Hiking

Thompson Falls State Park

Thompson Falls State Park

Thompson Falls State Park

Thompson Falls State Park

Located along the Clark Fork River between Thompson Falls Dam and Noxon Dam, Thompson Falls State Park is surrounded by a mature and a mixed conifer forest making for a tranquil and quiet destination.

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Looking to hike or fish?

Ready to hike away your day? Thompson Falls Trail runs along the Clark Fork River and connects to the Montana Highway 200 into the town of Thompson Falls where you’ll find the Thompson Falls Community Trails network.

Pike and bass are the most common species fished out of Thompson Falls State Park, but you may find a surprise species if you’re lucky!

While fishing and hiking are popular in Thompson Falls, this state park is used mostly for camping and picnicking. Host to 18 sites and a group picnic area, this riverside campground is great for tent or RV camping, but make sure your trailer is no more than 30 feet!

The Thompson Chain of Lakes includes 18 lakes and stretches 20 miles! Families will love the improved fishing pond which includes an accessible fishing pier, picnic shelter, bathroom and improved parking.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Nice place to camp along Clark Fork River. Beautiful view from the back of our site along the river. Camp was quiet and bathrooms were clean."

"Plenty of camping and picnic spots, along with a boat launch. Long stretches of Sandy Beach along the river for swimming. We enjoyed kayaking, as well! We come every year for a big family campout!"

"This place is so beautiful! The trail is right on the river. My children absolutely loved it! My 5 year especially loved the lake with all the turtles. This is a great place to eat lunch and go for a short hike."

"A great place to camp!! Will definitely go back."

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Gates Open

    April 27 - September 30

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    Gates Closed

    October 2 - April 26

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    Campground

    Open Year-Round

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    Location

    2220 Blue Slide Rd. Thompson Falls, MT 59873

Spring Meadow Lake State Park 3

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Located west of Helena is Spring Meadow Lake State Park, a day-use park, popular for swimming, sunbathing, fishing and birdwatching.

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Looking for wildlife?

There are great wildlife viewing opportunities at Spring Meadow Lake State Park. You’ll find birds, rabbits, turtles and more! Looking for a nice walk? A 0.8-mile, self-guided nature trail circles the lake.

If you’re in need of a spot to fish, Spring Meadow Lake is your place. The lake is home to trout, bass and sunfish and there is even an ADA accessible fishing dock added to the park in 2011!

Even in winter, Spring Meadow Lake is perfect for recreation. The trail is open all winter and if it’s cold enough you can even fish or skate on the lake!

Unfortunately, your four-legged friend will have to stay home during the warmer months. Between April 15 and October 15 there are no dogs allowed in Spring Meadow Lake State Park.

Spring Meadow Lake State Park is a fed by a natural spring that feeds cool, clean water into the lake that is used for fishing, swimming, non-motorized boating, and even scuba diving. The lake and the state park land surrounding it were once an active gravel mine that was donated to the state in 1981.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Nice quite little state park inside of Helena. Relaxing place to picnic, fish, swim or small boat/kayak."

"Great place to take the family out for the day and even get some fishing in. Located right in the heart of Helena, it is not out of the way at all and certainly worth a trip even just to hang out for lunch. The view is really nice, especially for being right in town that you would never even know."

"Great family park for Helena. Well maintained and kid-friendly swimming areas balanced with nice trails and fishing areas."

"Spring Meadow Lake State Park is the crown jewel among all the local parks. It is close to town, so people who can't go too far afield on their own (kids, for instance) can get there on foot or by bicycle. The lake itself is also a gem - it is usually clear, and it is always deep, cold, spring-fed and full of fish that everybody and anybody can try to catch. Helena is blessed with abundant parks and lots of nearby venues for outdoor fun but compared to any other urban parks and fishing spots anywhere, Helena's Spring Meadow Lake State Park cannot be beat."

 

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    Park

    Open 6 am to 10 pm

    Year-Round

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    Location

    2715 Country Club Drive Helena, MT 59601

Pictograph Cave State Park 4

Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park lies just outside of Billings, MT. This park features three caves that are preserved and protected in the 23-acre state park.

Along the rimrocks, you'll find where Pictograph Cave has drawn human beings for over 3,000 years and was home to generations of prehistoric hunters.

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Looking to camp?

With its abundant wildlife and vegetation, the fertile Yellowstone River valley just north of the park provided an ideal campsite for travelers. Inside the three caves at the park, you can find over 2,100-year-old pictographs from some of Montana's first inhabitants.

When and how these inhabitants arrived is still a mystery and the pictographs they left behind are still subject to great debate.

  • Transport yourself back in time by exploring the caves
  • Check out the Visitor Center and learn more about the history of the caves.
  • Eat your picnic while gazing out at incredible views.
  • Don’t forget to pick up a memento from the gift shop!
  • See if you can spot any wildlife near the caves.

Due to its archeological significance, Pictograph Cave State Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Thousands of years ago, prehistoric hunters who camped in the Pictograph Cave left behind artifacts and over 100 pictographs. The oldest art found at Pictograph Cave State Park is over 2,000 years old and from some of the very first humans on the plains.

The three main caves in the park - Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost - were created from the Eagle sandstone cliff by water and wind erosion. The deepest of the caves, Pictograph Cave, is 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep. In 1936 the first artifacts and paintings were discovered in the caves. Roughly 30,000 artifacts were excavated from the site including, stone tools, weapons, paintings, and instruments. These artifacts helped researchers understand which native people used the caves and when.

In addition to tools and animal bones, the excavations also turned up jewelry, pendants, bracelets, and beads crafted of seashells acquired from Pacific Coast Indians, and in one excavation, researchers discovered barbed harpoon points of the Eskimo culture, made of caribou horn.

At the Park today, you'll see pictographs depicting animals, warriors, and even rifles! The different colors used in the pictographs allowed researchers to identify when people inhabited the region and gave an inside look into their lifestyle. If you’re planning to visit, be sure to bring your binoculars to get the best view of the rock art and be sure to check out the Visitor’s Center which includes interpretive displays and a gift shop.

Depending on the season you can see mountain lions, black bears, turkeys, coyotes, porcupines, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles, northern harriers, bobcats, mountain cottontails, rock doves, turkey vultures, mule deer, canyon wrens, magpies, ravens, crows, and chickadees.

The best time to see the pictographs is after rain or snowmelt! The moisture causes the drawings to become more prominent. And you'll give yourself about an hour to walk the trail with extra time for a picnic and bird watching.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Great place to spend a couple hours, lots of history and dog-friendly. Even in March, it’s a beautiful place to go. Could hear the cracking of the ice on the Yellowstone while looking at the caves."

"Be aware, if you are not from Montana, that you need to be snake smart as this is a habitat for rattlesnakes. Watch where you step and leave them alone if you see one and they will leave you alone."

"Really enjoyed this cave Included the Indian Heritage couple of steep climbs but overall a good walking experience."

"Went here with my kids, great staff and charming volunteers. Nicely laid out park, but I was most struck by realizing that I was standing in a spot that has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. Artifacts from this spot are twice the age of the Great Pyramids of Giza."

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Park Off Season (Third Monday in September - Third Thursday in May)

    Open Wednesday - Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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    Peak Season (Third Friday in May - Third Sunday in September)

    Park Open Daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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    Visitor Center

    Off-Season

    Open Wednesday - Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Peak Season

    Open Daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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    Additional Information

    Park and Visitor Center Closed:

    Thanksgiving, December 24, 25 & 31 and January 1

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    Location

    3401 Coburn Road Billings, MT 59101

Painted Rocks State Park

Painted Rocks State Park

Painted Rocks State Park

Named for the green, yellow and orange lichens that cover the grey and black walls of the granite and rhyolite cliffs, Painted Rocks State Park is located in the West Fork Valley of the Bitterroot Mountains.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Looking to camp?

Painted Rocks State Park offers 25 campsites, a boat ramp and boat dock. Be sure if you’re bringing your trailer or RV that it’s no longer than 25 feet!

And if you like to hike, there are many trailheads near the park that offer access to national forest land. 

Painted Rocks Dam was originally planned to be constructed for agricultural use!

The Montana Water Conservation started work on Painted Rock Dam in 1939. Today, Painted Rocks Reservoir provides water for irrigation, stock water, domestic use and in-stream flows for fish. The reservoir the dam creates is the perfect location for boating or fishing!

While in the park, keep your eyes open for the diverse populations of wildlife including elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear or moose! You may even catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep or peregrine falcons which were reintroduced to the area in the 1980s.

Are you or do you know an avid birdwatcher? If you happen to be in the area in the spring or fall, you’re in luck! Osprey, great blue heron, water ouzels, spotted sandpiper and kill-deer make pitstops in their migration patterns at Painted Rocks State Park.

Part of the homeland of the Salish people for many years, this area continues to be a place of great value to the Salish. The area did, and still does, provide great hunting and a place to gather traditional foods such as huckleberries, serviceberries, Bitterroot, trout as well as other fish and mountain tea. 

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"It was beautiful! I've been here many times but this is the first time I kayaked it. Absolutely smooth as glass on the most perfect sunshiny day."

"Beautiful, peaceful, wonderful place to spend time with the family."

"What is not to love. So worth the drive."

"Lovely scenery, very peaceful. Saw my first big horn sheep in the wild here. It was amazing"

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

    Dawn to Dusk

    Campground

    Open Year-Round

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    Location

    8809 West Fork Road Darby, MT 59829

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Take a picnic and hike to the top of a buffalo jump for impressive views of the Madison River Valley.

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Situated on the edge of a broad valley carved by the Madison River, this high limestone cliff was used by Native Americans for 2,000 years - ending as recently as 200 years ago.

Native people stampeded vast herds of bison off this massive semicircular cliff, using them for food, clothing, shelter and provisions.

"Runners," highly skilled young men trained for speed and endurance, wore buffalo, antelope or wolf skins to lure bison to the "pishkun" or cliff. The buffalo jump was often the key to existence for native peoples.

Although the introduction of horses led to the abandonment of this jump sometime after 1700, the rugged outcropping now serves as an inspiring monument to the region's early inhabitants.

The park includes all the main geographical features of a jump site, and other evidence remains to provide visitors with a glimpse into the cultures that used this hunting style. Interpretive displays help visitors understand the dramatic events that took place here for nearly 2,000 years.

Buffalo bones still lie buried at the cliff's base, and archaeologists have located the tipi rings of an extensive village. With a little imagination it is easy to visualize the drama of a buffalo drive, the thunderous roar of the stampede, the dramatic sight of the fall, and the frenzy of activity that followed.

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Curious what other visitors have to say about the park?

"Cool historic site! Surprisingly this place was chillingly peaceful."

"A good hike, short and sweet. Nice interpretive signage at the end of the .5 mile hike. It's a good place to go to get out of the city for a while!"

"This place is worth the trip a little ways off of the main hiways. The Madison Buffalo Jump has a true unique historic feel to it. You really get the sense with all the info plaques etc. that you can imagine the buffalo careering off the edge. You get a real idea of what the indigenous people went through to survive. I would definitely recommend hiking up to the top either by attacking it straight on, or the easier route around the side."

"Worth the extra drive to get to the trailhead. There is a short mile and a half return hike to the interpretive kiosk and back. Very easy walking and the interpretive displays are very well done. The longer walk will take you to the top of the buffalo jump itself. Some steep climbs involved. It is not half as dangerous at the top as it sounds. The view across to the Madison River is exceptional."

"Wasn't wearing proper hiking attire to hike up the hill, but enjoyed the peaceful songs of the Meadowlarks."

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    Park

    Open all year
    Daylight hours

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    Location

    6990 Buffalo Jump Road
    Three Forks, MT 59752

Lost Creek State Park 6

Lost Creek State Park

Lost Creek State Park

Lost Creek State Park

Lost Creek State Park is a public recreation area and campground located six miles north of Anaconda, Montana, featuring limestone cliffs and multi-colored rock formations that rise 1,200 feet (370 m) above its canyon floor.

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Looking to hike?

The 502 acre state park features a short walking trail to Lost Creek Falls, which plunges 50 feet. The park is open year-round for hiking, bicycling, fishing, and wildlife viewing with mountain goats and bighorn sheep commonly seen. The park is open seasonally for camping. 

Wildlife, especially mountain goats, golden eagles, and bighorn sheep are frequently seen on the cliffs above the park.  Pika are often seen and heard in the rocks and talus of the upper portion of the canyon. 

If you prefer a longer hike, US Forest Service trails just north of the falls parking area lead for miles into the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. One such trail winds for several miles along Lost Creek through forests and meadows with great views of the surrounding mountains.

Located in the Flint Creek Mountain Range, Lost Creek State Park is a must for Montanans and visitors alike. With the significant growth of Aspen throughout the park, the colors are brilliant come fall – so be sure to get this on your list!

Grey limestone cliffs rise high above the canyon along with towering 1,200 foot pink and white granite formations.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"What an awesome ticked away location! The camping looks really quite and private, tucked in the trees along the creek. Plus the small waterfall is right outside the campsite! There's a great moderate, wide trail that you can hike until you're tired. Just past the first mile you come to the first bridge which is a good turn around, but just another quarter mile is the service bridge which has a cool tiny side stream waterfall. We hiked three miles in to the old cabin and turned around there. Love the place!"

"Clean bathrooms, quiet, nice camping spots, overflow parking, hiking trails. There is a short hike to the waterfalls or you can take the longer hike and look over the falls. Beautiful area, lots of cliffs and if you bring binoculars you can watch the mountain goats traverse the cliffs. Discovery ski area, Georgetown lake, and Granite ghost town are all nearby. The sweet shop in Phillipsburg has the biggest and best candy selection in Montana but they are closed on Saturdays. If you take a left at Porters corner and go 16 miles you can spend the day searching for Sapphires at Gem Mountain."

"Very nice drive. Scenic views. The falls were very easy to walk to."

"Stopped here for a quick hike while driving thru the area. Very nice and peaceful spot, hike was easy and path was well marked. $8 entrance fee for nonresident plates, dog-friendly. I would recommend it!"

 

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Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park 1

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Located just east of Whitehall, MT, lies the Lewis and Clark Caverns. Discovered in 1892 by local hunters, these caverns went on to become Montana's first state park.

As one of the largest known limestone cavern systems in the northwest, Montanans have been exploring the caves for over 100 years!

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Interested in tours?

Access to the cave is by guided tours only, May through September with limited candlelight tours offered in December. Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park also features camping and a network of trails to hike or bike, a state-of-the-art visitor center, interpretive displays, a gift shop, food and beverage concessions, amphitheater, and interpretive events presented during the summer months.

Looking to camp?

The park has a large campground with 40 campsites, a tipi, and three cabins, which you can reserve online, and a group camping area, which you must contact the park to reserve. There is a $5 charge to use the dump station.

The site encompasses 3,015 acres. The entry area is at an elevation of 4,300 feet and the caverns area is at an elevation of 5,300 feet.

Cave access is only available through the guided tour. You will be asked to please wear a mask. 

Cavern Tours are now being offered. 

Special procedures for the safety of our visitors and staff:

Only Paradise tours offered at this time. The Paradise tour will guide you to the largest, most decorated rooms of the cave. Tour length is approximately 1 mile and the tour takes about 1 1/2 hours.

The tours are first come, first served starting May 28, 2021 and through September 30, 2021.

Tickets are limited.

Paradise Tours will be offered Friday-Monday, hourly from 9:15am-5:15pm.

Bring a face covering. Face coverings are required during cave tours.

Although optional for other areas of the park. Park disinfecting procedures involve using a bleach solution.

Visitors should consider wearing new or very clean gloves, especially in the caverns where the handrails are cleaned with bleach solution every tour.

Because of group size restrictions, tours are very limited. Park facilities that are open now are disinfected intermittently. We suggest visitors bring hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes for personal use.

Paradise Tour 

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1 mile / 90 minutes
Schedule: Beginning May 22, 2020 Friday-Monday, offered hourly, 9:15 am-5:15 pm. Cost: $15 / person, 15 years & older; $10 for seniors, persons with a disability, and youth ages 5-14 years; children 4 years & under are free.

Pre-registration and pre-payment required. To reserve tour tickets, learn how to prepare for your visit or discover current Park restrictions, call (406) 287-3541.

Tickets are limited. Call for tickets even if it is the day you’d like to take a tour. Walk a level ½ mile trail to see the Paradise Room, the largest, most active and decorated portion of the cave. Part of the tour is wheelchair accessible.

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park features one of the largest known limestone caverns in the Northwest.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"The caverns are amazing and the tours are fantastic. I have been through several times over the years and always loved the experience. The candlelight tours in the winter are amazing for the experience and historic aspects, but the summer tours really show off the caverns with the lights. All of the guides are passionate about their jobs and the caves, and love to teach. Great place to visit and bring friends and family."

"Absolutely beautiful! The bats are very cool to see as well! Can't wait to see it again."

"These Caverns are a jewel. The drive to the caverns winds along the Jefferson River, with cliffs adorning the sides of the road. Our party were excited to to the Caverns today, as it was the rare tour through the cave system with candles!!! This Candlelight tour is offered only at Christmas. What a treat!! The vision of the fellow participants weaving among the cave features is idyllic. It is surprising how much light the candlelight can make in the total dark. This is a best kept secret. The tour guides are top notch."

"A truly fascinating and unique experience! Amazing formations of nature. A true treasure. Outstanding tour and educational experience. Highly recommend!"

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Campground

    Open

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    Water

    Available May 2 - Sept 30.

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    Showers & Comfort Station

    Available May 2 - Sept 30

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    Visitor Center

    Normal hours: Winter hours, October 7 - April 13: Open Wed - Sun, 10 am - 4 pm. Summer hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm daily; Open until 6:30pm in mid-summer.

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    Location

    25 Lewis and Clark Caverns Rd. Whitehall, MT 59759

Lake Mary Ronan State Park

Lake Mary Ronan State Park

Lake Mary Ronan State Park

Lake Mary Ronan State Park is just seven miles west of Flathead Lake.

This park offers a quiet camping opportunity nestled among a boreal forest.

This state park is noted for its fishing and numerous trails that lead into the surrounding areas which abound in wildflowers and wildlife.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Looking to camp?

Lake Mary Ronan State Park's campground offers 25 campsites, including seasonal electricity at individual campsites, a paved campground road and spurs, plus a new and improved group camping area, boat trailer parking and a boating ramp.
This state park is on 120 acres at an elevation of 3,770 ft.

Off the beaten path just 7 miles west of Flathead Lake, this park is shaded by Douglas fir and western larch.
Lake Mary Ronan provides a quiet opportunity for relaxing, camping, and fishing from either a boat or the parks boat dock. A hiking trail leads into the surrounding area which abound with wildflowers and wildlife.

Several businesses near the park offer a variety of services including food, beverages, bait, and more.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"One of my families favorite places to camp. Fishing is great and the campground is quiet"

"Beautiful lodge ,great amenities, extremely lovely and helpful staff. Very excited to come back for a longer stay!"

"Stopped to check out the state campground and lake, very beautiful and peaceful. Dennis, park host, very friendly and knowledgeable of the lake, fishing and surrounding areas. My husband and I are looking forward to camping there."

"Beautiful location. Friendly hosts. Always kept clean and tidy."

 

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    Park

    Open

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    Campground 

    Opening May 1.

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    Electricity

    Available through October

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    Potable water

    Available May through September

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    Dock

    Available for the season.

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    Location

    50623 Lake Mary Ronan Rd. Dayton, MT 59860

Parks That Others Are Visiting

Lake Elmo State Park

Lake Elmo State Park

Lake Elmo State Park

Inside the city limits of Billings is Lake Elmo State Park. A large 64-acre reservoir, Lake Elmo is the perfect place to swim, paddle, fish, picnic, bird watch, or hike the 1.4-mile nature trail.  The Lake, originally known as Holling Lake Reservoir, was constructed to provide water to irrigated farmland as part of the Carey Land Act of 1894.  The water that fills the man-made lake is diverted from the Yellowstone River near Laurel, MT, and flows through 63 miles of gravity-fed canals before reaching the lake.

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Things to do:

Prior to becoming a State Park in 1983, Lake Elmo was once the site of a two-story restaurant and night club known for dancing, big band music, and two-inch thick T-bone steaks.  Nearby property owners created beaches for swimming and even cleared snow from the lake in the winter to host ice skating.  At once point a thriving boat club was formed by local water skiing and motor boating enthusiasts.

The Regional Office for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is now located in the park.  The Regional Office houses an impressive collection of taxidermied birds, fish, and wildlife.  You can also purchase conservation licenses and apply for permits at the office which is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A special feature of Lake Elmo is its Dog Park. The 200-square-foot fenced-in area includes a water area and is located on the west side of the lake. Each visitor is allowed a maximum of two dogs in this special area. Dogs must be 4 months or older. Dogs must be on a leash in all other areas of Lake Elmo State Park.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Lake Elmo Supper Club drew people for dining, dancing, and watching water skiers just out the back door. The Supper Club burned down in 1946, but Lake Elmo continues to be a popular place today.

The reservoir was constructed in 1906 and serves as the storage basin for the Billings Bench Water Association. 

Your four-legged friends will love Lake Elmo State Park as much as you! The dog park at Lake Elmo is a 200-square-foot fenced area that includes access to the water located on the west side of the lake. You and two of your furry friends are allowed to run off-leash in this area, but must be on a leash in all other parts of the park. 

During the summer, the lake is stocked with fish regularly and Roger’s Pier is an excellent fishing spot on the south shore of the lake. And although a popular place to cool off in the summer, the lake can be accessed from many points which means these parks never feel too overcrowded. 

Only non-motorized boating is allowed on the lake though, so you won’t find any water skiing here like you could in the 30s and 40s!

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"It's basically on the outskirts of town. Fair sized, man made lake with stocked, variety of fish. No motorized craft allowed on the lake. There are picnic shelters, kids play ground, paved parking and restrooms. The water's edge is a work in progress with some beach areas and a boat ramp. No overnight camping. A great day trip."

"I really like this lake, not only is it large enough to explore it has great picknick areas, walking trails. It's very clean and well taken care of."

"Great family place. Canoeing, swimming, and just fun in the sun with people you care about."

"A beautiful lake right in town and watching the sunset there was breathtaking."

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Location

    2300 Lake Elmo Drive Billings, MT 59105

Parks That Others Are Visiting

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

Located South of Great Falls and just outside of Ulm, First Peoples Buffalo Jump is one of the largest buffalo jumps in the United States and is known in the archeology community as the most significant buffalo jump in the world! Evidence suggests that this site, also known as the Ulm Pishkin, may have been the most frequently used buffalo jump in the world.

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Park history

A 6,000 square foot Visitor Center helps to pay homage to both the buffalo and the Native American’s who honor it. Inside you’ll find buffalo culture exhibits, a circle for storytelling, a classroom, a gallery, and a bookstore!

Outside the Visitor Center are an outdoor amphitheater and even a few traditional games playing fields. The cliffsides now offer up amazing views to visitors from all over the world.

At the base of the cliff, you can see 18 feet of compact buffalo remains, but it can be difficult to make out distinct items like skulls or other bones after so many years. The original name of the park “Ulm Pishkin” comes from the Blackfeet word "Pis'kun," meaning "deep kettle of blood”. The mile-long cliff ranges from 30 to 50 feet in height, any higher and meat may have been damaged and unusable. Of the over 300 buffalo kill sites in Montana, First Peoples Buffalo Jump is one of only three that are protected.

Native tribes would stampede herds of bison off the cliff and collect the remains below. Bison meat served as a main staple in the early Native American diets of the region. While this form of hunting was very popular and safe compared to the alternatives it was not the most common.

Ambush killing, where the hunters would sneak up to the animal before attacking, was the most frequent way for them to provide food, tools, and clothing to their families. It was very dangerous due to the size and strength of the animal. Because of this many of these sites are considered sacred. Ambush hunting became less and less utilized as the horse came onto the scene, allowing hunters to keep pace with the bison and guide them more effectively to sites like this and eventually as they began breeding horses even the buffalo jump became obsolete. Giving way to mounted hunters who could chase, kill, and carry back the precious remains.

The most accepted theory as to the use of “Buffalo Jumps” has the hunters slowly encircling the herds and pushing them towards the area. It could take hours if not days and was very dangerous.

As the herds would draw closer and closer to the cliffs they would be guided to a specific spot by others using low fences made of twisted vines and large rocks. These “Drive Lines” can still be found today. They extended sometimes over a quarter of a mile away.

Once the Buffalo had reached their holding spot the hunters would approach, sometimes wearing wolf pelts and sneaking on all fours, and when the time was right they would jump up shouting and making loud noises creating a stampede.

The fastest and bravest of the hunters, called “Buffalo-Runners” would dance in front of the herds leading them over the cliff. Often jumping to a safe spot just below the ledge.

After the herd had gone over or dispersed the women, children, and elders would move through the aftermath killing any that may have survived and then processing and harvesting as much of the animal as possible.

Plan to spend at least two hours at First Peoples Buffalo Jump to make time for the many activities!

*Notice!: Due to recent world-wide events Visitors Centers, Regional Offices, Ranger Stations, Campgrounds, and other facilities including many restrooms are now closed to the public. MT FWP is monitoring the situation and making changes to their policy on a rolling two week basis.

Years after the area was settled it became a cattle ranch and eventually mining area. Eventually, in the 1950s the bone itself began to be mined before a local rancher named Earl Monroe leased the land to protect it from further destruction.

Earl kept the land off-limits to the public while under his care. The land went through many hands and many legal battles over the years before finally coming under the protection of the state in the late ‘90s and becoming a full-fledged state park in the year 2000.

 

DID-YOU-KNOW-mtstateparks

Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"The museum itself was extremely neat and clean. It's a small establishment that you can tour yourself - which I LOVED! The 2 guides were helpful and answered any questions that we had regarding the jump. I would absolutely suggest this place to anyone visiting the Great Falls area."

"What a piece of history we knew nothing about. Fascinating and then taking the drive to the cliffs I couldn't imagine running ahead of a herd of buffalo and at the last minute jumping over the edge to safety. This park is definitely worth a visit. Make the time."

"Great history and amazing views of the valley. A great 1 mile hike up to the buffalo jump cliff, or take the road around the other side of you don't want to hike it. Restroom is available in the visitors building and near the cliff."

"What a great place to see. It is so peaceful and tranquil. I enjoyed it so very much."

 

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    Park

    Summer - open daily.
    Winter - open Wednesday through Sunday.

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    Summer Hours 

    Visitor Center and Upper Access Area: 4/15 - 9/16: 8 am - 6 pm daily

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    Winter Hours

    Visitor Center and Upper Access Area: 9/17 - 3/31 10 am - 4 pm Wed - Sat and 12 pm - 4 pm Sun.

    Closed Monday & Tuesday

    The gates at the top of the Jump may be closed during times of deep snow.

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    Location

    342 Ulm -Vaughn Rd. Ulm, MT 59485