This post is sponsored by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
People always talk about places being “underrated” and “hidden gems.” Those terms get used so much that they don’t really mean anything, but here I go… The Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area is an underrated hidden gem. I’d go so far as to say that Mt. Haggin is one of my favorite places to go in Montana in winter.
Until recently, I only knew Mt. Haggin for the cross-country ski trail system. I’ve skied there several times, both with my family and as part of a friends’ weekend getaway. It’s a beautiful place to ski or snowshoe. Picture orange willows, conifer-lined trails, big mountain views, and stand-alone, conical Sugarloaf Mountain as a backdrop.
The ski trails are in a wide valley at an elevation of 6,600 feet in the Anaconda-Pintlar Mountains. Some of the trails are pretty mellow and others are steep! Overall, it’s a fun mix of up and down amidst gorgeous scenery.
Mount Haggin WMA is 56,151 acres and its use is greatly expanded by being adjacent to National Forest.
Mt. Haggin is one of 58 Montana Wildlife Management Areas managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. They all have different use opportunities and facilities, so it’s a little hard to know what to expect when you visit one.
Here’s everything you need to know about Mt. Haggin WMA. Keep reading to find out how to plan your trip to one of the best hidden gems in Montana.
- Mount Haggin WMA was established in 1976 in part to provide year-round habitat for wildlife, especially elk, moose, and mule deer. We saw mule deer and lots of moose prints.
- The Big Hole side (east of the Continental Divide) of the WMA provides calving and summer range to elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and antelope that migrate from as far away as Bannack, 50 miles to the south.
- Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and other forms of winter recreation are permitted within Mount Haggin WMA on the east or Big Hole side of the Continental Divide only.
- The WMA provides year-round recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, camping, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and wildlife viewing.
- The side west of the Continental Divide is closed from Dec 1-May 15 to provide security for wintering big game.
- You can read about the mining and logging history in parts of Mt. Haggin WMA on the MTFWP site.
Mt. Haggin Ski Trails
The Mile High Nordic Ski Education Foundation (MHNSEF) maintains groomed cross-country ski trails in cooperation with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks at Mount Haggin.
Great views abound on the nearly 28 kilometers of trails. About 10 kilometers are groomed for skate skiing, and all of the trails, with the exception of the Spire Loop, are groomed for classic skiing.
Ski trails can also be used as access to backcountry skiing along the Continental Divide.
Volunteers groom the trail system once or twice per week. There is a vault toilet near the warming hut on the ski trails.
There are no fees to ski here, but donations are appreciated.
What Else Can you Do at Mt. Haggin WMA?
While I am in it for the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, there are a bunch of other outdoor recreation opportunities at Mt. Haggin.
There aren’t any facilities, so come prepared to be self-contained.
- Snowmobiling is popular in winter. The parking area is the same as for the ski trails, but whereas the skiers go west, snowmobilers go south and east.
- Hunting and Trapping
- Horseback Riding
- Wildlife Watching
Getting to Mt. Haggin WMA
There are several places to access Mt Haggin WMA.
Access May 15 – Dec 1:
- The German Gulch entrance is located at the end of the German Gulch Road near Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.
- The Cabbage Gulch entrance is located 4 miles on MT Highway 569 from its junction with MT Highway 1.
- There are several other access points off MT Highway 569 (“Mill Creek Highway”) which cuts across the WMA between Anaconda and MT Highway 43 (“Big Hole Highway”).
- To get to the ski and snowmobile trails, drive west on Highway 569 from Anaconda, about 24 miles to the parking area on the left (south) side of the road.
Where to Stay Near Mt. Haggin Wildlife Management Area
The Sugar Loaf Lodge and Cabins are right across the highway from Mount Haggin Nordic Ski Area. This cozy spot is perfect for a winter, mountain getaway. They have lodge rooms and cabins for groups of 1 to 16. I like staying here because we can ski across the road to get to the trails – no driving required.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is a fun place to stay the night. There are a couple of restaurants, a bar, and of course the hot springs pools and a fun slide. Fairmont is quite close to the German Gulch entrance to Mt. Haggin WMA (closed in winter). Read more about Fairmont in my Montana Hot Springs Guide.
More Montana Gems Near Mt. Haggin
If you are in the area, there are three Montana State Parks that are well worth a visit. We visited Lost Creek State Park, Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park, and Bannack State Park on a winter road trip.
Lost Creek State Park
Lost Creek State Park is east of Anaconda. In winter you can drive to the Montana State Park entrance sign for the park and then ski or snowshoe about 1.5 miles to Lost Creek Falls Trail and the end of the campground loop. Along the way, there are interpretive signs. At the end, you’ll find Lost Creek Falls about 100 from the trailhead and more of a cascade than a waterfall.
Getting to Lost Creek State Park: From the east end of Anaconda, turn north onto MT-48N. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Galen Road and drive 1.9 miles. Turn left onto Lost Creek Road and drive about 7.5 miles until the plowing ends. There is room to turn around and parking for 4-5 cars.
Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park
Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park is right in the town of Anaconda. The Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack is one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world at 585 feet, and it was built in 1919. You can see it towering above the town from just about anywhere.
The State Park isn’t at the Anaconda smelter stack, but down below. The viewing site has interpretive signs and binoculars for a better view of the smelter stack. The best part, for me, is the short, circular brick wall that shows the size of the stack at the top and the larger octagonal platform which is the same size and shape as the stack at the bottom. You don’t realize how big it is when looking at the smelter stack from afar, so it really puts things into perspective.
Getting to Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park: The viewing site is at 100 Anaconda Smelter Road at the end of 4th Street.
Bannack State Park
Bannack State Park is the site of Montana’s first major gold discovery in 1862 and Montana’s first territorial capital. This Montana State Park is a bit farther than the other two and will take you about an hour and a half to get there.
Bannack is one of the best ghost towns in Montana. You can walk (or ski!) down a main street that looks right out of the Old West. Many of the buildings are unlocked and you are free to poke around inside. You’ll see a saloon, hotel, log cabins, gallows, a church, and more.
Memorial Day – August 10, 2022
8 am – 9 pm
Shoulder Season Hours:
August 11, 2022 – September 30, 2022
8 a.m. – Sunset
In winter, the visitor center is open upon request. Vault toilets in the parking area and about halfway through town are also open in winter. In normal years there is a skating rink and warming hut.
Oct 1, 2022 – Memorial Day 2023
8 am – 5 pm
Closed December 24 & 25
Getting to Bannack State Park: From Mt. Haggin Ski and Snowshoe parking, head southwest on MT-569 for 11 miles. Turn right onto MT-43 W for 28 miles. Turn left onto MT-278 E for 44 miles. Turn right onto Bannack Bench Road and continue 3.8 miles to Bannack State Park.
From Dillon, drive south on I-15 for 2.5 miles to exit 59 for MT-278 toward Jackson/Wisdom. Turn right onto MT-278 W and drive 17.2 miles. Turn left onto Bannack Bench Road and continue 3.8 miles to Bannack State Park.
You might also like this post on the Best Montana State Parks because Montana’s State Parks are awesome.