 miles south of Dillon on Interstate 15, take Highway 278 exit, drive west on Highway 278 for 22 miles, take Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway Road 73 north for 13 miles.
Price Creek Campground - June - Sept 28 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water available 3 miles south of Dillon on Interstate 15, take Highway 278 exit, drive west on Highway 278 for 22 miles, take Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway Road 73 north for 16 miles. Take Forest Road 2406 for .25 miles.
Reservoir Lake Campground & Picnic Area 7,000' June - Mid Sept 16 16' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearby 19 miles south of Dillon on Interstate 15, take Highway 324 west 17 miles, take Forest Road 181 for 18 miles.
 

Wise River Area

Campgrounds Elevation Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
Boulder Creek Campground & Picnic Area 6,400' Mid June - Sept 13 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 13 miles south of Wise River on Road 73, the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway.
Canyon Creek Campground & Picnic Area 7,300' Mid June - Mid Sept 3 18' Picnic sites availableToilets availableFishing available nearby Go 13 miles west from Melrose on Forest Road 187, then southeast 4.5 miles on Forest Road 7401.
Fourth of July Campground & Picnic Area 6,400' Mid June - Sept 5 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableTrash pickup 12 miles south of Wise River on Road 73, the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway.
Little Joe Campground & Picnic Area 6,800' Mid June - Sept 5 28' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 21 miles south of Wise River on the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, Road 73.
Lodgepole Campground & Picnic Area 6,400' Mid June - Sept 10 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 13 miles south of Wise River on the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, Road 73.
Mono Creek Campground & Picnic Area 7,000' Mid June - Sept 5 18' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 22 miles south of Wise River on Road 73, the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, take Forest Road 2465 southeast 1 mile.
Pettengill Campground 6,250' Mid June - Sept 3 24' Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup On Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, Road 73, 10 miles south of Wise River.
Pintler Campground & Picnic Area 6,300' Mid June - Mid Sept 2 18' Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 30 miles west of Wise River on Highway 43, turn onto Forest Road 185 and go north 12 more miles.
Seymour Creek Campground & Picnic Area 6,700' Mid June - Sept 17 18' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 11 miles west of Wise River on Highway 43, turn and go north on Forest Road 274 for 4 miles, then go northwest on Forest Road 934 for 8 miles.
Willow Campground 6,600' Mid June - Sept 5 26 feet Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup On Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway Road 7314 miles south of Wise River.
 

Wisdom Area

Campgrounds Elevation Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
May Creek Campground 6,300' Early July - Labor day 21 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby On Highway 43 17 miles west of Wisdom.
Miner Lake Campground 7,000' Early July - Labor day 18 20' Toilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearby .5 miles south of Jackson on Highway 278, go west on County Road 182 for 6.75 miles, then go west another 3.25 miles on Forest Road 182.
Mussigbrod Campground 6,500' Early July - Labor Day 10 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearby 1 mile west of Wisdom on Highway 43, turn and follow Lower North Fork Road north for 7.5 miles, then take Forest Road 573 for 10 miles.
North Van Houten Campground 6,700' Memorial Day - Labor Day 3 20' Picnic sites availableToilets availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearby 1.5 miles south of Jackson on Highway 278, turn and take Forest Road 181 for 10.5 miles.
South Van Houten Campground 6,700' Memorial Day - Labor Day 3 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 1.5 miles south of Jackson on Highway 278, turn and take Forest Road 181 for 10.5 miles.
Steel Creek Campground & Picnic Area 6,200' Early July - Labor Day 9 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby .25 miles north of Wisdom. Then follow Steel Creek Road for 9 miles.
Twin Lakes Campground & Picnic Area 7,200' Early July - Labor Day 21 25' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearby Go 7 miles south of Wisdom on Highway 278. Turn onto Briston Lane Road and go 7 miles. Then take Forest Road 945 for 5 miles and then take Forest Road 183 for another 5 miles.
 

Ennis/Sheridan Area

Campgrounds Elevation Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
Balanced Rock Campground & Picnic Area 7,320' Memorial Day - Late Sept 5 32' Picnic sites availableToilets availableFishing available nearby 10 miles east of Sheridan on the Mill Creek Road. Road not recommended for trailers.
Bear Creek Campground & Picnic Area 6,350' Early June - Late Nov 12 28' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water available 10 miles south of Ennis on Highway 287, turn onto Bear Creek Road and go east 10 miles.
Branham Lakes Campground & Picnic Area 8,800' Early July - Late Sept 6 - Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearby On Mill Creek Road, 13 miles east of Sheridan. Road not recommended for trailers.
Cliff Point Campground 6,400' Late May - Mid Sept 6 16' Toilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup On Highway 287, 37 miles south of Ennis take Forest Road 241 west for 5 miles.
Clover Meadows Campground & Picnic Area 8,430' Early July - Late Sept 1 - Drinking water available 1.5 miles southwest of Ennis on Highway 287. Take Varney Road south 10 mile. Then take Call Road 292 southwest for 12 miles, then take the Gravelly Range Road south for another 8 miles.
Cottonwood Campground 6,360' Late May - Late Nov 10 28' Picnic sites availableToilets available Go 8 miles south of Sheridan on Highway 287. At Alder, take Ruby Reservoir Road south for 36 miles.
Eagles Nest Fishing Access 6,000' Late May - Mid Oct - - Picnic sites availableToilets availableFishing available nearby On Highway 287, 34 miles south of Ennis.
Elk Lake Campground & Picnic Area 6,400' Mid May - Mid Oct 2 - Toilets availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearby On Red Rock Lake National Wildlife Refuge Road 50 miles east of Monida (23 miles west of Henry's Lake, Idaho via Red Rock Pass.)
Hilltop Campground 6,800' Late May - Mid Sept 18 22' Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 37 miles south of Ennis on Highway 287, turn and take Forest Road 241 west for 5 miles.
Madison Campground 6,000' Late May - Mid Oct 10 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup On Highway 287, 34 miles south of Ennis.
Mill Creek Campground 6,480' Late May - Late Sept 10 22' Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby On the Mill Creek Road, 7 miles east of Sheridan.
Potosi Campground & Picnic Area 6,200' Late May - Mid Sept 15 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 7 miles west of Harrison on Pony Road, at Pony turn onto South Willow Creek Road and go south for 10 miles.
Riverview Campground 6,000' Late May - Mid Oct 24 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup On Highway 287, 34 miles south of Ennis.
West Fork Madison Campground 6,000' Late May - Mid Sept 7 - Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 34 miles south of Ennis on 287 (9 miles west of the Madison River Canyon Earthquake slide.)
Wade Lake Campground & Picnic Area 6,400' Early June - Labor Day 30 30' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 37 miles south of Ennis on Highway 287, then go west on Forest Road 241 for 5 miles.
 

Butte Area

Campgrounds Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
Beaver Dam Campground & Picnic Area Memorial Day - Labor Day 15 50' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 17 miles south of Butte off Interstate 15. Take Feeley exit, go west 6 miles on Divide Creek Road.
Ladysmith Campground Late June - Mid Sept 6 - - -
Lowland Campground & Picnic Area Late June - Mid Sept 11 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableTrash pickup Off Interstate 15, 8 miles north of Butte. Take Elk Park exit, drive west 6 miles on Forest Road 442, turn left on Forest Road 9485 for 1.5 miles. Call Butte Ranger District to reserve the area.
Mormon Creek Campground & Picnic Area Late June - Mid Sept 16 16' Toilets available Off Interstate 15, 20 miles north of Butte. Get off on the Bernice exit, drive west 2 miles on Forest Road 82.
Sheepshead Recreation Area Mid June - Labor Day - - Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 8 miles north of Butte off Interstate 15. Take the Bernice exit and drive 8 miles on Forest Road 442. Call Butte Ranger District to reserve the area.
Whitehouse Campground & Picnic Area Late June - Early Dec 5 22' Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup Off Interstate 15, 20 miles north of Butte. Take the Bernice exit and then go west 13 miles on Forest Road 82. Call Jefferson Ranger District to reserve the area.
 

Deer Lodge/Anaconda Area

Campgrounds Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
Orofino Campground & Picnic Area Late June - Mid Sept 10 22' Toilets availableDrinking water available On Forest Road 82, 13 miles southeast of Deer Lodge. Call Pintler Ranger District (Deer Lodge Office) to reserve the Pavilion.
Racetrack Campground & Picnic Area Late June - Mid Sept 13 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 11 miles south of Deer Lodge off Interstate 90. Take Racetrack exit and drive west 1 mile, then south .75 miles, then west on Forest Road 169.
Spring Hill Campground & Picnic Area Late June - Mid Sept 15 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableTrash pickup Go 11 miles west of Anaconda on Montana Highway 1.
Warm Springs Campground & Picnic Area Late June - Mid Sept 6 16' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby Off Montana Highway 1, 10.5 miles west of Anaconda. Turn and take Forest Road 170 another 2.5 miles.
 

Philipsburg/Georgetown Lake Area

Campgrounds Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
Badger Bay Fishing Access Mid May - Late Sept - - Fishing available nearby 12.5 miles south of Philipsburg at Georgetown Lake off Montana Highway 1 on the Lakeshore Road.
Cable Mountain Campground Late June - Mid Sept 11 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup 15.7 miles south of Philipsburg off the Discovery Basin Road, Forest Road 65. Adjacent to the North Fork of Flint Creek.
Comer's Point Fishing Access Early May - Late Sept - - Picnic sites availableToilets availableFishing available nearby 13 miles south of Philipsburg atGeorgetown Lake on the Georgetown Lake Road.
Copper Creek Campground Mid May - Late Sept 7 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water available =Fishing available nearby Off the Middle Fork Road (Forest Road 5106), 25.5 miles southwest of Philipsburg.
Crystal Creek Campground Mid June - Late Sept 3 16' Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby On the Skalkaho Highway (Montana Highway 38), 31 miles southwest of Philipsburg. Close to Mud Lake.
East Fork Campground & Picnic Area Mid June - Late Sept 7 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 17.5 miles southwest of Philipsburg off the East Fork Road (Forest Road 672.) Call Philipsburg Ranger District office to reserve the area.
Flint Creek Campground Early May - Late Sept 16 22' Picnic sites availableToilets availableFishing available nearby Off Montana Highway 1, 8 miles south of Philipsburg.
Lodgepole Campground Late May - Late Sept 31 32' Toilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup On Montana Highway 1, 10.75 miles south of Philipsburg at Georgetown Lake.
Philipsburg Bay Campground Mid May - Late Sept 69 32' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup Off the Georgetown Lake Road, 11 miles south of Philipsburg at Georgetown Lake.
Piney Campground & Picnic Area Mid May - Mid Sept 48 32' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup At Georgetown Lake, 13 miles south of Philipsburg off Montana Highway 1 on the Georgetown Lake Road.
Red Bridge Fishing Access Early May - Late Sept - - Toilets availableFishing available nearby Off Montana Highway 1, 10 miles south of Philipsburg.
Spillway Campground Late May - Late Sept 13 22' Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby 18 miles southwest of Philipsburg off the East Fork Road (Forest Road 672.)
Stony Campground Mid May - Late Sept 10 32' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby Off the Rock Creek Road (Forest Road 102), 19 miles west of Philipsburg.
Sunnyside Fishing Access Mid May - Late Sept - - Fishing available nearby Off Montana Highway 1 on the Lakeshore Road, 13 miles south of Philipsburg at Georgetown Lake.
 

Whitehall/Boulder Area

Campgrounds Season # of Sites Max Length Amenities Directions
Basin Canyon Campground & Picnic Area Memorial Day - Mid Sept 2 16' Toilets available Off Interstate 15 5 miles north of Basin. Take Forest Road 1723 for 3 miles.
Delmoe Lake Campground & Picnic Area Memorial Day - Mid Sept 25 32' Picnic sites availableToilets availableDrinking water availableBoat launch availableFishing available nearbyTrash pickup Off Interstate 90 17 miles northeast of Butte. Take the Homestake exit, then follow Forest Road 222 for another 10 miles.
Pigeon Creek Campground Memorial Day - Mid Sept 6 - Toilets availableDrinking water availableFishing available nearby Go 15 miles west of Whitehall off Montana Highway 2, then take Forest Road 668 for another 5 miles. Road is not suitable for trailer traffic.
Toll Mountain Campground & Picnic Area First of May - Mid Sept 5 22' Picnic sites availableToilets available Go 15 miles west of Whitehall off Montana Highway 2, then take Forest Road 240 for another 3 miles.