Backcountry Preservation in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13276A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Enjoy the area's majestic mountains, limestone reefs, lush forests, broad valleys, and scenic rivers
  • Explore the wilderness on our free day
  • Work side-by-side with skilled, knowledgeable staff


  • Tool instruction and safety
  • Vegetarian-friendly cuisine 


DatesJul 1–7, 2013
Difficulty4 (out of 5)
StaffPaul LaQuatra
Photo: Eileen McManus

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Trip Overview

The Trip

We will help to build, restore, or clear trails in the “The Bob.” The Bob Marshall Wilderness is 1.5 million acres of federally designated wilderness in the northern Rockies of Montana that stretches from Glacier National Park in the north to Rogers Pass in the south. This system of lands, considered by many to be the crown jewel of wilderness areas in the lower 48, is a haven of clean air, water, and crucial habitat for rare and endangered plants and animals. Straddling the Continental Divide, this majestic wilderness area is comprised of towering limestone reefs (including the famous Chinese Wall), majestic mountains, lush forests, broad basins and valleys, and two Wild and Scenic rivers. It also is home to the best wildlife habitat in the Lower 48 for elk, deer, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bear, and the threatened grizzly bear. 

The Project

We will be working in the backcountry with the crew leaders from the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation. The crew leaders will teach us skills, including wilderness travel, Leave No Trace, safe tool handling, and trail construction techniques. We will be working on the trail to Bear Lake to cut out any logs that may be in the way and to maintain and install drainage features. These drainage features will aide in erosion control in burned areas to help maintain healthy watersheds. Our work this season will have lasting effects into the future. Trail #202 takes off from Mortimor Gulch Trailhead and follows the Gibson Reservoir east for approximately 5.5 miles along mostly flat ground.  About a ½ mile past the Reservoir, we will cross over the Wilderness Boundary and start to head southwest near the South Fork of the Sun River.  This last mile is a push, gaining some 800’, so be prepared and don’t wear yourself thin on the first part of the hike! 


We'll meet up on Monday, July 1st , enjoy dinner as our first meal together, then camp overnight at the rendezvous location. On Tuesday, we'll hike 8.5 miles to our base camp. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, we'll work on our service project, and take Friday off to explore or relax. The group will hike back to the trailhead on Sunday, July 7th, arriving around 1:00 p.m. so please make sure you have a late flight on Sunday. Or better yet, travel home on Monday! Our last meal together will be lunch on Sunday the 7th. 



Getting There

Participants are responsible for getting themselves to and from our campsite. Monday will be front-country camping near the Mortimor Gulch trailhead. Specific directions to our campsite will be included in a later mailing. The nearest airport is Great Falls, 100 miles away (a two-hour drive). Amtrak also goes to East Glacier. We will be near Choteau, MT, if you are considering driving. There is no public transportation available, but we encourage carpooling from the airport. 

Accommodations and Food

Come with an attitude that food is part of the adventure. Meals will be varied and are sure to please all. Our Wilderness Foundation staff are experienced hands (and chefs), and plan excellent menus and tasty food. Participants all get to take their turns as backcountry cooks to get firsthand experience in cooking and kitchen chores. We will be in bear (both black & grizzly) territory, so it will be necessary to practice backcountry food containment. Bears tend to shy away from humans, especially in groups. We will receive bear training from the BMWF crew leader, who will be carrying bear spray.

If you have food allergies or other food restrictions, please contact the leader before applying for the trip to determine if accommodations are possible within the limitations of a backcountry kitchen organized for the location. Please include allergy information or preferences on your Participant Approval & Medical forms.

Trip Difficulty

All participants work at their own pace -- after all, this is your vacation. However, since this is a backcountry trip, all participants are strongly encouraged to hike on and off trail to prepare for the rigors.  Being in good physical condition is essential for the hike in and out of our work site, for the work days, and for the free day of hiking. The work days could include lifting, handling tools, and moving rocks. Participants should be prepared for hiking over rough terrain at elevation to the work project and carrying a loaded day pack (containing raingear, hat, lunch, water, tools, etc.).

Equipment and Clothing

Though a detailed equipment list will also be sent in a later mailing, you should plan for daytime temperatures to reach the 80s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s, and know that our work project requires sturdy attire. Dressing in layers will allow you to be comfortable. Long-sleeved shirts; long pants; over-the-ankle, sturdy, waterproof hiking boots; and rainproof (not resistant) jacket and pants are a must. Avoid cotton attire. Bring two pairs of leather work gloves, a plastic storage container with lid, cup, eating utensils, two water bottles, small hand sanitizer, and first-aid kit. Each participant will carry his or her personal gear to the camp site, so a comfortable backpack will also be needed. Participants are also responsible for tent, ground cover, sleeping bag and pad. And, don't forget your camera!


  • Check out Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation's website,, for additional trail guides, topo maps and other info. You will have a day off, probably mid-week, to explore the area. Because we are at elevation, we also encourage arriving early to acclimate as well as explore this beautiful National Wilderness Preservation system.
  • You can also look through the web site for more images and details.
  • Molvar, Erik, Hiking Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. This is an excellent guide to the trails in the wilderness, giving not only mileage, condition and some illustrations of the trails, but fishing info as well.
  • Graetz, Rick P., Montana’s Bob Marshall Country: The Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, Great Bear Wilderness Areas and Surrounding Wildlands. This is a pictorial book of each section of the Bob Marshall Complex, from the Great Bear to the Scapegoat. 


We will follow Leave No Trace camping principles in the backcountry, which include the use of a primitive latrine. The BMWF crew-leader will guide us in these principles and the guidelines we will follow during the week. Our goal will be to minimally impact the campsite to keep it and this area in their natural, beautiful states. Our time in this wilderness setting will also be a chance to talk about current environment and land use issues in "The Bob" and in general.

The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, and we encourage grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the Club.



Since 1994, Paul LaQuatra has assisted or led several Sierra Club Outings, and has been an attendee on many others. He has hiked/backpacked in New England, the desert southwest, the Pacific Northwest, mid-Atlantic region, Hawaii, and Alaska. He has been an outdoors enthusiast since the early 1970s and a trail biker, no matter when or where he may find himself. Paul works professionally as a high school English teacher. He volunteers with his local Nature Conservancy organization.

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