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Lee Metcalf Wilderness Complex

Lee Metcalf Wilderness Complex

Lee Metcalf Wilderness Complex

Page Type: Area/Range

Location: Montana, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 44.93078°N / 111.41922°W

Object Title: Lee Metcalf Wilderness Complex

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Sport Climbing, Bouldering, Scrambling

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Elevation: 6000 ft / 1829 m


Page By: SethP2343

Created/Edited: Sep 8, 2009 / Sep 14, 2009

Object ID: 551105

Hits: 3817 

Page Score: 68.74%  - 4 Votes 

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The Lee Metcalf Wilderness is located in Southwestern Montana, very close to the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. The wilderness area is about 259,000 acres in area, which is split into four parcels: the Bear Trap Canyon (approx. 6,000 acres), the Spanish Peaks (approx. 76,000  
Bear Trap Canyon
The Bear Trap Canyon
acres), the Taylor-Hilgard (approx. 141,000 acres) and Monument Mountain (approx. 33,000 acres). The wilderness has about 300 miles of trails and 28 maintained trail heads. The Bear Trap Canyon averages about 11 inches of rain a year, whereas the Madison Range can get up to 60 inches of rain a year. This provides a variable climate that can be dangerous. The elevation can vary a lot depending on the area; the Bear Trap Canyon area gets down to 4,500 ft while many peaks can reach up to 11,000 ft.


Coyote in Lee Metcalf
Mountain Coyote in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness
The variable climate and elevation allows a large variety in mountain/plains fauna to live in the wilderness area. In the lower valleys, mountain coyote can be heard yipping and howling at the full moon, or trading cries with the plentiful elk population. If your lucky enough, the steady, lower-pitched cry of wolves can be heard as well. There are also steady populations of Mountain Goats, who can be spotted upon mountain sides and in high alpine valleys, as well as near a sleeping camper's feet at nighttime. One can also spot the more skittish Bighorn Sheep. In the lower valleys, especially around the lower elevation lakes and ponds, one can spot moose munching on aquatic plants or Red Osier Dogwood. The valleys also have good populations of Mountain Mule Deer. Upon high cliffsides near the end of the treelines, a lucky hiker may be able to catch a glimpse of the majestic, ever-watchful Mountain Lion (Cougar, Puma, whichever you prefer). Finally, the Lee Metcalf has a good population of both the curious Black Bear, as well as the lumbering giant of the Rocky Mountains, the Grizzly Bear. Fish populations are mostly composed of cutthroat trout, rainbow, and brook trout. Smaller animals include marmots, fishers, otters, chipmunks, various squirrels, bobcats, kestrels, eagles, osprey, and owls. Although unofficial, I have also heard of wolverine spottings in the area.


-Like most of the wilderness areas in Montana, there is always the risk of bears. All bear attacks that have happened and are yet to happen can be avoided by any steps. Always pack bear spray, or a bear pistol if you so choose. Stay away from kill spots, as bears are very territorial over carcasses. Spooking bears can also cause them to charge. One way to handle this is to buy a bear bell. Another way to handle this is to travel with other people and have a good conversation while doing it. Finally, if you must travel alone, give a good shout every now and then so as to make bears aware to your presence. Finally, and probably most important, try NOT to make contact with bear cubs in any way. An angry mother bear is one of the most deadly forces you will come into contact with in the wilderness (second only to a bull moose, which we will get into next). Mothers with cubs have been known to charge on sight within reasonable range and are known to exhibit more more strength and daring, sometimes becoming nearly impervious to bear spray. Finally, make sure you put your food in a bear bag or a backpack and hang it in a tree at night. Try to keep your sleeping spot moderatly distanced from your cooking fire.

-Hands down, the most dangerous land mammal in Montana is the moose. Bull moose during the rut have been known to charge for no particular reason at all. There are many different opinions on how to survive moose charges. One says that you simply try to outrun the beast, though I'd say that the chance of you tripping and being trampled is high. Another option is to attempt to climb a tree, but in a split second decision that could be very very difficult. Personally, I would simply get behind a tree. Moose are to large and the structure of their legs is not made for quick turning.

-Though Mountain Lion attacks in Montana are nearly unheard of, one must always be prepared. One must also not mistake a mountain lion's actions. Many people believe that mountain lions stalk humans, when in reality 90% of the time, the lion is just following you, wondering what you are doing in its territory. Like most cats, it is curious as well. Also keep in mind that when a mountain lion doesn't want you to see it, you probably won't. So with those points, I will lay out the tips I have gotten from http://www.ehow.com/how_2041418_survive-mountain-lion-attack.html which has some decent pointers.
1. Since mountain lions usually avoid humans, if you see one, give it the chance to run away.
2. If one continues to approach you, make direct eye contact to give it the impression that your not afraid.
3. Make loud noises. As stupid as it sounds, growling and showing your teeth may actually scare the lion away.
4. Make yourself look bigger by holding up your jacket and arms.
5. Stand up straight and stick out your chest.
6. Keep children close to you, and if possible, put them up on your shoulders.
7. If you can retreat, then slowly back away while facing the animal.
8. Use anything you can find as a weapon that doesn't require you to bend downward.
9. If the lion charges, attempt to jab it in the eye. This almost always works.
10. Yell "lion" or "cougar" instead of help; people nearby will know how to react better (hopefully not by running away =P).


There are many camp sites that surround the perimeter of Lee Metcalf Wilderness. One can camp in almost any place in the wilderness itself.Add Camping text here.


Near The Hilgard BasinThe SphinxLee Metcalf WildernessBear Trap CanyonCoyote in Lee MetcalfValley Below Hilgard Basin