The Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, covering 248,944 acres, is an administered unit of the Gallatin National Forest and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, located within or adjacent to those forests. In the northwest corner of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Complex, Bear Trap Canyon-the first BLM Wilderness in the nation-consists of 6000 acres of wild canyon country along the Madison River. Bear Trap offers 9 miles of possibly the most exciting and challenging whitewater in Montana, and this may be the only wild habitat shared by both rattlesnakes and moose. From the dry canyon, the ecological bridge of Cowboy Heaven sweep upward for 6500 feet to the craggy crest of Spanish Peaks. In the Spanish Peaks glaciers carved the valleys into U-shapes, with glacial lakes, knife ridges, near-vertical headwalls, and twenty-five peaks soaring above 10,000 feet. As one of the greatest elevation gains in Montana, this remarkable transition spans the full spectrum of unaltered mountain life zones. To the south, a vertical mile of glaciated relief imprints the Taylor-Hilgard with jagged pinnacles, U-shaped valleys and alpine cirques. The smooth sedimentary forms of the Taylor Peaks differ dramatically from the rugged igneous Hilgard Peaks farther south. Open foothills on the west face of the Bear Creek Wildlife Management Area are winter range for more than 500 elk. Some of the prominent landmarks along the crest of the Hilgards include the distinctive summits of the Sphinx, the Helmet, Koch Peak, and the chimney spires of 11,316-foot Hilgard Peak-highest point in Montana outside of the Beartooth Range. About 70 gemlike lakes are pocketed along the divide, most of which are in the more rugged southern reaches near Hilgard Peak. Vast grassy subalpine basins and lush meadows spread out across a more subdued landscape in the Skyline Ridge country of Cabin Creek and Monument Mountain. As the only portion of the Wilderness adjacent to Yellowstone, the southeast corner of the Madisons is superb living space for elk, moose, sheep, and the threatened, free-roaming grizzly. As our country's first BLM wilderness, Bear Trap Canyon is noted for its depth and one of the wildest stretches of whitewater in Montana. Bear Trap is more popular for day use due to the lack of level campsites with trees for shade, windbreak, and privacy. However, the canyon is excellent for off-season hiking thanks to low snowpack and easy access. The most popular activities in the high alpine country of the Spanish Peaks are fishing, big game hunting, geological study, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, camping, and uncluttered relaxation. Call Gallatin National Forest for camping permit information. The Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area and the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge are two separate entities with two different contact points.
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