Think Montana’s park attractions are limited to the international fame of Yellowstone and Glacier? Think again. Montana’s colorful history and outdoor landscape have resulted in a dramatic array of state parks in every corner of the Treasure State. Although their national counterparts often steal the limelight, the following Montana state parks are none less spectacular and possess a charm all their own. So what are you waiting for? Get off the beaten path and discover a less crowded, yet still memorable, Montana park experience!
Pirogue Island State Park
Situated just a few miles north of Miles City on the Yellowstone River, Pirogue Island State Park is an isolated oasis perfect for wildlife viewing, moss agate hunting, and river floating. The densely wooded park is available for day use only.
Locate: 1 mile north of Miles City on Montana 59, then 2 miles east on Kinsey Road, then 2 miles south on county road.
Chief Plenty Coups State Park
Chief Plenty Coups State Park was established in 1932 in memory of the honorable Crow chief revered as the tribe’s leader from 1904-1932. Loved by his people as well as by white leaders, Chief Plenty Coups was a great mediator known for adapting to changing times. In 1924, he was honored to represent Native Americans in Washington, D.C. at the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Upon his death and at his request, Chief Plenty Coups donated his land as an act of friendship to all races. The land was turned into a state park and today features a Crow Indian Museum, Chief Plenty Coups’ original homestead, his grave, and a gift shop. The day use only park is open May through September.
Locate: 1 mile west of Pryor on county road.
Cooney Lake State Park
In addition to providing breathtaking views of the Beartooth Mountains, Cooney Lake State Park is south-central Montana’s recreation destination for outstanding fishing, swimming, and boating. Camping is also available at this popular weekend getaway spot.
Locate: 22 miles southwest of Laurel on U.S. Highway 212, then 5 miles west of Boyd on county road.
Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park
When Interstate 90 began its sprawl across Montana, Edward Boehm of Livingston crusaded to save the extensive prairie dog town located outside Big Timber. Through his efforts and cooperation with the Nature Conservancy, the prairie dogs were spared destruction, and Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park was founded. Hundreds of black-tailed prairie dogs inhabit the area, and interpretive displays are provided to educate visitors about this unique ecosystem.
Locate: Greycliff exit 9 miles east of Big Timber on Interstate 90.
Missouri Headwaters State Park
Home to Sacajawea during her teenage years and site of the now obliterated Three Forks Post constructed in 1810, Montana’s Missouri Headwaters State Park embraces the magnificent convergence of the Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison Rivers as the headwaters of the Missouri. History abounds at the site as well as wildlife viewing, camping, fishing, and hiking.
Locate: East of Three Forks just off Interstate 90.
Bannack State Park
Montana gold fever began in 1862 when gold was discovered on Grasshopper Creek, and the town of Bannack sprang to life overnight. Within six months, the “Toughest Town in the West” boasted more than 3,000 residents and was named Montana’s first territorial capital. Violence plagued the town during its short reign, with most residents moving away in 1864 when gold was discovered in nearby Alder Gulch. Today, remnants of Bannack’s fascinating history have been preserved. Over sixty buildings still stand, and the site is recognized as one of Montana’s finest ghost towns.
Locate: 5 miles south of Dillon on Interstate 15, then 21 miles west on Secondary Highway 278, then 4 miles south on county road.
Lost Creek State Park
Take a scenic drive through a narrow 3,000 foot deep canyon at Lost Creek State Park. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep line the creek, while Lost Creek Falls drops fifty feet in a picture perfect scene. Camping, fishing, hiking, and picnicking await. While the park is handicapped accessible, it is not motor-home friendly as many of the roads are single lane only.
Locate: 1.5 miles east of Anaconda on MT Highway 1, then 2 miles north on Secondary Highway 273, then 6 miles west.
Black Sandy State Park
Located on the shores of Hauser Reservoir near Helena, Black Sandy State Park is a conveniently accessible destination for fishing, boating, and waterskiing. The locally popular area also boasts prime bald eagle viewing during the species’ annual fall migration.
Locate: 7 miles north of Helena on Interstate 15, then 4 miles east on Secondary Highway 453, then 3 miles north on county road.
Sluice Boxes State Park
Scenic Belt Creek Gorge assumes center stage at Sluice Boxes State Park. A primitive hiking trail follows an abandoned railroad grade, leading to numerous fishing access points and a ghost town along the way. Visitors should note that no facilities are available at this park.
Locate: North of Monarch, Montana on U.S. Highway 89, then 2 miles west on county road.
Hell Creek State Park
Rugged badlands frame one of Montana’s finest wildlife viewing destinations. Situated amidst fossil and dinosaur lands, Hell Creek State Park provides stunning scenic vistas along with the opportunity to view elk, fox, deer, coyotes, and other wild Montana inhabitants.
Locate: North of Jordan, Montana on Route 543.
Ulm Pishkun State Park
The lifestyle of Montana’s earliest residents is preserved at Ulm Pishkun State Park outside Great Falls. For thousands of years, prehistoric tribes of the Great Plains employed the “buffalo jump” as a strategic method for hunting bison. Utilizing the landscape around them, these tribes drove bison to their deaths by forcing the animals over cliffs. In Montana, Ulm Pishkun was the site of great buffalo jumps as early as 500 A.D., and archaeologists recognize the site as the world’s largest buffalo jump.
Locate: At the Ulm Exit 10 miles south of Great Falls on Interstate 15, then 6 miles northwest on county road.
Council Grove State Park
In 1855, the Hellgate Treaty established the Flathead Indian Reservation for the Flathead, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille Indian tribes. Council Grove State Park marks the site where this historic treaty was signed.
Locate: At Missoula, take Reserve Street Exit off Interstate 90, then 2 miles south on Reserve Street, and then 10 miles west on Mullan Road.
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