Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail In Montana

Here is everything you need to know about the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Montana
  • Length: 2.2 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: gravel
  • Managed By: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/lee_metcalf/

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Wildlife Viewing Trail is a significant natural attraction located in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, United States. The refuge itself was established in 1963 and named after Lee Metcalf, a former U.S. Senator from Montana who was a strong advocate for conservation and environmental protection. The Wildlife Viewing Trail, within the refuge, was developed to provide visitors with a unique opportunity to observe and appreciate the diverse wildlife and natural habitats found in the area.

The history of the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail dates back to the early 1990s when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized the need for a designated trail system to enhance visitor experiences. The trail was designed to offer a variety of viewing opportunities, including wetlands, riparian areas, grasslands, and forested habitats. It was carefully planned to minimize disturbance to the wildlife while providing visitors with a chance to observe and learn about the rich biodiversity of the region.

Over the years, the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail has become a popular destination for nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers, and photographers. The trail offers several observation points, interpretive signs, and viewing platforms strategically placed to maximize wildlife sightings. Visitors can spot a wide range of species, including waterfowl, raptors, songbirds, mammals, and reptiles, as they traverse the trail’s well-maintained paths.

Today, the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail stands as a testament to the commitment of conservationists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve and protect the natural beauty and wildlife of the Bitterroot Valley. It serves as an educational resource, allowing visitors to connect with nature and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Visitor Center Trailhead: This is the main access point to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Wildlife Viewing Trail. It is located at the Lee Metcalf NWR Visitor Center, where visitors can obtain maps and information about the trail.

2. Willow Creek Trailhead: This access point is located near the Willow Creek Fishing Access Site, providing easy access to the Wildlife Viewing Trail. It offers parking facilities and is a popular starting point for hikers and birdwatchers.

3. Teller Wildlife Refuge Trailhead: Located near the Teller Wildlife Refuge, this access point allows visitors to explore both the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail and the Teller Wildlife Refuge. It offers parking facilities and is a great spot for observing waterfowl and other wildlife.

4. Lee Metcalf NWR Headquarters Trailhead: This access point is located near the Lee Metcalf NWR Headquarters and provides access to the Wildlife Viewing Trail. It offers parking facilities and is a convenient starting point for exploring the refuge.

5. Lee Metcalf NWR North Trailhead: This access point is located at the northern end of the Wildlife Viewing Trail. It offers parking facilities and is a good starting point for those who want to explore the northern section of the refuge.

6. Lee Metcalf NWR South Trailhead: This access point is located at the southern end of the Wildlife Viewing Trail. It offers parking facilities and is a convenient starting point for those who want to explore the southern section of the refuge.

7. Lee Metcalf NWR East Trailhead: This access point is located at the eastern end of the Wildlife Viewing Trail. It offers parking facilities and is a great starting point for those who want to explore the eastern section of the refuge.

8. Lee Metcalf NWR West Trailhead: This access point is located at the western end of the Wildlife Viewing Trail. It offers parking facilities and is a convenient starting point for those who want to explore the western section of the refuge.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail. There may be additional smaller access points or trailheads within the refuge as well.

Transportation Available

1. Yellowstone National Park Shuttle – Shuttle service to and from Yellowstone National Park.
2. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport – Airport offering domestic and limited international flights.
3. Greyhound Bus Station – Bus station providing long-distance transportation options.
4. Bozeman Taxi – Local taxi service for convenient transportation.
5. Uber – Ride-hailing service available in the area.
6. Lyft – Another ride-hailing service option for transportation needs.
7. Big Sky Shuttle – Shuttle service offering transportation to various destinations in the region.
8. Bozeman Car Rental – Car rental service for independent transportation.
9. Bozeman Bike Share – Bike-sharing program for eco-friendly transportation.
10. Bozeman Trolley – Trolley service providing guided tours and transportation in the area.


The amenities available at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Wildlife Viewing Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: Ample parking spaces are provided for visitors’ vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Unfortunately, camping is not allowed at the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail. However, there are nearby campgrounds available for those interested in camping.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack amidst the beautiful surroundings.

5. Wildlife Viewing Platforms: The trail features several wildlife viewing platforms strategically placed to provide optimal views of the refuge’s diverse wildlife.

6. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there are informative interpretive signs that provide educational information about the wildlife, plants, and habitats found in the refuge.

7. Benches: Benches are placed along the trail, allowing visitors to rest and take in the scenery.

8. Bird Blind: There is a bird blind available for birdwatchers to observe and photograph birds without disturbing them.

9. Nature Store: The refuge has a nature store where visitors can purchase books, field guides, souvenirs, and other items related to wildlife and nature.

10. Educational Programs: The Lee Metcalf NWR offers various educational programs and guided tours for visitors of all ages to learn more about the refuge’s wildlife and conservation efforts.

Please note that amenities may be subject to change, so it is always a good idea to check with the Lee Metcalf NWR or their official website for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Lodging:
– Bitterroot River Inn – Comfortable hotel with scenic views of the Bitterroot River.
– Super 8 by Wyndham Hamilton – Affordable accommodation with basic amenities.
– Townhouse Inn of Hamilton – Cozy inn offering a convenient location in downtown Hamilton.

2. Food Services:
– Spice of Life – Local restaurant serving a variety of delicious dishes.
– Naps Grill – Casual eatery known for its burgers and sandwiches.
– Coffee Cup Cafe – Quaint café offering breakfast and lunch options.

3. Emergency Services:
– Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital – Full-service hospital providing emergency medical care.
– Hamilton Police Department – Local law enforcement agency.
– Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department – Fire and rescue services for emergencies.

Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail Difficulty Notes

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Viewing Trail offers a moderate level of difficulty for visitors. The trail is well-maintained and relatively flat, making it accessible for most hikers. However, there are some sections with uneven terrain and occasional steep inclines, which may pose a challenge for those with mobility issues. Additionally, the trail can be exposed to the elements, with limited shade and potential for hot temperatures during the summer months. Overall, while the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail is not overly strenuous, it does require a moderate level of physical fitness and caution to navigate certain sections.

Features And Attractions

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Wildlife Viewing Trail offers a variety of scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Here are some notable attractions along the trail:

1. Bitterroot Mountains: The Lee Metcalf NWR is located at the base of the stunning Bitterroot Mountains, providing a picturesque backdrop for the entire trail.

2. Lee Metcalf NWR Visitor Center: Start your journey at the visitor center, where you can learn about the refuge’s history, wildlife, and conservation efforts.

3. Wildlife Viewing Areas: Throughout the refuge, there are designated wildlife viewing areas where you can spot a variety of animals, including waterfowl, songbirds, deer, elk, and even the occasional moose or bear.

4. Willow Creek: This scenic creek runs through the refuge, offering opportunities for birdwatching and enjoying the peaceful sounds of flowing water.

5. Historic Teller Wildlife Refuge: Adjacent to the Lee Metcalf NWR, the Teller Wildlife Refuge is a historic site that was once a private hunting retreat. It now serves as a sanctuary for wildlife and offers additional trails for exploration.

6. Wetland Areas: The refuge is home to several wetland areas, including ponds and marshes, which attract a diverse range of bird species. Look out for herons, egrets, ducks, and geese.

7. Riparian Habitat: The trail passes through riparian areas, where you can observe the unique plant and animal life that thrives in these water-rich ecosystems.

8. Osprey Nesting Platforms: Keep an eye out for the large nesting platforms built specifically for ospreys. These birds of prey can often be seen fishing in the nearby ponds and rivers.

9. Educational Signage: Along the trail, you’ll find informative signs that provide details about the local flora, fauna, and conservation efforts, enhancing your understanding of the refuge’s ecosystem.

10. Scenic Overlooks: The trail offers several scenic overlooks that provide panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including the mountains, wetlands, and forests.

Remember to bring binoculars, a camera, and comfortable walking shoes to fully enjoy the wildlife and natural beauty along the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail.

Usage Guidelines

– Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Hunting, fishing, and trapping are prohibited.
– Feeding or disturbing wildlife is strictly prohibited.
– Camping or overnight stays are not allowed.
– Bicycles, motorized vehicles, and horses are not permitted on the trail.
– Collection or removal of plants, animals, or artifacts is prohibited.
– Fires and fireworks are not allowed.
– Use of drones or other remote-controlled devices is prohibited.
– Visitors must stay on designated trails and follow all posted signs.
– Seasonal restrictions may apply, such as closures during certain times of the year for wildlife protection or habitat restoration.
– Visitors are encouraged to practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out all trash.
– Commercial activities or organized events require a special use permit.
– Visitors should be aware of and respect the privacy of neighboring landowners.
– The refuge may be closed during inclement weather or for other safety reasons.

Seasonal Information

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Wildlife Viewing Trail is a stunning destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. Located in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, this refuge offers a diverse range of habitats and an abundance of wildlife. While the refuge is open year-round, there are certain times of the year that are particularly ideal for visiting.

One of the best times to visit the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail is during the spring and early summer months. This is when the refuge comes alive with vibrant wildflowers, lush greenery, and a plethora of migratory birds. The wetlands and ponds are teeming with waterfowl, including ducks, geese, and swans. Visitors can also spot various species of songbirds, raptors, and even the occasional bald eagle. The mild temperatures and longer daylight hours make it a perfect time to explore the trail and witness the beauty of nature in full bloom.

Another great time to visit is during the fall season. As the leaves change color and the air becomes crisp, the Lee Metcalf NWR transforms into a picturesque landscape. The refuge is home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, moose, and even black bears. Fall is also the time when the bird migration begins, and visitors can witness flocks of sandhill cranes and Canada geese passing through the area. The trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and the vibrant fall foliage, making it a photographer’s paradise.

It’s important to note that the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail has seasonal closures in certain areas to protect wildlife during sensitive times. For example, some sections of the trail may be closed during the nesting season to ensure the undisturbed breeding of birds. Additionally, some areas might be temporarily closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall and hazardous conditions. It’s always recommended to check the refuge’s website or contact the visitor center for the most up-to-date information on closures and trail conditions before planning your visit.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Trail: The Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail offers a fully accessible trail for wheelchair users, ensuring everyone can enjoy the wildlife and natural beauty of the refuge.
2. Paved Pathways: The trail features paved pathways, providing smooth and easy access for individuals with mobility challenges.
3. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available near the trail entrance, allowing convenient access for visitors with disabilities.
4. Accessible Restrooms: The refuge provides accessible restrooms equipped with features such as grab bars and wider doorways to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
5. Benches and Rest Areas: Throughout the trail, there are benches and rest areas strategically placed, providing opportunities for visitors to take breaks and enjoy the surroundings.
6. Interpretive Signage: The trail features interpretive signage with large, easy-to-read text and braille, ensuring individuals with visual impairments can access information about the wildlife and habitat.
7. Audio Guides: The refuge offers audio guides that provide detailed descriptions of the wildlife and points of interest along the trail, catering to individuals with visual impairments.
8. Assistance Animals: Service animals are welcome on the trail, allowing individuals with disabilities to have the necessary support and companionship during their visit.
9. Accessible Viewing Platforms: The trail includes accessible viewing platforms that offer elevated vantage points for wildlife observation, ensuring individuals using wheelchairs have equal opportunities to enjoy the scenery.
10. Ranger Assistance: Knowledgeable refuge staff and volunteers are available to provide assistance and answer any questions regarding accessibility or ADA accommodations for visitors with disabilities.

Safety Information

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked paths to avoid disturbing wildlife and minimize the risk of getting lost.
2. Be aware of wildlife: Keep a safe distance from animals, respect their space, and never approach or feed them.
3. Carry bear spray: Due to the presence of bears in the area, it is recommended to carry bear spray and know how to use it properly.
4. Dress appropriately: Wear sturdy shoes, dress in layers, and bring rain gear as weather conditions can change quickly.
5. Stay hydrated: Carry an adequate supply of water, especially during hot weather, to prevent dehydration.
6. Use sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect yourself from sunburn and insect bites by applying sunscreen and using repellent.
7. Watch for uneven terrain: Be cautious of uneven surfaces, rocks, and tree roots to prevent trips and falls.
8. Check for trail closures or warnings: Before visiting, check for any trail closures or warnings on the refuge’s website or at the visitor center.
9. Inform someone of your plans: Let someone know your intended route and estimated return time for safety purposes.
10. Respect other visitors: Be considerate of other wildlife enthusiasts by keeping noise levels low and allowing others to enjoy the experience.

Conservation Notes

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Wildlife Viewing Trail is a vital conservation area that plays a significant role in protecting and preserving the local wildlife and their habitats. The refuge is committed to maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity of the area, ensuring the long-term survival of various species.

The conservation status of the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail is considered to be in good condition. The refuge actively manages the trail and its surrounding areas to provide suitable habitats for a wide range of wildlife species. This includes maintaining and restoring native vegetation, managing water resources, and controlling invasive species that may threaten the ecosystem.

The Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail is home to numerous species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. It provides critical habitat for migratory birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. The refuge also supports populations of threatened and endangered species, such as the bald eagle, trumpeter swan, and the northern leopard frog. Efforts are made to monitor and protect these species, ensuring their survival and promoting their recovery.

Overall, the conservation status of the Lee Metcalf NWR Wildlife Viewing Trail is a testament to the dedicated efforts of the refuge staff and conservation organizations involved. Through their ongoing conservation initiatives, the trail continues to provide a safe haven for wildlife, contributing to the overall health and resilience of the ecosystem.

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