Yaak Valley from the top of Baldy Mountain. © Chris Balboni. Used with permission.
Yaak Valley from the top of Baldy Mountain.

Located in the far Northwest corner of Montana, “The Yaak” generally refers to the valley bottom in the south end of the Purcell Mountain Range that contains the Yaak River, which flows down from Canada into the nearby Kootenai River. The area has a reputation throughout the state of Montana as a remote hideaway, where only a few hundred people are willing to brave the isolation and call it home year-round.

Sunset over Hensley Hill in the Yaak.
Sunset over Hensley Hill in the Yaak.
Over the years, “The Yaak” has come to mean just about all the land north of the Kootenai River and west of the Koocanusa Reservoir, an estimated 1 million acres of forest defined as public land and maintained by the United States Forest Service. 180,000 acres of the Yaak is completely roadless, but don’t be fooled: The majority of roads found in the area are dirt or gravel, treacherous, and many are closed or altogether inaccessible; remnants of a bygone era when logging ruled the land. Today a single, winding two-lane paved road cuts through the valley, connecting The Yaak to the towns of Libby and Troy 50 miles away along the shores of the Kootenai River. There are few services: A tiny mercantile with brief hours is the only source of supplies for an hour in any direction, two bars directly across the street from each other are the community watering holes, a small schoolhouse run by local residents educates the handful of children in the valley, and… That’s it. No Wal-Mart. No McDonalds. No hotels. No cell phone service.

The summers are beautiful in the Yaak, yet plenty warm, due to the area’s relatively low elevation in the Rockies (2,986 feet at the valley bottom). The winters are harsh, with snow accumulation often reaching 10 to 20 feet and temperatures regularly falling below zero. Committed residents endure, however, and are rewarded: The Yaak in the winter becomes a quiet, peaceful untouched landscape that few people in the world ever have a chance to experience. It’s also an incredibly biodiverse region, where you’ll find everything from grizzly bears to mountain goats, wolves, mountain lions, lynx, bald eagles, falcons, ducks, owls, loons, and trout all living amongst a forest that blends the temperate climate of the Cascades with the dry habitat found in the Northern Rockies.

Endless amounts of wildlife, untouched forests stretching into mountain peaks, and nary a soul in sight to bump into. Sound like the place for you? If so, the Survival Homestead is the perfect place to settle down, away from it all.