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Big Wild Empty: The Bob Marshall Wilderness

Think there's nothing wild left in the Lower 48? Don't tell the grizzlies on this traverse of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Big Rewards, Shorter Hikes
Get the best of the Bob in a week or less.

Wildlife Three Sisters
In mid-summer, elk herds make a home of the high ridgelines north of Redhead Peak and the Three Sisters. Why? It’s so tough to access that hikers and hunters rarely go here. From Gibson Reservoir, take the North Fork of the Sun River and Rock Creek Trails to Spotted Bear Pass. From Spotted Bear, climb cross-country over Redhead Peak and across the Three Sisters. Descend off the east ridge of the northernmost Sister to elk trails that drop to the headwaters of Three Sisters Creek. From here, climb to broad, campable flats atop the divide. Spin to return. Total mileage: 76

Best views The Chinese Wall Trail
This 65-mile point-to-point hike follows the base of the Chinese Wall, a 1,000-foot-tall, 40-mile-long escarpment. From Benchmark, due west of Choteau, cross South Fork of the Sun and hike six miles up to a bridge over the West Fork. From there, hike up the West Fork on the Chinese Wall Trail. Head north for a day to Larch Hill Pass, My Lake, and Spotted Bear Pass. From Spotted Bear, drop southeast down Rock Creek to Gates Park Guard Station. Here you cross the North Fork of the Sun and climb east up a creek and over a pass to Headquarters Pass trailhead.

Top campsite Dean Lake
Even the best short hike in this wilderness is big—and has a long trailhead approach, too. You’ll need to clock 36 miles out-and-back to reach this best-in-your-life tentsite next to Dean Lake, beneath the bulky pyramid of Pentagon Mountain. Start from the Spotted Bear River trailhead southeast of Hungry Horse Reservoir. Climb 11.2 miles along the Spotted Bear River to a junction at the base of Pentagon Creek, then climb the 5.3 miles and 2,947 feet of hairpin turns to Switchback Pass. Drop northeast from the pass to the headwaters of Basin Creek, then take an obvious fork 1.5 miles northwest to Dean Lake. (Note: The enticing Basin Creek Trail, shown prominently on USGS and GPS maps, does not exist.)

Day climb Headquarters Peak
A hike up Peak 8,789 (aka Headquarters Peak) delivers quintessential Bob views. Begin at Headquarters Creek Pass trailhead and hike 2.5 miles and 1,500 feet to Our Lake. Round the lake on its northern shore and climb west across meadow and talus to a 7,800-foot saddle. Turn south to summit via the steep but nontechnical northwest ridge, staying on its western flanks. On top, peer out at Old Baldy, Rocky Mountain, and the craggy Sawtooth Range. Total miles: approximately 10

>> Check out a slideshow of the author’s photos here.

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