Getting boots on the trail in Montana is more than just great exercise. This way of seeing the countryside takes you off the beaten path to experience the wilds of the Headwaters region of the state. Right around the town of Three Forks, you’ll find miles of solid trails to keep you entertained, whether you quest after views, wildlife or natural wonders.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Even if you don’t explore the underground wonders in the caverns, the 10 miles of hiking and biking trails at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park will keep your feet moving above ground. Travel from the desert-like sagebrush steppe in the lower and western sections of the park to the lush, forested riparian environment in the upper east side.
Expect good leg burners on most of these steep trails, with a few easier loops to enjoy a more gentle hike. The longest loop up East Side Trail and down Cave Gulch will take you over seven miles of ups and downs to reward you with views of the Tobacco Root Mountains and craggy Jefferson Canyon.
Bear sightings are rare, with at least one bear residing in the park’s less-developed areas. Young bucks with velvet antlers will be out and about as early as August. This is a popular spot for birders as well, with diverse ecosystems bringing in a wild variety of species.
Just a few miles down the road from Three Forks, Madison Buffalo Jump State Park combines a sense of a storied past with scenic trails. Learn about the intense history of survival that the native peoples lived through here. Young men disguised under wolf pelts spooked stampeding herds of bison over this imposing cliff in the days before horses arrived in the state, making big-game hunting possible.
After passing an interpretive pavilion, the several miles of hiking and biking trails take hikers up and over the cliff itself to be treated to striking views of the Tobacco Root Mountains and the lower Madison Valley. You’ll feel the burn on the way up the jump, but the trek is well worth it for the sweeping views from the top.
This gentle hiking option keeps you closest to town while still getting you out into the fresh mountain air. The two miles of hiking trails at Missouri Headwaters State Park take you past the confluence of the Missouri River, where the Madison, Gallatin and Jefferson Rivers meet to form the mighty Missouri.
Make the short climb to the viewpoint at the top of Fort Rock, and take in vistas that stretch all the way south to the Tobacco Root Mountains. Discover the park’s ancient Native American artwork in Pictograph Cave, or learn more about the Lewis and Clark expedition at interpretive displays as you stroll through the park.
Though the Copper City trails are designed with mountain biking in mind, hikers and trail runners are welcome here as well. The evening is the time to hit the trails. The mountain bike traffic has quieted down, and the sun’s rays sink low over the mountains, highlighting the scenery with a golden glow.
Nearly 20 miles of trails at Copper City mean that you can take your pick of fabulous views on gentle terrain or steeper climbs to all new heights. Green Eagle will keep your legs happy with gentle ups and downs while ascending to the High Ore system will have your breath quickening on the switchbacks.
If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at some of our other related articles:
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- Why a Sacajawea Cottage Makes for a Perfect Weekend Retreat
- Uncovering The Lewis & Clark Caverns: Exploring Beneath The Earth