1 | Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest

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Photo by U.S. Forest Service

Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest lies in central and north central Montana within the upper Missouri River system. The Forest's namesakes, Lewis and Clark led their expedition through these lands and waterways.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806 spent many months traveling through the varied scenery of Montana. Many areas of the landscape along the expedition’s route on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest look much the same as in 1805-1806. Visit the routes of the famous explorers on public lands in this area.

Almost eighty miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail stretch through the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, extending from the Scapegoat to the adjacent Deerlodge National Forest. Much of the area along the Divide is rich in mining history, and the town of Helena owes its origins to the discovery of gold in 1864.

The Big Belt Mountain Range lies east of Helena, extending south to Townsend. The Gates of the Mountains Wilderness area is situated on the north end of the Big Belts and takes its name from the distinctive cliffs along the Missouri River noted in the journals of Helena-Lewis and Clark. Much of the Big Belts are dissected by rugged limestone canyons and provide scenic enjoyment for hikers and motorists.

Throughout the Forest you’ll find a variety of opportunities to mountain bike, ride off-highway vehicles, hike, horseback ride, cross-country ski and snowmobile on the 1,000+ miles of developed trails. The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest offers some wonderful backcountry roads that offer many different landscapes for visitors to explore. (Before you venture out on your scenic drive, make sure call the local Forest Service Office for weather and road conditions.)

When planning your trip, check out the directory of campgrounds and picnic areas. Additionally, there are seven administrative cabins available for public use on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. These rustic cabins, rented for a small fee, offer a unique opportunity for primitive lodging.

In 2015, the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the Helena National Forest were combined into one forest, the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.




Nearest Large Urban Area:

Helena, Great Falls

Notes & Conditions:

Research campground locations and amenities at the U.S. National Forest Campground Directory. The Web site is full of pictures and detailed descriptions to help you plan your next trip.

If you want to experience a guided recreation trip in a National Forest, visit Adventure Vacation to learn about whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking and fishing trips.


Visit the U.S. Forest Service Map Directory to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.