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Chinese Wall in Montana

Tucked into the Bob Marshall Wilderness is the Chinese Wall. Yes, there’s a Chinese wall in Montana, but it’s probably not what you think.

This Chinese Wall in Montana is a massive rock escarpment that rises over 1,000 feet above the valley and offers some of the most unique and spectacular views.

What is the Chinese Wall in Montana?

The Chinese Wall is one of the few geological features in Montana that has plenty of folklore and awe-inspiring views.

While not a man-made wall, this massive geological structure is as impressive, if not more than the man-made version on the other side of the globe.

A massive rock escarpment, the Chinese Wall crosses through the Bob Marshall Wilderness. It is a defining feature within the area and is home to some of the most unique and stunning peaks in Montana.

The Wall itself runs 12-miles through the wilderness area and marks the Continental Divide within this part of Montana.

Composed of limestone, this massive structure stands out from the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Visitors to the Bob Marshall Wilderness area may even get the feeling that the Wall is holding back the Mountains.

While today it looks like a massive wall of rock, many are surprised to learn that this feature is an uplifted reef from a prehistoric ocean. 

bob marshall wilderness
Image: United States Forest Service

Where is the Chinese Wall in Montana?

Located within the Flathead National Forest, and within the borders of the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, you’ll find the soaring cliffs of the Chinese Wall. Within the wilderness, there are few landmarks that are as impressive and breathtaking.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness is 1.5-million acres of protected lands that are popular with outdoor enthusiasts that are looking for a more remote place to experience the gifts of nature. 

The Chinese Wall runs through the heart of the Wilderness area and offers plenty of recreational opportunities. Along the Chinese Wall, you’ll find lush meadows, mountain lakes, and plenty of views that are made for postcards.

If you’re visiting the area and want to spend some time in Bob Marshall Wilderness, hiking the trails that surround the Chinese Wall, you’ll want to call the Flathead Valley your basecamp.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Chinese Wall separate the Flathead Valley from the plains of central Montana

Geology of the Chinese Wall in Montana 

You’ll find very few geological features in Montana that are as distinctive as the Chinese Wall.

This massive limestone spine pushes up along the Continental Divide, separating the east and western halves of the United States.

The rock curtain appears to hold back the Rocky Mountains when viewed from the west. And while it seems cold, yet impressive now, it was once full of life. 

Remnants of a prehistoric reef in an ocean that existed millions of years ago, the Chinese Wall is also full of fossils of prehistoric marine animals, for the brave and skilled that are excited about fossil hunting. 

Can You Hike the Chinese Wall in Montana?

The simple answer to this question is, yes. You can hike around the Chinese Wall. However, hiking the areas along the wall is not a relaxing walk in the woods.

The wall is one of the geological features in Montana that aren’t seen by most people. This is because getting to the wall, and the hike through the valley is quite challenging. 

There is a hiking trail that you can take that will pass through the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and follow along the 12-miles of the Chinese Wall through the wilderness area. 

The Chinese Wall trail is a 40-mile hike. For the seasoned and most experienced hikers, the trail offers some of the most breathtaking views in Montana. However, it is vital to point out that this trail is not a joke. 

It is difficult and to get to the wall and the best views, you will need to expect a multi-day hike, on a trail that is sometimes not well marked.

You’ll need to have backcountry backpacking skills and understand how to pass through the area without damaging the fragile ecosystems that the Wilderness areas are designed to protect.

The ecosystems along the wall are particularly delicate, so hikers in the area will need to know that camping is not allowed directly against the wall.

The hike itself is a 53.3-mile point-to-point trail. Most people start at the trailhead closest to Augusta. The route is considered to be moderately difficult and best for hikers with experience in multi-day hiking and backcountry camping.

The total elevation gain is 7,814 feet.

Finally, if you’re going to try your hand at hiking the Chinese Wall Trail, do know that you will be passing through Grizzly Bear country.

The bear population in this area is quite active, so you will need to have good knowledge of how to safely travel through bear country. You’ll want to prepare to hang your food, carry bear spray, and use bear bells to be safe on the trail.

continental divide national scenic trail

Conclusion

The Chinese Wall is one of those outdoor experiences that seem to be legendary with those that want to experience the most extreme adventures, for the best views. 

A pristine environment dominated by the massive prehistoric limestone reef; the Chinese Wall is a view that you should not miss.

It’s not a hike for everyone, but if you’re up for the challenge, and have the skills and backcountry knowledge, it’s a 54-mile hike, you’ll not want to miss.

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