Photo by Meg Killen

I. Granite Butte

July 8 - 9, 2017

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Project Name: Granite Butte
Project Dates: July 8 - 9, 2017

Volunteer Limit: 10
Volunteer Space Available: 4
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Project Location: Helena-Lewis and Clark Natl Forest
Meeting Time and Place: Friday July 7, 7:00 PM @ Granite Butte dispersed campsite

Basic Project Description

Montana Wilderness Association has put in hundreds of volunteer hours near Granite Butte. After volunteers helped fully refurbish the lookout tower, crews got to work building a new section of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This new stretch of the CDT takes thru-hikers and weekend warriors off the gravel road and straight up to historic Granite Butte Lookout. A lot of sweat has been poured into making this new trail a reality. There's still more work to be done.

MWA needs volunteers to join up for the weekend of July 8 - 9 to help finish this new section of trail. We'll be digging new tread, installing drainage structures and brushing out the corridor. We want to make this stretch of trail is bomber for all our hiking, mountain biking and horse riding friends. It is tough work that promises to bring a big reward in the end. Many a foot, hoof and tire will cross this path for decades to come. Here is your chance to make a mark!

About the Area

Granite Butte Lookout, perched at 6897', is the only lookout located directly atop Montana's Continental Divide. Granite Butte's panoramic views of the Scapegoat Wilderness, Big Belt Mountains and Scratchgravel Hills made it an ideal location for fire spotting. Originally used as a lookout in 1932, the existing structure was constructed in 1962. It has long since been decommissioned, but thanks to several MWA volunteers the lookout has been restored and will soon be used once again, albeit for public rental.

Our work area in the Lincoln Ranger District lies just outside the Nevada Mountain Proposed Wilderness, a 50,300 acre roadless area that serves as secure habitat for wildlife such as elk, lynx, grizzlies, pine marten and fisher. It is also a hotspot for the ultra-rare wolverine. This area has been endorsed for designation stretching all the way back to 1979. From our work site on Granite Butte, we'll catch terriffic views into this rugged country and be able to spot the skyline's defining mountain peaks, Nevada Mountain and Black Mountain.

Meeting Place

You will meet your crew leader on Friday July 7th at 7pm at our Granite Butte dispersed campsite. A map of the location is available here. The campsite is approximately 1/8 of a mile down Forest Service Road 485D, west of the Granite Butte Lookout. 

Directions from Helena:

  • Take I-15 North to Exit 200 (Lincoln Rd W/Hwy 279)
  • Turn Left onto Lincoln Road W/Hwy 279 and continue for approx. 22 miles
  • Turn Left onto Stemple Pass Road
  • Continue all the way to Stemple Pass
  • At the intersection on the pass, turn Left onto FSR 485
  • Follow FSR 485 south for approx 4 miles
  • Turn Right onto FSR 485D

Directions from Lincoln:

  • Head South on Stemple Pass Road
  • Continue all the way to Stemple Pass
  • At the intersection on the pass, turn Right onto FSR 485
  • Follow FSR 485 south for approx 4 miles
  • Turn Right onto FSR 485D

You will drive a significant portion of the time on gravel roads. Two wheel drive vehicles should be able to access the area, but a high clearance 4WD vehicle is suggested.

Project Elevation

5,500 to 6,5000 feet

Hike at the Worksite

Our daily hike will range from 2-4 miles, depending how much trail we've completed on days prior. Be prepared to carry along two tools and your full day pack, including rain gear, extra layers and 3-4 liters of water.

Camping Information

This is a primitive, frontcountry campsite. We will be able to drive to our campsite, but will likely stage our vehicles down the road to maximize room for camping. See "Meeting Place" section for directions to the campground.

Volunteers will assist in preparing the campsite for the week including setting up tarps, kitchen equipment, and group latrine.  Crew will be educated on Leave No Trace practices, and asked to follow these principles throughout the week. Food storage (bear) regulations will be observed. MWA will provide adequate food and snacks, however, if you want to bring along some extra personal snacks please plan for safe storage accordingly. MWA bear boxes will be full with crew food and extra space will not be available. 

Food and Water

Arrive on Friday with enough water to get you through the day, breakfast in your belly and a packed lunch easily accessible in your backpack. Your first meal provided by MWA will be breakfast on Saturday, July 8th and your last meal will be a packed lunch on Sunday, July 9th. Please remember to bring your own plate/bowl, utensils and hot drink mug.

Water is scarce in this area. MWA will supply water and group filters to replenish, but anything you can bring will be a huge help. If you have water cubies or large water bottles, please fill these up before coming to the project.

What to Bring

Please be sure to review this Car Camping Gear List before packing and arriving to your project. Items commonly forgotten by volunteers include rain gear, mess kits, safety gloves/glasses, warm layers and water bottles- please make sure you have these before departing for our project.

Physical Abilities

Trail construction is hard work. It takes consecutive hours of digging, lifting and moving large rocks and logs and sometimes hauling materials from one place to the next. You must be in sound physical condition to join for this project. If you have any concerns about your ability to participate, please contact Sonny Mazzullo at


Prepare for possibility of rain, snowstorms, high winds, cold weather and bugs. Unpredictable weather is to be expected – bring proper gear. It can snow in high elevations – even in July! If we do experience actual summerlike temperatures, be prepared for sun exposure. Bring hats, long sleeves, and sunscreen!

Here is a link to the Weather Forecast on However, don't be fooled; weather on the divide can be very different than predicted. Please be prepared for all kinds of conditions, regardless of the forecast.

Spring tends to be damp and rainy so be prepared with proper rain gear as well as bug spray. The mosquitos can be relentless in this area. 

Daily Schedule
  • 7:00 AM: Breakfast- stumble out of your tent to the kitchen to eat and pack lunch, fill waters and prepare necessary layers and gear for the day.
  • 8:00 AM: Daily safety talk, then hike to the worksite 
  • 12:00 PM: Lunch on the trail. One mid-morning and one mid-afternoon break, as well. 
  • 4:30 PM: Begin our hike back to camp- once we arrive back at camp we will have some personal time before jumping into dinner prep.
  • 5:30 PM: Designated students prepare dinner for crew.
  • 7:00 PM: Dishes and kitchen clean up are completed.
  • Once dinner and dishes are complete, you are free to spend the evenings as you wish- taking in a sunset, chatting around the campfire, reading or catching up on some zzz's.

Volunteers are responsible for checking project website for updates up until the day before the project start date. Last minute changes can take place due to weather, bad river crossings, wild fires or other events out of our hands. If you are traveling before your project, be sure to check your email to receive any last minute updates.  MWA staff may be in the field and unreachable 1-2 days before your project so plan ahead!


Do not show up to an MWA project without registering or without receiving a confirmation email from MWA staff. Unregistered volunteers will not be permitted to participate on projects. Minors require a hard copy volunteer registration with two signatures: one from volunteer, one from parent/guardian.

MWA requires a refundable deposit for project registration. This will help us ensure that everyone who registers is well-intentioned and that MWA will not have to bear the costs of last-minute cancellations. More info available on the registration page linked below. Refundable Deposit for this project is $50.


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