Walking the Wild
Experience the great outdoors on one of our Wilderness Walks
The 2014 Wilderness Walks are here!
Join the Montana Wilderness Association as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act. Our 2014 Wilderness Walks feature walks into wilderness areas, proposed wilderness areas, and roadless lands that pay tribute to the spirit of the Wilderness Act. This year we are proud to offer more than 150 free, guided day hikes, backpacking adventures, and trail maintenance projects.
Each Wilderness Walk is an opportunity to slow down, feel the earth beneath your feet, travel a winding path through the forest, discover a wildflower-filled meadow, or reach the top of a mountain and experience nature with all your senses. And here's the best part — you'll be going with experienced guides who share their knowledge and passion for protecting our last wild places.
To walk and roam these wild places is an opportunity to become intimately involved with a landscape, to learn its character and understand why it's so important to protect our wild places for future generations—and for ourselves.
Wilderness Walks are free and open to the public. Hike description are in the Summer and Winter schedules, and can also be found by date on our Events Calendar page. The mission is to build grassroots support for wilderness by taking people to a special place that needs protection.
Walking Together Since 1962
In a letter dated November 1962, Montana Wilderness Association President Winton Weydemeyer told this story:
"Two wilderness walks conducted by the Association this summer were highly successful. The first was a walk in the Spanish Peaks Primitive Area south of Bozeman on July 21. This trip exploded the myth that 'only the rich and strong' can enjoy roadless country. People ranging in age from 4 to near 80 gathered for a pancake breakfast and most then climbed several miles into the rugged range. On August 18-19, a walk was conducted into the Jewel Basin area of the Swan Range east of Kalispell. The 49 hikers, ranging from 4 to 66 years, enjoyed several miles of mountain trails, many scenic viewpoints, and a number of alpine lakes."
Thousands of people have walked since those 1962 hikes that birthed the Wilderness Walks program. The program has attracted nearly 200 volunteer leaders — outdoor enthusiasts, long-time hikers, naturalists and experienced mountaineers — who organize walks into some of the most spectacular natural areas in Montana.
The 2012 Summer Wilderness Walks boasted 145 events, including dayhikes, backpacking, evening strolls, midweek escapes, wildflower walks, and trail maintenance projects. Special attention is often given to public wildlands that are not yet permanently protected wilderness.
The Summer Walks schedule is available by mid-April: hikes run April through October, ranging from leisurely family outings to moderate walks to strenuous trips for adventuresome types. Participants have explored the rugged peaks of southwestern Montana and the Absaroka-Beartooths, the dense forests of northwestern Montana, the mountain folds and glacial lakes of the Crown of the Continent, the open steppe country in the island ranges, and eastern Montana’s riparian areas, canyons and buttes.
Summer walks may include the opportunity to “Give Back While You Walk.” The nonprofit Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation is dedicated to restoring and preserving the trail system and wilderness values in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The Foundation is working with four national forests within “the Bob” to provide educational and challenging scenic trail service projects. The Foundation helps coordinate crew leadership, work itineraries, food menus, tool and equipment needs, pack support and post-project reports to the Forest Service. This is a great way to explore the Bob and give back while you walk.
The walks are organized by region, difficulty and date. Complete descriptions and details are sent to MWA members by mid-April each year. Non-members may check this website around April 21. If you would like to become a member of the Montana Wilderness Association and automatically receive Walks booklets, a quarterly newsletter, and other special mailings, contact us today.
We look forward to seeing you on a Wilderness Walk!
Wilderness Walks expanded in January 2004 to accommodate wintertime. The Winter Walks schedule is posted in mid-December each year; outings run January through March. Volunteer leaders take you on walks or snowshoe outings; difficulty ranges from beginning scenic outings to looking for lynx tracks to more challenging hikes to the top of mountain peaks. Walk leaders provide snowshoes if necessary.
Your checklist for Winter Walks with snowshoes:
- Reservations are required and must be made directly with the Walk leader. Be sure to ask questions when you call so you are well informed and assured that the Walk matches your abilities.
- Carefully review the descriptions and make your selections of Walks based on your physical abilities, general state of health, hiking/snowshoeing experiences, and equipment.
- Children with adult guidance are welcome unless the narrative notes that a hike is not suited for children.
- Each Walk has a size limit to guarantee a quiet experience, to protect fragile wildlands, and to comply with the guidelines of the managing land agency.
- All personal gear, food, and water are your responsibility. Please be sure you are properly equipped for abrupt weather changes with extra layers of clothing.
- No dogs are permitted, in fairness to fellow hikers and wildlife.
- Please leave all firearms at home.
- Be sure to plan adequate travel time so you are at the meeting place at the appointed hour.
- Don't be a "no show" at the trailhead after you have made your reservation. It leaves everyone waiting and worrying and denies someone else the chance to hike. If your plans change, you must notify the Walk leader as soon as possible.
- The winter season can bring freezing temperatures, winter storms and avalanche danger. Be well prepared to start your winter adventure.
- Select proper fabrics and layer your clothing to help maintain a constant body temperature.
- Bring plenty of food and water.
- Carry the necessary emergency equipment.
- Let others know where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Recognize the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Check the weather before you go.
The Montana Wilderness Association assumes no liability for personal injury or loss of personal property on the Wilderness Walks program. Prior to your walk, you will be asked to sign a waiver and release agreement.
There are no fees for the volunteer services of the walks leaders. Thank your walk leader; they are taking you on this adventure out of the goodness of their heart and their love of Montana wilderness.
If you would like to become a member of the Montana Wilderness Association and automatically receive our Wilderness Walks booklet, a quarterly newsletter, and other special mailings, contact us today.
We look forward to seeing you on a snowshoe hike!