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The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest's 3.35 million acres make it the largest national forest in Montana, covering parts of eight southwest Montana counties. Administrative offices representing seven ranger districts are located in Butte, Dillon, Philipsburg, Deer Lodge, Whitehall, Ennis, Sheridan, Wise River, and Wisdom.
The combined forests, individually proclaimed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, now encompass a dozen+ mountain ranges, the Anaconda-Pintler and Lee Metcalf Wilderness Areas, Georgetown Lake, the Discovery and Maverick Mountain ski areas, and the ghost towns of Elkhorn, Granite and Coolidge. Both the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and the Nez Perce Historic Trail traverse the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Two driving tours—Lemhi Pass and the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway—provide scenic auto access.
The Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest provides habitat for 246 birds, 85 mammals—including grizzly bears and wolves—and 15 reptiles and amphibians. Fifty campgrounds, 25 cabins, and hundreds of miles of hiking, horse, bicycle, snowmobile and cross-country ski trails for human access.
Enjoy almost 25 kilometers of cross country skiing groomed weekly by the Bitterroot Cross Country Ski Club, overlooking awesome views of the Bitterroots and the Montana/Idaho border. The trail system sits on the Continental Divide 40 miles south of Hamilton down Highway 93.
Out of the 25 kilometers of trail, eight kilometers are beginner level, 14.5 kilometers are more difficult, and 2.1 kilometers will really bring a burn to your legs. Chief Joseph features trails for both classic cross country and skate skiing. There’s even a cozy warming hut open from the first of December until mid-April.
Chief Joseph Pass shares some of Lost Trail Powder Mountain’s excellent snow, making it the earliest, latest, and most reliable snowfall every year. Gently rolling terrain allows for all ages and abilities. Just remember to sign in at the trailhead because the number of visitors determines the grants available for continued grooming efforts. Parking is plentiful.
You can check the weekly groom report here.
© 2015 Missoula News
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