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Gallatin National Forest is in south-central Montana. Some of the most rugged mountains in the state can be found in the 1,735,239-acre forest. On the western side are the Madison and Gallatin ranges; to the east, the Absaroka and Beartooth; and to the north, the Bridger Mountains and the isolated block encompassing the Crazy Mountains.
To some, such as the Crow Indians who sought their visions in the Crazies, these mountains inspire a mystical reverence; to others, such as the mountain men who thought the Beartooth Range resembled the teeth of a familiar predator, they inspire a sense of awe. Much of this region remains unchanged, protected in the forest's two wilderness units, the Lee Metcalf and the Absaroka-Beartooth.
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is named for its two very different mountain ranges. Rugged mountains, broad forested valleys and a variety of plant life characterize the Absaroka Range, which receives precipitation that is unusually abundant for this region. In contrast, the Beartooths present a jagged silhouette of monumental walls and spires soaring to heights of more than 12,000 feet. Forming the roof of these massive peaks are broad plateaus of alpine tundra carpeted with summer wildflowers and hundreds of lakes. The ranges are an integral part of the Yellowstone ecosystem, offering shelter to grizzlies, moose, deer, eagles and turkeys.
The Yellowstone, Gallatin, Madison and Boulder, which are the principal rivers, are renowned for excellent fishing. Natural Bridge State Monument, 28 miles south of Big Timber via SR 289, features a 100-foot waterfall at the mouth of Boulder River Canyon. Several short trails lead from the parking area to observation sites of the falls.
Hikers favor Lee Metcalf Wilderness and the Hyalite area of the Gallatin Range. Also scenic are the trails in the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman. To experience the region's beauty by car travel Beartooth Scenic Highway or US 191 from West Yellowstone to Gallatin Gateway; or take a self-guiding tour of the Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area.
Information about the forest's numerous campgrounds and picnic areas is available at district ranger stations. For further information, contact the Bozeman Ranger District, 3710 Fallon St., Ste. C, Bozeman, MT 59718; phone (406) 522-2520.
Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area
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Current Location: Gallatin National Forest, Montana