The Lincoln State Forest is a protected portion of land to the East of Flathead Lake. The area consists of approximately 8,245 acres, making it one of the smallest of the seven State Forests in Montana. The land has been designated as a protected State Forest since a law was passed by the Montana Legislature in 1925.
The Forest is around 3 miles from Lincoln and roughly 4 miles from Lincoln Airport.
Lincoln State Forest Stats
- Lincoln State Forest covers approximately 8,245 acres (3,336 ha).
- It is open year-round.
- Lincoln State Forest is surrounded by the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, which covers an incredible 2.8 million acres (1,133,119 ha).
- It takes roughly 15 minutes to reach Lincoln State Forest from Lincoln by car.
- The forest has an elevation of 4,544 feet.
Made famous by the 1992 movie A River Runs Through It, the Blackfoot River is one of the most popular rivers in Montana. As it slowly weaves its way through dense forest and open wilderness, the river eventually finds its way to the Clark Fork River, merging at Milltown, close to Missoula.
It’s a fantastic river for fly-fishing, giving locals and tourists alike a chance to experience the lifestyle shown in A River Runs Through It.
Herrin Lakes can be found a short distance south of Lincoln State Forest. It is a relatively small lake situated at 4,665 feet. Other than pure aesthetic appeal, most people visit Herrin Lakes for a glimpse at the local wildlife – which includes a healthy turtle population.
For advice on fishing, ask local anglers in Lincoln for more information.
Poorman Creek is located 1.3 miles south of Lincoln. It’s a fishable stream largely populated with rainbow and brown trout, which runs through the rugged countryside of the Lincoln State Forest.
Lincoln Community River Park
Located outside the bounds of the State Forest, but only just – the Lincoln Community River Park is a beautiful piece of land ideal for families.
It’s the perfect place to access the Blackfoot River without traveling for miles.
As is true for all State Forests in Montana, a Recreational Use License is required for any recreational activity on state trust land. This includes hiking. You can purchase a license here.
The Blackfoot River is an iconic fly-fishing location, gifting anglers with the chance to catch a great variety of trout while standing in the middle of Montana’s serene countryside. Rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and bull trout are all found in the river.
Besides the obvious choice in the Blackfoot, the Lincoln State Forest has some fantastic opportunities for small-stream fishing. Poorman Creek, Nevada Creek, Willow Creek, Sauerkraut Creek; all are lovely small-streams known to contain trout.
Hiking in Montana is often a phenomenal experience. Endless forests, towering mountains, and rivers rushing with the clearest of waters are simply part of the furniture here. Some of the most beautiful spots are inaccessible except for on foot.
The Lincoln State Forest is best for people sure of their step; it has few official trails, so is better suited to people with navigational skills. The scenery is beautiful though – it’s well worth the effort.
Lincoln State Forest is unusual in the fact that it’s not lost in the wilderness. Most of the State Forests in Montana are hours away from the nearest town with hotels. But here, Lincoln is on your doorstep. You can stay in hotels if you wish, but camping is still a popular way to spend the night.
If you’re looking for official campgrounds, Hooper Park Campground is the only one remotely close to the State Forest. Other options are RV camps or wild camping.
There are dozens of trails, totaling over 250 miles, suitable for skiing in the area – when winter arrives, it becomes one of Lincoln’s premier attractions.
The Lincoln State Forest is fairly limited in terms of official trailheads, though you can easily make your own path. You won’t have any trouble finding trailheads in the area surrounding the forest however – there are plenty of fantastic trails suited to a variety of abilities.
Sauerkraut Wall Trail
If you’re searching for a family-friendly trail, the Sauerkraut Wall Trail is a great choice. This winding trail meanders down a narrow valley until it reaches Sauerkraut Creek. From early spring until the summer the walk is abloom with wildflowers.
With an elevation gain of only 390 feet and a total distance – including the return trip – of 2.7 miles, this hike can be easily completed with a couple of hours.
For a slightly longer family-friendly hike, try the Ogden Mountain Trail (5 miles).
Continental Divide Trail, Flesher Pass to Stemple Pass
People looking for something a little more substantial than the Sauerkraut Wall Trail will be pleased to find this challenging section of the Continental Divide Trail.
At a length of 14 miles and an elevation gain of 3,096 feet, this is really only a trail for experienced hikers. Those who take on the challenge of this full-day hike will be treated to sweeping views of the Blackfoot Valley, panoramas from mountain-tops, and fields overflowing with wildflowers.
At 8,245 acres, Lincoln State Forest is the smallest of the seven. It can be found tucked away in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, in Lewis and Clark County, northern Montana. The forest is roughly the same distance from Missoula as it is from Helena – it takes an hour and twenty to reach the State Forest from either city.
Hiking, cross-country skiing and camping are all popular recreational activities in Lincoln State Forest. But where it really excels is in fishing. The famous Blackfoot River, lakes and small creeks offer some excellent choices for fly-fishing.