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Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Area

Fishing the Madison from the river's edge

Raft on the Madison in Bear Trap Canyon
Running the rapids in the canyon

The Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness is one of the four units of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. The Bear Trap Canyon is the first wilderness area to be managed by the BLM. The 6,347-acre area offers beautiful wilderness scenery plus exciting whitewater rafting featuring the famous Class IV - V “Kitchen Sink” rapid. The 1,500-foot cliffs that border the canyon provide a dramatic backdrop for nature study, hiking, sightseeing, whitewater rafting and fishing along the nine-mile Bear Trap Canyon National Recreation Trail. The trail follows the river the length of the canyon but can only be accessed from the north end (no through-hiking).

Activities: Hiking, sightseeing, fishing, whitewater rafting, camping (hike in camping only, no float in camping).  To minimize impacts to the wilderness area stove fires are recommended. Open fires are discouraged.


  • Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Trail Head: Parking area, accessible vault toilet located at the north end of the canyon.
  • Fall Creek: Parking area, toilet, picnic area, and interpretation site located at the south end of the canyon.
  • Wilderness Boat launch: Accessible vault toilet and watercraft unloading area and boat launch located near the Madison Powerhouse at the south end of the canyon.
  • Trail Creek: Parking area, accessible vault toilet located upstream of Fall Creek, includes trailhead for Pot Trail.
Location/Access: Floater access is at the south end of the canyon at the Wilderness Boat Launch.  Turn east off US Hwy 287 at McAllister, follow the Ennis Lake road to the Wilderness Boat Launch. Please rig boats in the rigging area at Fall Creek Recreation Area, approximately 200 yards upstream from the boat launch. DO NOT BLOCK THE ROAD NEAR THE POWERHOUSE to avoid interfering with powerhouse operations. Floaters should use the developed take-out at Warm Springs located on Montana Hwy 84 approximately 20 miles northeast of Ennis.

Hiker access is at the north end of the canyon. Turn south off Montana Hwy 84 across from the Red Mountain Campground and follow the Bear Trap Road 3 miles upstream to the trailhead.

Fees: Permits are not currently required for non-commercial recreational use, but registration is requested at the boat launch and trailhead access points.

Season/Hours: Open year-round. River level and temperature information is available at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/mt/nwis/current?type=flow. Refer to the "Madison River below Ennis Lake."

Maps: Central section of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Map and also Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Visitor’s Guide.

Dillon Field Office
1005 Selway Drive
Dillon, MT 59725

Last updated: 06-28-2012