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Choosing the right cabin for you
There are 144 Forest Service rentals in Montana, but in such a big state, it takes a little Internet searching and savvy to figure out which ones suit your needs.
The most popular cabins in western Montana include the Morgan-Case Homestead and Hogback Cabin on Rock Creek, which are each nestled in secluded meadows. Both have a cool vintage style that puts them a notch above so many of the basic cabins found elsewhere. Woods Cabin, another popular destination, doesn’t have the same quaint aesthetic, but it makes up for it with a large deck overlooking the Bitterroot Valley’s Lake Como and a beach where you can host an evening bonfire.
Any cabin located near or in Glacier National Park is bound to get snatched up quickly, as are favorite cross-country skiing cabins like Hogan Cabin near the Anaconda Mountains and Gordon Reese, which serves as a warming hut and rental for skiers enjoying the Chief Joseph Pass trails at the southern end of the Bitterroot. Most of these cabins get booked six months out, which is the maximum amount of time you can rent them in advance.
To find a cabin rental at the last minute, look for some under-the-radar abodes such as Stony Cabin,— a primitive but cozy spot also on Rock Creek, —or one of the many fire lookouts, such as the West Fork Butte Lookout, which offers a 360-degree view of the Bitterroot mountains and Lolo Peak drainage, and the Missoula Lookout that oversees the breathtaking Missions and Swans.
When you decide to book a reservation, go to the Forest Service website (fs.fed.us/recreation/reservations) or recreation.gov to search the descriptions of available cabins and lookouts. The websites will give you a list of rules, amenities, number of people the cabin can accommodate, nearby attractions and tell you what to bring such as your own water or coolers for perishable foods. Note that some spots aren’t available year-round and even those that are available in winter may require you to ski or snowmobile in. The sites cover all of this, and will also tell you how to best keep yourself safe from potentially dangerous run-ins with wildlife. (They will not, however, tell you what to pack for your toddlers. That’s your burden.)