When most visitors consider visiting Montana or other western states, there are certain recreational magnets that attract the most attention – national parks such as Yellowstone or Glacier, or large Wilderness areas such as the Bob Marshall, Absaroka-Beartooth, Great Bear or the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.
However tucked away across Montana are a number of state parks and recreational access sites that provide incredible recreational opportunities often overlooked by not only visitors but our instate residents.
Some of the lesser well known recreational opportunities include:
- Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park: This amazing limestone cave system is located about 19 miles west of Three Forks, MT on Highway 2. It is filled with spectacular formations and boasts new state of the art lighting. It is open to the public between May 1 and September 30. There is an adjacent camp ground that is open all year long.
- Lost Creek State Park: Located about 6 miles north of Anaconda, MT this 502 acre park features a 50 foot Lost Creek waterfall, towering rock formations along with hiking, camping and biking trails.
- Makoshika State Park: This is the largest state park in Montana, at approximately 11,000 acres and is located south and east of Glendive, MT. It contains rocks and features from the Hell Creek Formation which is known to have some of the best preserved fossils in the world. Hiking, camping and biking through these formations can be enjoyed all year long.
- Salmon Lake State Park: This 42 acre park is about 32 miles northeast of Missoula, MT. The lake contains an incredible variety of fish some of which are, cutthroat, brown, bull and brook trout as well as rainbow, northern pike and largemouth bass. Open from summer through late October the park offers a host of fishing opportunities as well as hiking and camping.
- Bannack State Park: Southeast of Dillon, MT is Bannack, the first territorial capital of Montana with over 60 preserved buildings this is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the west. There are two campgrounds and the town is open all year long.
- Sluice Box State Park: Belt, MT is about 20 miles east of Great Falls and this park is about 12 south of Belt. Approximately 8 miles of Belt Creek flows through this beautiful limestone canyon that contains reminders of the mining and railroad history contained between the canyon’s cliffs. Open for backcountry camping, hiking and fishing all year long.
- Crystal Park: While not a state park, this is an interesting place to hunt for, find and collect crystals. The site is open from May 15th to October 15th is located on the Scenic Byway between Wise River and Dillon, Montana. There is nearby camping and to get further information contact the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest administrative offices.
In addition to these extraordinary attractions are a host of other lesser known state parks and recreational areas in Montana. This of course is not even considering the numerous access sites to Montana streams and rivers made available to the general public by the 1985 Stream access law.
Written by: Don Pilotte, Broker