The Basics

Montana's Forest Service Cabins

One of the best-kept secrets in Montana is the availability of cabins and lookout stations that the U.S. Forest Service makes available to the public at a very nominal fee. At the end of each section, we have provided a list of available cabins along with detailed information on each. Following is some general information on reserving and using the cabins.

Application For Permits

Permits for the use of recreational cabins in the National Forests of the Northern Region are issued on a first-come, first served basis. Permits may be obtained in person or by mail by contacting the Ranger District having administrative responsibility for your choice of cabins.

Reservations in advance of a week or more may be required. Lengths of stay are limited to 14 days and in some cases less. Maps and information may be obtained by the Forest Service District maintaining each cabin/lookout.

The daily rate for occupancy is listed. Checks or postal money orders should be made payable to USDA Forest Service.


Cabins and lookouts available through the rental program are rustic and primitive. Most of these cabins are guard stations or work centers located in remote areas that are occasionally used to house Forest Service employees. As the need for these cabins declines, they are being made available to the general public. Except for a few cabins, do not expect the modern conveniences that we all are so accustomed to enjoying.

It is suggested that an inquiry is made to the Ranger District that has administrative responsibility for the cabin as to what is and what is not furnished and disabled access information. Based on the information received, you can then plan your needs.

Cabins are usually equipped with the bare basics, including a table, chairs, wood stove and bunks (most with mattresses, some without). Bedding is not furnished. Cooking utensils are available at some cabins but not all of them. Electricity and piped-in water are generally NOT available. It may be necessary to bring safe drinking water or be prepared to chemically treat or boil drinking water. At some cabins, you will need to find and cut your own firewood. Expect to use outdoor toilets. Telephones are not available.

Before leaving, users are requested to burn all combustible waste materials; make sure fires in stoves are out; pack out all garbage and empty bottles or cans; clean the cabin; leave a supply of firewood and return the key.

Potential Risks

Travel in the National Forests and use of rustic cabins and lookouts invokes a degree of risk. Recreationists must assume the responsibility to obtain knowledge and skills necessary to protect themselves and members of their party from injury and illness. Weather, snow conditions, personal physical skill, and condition along with other factors can influence travel time and difficulty. Parents are strongly discouraged from bringing children under 12 years of age to Lookout Towers. Persons afraid of heights, or lacking physical strength, should also avoid climbing Lookout Towers. Before the trip, permit holders are advised to contact the local Ranger District for current conditions.

Reprinted from U.S. Forest Service brochure.

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