Gallatin National Forest

The Gallatin National Forest was founded in 1899 and is located in south-central Montana, United States. The forest makes up 1,819,515 acres and has parts of both the Absaroka-Beartooth and Lee Metcalf Wilderness areas within its boundaries. Gallatin National Forest borders the Yellowstone National Park on the north and the northwest and is a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a region which includes nearly 20,000,000 acres. The forest is named after Albert Gallatin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and scholar of Native American Languages and cultures.

There are six separate ranges within the forest including the Madison, Bridger, Crazy, Absaroka, Gallatin, and Beartooth Ranges. The Beartooth’s are home to Granite Peak, which at 12,799 feet, it the highest point in Montana and also in the forest. Quake Lake on the Madison River is the site of the 1959 earthquake and landslide which created the lake. A separate section of the forest north of Livingston, Montana is located in the Crazy Mountains which rise over 7,000 feet above the Great Plains towards the east. The forest includes two wilderness areas, the Absaroka-Beartooth and the Lee Metcalf.

While the lower elevations are frequently covered in grasses and sagebrush, higher altitudes support Douglas fir, with several species of cottonwood, aspen, and spruce being the dominant tree species. Of the 4,000 miles of streams and rivers there are major tributaries of the Yellowstone River, which bisects the eastern and western sections of the forest running through Paradise Valley. The Gallatin and Madison Rivers, major tributaries of the Missouri River, also are found within the forest. The habitat supports over 300 wildlife species, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and peregrine falcon. Many western North American species are represented in the climax ecosystem including mule deer, moose, bison, elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, wolves, black bear, and mountain lion. A variety of subspecies of trout are abundant in the streams and they contribute to the forest being one of the preeminent fly fishing regions in the U.S.

Over 2,290 miles of hiking trails are located within the forest offering access into wilderness areas and interlinking with the trails in Yellowstone National Park. There are nearly 40 vehicle accessible campgrounds scattered throughout the forest, numerous picnic areas and even cabins that can be rented for a nominal fee through the forest’s district offices. West Yellowstone, Montana offers access both into the forest and to Yellowstone National Park and is a popular snowmobile center during the winter months. Temperatures at night can be below freezing any time of the year and mosquitoes in the late spring and early summer also pose issues. Summertime high temperatures average in the 70’s and the wintertime lows can decrease below -40 degrees. The majority of the precipitation falls in the form of snow with some locations averaging over 33 feet annually.

The forest headquarters are located in Bozeman. There are local ranger district offices in Bozeman, Big Timber, Livingston, Gardiner, and West Yellowstone.

The forest lies in parts of Sweet Grass, Gallatin, Park, Madison, Carbon, and Meagher counties.

Image Caption: Gallatin National Forest, Montana, U.S. The image shows the view above the Cabin Creek Cabin in the Hebgen Lake area of the National Forest. Credit: MONGO/Wikipedia