H Paradise Valley
S. Fk. Deep Creek
Pine Creek H,C
Passage Creek Falls
Big Timber Area
Creek Falls H,C,V
Boulder Meadows H,C
Twin Lakes H,C
Lava Lake H
Little Belt Mountains
MT Railroading V
Gap Wind Farm V
Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness
Rocks Rec Area V,C
Lake State Park V,C
Kings Hill and the
Little Belt Mountains
Kings Hill is a very popular recreation
area located in Lewis and Clark National Forest Southeast of Great
Falls Montana. Rather than discuss any specific hike or trailhead, here
is some general information about the area and some of the recreation
opportunities available. There are a lot of camping and hiking
opportunities in the Belt Mountains. In addition, the area around Kings
Hill offers a lot of motorized access to trails and roads.
I highly recommend that if you want to visit
this area you obtain a copy of the Lewis and Clark National Forest
travel map. These maps do a great job of giving you trailhead
information showing you road in leading you to ideas of where you might
go seek recreation. Another great map option is the Montana
Atlas & Gazetteer which contains topographic maps of
the entire state.
US 89 is the primary access
to this area. The
road bisects the Little Belt Mountains running basically North to South
and Kings Hill Pass is the highest point at 7,393 ft. This is a really
beautiful drive and the 71 mile section of the Highway that runs
through the Little Belt Mountains has been officially designated the
?Kings Mountain Scenic Byway?. There are hiking and camping
opportunities along US 89 but the best opportunities are accessed from
the numerous forest roads that crisscross the area.
At the top of Kings Hill Pass you will find
the Showdown Ski
A great local ski area, Showdown offers excellent uncrowded skiing. If
you plan to ski at Showdown make sure to check in advance as the slopes
are only open a few days a week. Just to the North of the ski area
entrance is the Kings Hill Winter Recreation Area. This is a hugely
popular snowmobile area which provides access to more than 200 miles of
groomed snowmobile trails.
There are several nice Forest Service
campgrounds right on Hwy. 89. In addition there are other campgrounds
and undeveloped camping areas on the secondary roads which lead to
National Forest areas. These roads are well worth exploring for those
seeking an outdoor experience. Most of the roads are good gravel roads
that can easily be driven in any type of vehicle. However, in the
spring or any time that the roads are very muddy some roads can be a
problem for a non-four-wheel drive vehicle.
There are many
parks and open grassy areas in the Little Belt Mountains. Some of these
parks are very large while others little more than large clearings. Be
sure to look carefully for all types of wildlife in these areas.
Driving these secondary roads into the
Lewis & Clark Forest will give you access to many different hiking,
biking, fishing and camping opportunities. The roads are clearly marked
on all good maps and it is easy to plot a route through the forest.
Much of the camping on the Lewis and Clark Forest is done in
undeveloped campsites that are found in many areas along these roads.
There is a lot of wildlife in the hills and mountains you are driving
through and a careful observer will find much of interest.
In the fall you will often find hunters
camped in the natural parks in the higher areas of the Little Belts.
Elk and deer hunting in the Belts is excellent and both archery and
rifle hunters are common in the fall. Be sure to be aware of hunting
seasons as many hikers prefer to limit their outings when hunters are
in the hills.
A pair of sandhill cranes in a small open park
in the Little Belt Mountains.
Montana's famous Smith River has its
headwaters in the Little Belts. It drains all of the southern and
western sections of the mountains while the Judith River drains the
eastern slopes and the northern sections run into Belt Creek. All of
these rivers are fed by a lot of smaller streams and anglers will find
a lot of fishing opportunities. A quick look at the map will show you
the many streams available.
Belt Creek is runs roughly parallel to US89
beginning near Kings Hill and running North toward the Missouri. Belt
Creek cuts a deep steep walled canyon through the area which has been
preserved as the Sluice Boxes State Park.
The canyon has a rich human history as at one time there was a rail
line running through the canyon, hauling ore from the mines int he
mountains. It is possible to hike the length of the canyon but it
requires multiple fordings of the creek which is impossible at high
water levels. Be sure to check for more information before you attempt
to hike or float through Belt Creek Canyon and the Sluice Boxes State
Motorized recreation is very popular in this
area so don't be surprised to hear the sound of trail bikes and other
motorized vehicles as you're hiking in the Belts. There are a lot of
great mountain biking opportunities ranging from riding the many roads
to more extreme mountain bike trails.
There is a lot of great exploring to be done
in the Little Belts and around Kings Hill. Get a good map and learn
what the various symbols and indicators are and go explore. You will
find a diversity of habitat and experience that will really make you
glad you visited.
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