The rock art and artifacts found at Pictograph Cave State Park provide a look into the lives of the area’s first residents. For nearly 10,000 years the caves have been used by humans who left drawings on the walls and signs of daily life in the caves. Three alcoves, or “caves” make up the park but only one holds pictographs. A trail leads from the visitor center to the alcoves and the park can be visited in an hour or so. The park is just 5 miles from I90 and Billings, MT.
The Yellowstone River is one of our nation’s most remarkable treasures. It’s the last major free-flowing river in the lower 48 states, traveling 680 dam-free miles. The river begins as a melting snowbank on Yount’s Peak deep in the Wyoming wilderness south of Yellowstone Park. From here it runs north then east until it joins the Missouri River in North Dakota.
The Moccasin Mountains are an island range that has two sets of mountains – the North and South Moccasin Mountains. Neither mountain range is very large. The highest peaks in the North Moccasins are at about 5,400 ft and the mountains top out at 5,800ft. in the South Moccasins. As with the nearby Judith Mountains, there is a road to the top of the highest peak in the South Moccasins where there are various telecommunications towers. However, this is not as extensive of an array as on top of Judith Peak and the access road is not nearly as well defined.
The Little Belt Mountains are in the Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest southeast of Great Falls, Montana. There’s a lot of different access areas providing a variety of camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation opportunities. For motorized recreation enthusiasts, the Little Belts offer many miles of trails and roads to explore.
The Judith Mountains are a small “island” mountain range that lies just northeast of Lewistown, MT. There are a number of these island ranges in Central Montana including the Big Snowy Mountains, Little Belt Mountains, Castle Mountains, Moccasin Mountains, and others. While most of the island ranges are on National Forest, the public lands in the Judith Mountains are administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
The Judith Gap Wind Farm is not a destination in itself but it’s an interesting feature on the Montana landscape. The wind farm is located on both sides of US 191 between Harlowton and Judith Gap MT. Wind farms are a common sight today but when it was constructed the Judith Gap Wind Farm was a welcome curiosity in Montana.
This tiny state park is only 98 acres in size and offers visitors few amenities. The park really only has one thing – Prairie Dogs! Greycliff Prairie Dog State Park is home to a colony of black-tailed prairie dogs that are easy to spot and fun to watch. The park is 16 miles east of Big Timber, MT right at an I 90 exit making it perfect for quick visits.
Crystal Lake offers camping, hiking, and fishing located in an island of wild mountains surrounded by prairie. The lake is in the Big Snowy Mountains which are one of the small “island” ranges that dot central Montana. The mountains are south of Lewistown, MT and offer camping, fishing, hiking, and backpacking.
Cooney Reservoir is one of the most visited recreation destinations in south-central Montana. Located within an hour of Billings, MT, Cooney offers great fishing opportunities for trout and walleye and is a popular destination for ice fishing in the winter. Cooney is great for water skiing, wakeboarding, jet skis, and all types of water recreation. Cooney State Park offers camping, picnicking, hiking, and cross country skiing. No wonder it’s so popular – Cooney Reservoir and State Park has something for almost everyone.
Montana is a very large state and in the late 1800’s it was a long way from Montana to any of the nation’s population centers. Before railroads reached the state regular commercial travel was problematic at best. The first rail lines brought both people and goods into the state and provided a way to send minerals and other products to distant markets. The Central Montana Railroads were critical to growth in the area.