South-central Montana's 1.8 million-acre Gallatin National Forest, established in 1899, encompasses six distinct mountain ranges and parts of two designated wilderness areas: the Absaroka-Beartooth and the Lee Metcalf. Granite Peak, Montana's highest mountain at 12,799 feet, straddles the border between the Gallatin and Custer national forests.
The Gallatin National Forest is home to grizzly bears, black bears, gray wolves, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, elk, mule deer, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, antelope, mountain lions, and the Canada lynx. The Gallatin River, the Madison River, and tributaries of the Yellowstone River traverse the forest, and plentiful trout make the forest one of the country's premier fly fishing hotspots.
Special attractions include Earthquake Lake, formed in 1959 when a massive quake-triggered landslide sent 80 million tons of rock crashing into a narrow canyon of the Madison River, and the 68-mile Beartooth Scenic Byway (closed by snow in winter).
The Gallatin features more than 2,290 miles of hiking trails, some connecting to trails in Yellowstone National Park. Forty vehicle-accessible campgrounds and 23 rental cabins serve overnighters. Snowmobilers often access the forest via the neighboring town of West Yellowstone.
Local ranger districts offices are in Big Timber, Bozeman, Gardiner, Livingston, and West Yellowstone.