Camping, Hiking and Traveling in Montana

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Hike Index
H=Hike   C=Camp   V=Visit     S=Ski

Livingston Area
  Elephanthead Mtn. H
 Paradise Valley
  S. Fk. Deep Creek H
  Pine Creek H,C
  George Lake H
  Passage Creek Falls H
  Crow Mountain H

Big Timber Area
  Boulder River H,C,V
  Natural Bridge Falls H,C,V
  Big Timber Creek Falls  H,C,V
  West Boulder Meadows H,C
  Twin Lakes  H,C

Bozeman Area
  Chestnut Mountain H
  Goose Creek H,S
  Mystic Lake H
  Lava Lake H

Central Montana
  Little Belt Mountains H,C,V,S
  Castle Mountains H,C
  Central MT Railroading V
  Cooney Reservoir C,V
  Crystal Lake H,C,V
  Judith Mountains V
  Judith Gap Wind Farm V
  Moccasin Mountains V

Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness
  Anvil Lake H,C

Western Montana
  Painted Rocks Rec Area V,C
  Salmon Lake State Park V,C
  Warm Spring Ponds  V


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 Area. 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.

Open Park in Litlle Belt Mountains
    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.
     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.

      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.
Sandhill crane pair
     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 Park.


     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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