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Beartooth Ranger District

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Custer National Forest
1310 Main Street
Billings, MT 59105

(406) 657-6200

 United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

The Beartooth Ranger District office is located in Red Lodge Montana, adjacent to the Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests, and serves as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park. The Beartooth Mountains are a portion of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness which is located on the Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests. This Wilderness offers a variety of wilderness related recreation experiences.

The Beartooth Ranger District is about 65 miles from Billings, Montana, the largest city in Montana, and therefore receives heavy recreation use. The area is also a popular area for deer, elk, and bighorn sheep hunters, as well as fishermen.

(Above) The Beartooth District provides habitat for a diverse mix of wildlife, such as this young mule-deer buck (photograph, Terrill Jones, 2001)

Red Lodge Mountain Ski resort is also located on the District. In addition to downhill skiing, there are two ski touring trails that provide about 18 kilometers of cross-country skiing. The Lake Fork skiing touring trail offers two loops of 3 and 7 kilometers. The Silver Run trail has four loops of 4, 7, 11 and 15 kilometers. The Silver Run trails complex provides opportunities for mountain bikes, horse, and summer hikers, in addition to winter ski touring.

There are four National Recreation Trails on the District. They are: Wild Bill Lake, Parkside, Basin Lake, and Silver Run.

The Beartooth Highway, a National Forest Scenic Byway, traverses the mountains from Red Lodge to Cooke City, and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone Park. This highway climbs to the 10,947 foot elevation at Beartooth pass and passes through the lands of the Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests.

There are a number of camp and picnic areas on the District, providing destination type use, and also serve as popular jumping-off places for day hikes into the Wilderness. The facilities at Wild Bill lake are designed specifically for persons with disabilities; ramps for wheel chairs provide access to the lake for easy fishing and docks are also provided.

About 345,000 acres of the 945,000-acre Absaroka-Beartooth (A-B) Wilderness is located on the Beartooth Ranger District. The A-B wilderness lies in two States, (Montana & Wyoming), and three national Forests. Within the Custer portion of the A-B Wilderness, there are about 180 miles of maintained foot and horse trails. The area is well known for lake and stream fishing, and also provides habitat for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, white-tail deer, mule deer, mountain grouse, black bear, cougar, and bobcats. Although all these animals and birds occur in the area, there are no large populations of any of them. Occasionally grizzly bear are seen in areas of the wilderness located on the Custer National Forest.

Granite Peak is located on the boundary between the Gallatin and Custer National Forest. This is the highest point in Montana, and is a very challenging scramble type climb.

The Beartooth Mountains are composed of a massive block of Precambrian crystalline rock, including the Stillwater Complex. This complex contains the largest known platinum and chrome deposits and the second largest nickel deposits in the United States. A platinum and palladium mine has been developed.

The Pryor Mountain unit of the district is located about 60 miles east of Red Lodge, and is adjacent to the Crow Indian Reservation, and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The soils in the Pryor Mountains are derived from limestone and sandstone formations. The limestone uplifts and formations contain numerous caves and sinkholes. This mountain range was never glaciated, is rather dry, and has never received heavy use by recreationists. As a result, there are many archeological and paleological sites on the unit. Lost Water Canyon, on the southeast corner of the unit, is a proposed wilderness.

The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Territory is located on the eastern edge of the Pryor Mountains. The Wild Horse Territory extends to the east and south on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Park Service. The wild horses are managed by the BLM. The Pryors contain some very steep terrain and some of the canyons are deeply incised in the limestone. Recreation opportunities include deer and small game hunting, hiking, and snowmobiliing. Many primitive trails and old mining roads provide easy motorized access. The Pryor Mountain Unit is largely managed for dispersed recreation except for Sage Creek campground and Big Ice Cave Picnic Area.

 

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 Last Modified: 05/03/2002 20:03