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Best Montana State Parks to Visit in the Spring


Best Montana State Parks to Visit in the Spring

Missouri Headwaters State Park - courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

The Top Three Choices are all National Historic Landmarks and Offer Opportunities to Learn About the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Chief Plenty Coups, and the "Birthplace of Montana Archeology."

Missouri Headwaters State Park

On July 27, 1805, Captain Meriwether Lewis stood on top of a limestone cliff and saw the three rivers that formed the Missouri River. He named the tributaries Madison, Gallatin and Jefferson after the President and two Cabinet members who financed the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition.

There is always great wildlife viewing and bird watching in Missouri Headwaters State Park, but spring is an especially active time with migrating waterfowl, newborn deer, and marmots and ground squirrels emerging from their underground homes. Interpretive signs, picnic spots, short hiking trails, a campground and rental tipi all make this park a convenient, informative and fun stop.

(Park is located 3 miles off I-90 at Three Forks exit; for further information call 406-994-4042)

Chief Plenty Coups State Park

Situated within the Crow Reservation in south-central Montana, this park was the home of Plenty Coups, the last traditional chief of the Crow (Apsáalooke) Nation. Plenty Coups was a visionary who led his people from the “buffalo days” into the 20th century. He and his wife, "Strikes the Iron," willed their log home, sacred spring and farmstead as a place for all cultures to come together in a cooperative nature.

For an inspirational, educational and cultural experience, visit the Chief’s two-story log cabin and modern interpretive center. In springtime, Chief Plenty Coups State Park is quiet and tranquil, with lush, green lawns and tall cottonwoods lining the creek. The park offers interpretive walking tours, a gift shop, picnicking and many annual events.

(Park is located one mile west of Pryor and 35 miles south of Billings, off I-90. It is also easily accessible from Red Lodge, Hardin, and Cody, Wyoming. For further information call 406-252-1289.)

Pictograph Cave State Park

The Pictograph, Middle and Ghost cave complex was home to generations of prehistoric hunters beginning 10,000 years ago. More than 30,000 artifacts have been identified from the park. A short paved trail allows visitors to view the rock paintings that are still visible in Pictograph Cave, the largest cave of the three. A printed guide, signs and on-site staff at Pictograph Cave State Park assist in understanding both the ancient use of the site and why Pictograph Cave is referred to as "the birthplace of Montana Archeology." Summers get very hot in "rimrock" country, so spring is a great time to visit, take a hike, look for wildlife and eat lunch in the shaded picnic area.

(Park is located 6 miles south of Billings, off I-90; for further information call 406-247-2940.)

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