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Sula State Forest, Montana

Sula State Forest is a 10,000 acre woodland close to Hamilton and Missoula in Ravalli County, and surrounded by the Bitterroot National Forest. It has been protected land since 1925, when a law was passed by the Montana Legislature declaring it a State Forest.

Sula State Forest is representative of the importance of community. It has repeatedly fallen victim to wildfires, decimating the woodland to little more than a husk. Each time this disaster has occurred, the community has gathered to replant the trees and allow the forest to flourish once more.

Sula State Forest Stats

  • Sula State Forest covers 10,000 acres (4046 ha)
  • It is open year-round
  • The forest is 78.8 miles from Missoula
  • Nearby Bitterroot National Forest covers an astonishing 1.587 million acres
  • Sula Peak is 6,174ft tall (1,882 m)

Main Attractions

Ross Hole Historical Marker

The Ross Hole Historical Marker is roughly located at the spot the Lewis and Clark Expedition stayed for two days while on their epic adventure across North America.

William Clark described the people he met at Ross Hole as welcoming, writing in his journal that, “we encamped with them and found them friendly”. Besides the historical significance, the scenery of Ross Hole is also a great reason to visit – you can start a lovely walk through the valley from here.

Cameron Creek

cameron creek

The gently flowing creek runs through most of the State Forest. While fairly narrow, people can fish here. There have been surprisingly regular reports of rainbow trout in this tiny creek. It is monitored every five years to help sustain the population.

Sula Peak

sula peak
Image: Bitterroot Mountains Trapper Peak Near Sula

Sula Peak towers over the valley at 6,174ft tall – climbing it gives you great panoramic views. This must have been obvious enough for a lookout to be built, which you can reach by either driving or hiking up to the tower.

Recreation Activities

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.

Hiking

There aren’t many well-established trails in the Sula State Forest, but the scenery is beautiful and it’s well-worth setting off on your own adventure. The forest is best explored on foot, where you have all the time in the world to admire the high peaks and alpine forests. The hikes can be a little challenging, however, as they often involve climbing to a higher elevation.

Camping

Living under the stars is never better than in Montana, where light pollution is often a distant memory. The Sula State Forest is miles away from any city, so is the perfect place to set up camp and stargaze. Camping season starts in the early spring.

You can stay in Camp Sula and be incredibly close to the Sula State Forest, while only being 20 minutes from the famous Lost Trail Ski Area. The campground supports regular camping as well as RVs and has excellent facilities, including a general store. Spring Gulch Campground is another, more low-key option. It is a little further away from the State Forest though – you’ll find it on the banks of the Bitterroot River.

Horseback Riding

There are a few ranches in the area surrounding Sula State Forest which offer guided horseback riding experiences. In Montana, horseback riding is firmly part of the culture – it’s an experience you don’t want to miss. You can head into the Sula State Forest like a local on horseback.

McDaniel Outfitters and the luxurious Triple Creek Ranch are the closest available options.

Trail Routes

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Part of the trail for the famous expedition runs through Sula State Forest, most notably at Ross Hole. You can follow in the footsteps of the famous explorers with this relatively short section through the forest.