Are you using a screen reader? Click here to view the navigation links for this site as a bulleted list.

Partner logos: BLM, FWS, FS, NPS, University of Montana Logo
Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage
Text size: A | A | A  [Print]

Spanish Peaks Wilderness

General Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Volunteer

Area Management

The Spanish Peaks 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 Spanish Peaks 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.


-- Group size is limited to 25, including pack and saddle stock, with no more than 15 people in any one party.

-- Do not cut switchbacks. Doing so can cause severe erosion.

-- Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of lakes and 100 feet of streams or trails. Obey posted signs prohibiting camping or other activities. Some campsites may be closed to allow the area to recover from overuse.

-- A lightweight camp-stoves are recommended. Campfires should be at least 300 feet from lakes, streams, and trails and built in a manner that minimizes impact. Collect only dead and down wood, that is less than three inches in diameter (if you can't break it by hand, don't use it). Do not build a fire on exposed rock surfaces to prevent scarring. If possible, build fires on a fire blanket or a fire pan.

-- Soap, even biodegradable, pollutes the water. Dispose of wash water at least 300 feet away from any water source.

-- Pack out all garbage. It is NEVER acceptable to bury trash.

-- Bury human waste in a 6 to 8 inch deep hole at least 300 feet away from any open water, trail, or campsite.


-- All pack or saddle stock feed must be CERTIFIED WEED-FREE hay or pelletized food.

-- Restraining or grazing of pack or saddle stock is not permitted within 300 feet of lakes or 100 feet of streams.

-- Tie a highline between two trees and tether pack or saddle stock to it. Hobbling or loose grazing stock will prevent the "ring" appearance caused when stock are tied to trees.

-- To minimize damage to vegetation and prevent erosion, keep pack or saddle stock in single file on the trail.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

Give us your feedback