Northern Rockies and Northern Youth Branch
Kalispell is surrounded by thousands of acres of picturesque public lands, including three impressive wilderness areas, Glacier National Park, and numerous state parks. The city serves as the hub of the Flathead Valley, which sustains one of the fastest-growing populations in the state. The demand for outdoor recreational venues and facilities is significant, which makes MCC’s services that much more relevant. While crews complete project work throughout Northwest Montana, each corner of this landscape offers something different - from remote untrammeled rain forest to rugged mountain tops and deep canyons, to wild rivers. It should come as no surprise that many alumni choose to make this unparalleled area their home after their term of service has ended.
Regional Field Program Staff
Youth Program Staff
A major asset in this region is water. The area has the highest concentration of lakes in Montana as well as blue ribbon fisheries in several rivers. The expansive Flathead/Kootenai River drainages converge on their way out to the Columbia Basin. The presence of water over millennia has created lush forests, rugged mountains, and a haven for large predators like the grizzly bear. Whether you’re looking for stunning vistas, the solitude of the wilderness, or you’re ready to get dirty recreating, there’s no shortage of moments that will give you lasting memories and leave you breathless.
Public Lands in Our Area
Bob Marshall Wilderness
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is a congressionally designated wilderness located in western Montana. It is named after Bob Marshall, an early forester, conservationist, and co-founder of The Wilderness Society. "The Bob", as it is known by locals and nicknamed by Forest Service employees, ranges in altitudes of 4,000 to over 9,000 feet. A long escarpment known as the Chinese Wall averages 1,000 feet high from its base and extends for 22 miles. Aside from numerous waterfalls, lakes, and dense forests, the wilderness is also prime grizzly bear habitat and the U.S. Forest Service claims that the population density of this species is higher anywhere else in the U.S. outside of Alaska.
Cabinet Mountains Wilderness
The Cabinets obtained their name from early French explorers who noted that the rock formations along the Clark Fork River looked like boxes or cabinets. Most of these rock formations are now under the Cabinet Gorge Reservoir but some are still visible. Variety best describes the wilderness, ranging from the high, rocky peaks often snowcapped year-round, to groves of huge cedars in the canopied valleys. Hidden in the peaks and ridges are scores of deep blue lakes, feeding clear, cold streams that tumble to moose country below.
Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River in the contiguous United States. The lake is a remnant of the ancient, massive glacial dammed lake, Lake Missoula of the era of the last interglacial. The lake is bordered on its eastern shore by the Mission Mountains and on the west by the Salish Mountains. One item of particular interest is Wild Horse Island State Park near Big Arm Bay. The island is home to large ungulates such as mule deer and big horn sheep. It also supports a small population of wild horses.
Glacier National Park
The park encompasses over one million acres and includes parts of two mountain ranges, over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem", a region of protected land encompassing 16,000 square miles. Glacier National Park has almost all its original native plant and animal species. Large mammals such as the grizzly, moose, and mountain goat, as well as rare or endangered species like the wolverine and Canadian lynx, inhabit the park. Hundreds of species of birds, more than a dozen fish species, and a few reptile and amphibian species have been documented. The park has numerous ecosystems ranging from prairie to tundra. Notably, the easternmost forests of western red cedar and hemlock grow in the southwest portion of the park.
Great Bear Wilderness
The Great Bear is located west of the Continental Divide which forms the eastern boundary. Great Northern Mountain is the highest peak in the wilderness which is dominated by dozens of other mountains, all part of the Rocky Mountain Front. Great Bear is the origination point of the Wild and Scenic designated Middle Fork of the Flathead River, which flows for 50 miles through the wilderness and is rarely visited. In the valleys, a dense coniferous forest is dominated by various species of spruce, pine, and fir. Living up to its name, the wilderness is prime grizzly bear habitat and has some of the densest populations of the species around. Black bears are also common in the area. Other mammals found in the wilderness include lynx, wolverine, mule deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep. There are few lakes in the wilderness, but over 500 miles of named streams and rivers.
Less than 10 minutes from Kalispell, Herron Park is a mountain biker’s / hiker’s / cross-country skier’s gateway to a vast trail system through timberlands extending south toward Blacktail Mountain.
Lone Pine State Park
More than six miles of hiking/biking trails, from well surfaced to steep single track, topped off by a terrific visitor center and fantastic bird’s eye views of the entire valley.
Mission Mountain Wilderness
The Mission Mountains are a land of rugged peaks with snow on them most of the year, small active glaciers, alpine lakes, meadows, clear streams that run icy cold, slab-like boulders, vertical cliff faces, and talus slopes. The average elevation is 7,000 feet. In the northern portion, you'll find the terrain less severe and more heavily timbered. The southern portion, however, receives more visitors, primarily around the alpine lakes (most of which do not thaw until mid-June). The dense forest includes pine, fir, larch, and western red cedar. In the summer, high basins are painted with a sea of wildflowers. Wildlife lives in abundant numbers in the Missions: elk and deer, black bears and grizzly bears, mountain goats and mountain lions, a few gray wolves, and a wealth of smaller fur-bearing animals.
The Scapegoat Wilderness is spread across three different national forests. Created by an act of Congress in 1972, the wilderness is located in Lewis and Clark, Helena and Lolo National Forests. With most of the wilderness heavily forested in conifers, the primary tree species found include Engelmann spruce, ponderosa and lodgepole pine, and Douglas fir. Wolves and grizzlies call the wilderness home as do black bears, moose, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and mule deer. Rare sightings of wolverine and mountain lions are possible along with bald eagles, peregrine falcons, trumpeter swans, and pelicans. Eight species of fish inhabit the lakes and streams with rainbow trout and northern pike being the most common game fish. Fourteen lakes are located in the wilderness as well as the headwaters of the Blackfoot River.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
The world’s first international peace park was established by the United States and Canada in 1932. You’ll need a passport and about 2.5 hours to drive from Kalispell across the border into Canada and on to Waterton. The area holds an abundance of cultural and physical significance—so much so it was named a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1995. Both parks boast superlative mountain scenery, high topographic relief, glacial landforms, and abundant diversity of wildlife and wildflowers.
A mature woodland is featured on this beautiful and secluded campground and beach. This park is your base camp for adventure. Located less than one mile from the Whitefish trail hiking and biking trail system, and a short drive from Whitefish Mountain ski resort, recreational activities are abundant. The park is a convenient place to camp for those wanting to stay close to the amenities of Whitefish, although it can be very crowded in summer. The park contains a boat launch and swimming beach popular with locals, and the campground has running water and flush toilets.