One of the many benefits of living in Montana is our access to public land. When I lived in Maine this was one of the most surprising things to me--there wasn't nearly as much public land as I was used to growing up in Montana. The difference is staggering actually:

Maine's public land: approximately 600,000 acres (Natural Resources Council of Maine)

Montana's public land: approximately 30 million acres, or one-third of the state (Montana, Fish, Wildlife, and Parks)

With so much land, Montana is also home to a sizeable amount of wilderness area. Roughly 3% of the state is wilderness area and it stretches over 3.5 million acres according to Wild Montana.

One area of wilderness in Montana has been singled out as some of the most beautiful, remote wilderness in the entire state, and the area has some interesting history, too.

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The folks at Love Exploring put together a list of "Most Beautiful and Remote Piece of Wilderness in Every US State" and the mountain range they picked for Montana got its name from none other than Meriwether Lewis and is on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Gates of the Mountains Montana
NPS/Alex Wiles

Gates of the Mountain Wilderness Area

Located near Helena, and managed by the Helena National Forest, the Gates of the Mountain Wilderness area has "approximately 53 miles of trails...(and) 28,562 acres of Wilderness area," according to

When Lewis journaled about this area in the early 1800s he wrote:

...these clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of 1200 feet. every object here wears a dark gloomy aspect. the tow[er]ing projecting rocks in many places seem ready to tumble on us. -- National Park Service

Other than the addition of the Holter Dam, "the wilderness character is largely intact," according to the National Park Service.

Popular Trails

If you'd like to explore the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area, three trails are recommended on the AllTrails app. Each one is between 10 and 20 miles long and all of them are rated four stars and above. Try the Bear Prairie via Refrigerator Canyon Trail, which will take about 8 hours, the Meriwether Canyon to Refrigerator Canyon Trail, which will take you past a memorial to the firefighters that died in the Mann Gluch Forest Fire in 1949, or the Hunter Gulch to Big Log Gulch trail which is rated the highest of all three with five stars.

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Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart