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Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area


  • Southwest Montana
  • Wilderness Area
The Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area covers 28,465 acres and is managed by the Helena National Forest. It was Meriwether Lewis who was responsible for naming the landmark and was the first to leave a record of his passage "from the singular appearance of this place I called it the gates of the mountains." The Gates of the Mountains, as it is known today, is one of the most widely recognized landmarks of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

There are approximately 53 miles of trails in this 28,562 acre Wilderness area, some of which are located in lower and dryer elevations making it suitable for spring trips when other areas are still under snow. This network of trails can be reached from several access points, most of which are in the Beaver Creek drainage, both above and below the old town of Nelson. Water can be scarce in the Wilderness. The trails go through timbered areas as well as some large parks. Information and images provided by
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Mailing Address
Helena National Forest
2880 Skyway Drive
Helena, MT 59626


Special direction map

Special Directions

From Helena head northeast on Montana Highway 280, past Hauser Lake, for the 18 mile drive to York. Turn north at York on FR 4 and drive 8 miles to Nelson on Beaver Creek, which flows along the south edge of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness. Turn right on Beaver Creek Road 138 for the remaining 5 winding miles to the Refrigerator Canyon trailhead for Trail 259. For river access go about 17 mile north of Helena on I-15. Take the Gates of the Mountains exit and drive 2 miles to the Gates of the Mountains Boat Club on the north end of Upper Holter Lake.