Painted Rocks Recreation Area and Painted Rocks State Park are located in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula, MT. Named for the green, yellow, and orange lichens that cover the rock walls, Painted Rocks Reservoir is popular for fishing, water skiing, and all other types of boating. On a typical summer day, you’ll find everything from ski boats to stand-up paddleboards and everyone is having a great time.
The Boulder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River that originates high in the Absaroka Mountains south of Big Timber, MT. Natural Bridge Falls is the main attraction on the Boulder but the river and surrounding lands provide incredible opportunities for fishing, camping, and exploring.
Mystic Lake is a favorite destination for hikers, mountain bikers, anglers, and hunters in the Bozeman, Montana area. Mystic Lake can be reached from a couple of different trailheads but the access in Bear Canyon is the shortest. Located about 5 miles east of Bozeman, the Bear Canyon area offers hiking, mountain biking, and cross country ski opportunities.
Lava Lake is a great hike that climbs to a beautiful mountain lake in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. The trail is located in the Gallatin Canyon between Bozeman and Big Sky and is one of the most popular trails in the area. The lake is almost exactly 3 miles from the trailhead but the trail gains 1,600 feet elevation in those three miles. This climb can make it a tough hike for those who are unprepared.
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 trail to Elephanthead Mountain (forest trail #37) is a favorite hike for many in the Livingston/Big Timber area. The Elephanthead trail is in the headwaters of Mission Creek which comes out of the Absaroka Mountains and runs into the Yellowstone River east of Livingston. The trail is part of the Custer Gallatin National Forest and it’s easy to reach the Elephanthead trailhead from either Livingston or Big Timber. However, most come in from the Livingston side as the road from Big Timber is a long drive on a gravel road.
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.
Passage Creek Falls is a popular destination for hikers in the Livingston/Bozeman area. The hike to Passage Creek Falls is 5 miles round-trip on an easy trail. Many hikers turn around at the falls but the trail is also a primary access to the backcountry. The Passage Creek trail begins as part of the Wallace Creek trail (Trail #58). The Passage Creek trail (Trail 558) branches off before the falls while the Wallace Creek trail continues into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and on to Yellowstone Park.
The Crow Mountain trail is in the Mill Creek drainage south of Livingston, MT. Mill Creek is a popular National Forest access area where people enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, and every other form of recreation. The Mill Creek drainage is fairly large and there are a lot of different areas to explore.
Cooney State Park is one of the most visited recreation destinations in south-central Montana. Located within an hour’s drive of Billings, MT, Cooney offers great fishing for trout and walleye and is popular 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 have something for almost everyone.