Located just outside of Helena, Montana, Lewis and Clark National Forest is a pristine natural reserve set in the rugged Rocky Mountains. Hundreds of miles of multi-use trails take you through the forest, and you can also connect to the Continental Divide Trail. Most of the forest is open to hunting, with a number of big game species such as elk and deer.
Anglers will find plenty of opportunities in the forest as well. Gibson Reservoir has excellent brook and cutthroat trout fishing, and you can find brook trout at Bell Creek. Birdwatchers will also find plenty to keep them occupied, with hundreds of species visiting the forest throughout the year. You can hike up to a number of scenic lookups where you can spot birds of prey as they hunt.
There are three main RV campgrounds in the forest, all of which have access to hiking trails and beautiful mountain views. Stay at Summit Campground for some of the best panoramas of the area, or at Many Pines Campground for excellent trout fishing just feet from your campervan.
Lewis and Clark National Forest is located outside of Helena, Montana, and can also be reached by car or RV from other major cities in the state. The forest is divided by a number of mountain ranges and has rugged terrain that can be difficult to navigate with an RV.
From Helena, take US-12 east out of the city, and you’ll get to the forest in a little over an hour. If you are driving from Bozeman, take MT-86 to US-89, and you’ll arrive in around an hour and forty five minutes.
There are only three main roads cutting through the forest, with US-89 as the main thoroughfare. The RV campgrounds vary widely in terms of accessibility. Some are close to US-89, so you won’t have to take any narrow mountain roads. Other campgrounds are deeper into the forest, and will require you to navigate a number of winding switchbacks.
This 26-site campground is situated on the shores of Gibson Reservoir. None of the sites have hookups of any kind, but you will be able to access drinking water. There are also vault toilets located throughout the campground. You can fish for rainbow and cutthroat trout in the reservoir and on Sun River. None of the sites can be reserved in advance. The campground gets quite busy during the summer, so try to arrive early to save a spot.
Situated in the heart of the Little Belt Mountains, this campground is a popular choice for anglers. There are 24 basic sites without hookups. The sites have tables and fire pits, and you’ll have access to drinking water and standard restrooms. Belt Creek is located at the edge of the campground, and is a popular destination for anglers looking for brook trout. The sites in the campground cannot be reserved in advance, so get there in the morning if you want to save a spot.
If you’re looking for some of the best panoramic views in the forest, Summit Campground is an excellent choice. The 17 sites give you a secluded camping experience in the mountains. None of the sites have hookups, but do come with a picnic table and a fire pit. Hiking is the main attraction in the area. You can easily access the Continental Divide Trail to get excellent views of the forest.
Reservations are not accepted for any of the sites. The campground is quite popular, especially during the summer, so try to arrive early in the day if you want to find an open site.
If you visit during the winter, pack your ice fishing gear in your camping trailer. When the lakes freeze over, the fish stay active, so you’ll still get plenty of bites. Crystal Lake is one of the most popular ice fishing destinations in the area, and you’ll find dozens of other spots in the forest. Forest officials do not monitor ice conditions on all of the lakes, so fish at your own risk. The lakes are usually safe by January, but you should always get up to date information on ice status before fishing.
The hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the forest can still be used during the winter, so make sure to pack your snowshoes along with your rig. Popular routes include the Continental Divide Trail, a 67-mile long stretch that connects to many of the main RV campgrounds in the area. You can also hike up to Granite Butte Lookout for some of the best views of the forest. Take caution while snowshoeing, as there is an avalanche risk during the winter. You should also be on the lookout for grizzly bears when you head out of the camper in your snowshoes.
Visitors during the winter will find hundreds of miles of cross-country skiing trails that cut through the forest. You’ll be able to enjoy scenic views of the Big Belt Mountains as well as the open fields of the lowlands. Trail conditions vary depending on where you are in the forest. Some of the trails are maintained throughout the winter, while some are left entirely ungroomed. The trails are generally geared towards intermediate to advanced skiers, although there are still plenty of routes for beginners.
The diverse ecosystems found throughout the forest are home to a wide range of big and small game species. Deer and elk are the most popular game in the area, and you can also hunt for a range of small game and waterfowl. Take caution while hunting, as there are a number of hiking trails that cut through popular hunting areas. Also make sure you have all of the required Montana state hunting licenses. The forest is in the middle of grizzly bear country, to take proper safety precautions.
Anglers will find a range of opportunities throughout the forest. There are dozens of lakes and streams, many of them close to the main RV campgrounds. Fish for rainbow and cutthroat trout at Gibson Reservoir, or head down to Belt Creek for brook trout. The fishing is excellent throughout the year, with most anglers having the best luck starting in late spring running through early fall. Most of the campgrounds don’t rent fishing gear, so bring all of the equipment you need along with your campervan.
With thousands of feet of elevation change and scenic mountain passes, Lewis and Clark National Forest is a hiker’s dream. There are hundreds of miles of trails in the forest, with routes to suit hikers of all experience levels. The Continental Divide Trail is the most popular hike in the forest, and can be accessed from many of the main RV campgrounds. Hiking is excellent throughout the year, although many visitors prefer late spring and early fall.