Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, Montana

Called a “Jewel of the Northern Rockies,” the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness is an incredible wild zone in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge region.

The wilderness area is home to some of the most incredible forest scenery in the country, along with some of the most exciting wildlife in the nation, including puma, black bear, and wolverines.

The wilderness straddles the Continental Divide, poised between the Bitterroot Valley to the northwest and Big Hole Valley to the South, along the crest of the Anaconda Mountain Range in southwestern Montana.

The wilderness area contains permanent snowfields and protects a uniquely spectacular collection of glacially carved landforms, including moraines, tarn-pocked cirques, U-shapes valleys, arêtes, with elevation stretching upward from 5,100 feet in the canyon bottoms to the 10,893 West Goat Peak.

There are multiple 10,000+ foot peaks in the wilderness area to explore.

Rivers and streams drain to the Big Hole and Bitterroot rivers and Rock Creek, supporting riparian forests and willow thickets, with a range of quaking aspen, whitebark pine, alpine larch, sagebrush, spruce-fir, and pine forest gatherings throughout.

There are bare rock, tundra, and snowfields all within the wilderness along the Divide, as well, providing a huge range of terrains throughout the area.

Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area Stats

anaconda pintler wilderness area stats

The wilderness area encompasses 158,712 acres of land after being designated officially in 1964, the same year that the Wilderness Act was certified.

The area is named for the Anaconda Mountain Range and early settler Charles Ellsworth Pintler, who arrived at the area in 1885.

  • Size: 158,712 acres
  • Season: Year-round
  • Tallest Peak: West Goat Peak at 10,893 feet
  • Number of campsites: multiple sites throughout, some with fire rings, picnic tables, and amenities/facilities
  • Unlimited camping in backcountry areas

Main Attractions of Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area

Anaconda Pintler Wilderness is full of gorgeous lakes, giant peaks, and incredible views. The main attractions here are all natural and undefiled.

The best part is, most folks don’t even know about it – so it’s a truly unspoiled region of the country.

West Goat Peak

The highest peak in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, West Goat Peak is the perfect part for the region climbers.

From the east, south, and west sides, the peak is a nontechnical climb with Class 2 and Class 3 routes, and the north face has a 1,700+ foot Class 5 climbing on unstable rock.

The north face is nearly as tall as the peak itself, at 10,399 feet. The peak is climbable in all four seasons, though most of your time trail companions will be goats instead of humans.

Upper Seymour Lake

Upper Seymour Lake offers some of the finest backcountry experiences away from the crowds of Glacier and Yellowstone, the much more well-known wilderness areas of the state.

The lake is on the east side of the Continental Divide in the Wilderness Area, with sparkling water, campsites, trout for catching, incredible views of the mountains, and the stunning Goat Flat alpine wildflower meadow.

Upper Seymour Lake can be accessed by a 5-mile trail from Storm Lake or the more intense 20.8-mile round-trip via Page Creek 39 from the East Fork Reservoir.

East Fork Reservoir

Nestled within the wilderness is the East Fork Reservoir, about 11 miles southeast of Lewiston in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains.

The spot is great for fishing, ice fishing, boating, camping, biking, hiking, canoeing, and practically any other outdoor activities you can think of.

East Fork is part of the City of Lewiston’s park system, with the dam that was originally built to help control flooding from Big Spring Creek.

It’s a great spot for family-friendly fun, affordable and easy campsites (note: fresh water, but no electricity), and loads of activities.

Recreation Activities

anaconda pintler wilderness, montana

Camping, hiking, and backpacking are some of the primary activities of interest in the wilderness area itself.

There are designated campsites throughout the wilderness area, including some with the lake. In the back country of the wilderness, there is no camping permit required and you can camp anywhere you can pitch a tent.

Besides these three major activities, there are many other things to do while here. Fishing is a popular sport, along with horseback riding, cross country skiing, and hunting. Basically, if it’s an outdoor sport or activity, the wilderness has you covered.

Wildlife Viewing

While hiking through the wilderness of Montana, you’d expect to find both large and small game alike – and the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area does not disappoint. As you make your way along the trails, you could spot

  • Gray wolf
  • Puma
  • Black Bear
  • Elk
  • Mule deer
  • Mountain goat
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Grizzly bear
  • Moose
  • Wolverine
  • Pika
  • Many bird species


Whether you’re looking for easy tent camping at traditional campsites, or want to pitch a tent in the depths of the wilderness, the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness area is a perfect locale for you.

Find campgrounds around the various lakes or hit the trails with a tent in your pack and set up in the backcountry in undesignated spots.


Trout fishing is a popular activity in the wilderness area. Follow any of the many lake trails to find a great spot in the much-underutilized park for your fishing adventures.

Backcountry Backpacking

Grab your gear and head out for some amazing backcountry backpacking through the wilderness. Since you can camp freely throughout the wilderness area, you’re all set as long as you’ve got supplies.

Be sure to bring enough water and food for longer than you plan on being out, as well as supplies for keeping warm when the nights get cooler.

Horseback Riding

Royal Tine Outfitters offers horseback trail rides in the summer months from July to September. For a gentle ride of 3 hours on the scenic trails riding out from Lone Pine meadow, the rates are $80 per person (8+ years old only).

If you’re looking for something a bit more “thorough”, the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Ride is a great choice.

If you’re going solo with the guides, or have a single partner to come along, the 4 to 6-hour ride (plus 1 to 2 hours travel time to the trailhead) will run you $275.

For groups of 3 to 8, the price is $180 per person. This ride is for intermediate riders 12 and older, on rougher trails than the Lone Pine ride. Rider weight limits are 230 pounds.

Be sure to gear up properly with full pants (no shorts or skirts), and proper shoes (no flip-flops or sandals). Rain jackets, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellents, and cameras are also suggested for riders.

Cross-country Skiing

There are cross-country ski trails throughout the wilderness, with the Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski Trail the most well-known among them.

The trail is groomed weekly and contains eight loops, providing a wide range of lengths and skill level options for skiers. There is plowed parking for 55 to 60 vehicles at a time, with toilets and trail maps at the trailhead. There’s also a warming hut available from December 1 to mid-April.

No pets are allowed on the trail.


With proper licensure and equipment, hunting is permitted in the wilderness area. Check for proper seasons before venturing out and ensure your license is up to date.

Trail Routes in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area

trail routes
Image: G. Thomas

There are many incredible trails meandering their way through the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area. Here are jsut a few worth exploring on your visit.

Upper Seymore Lake

An out-and-back trail near Wise River, Montana, the Upper Seymour Lake trail is considered a moderately challenging route.

Most folks say the trail takes about 5 and 3/4 hours to complete and is great for hiking, fishing, camping, and backpacking. The trail is mostly quiet, as well, without crowds exploring with you.

Dogs are welcome on the trail and may be off leash in certain locations along the way.

  • Distance: 13.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 1610 feet
  • Route Type: Out and back

Four Mile Basin

The Four Mile Basin trail is a 9.4 mile out-and-back trail deemed moderately difficult.

The trail takes most folks a little over four hours to complete (minimum) and is one of the more popular trails in the wilderness for birding, hiking, and walking in the wilderness area.

Likely, though, you’ll find the trails quiet at some point during your day.

  • Distance: 9.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 1,482 feet
  • Route Type: Out and back

Phylis Lake and Johnson Lake Loop

A loop trail of 15.0 miles near Sula, Montana, the Phylis Lake and Johnson Lake Loop trail is popular for hikers and birders who’ve got the 7 hours to put into the day of exploration.

The trail leads to two different lakes where you’ll enjoy the continual stunning scenery of the region, along with wildlife, birds, and fishing, if you’re so inclined.

  • Distance: 15.0 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 2,765 feet
  • Route Type: Loop

Warren Pass Loop

The 15.8 mile loop near Anaconda, Montana is considered a challenging route, taking most folks about 7 hours to complete.

Dogs are welcome on your hike, as long as they’re leashed. Folks say the trail is great for a one-night backpack loop and some recommend hitting the trail counter-clockwise.

The trail tends to be unused, so you’ll find plenty of peace and quiet along the way. Wildflowers in summer flare color out, while the lakes shimmer in the sun for stunning backgrounds.

  • Distance: 15.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 2,729 feet
  • Route Type: Loop

Ridgeview Hike and Bike

For those looking for a much easier hike for a short distance, try Ridgeview Hike and Bike Trail.

The 1.4 miles out and back near Philipsburg takes most folks less than 45 minutes to complete and makes for great birding, casual mountain biking, and solitude in quieter times of the day.

The trail offers amazing views from its vantage point above the town.

  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Difficulty: East
  • Elevation gain: 236 feet
  • Route Type: Out and back

East Fork Bitterroot River Trail

Another easy trail that’s a little longer is the East Fork Bitterroot River trail near Sula.

The route will take you about an hour there and back, and it tends to be pretty quiet. It’s a great trail for getting some exercise with your dog, especially as they may be off-leash in certain areas along the way.

  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 118 feet
  • Route Type: Out and back

Tamarack Lake Trail

A 14.0-mile trail considered challenging, the Tamarack Lake Trail near Philipsburg takes most folks 6 and half hours to complete.

Dogs, on leash only, can accompany you for your hike and backpacking adventures, with plenty of camping near the lake.

The trail is well-defined and easy to follow, according to hikers on AllTrails, and offers absolutely stunning views along the way.

  • Distance: 14.0 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 2,611 feet
  • Route type: Out and back


Related Articles