Missoula, Montana– Forest Service officials have closed some areas and segments of trail in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, including the the popular Spring Creek Trail (trail 517), due to recent black bear sightings in the area.
There have been no incidents between black bears and recreation users but an unusually high number of sightings and bear encounters have prompted officals to close some trails as a precaution. The closure will affect Trails 517, 517.1, and 28.1 and Trail 513 from the Woods Gulch Trailhead to its junction with trail 513.2. The closure also closes areas within a 1/8 mile buffer on some segments of these trails.
For specific locations of the areas closed please see the attached map. The closed areas will also marked with signs. The main Rattlesnake Trail (515) remains open.
Also currently remaining open are: access to Stuart Peak from the Ravine Trailhead, Three Larches Trail in the Woods Gulch area, Wallman Trail and Sawmill gulch area trails
Black bears have reportedly been attracted to some of the closed areas and trails due to the presence of fruit trees and shrubs found there. Some of the trails, such as Spring Creek, also have limited sight distance, making bear encounters potentially more dangerous.
Multiple black bears, including several females with cubs, are feeding along trail systems in the Rattlesnake. The closed areas are those where most bear sightings have occurred and where there is an abundance of berries, limited sight distance because of dense vegetation and water sources that bears are seeking out.
Officials advise that if you recreate in the areas that remain open, expect contact with bears. Hike in groups, make noise, and carry bear spray.