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Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area (WSA)

One of the Axlotl lakes
Fisherman at one of the lakes
This picturesque land of numerous small lakes, grasslands, meadows, and forests offers excellent opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking, hunting and wildlife observation. The abundant wildlife in the area includes grizzly bears, so visitors should be prepared to store food properly and carry bear spray when traveling away from their vehicles. Cabin rental is also available, see information here.

Activities: Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking on designated trails and routes only, and ATVs on designated routes.

Facilities: A recreational cabin is available for rent by reservation only. Accessible vault toilet at Twin Lakes.

Location/Access: 4WD recommended from State Highway 287 between Virginia City and Ennis. Drive 1/4 of a mile east of mile marker 11 (or 3/4 of a mile west of mile marker 10); turn south into the paved parking area near the top of the hill. Pass through the gate with the cattle guard at the west end of the parking area. Proceed 3 miles on the dirt two-track road; the road will descend a steep hill and intersect with another road. Go left (east) 3/4 mile, and the cabin will be on the right hand (south) side of the road.

Best access route for non-4WD vehicles: State Highway 287 North between Virginia City and Ennis.

If coming from Virginia City, turn right (south) just after mile marker 2. If coming from Ennis, turn left (south) just before mile marker 2. There is a fishing access sign for Burnt Tree Hole, Eight Mile Ford, and Varney Bridge at this intersection. Travel south 6.1 miles on the pavement to the Shining Mountains Loop Road. At this intersection turn right (west) and go 1.6 miles. Shining Mountains Loop Road will intersect with Dry Creek Trail. At this junction turn left (southeast) to continue on Shining Mountains Loop Road. Travel 0.1 mile and turn right (southwest) onto Axolotl Lake Road. Drive a mile to a 4-way intersection; go right to stay on Axolotl Lake Road. One mile after the intersection, at the crest of a hill, the road splits; veer right to go to the cabin. Eight-tenths of a mile after the crest of the hill, there is a driveway for a private residence on the right; veer left to continue to the cabin. One and one-half miles after the private residence, you will arrive at the Axolotl Cabin, which is visible from the road.

An alternate route is to turn west from US Highway 287 between Ennis and West Yellowstone towards the Varney Bridge Fishing Access Site. Once you cross the Madison River, turn north a short distance until you reach the Shining Mountains Loop Road. From here the directions are the same as above. There are no developed parking areas, but there are some commonly used pull-out areas.

***The county roads in the mountains are extremely susceptible to changing weather conditions at all times of the year. In wet, snowy, or icy conditions, they are impassable!***

Fees: Click here to see cabin rental fees.

Season/Hours: Available year-round depending on weather conditions but access could be limited due to road conditions.  Cabin rental available early June to early October dependent on weather and road conditions.

Maps: Central section of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest map.

Contact:
Dillon Field Office
1005 Selway Drive
Dillon, MT 59725
406-683-8000