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WATCH: Running Across the Great Burn Wilderness

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Shaped by Fire was the collective dream of Nick Littman and Nick Triolo, Missoula-based mountain runners, writers and lovers of the untrammeled. Filmed and directed by Bobby Jahrig, the story takes us on a journey afoot into the heart of the Great Burn Proposed Wilderness, a chain of roadless, rugged and unprotected wildlands stretching nearly 100 miles along the Montana-Idaho border.

The Great Burn, whose name derives from the historic fires of 1910, the largest wildfire in U.S. history, is an area larger than the state of Delaware. Following the fire, this large landscape was left alone, and now, over 100 years later, comprises one of the wildest sections in the West: a mosaic of old-growth forests, lush meadows, alpine tundra, dramatic cliff faces and crystal-clear lakes and streams – a haven for fish and wildlife and a dreamland for backcountry travelers. National Geographic calls this landscape a “gem of wild beauty” and a “quintessential wilderness.”

One day in the summer of 2016, Littman and Triolo decided to run 50 miles across the entire proposed wilderness area in a day. With few trails to follow and miles of routefinding, the two make their way through this undeveloped landscape. Their goal: to give eyesight to the value and influence of wild places, and to underscore how we in turn must give our voices to protecting what remains of the planet’s honest and self-willing spaces.

Forest Plans have been recommending 275,000 acres of the Great Burn for Congressional designation as federal wilderness, and Shaped by Fire wishes to add considerable fuel to the fire of protecting this place for posterity. The aims are to shed light on the ecological benefits of the Great Burn, while encouraging more people to spend time there and, eventually, land federal protection for its continued preservation.

Learn More:

Montana Wilderness Association

Great Burn Study Group