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Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

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Area Management

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is part of the 111 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

General Wilderness Prohibitions

Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.

In a few areas some exceptions allowing the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport are described in the special regulations in effect for a specific area. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information.

These general prohibitions have been implemented for all national forest wildernesses in order to implement the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness." Use of the equipment listed as prohibited in wilderness is inconsistent with the provision in the Wilderness Act which mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.

Wilderness-Specific Regulations

Wilderness managers often need to take action to limit the impacts caused by visitor activities in order to protect the natural conditions of wilderness as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Managers typically implement 'indirect' types of actions such as information and education measures before selecting more restrictive measures. When regulations are necessary, they are implemented with the specific intent of balancing the need to preserve the character of the wilderness while providing for the use and enjoyment of wilderness.

The following wilderness regulations are in effect for this area. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information about the regulations listed.


-- Party size is limited to no more than 15 people. Groups larger than 15 people must split into two or more smaller groups and camp a minimum of 1/2 mile apart.

-- Storing equipment, personal property, or supplies (caching) is prohibited.

-- Do not shortcut switchbacks.

-- Do not dispose of debris, garbage or other waste in the Wilderness.

-- Mechanical transportation (including wagons, game carts, or other vehicles) is prohibited.

-- All campfires (other than propane or gas camp-stoves) are prohibited within 200 feet of any lakeshore, 100 feet of any live stream, 200 feet of the west shore of the Stillwater River (from the Woodbine Trailhead to mile marker 4), at Black Canyon Lake, in Black Canyon drainage, in the upper East Rosebud drainage above the outlet of Twin Outlets Lake, as well as Fossil, Cairn, Dewey, Medicine, Oly, Sioux Charlie and other small unnamed lakes at the head of the East Rosebud Drainage.

-- Placing or possessing salt for the purposes of attracting wildlife is prohibited. Persons providing salt to pack and saddle stock in approved corrals or other approved livestock feeding locations in the immediate vicinity of camp are exempt.

-- From March 1 to Decemeber 1, visitors are required to store all food, refuse, animal carcasses or other wildlife attractants acceptably (so as to make them unavailable to wildlife). See the Custer Gallatin National Forest Website at: for specific information on proper storage of attractants and food. In summary proper storage means:

1. All food, refuse or other attractants must be acceptably stored or acceptably possessed during daytime hours (either in certified bear resistant containers and/or utilizing a method listed on the most recent Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Certified Bear Resistant Products List, or hung 10 feet off the ground, 4 feet away from the trunk of the tree or pole).

2. All food, refuse or other attractants must be acceptably stored during nighttime hours, unless it is being prepared for eating, being eaten, being transported, or being prepared for acceptable storage.

3. Any harvested animal carcass must be acceptably stored, unless the carcass is being field dressed, transported, being prepared for eating, or being prepared for acceptable storage.

4. Camping or sleeping areas must be established at least 1/2 mile from a known animal carcass (on the ground) or at least 100 yards from an acceptably stored animal carcass.

5. Forest users shall report the death and location of livestock to a Forest Service official within 24 hours of discovery.

6. Burnable attractants that cannot be completely consumed by fire (i.e., no post burning residue) must be packed out.


-- Overnight visitors cannot occupy a single location for a period longer than 16 consecutive days. The term "location" means the occupied undeveloped campsite and lands within a five mile radius of the campsite. After leaving, a minimum of seven days is required before any group or person(s) from that group may reoccupy their original location.

-- Camping is prohibited within 200 feet of any lakeshore, 100 feet of any live stream, 200 feet of the west shore of the Stillwater River (from the Woodbine Trailhead to mile marker 4), and around the shoreline of Sioux Charlie Lake.


-- Using more than 15 head of pack or saddle stock in any group is prohibited in the East half of the Wilderness.

-- Using more than 25 head of pack or saddle stock in any group is prohibited in the West half of the Wilderness.

-- Hitching, tethering, or picketing pack or saddle stock in violation of posted trailhead instructions, within 200 feet of a lake, or 100 feet of a stream or free-flowing water is prohibited.

-- All pack or saddle stock feed must be certified weed seed free. Weed seed free products must be certified as being noxious weed seed free by an authorized State of Department of Agriculture official or designated county official; each individual bale or container must be tagged or marked as weed free and reference the written certification.

-- Free trailing of pack or saddle stock is prohibited.

Pack and saddle stock are prohibited from the following areas:

-- On the trail-less portion of the Beartooth Plateau from December 2 to July 31. (Overnight use of or camping with pack or saddle stock is always prohibited here.)

-- Within 1,000 feet of Summerville and Castle Lakes on the Beartooth Plateau.

-- On the Mystic Lake Trail #19 on the Beartooth Ranger District from the trailhead to the junction of trail #17, except during the fall deer/elk/bighorn sheep hunting seasons.

-- In the Zimmer and Aero Lake areas. This includes the Zimmer Lake Trail #574 and Lady of the Lake Trail #31 north of the junction of these two trail in Section 32, T.8S., R.15E.

-- On the Pine Creek Lake Trail #47 on the Yellowstone Ranger District from December 2 to September 15.

-- On the Thompson Lake Trail #282 on the Yellowstone Ranger District from April 1 to June 15.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

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