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2017 Winter Wilderness Walks include guided excursions in the Madison, Gallatin and Absaroka mountains

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This winter Montana Wilderness Association is offering 45 guided hikes—some on snowshoes and others in regular footwear—across some of the state’s most magnificent backcountry.

Now in its 14th season, MWA’s Winter Wilderness Walks program offers hikers of all ages and experience levels an opportunity to participate in a traditional recreation opportunity while enjoying Montana’s quiet beauty and treasured wild places. Winter Wilderness Walks are also a great way to meet new people, explore, and view wildlife in a winter setting.

Below is a detailed list of all the hikes located in the southwest Montana and hosted by MWA’s Madison-Gallatin Chapter.

Cascade Creek to Lava Lake
Date: Saturday, Jan. 28
Nearest town: Bozeman
Public land management: Custer Gallatin National Forest
Distance (round trip): 6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
Leaders: Tom Ross and Bob Bayley
Description: This hike in the northern end of Gallatin Canyon follows a rocky and sometimes steep wooded trail into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area to an alpine lake located below Jumbo and Table mountains. The trail is mostly shaded, so dress in layers and bring winter hiking boots in case the conditions are not suitable for snowshoes. Bring water and food, and plan on having lunch beside the frozen lake. The hike should take about five hours.

Lick Creek Loop
Date: Saturday, Feb. 4
Nearest town: Bozeman
Public land management: Custer Gallatin National Forest
Distance (round trip): 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 800 feet
Leaders: Kenneth Hapner and Ron Brekke
Description: The trailhead for the Lick Creek Loop hike is located 8 miles up Hyalite Canyon
Road. This hike snakes mostly east through both open and dense forest on a gradual climb with spectacular views of surrounding mountains. We’ll keep an eye out for the tracks of snowshoe hares, weasels, fox, deer, elk and maybe even a large cat. It’s difficult to predict snow conditions, so dress for the weather in layers. Bring lunch, water, snacks, sunglasses and a yearning for the smells, sights and sounds of the winter forest.

Mill Creek
Date: Saturday, Feb. 11
Nearest town: Ennis
Public land management: Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Distance (round trip): 6 miles
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet
Leaders: Bob Bayley and Tom Ross
Description: Our destination is a wild, roadless and remote parcel of land in the Madison Range accessed by a trailhead near Mill Creek, a tributary of Jack Creek. If conditions are favorable, we’ll enjoy spectacular views of Lone Peak and Fan Mountain as we climb through moderately steep terrain on a seldom-used trail.

Climbing Snowbank
Date: Saturday, Feb. 18
Nearest town: Emigrant
Public land management: Custer Gallatin National Forest
Distance (round trip): 6 miles
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Elevation gain: 950 feet
Leaders: Roger Jenkins and Susie McDonald
Description: A steady—but not steep—climb up the Mill Creek drainage in the Absaroka Range, this hike offers sweeping views of the Mill Creek Valley, the Bridger Range and the depths of the Absaroka Range.

The Hogback
Date: Saturday, March 18
Nearest Town: Livingston
Public land management: Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Distance (round trip): 8 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
Leaders: Karen Williams and Roger Breeding
Description: This hike follows the spine of a hogback ridge that runs east-west from the Trail Creek area to Paradise Valley, with great views of the Gallatins to the west and the Absarokas to the east. Since this trail traverses a considerable amount of bedrock, its surface is rocky, uneven and not commonly snow-covered. It can generally be hiked (rather than snowshoed) from mid- to late-March. This is a great early spring hike, but with significant elevation gain.

All outings are free and open to the public, but participants need to preregister online. MWA will provide snowshoes for participants if necessary.

To download the complete 2017 Winter Wilderness Walks schedule and preregister for a walk, visit

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