As full-time RV’ers we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different to see as well. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. We live our name – Opting Out of Normal.
This blog includes 4 epic boondocking locations in Montana.
Kootenai Falls & Swinging Bridge
Located between Libby and Troy, (mile marker 21) the swinging bridge is only about half a mile from the parking area located on highway 2. There is a place to eat lunch and bathrooms too. It’s just downstream from Kootenai Falls, the bridge offers access to the other side of the Kootenai River, offering a better view of the falls and connects to multiple hiking paths. Fun Fact: The bridge was featured in the hit movie, The River Wild. Fun Fact #2: Kayakers can use the bridge to gain access to the famous Super Hole and other river access points.
The Boiling River
Boiling River flows into the Gardner River and is as natural as is gets. Just two miles from Yellowstone National Park’s North gate. The hot water and the cool water flow together, meeting in small, stone pools that create natural hot tubs for soaking. The water flowing from Mammoth Hot Springs is very hot, so be careful. This is public land, and free to use as long as you follow the posted rules.
18 miles from Gardiner, Carbella Recreation Site is a dispersed campground located on BLM land. This site is located along the Yellowstone River and it’s located on the west side of U.S. Highway 89. GPS: 45.212987 -110.900338
The Ringing Rocks
This place is a crazy phenomenon in my opinion. I’ve seen piles of rocks that don’t “ring”, so these just don’t make sense to me, but it’s fascinating to go see. Pack some hammers for this! Different types, and sizes. You’ll figure it out when you get there! The Ringing Rocks near Butte ring melodically when tapped gently with a hammer. Some sound completely hollow. This pile of rocks exists as part of the edge of the Boulder Batholith, a geological formation which reaches from Helena to Dillon, covering roughly 1,900 square miles. The rocks composition and connection patterns create the condition that causes the rocks to ring when struck. Scientists say that once removed from the formation, the rocks no longer ring. Just go check this out! It’s really fun for kids too! Beware though, the roads to reach the rocks are often treacherous.
Galena Gulch Recreation Area GPS: 46.2542, -112.1838 Or: Homestake Pass Rd. Butte, MT 59701 GPS: 45.9266, -112.4055
Havre Beneath the Streets, Havre
This is really bizarre and we really love stuff like this! It’s a little on the shady side when you do the Havre Beneath the Streets underground tour. When a fire almost decimated the town in 1904, adaptable business owners moved underground. Some shops opened in their basements, and together, they created a series of tunnels that stretched about a six-block radius. They carried on business as usual during the rebuilding of the town above-ground. There is a barber shop, a general store, a saloon, a bordello, and others. If you’re looking for unique, definitely put this one on your list.
Jim’s Horn House
Ready for this one? Ha! This is a collection of 16,000 antlers crammed beautifully into a small shed. It’s actually very beautifully displayed. Art!! For the last six decades, Jim favorite pastime has been to hike out into the Montana backcountry, braving the elements, for the sole purpose of picking up thousands of pairs of stray antlers. Since starting his collection as a 10-year-old boy, the “Antler Man” has amassed a grand total of 16,000 antlers, all of which are on display in one well-lit shed in Three Forks, Montana. His story is absolutely fascinating and touching. I won’t spoil it! If you’re lucky enough to get a tour, you’ll be able to hear his story first hand.
Know Before You Go: Jim isn’t open as a business. But he does love to share his collection with you, but you must email him (yes, I swear, this is legitimate) and he will give you his address if he’s able to give you a tour. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Holland Lake is a small glacier lake in the Flathead Valley National Forest. We were lucky enough to work here over the summer last year as workampers. (If you would like to read our workamping blog, click here) It is a paid campground with no hookups, but oh the lake! Just wow! And the hiking as well is just something completely worth the stay. There is a beautiful, short hike to the waterfalls, and you can also take a longer hike up to Upper Holland Lake. But don’t go too early, as Upper Holland Lake is frozen until the middle of June. We normally are all about free camping and boondocking but I had to include this beautiful out of the way area on our list. It’s worth a stop! There is a day use area if you just want to enjoy it for the day and take a hike from there. You may not be able to get into Holland Lake to camp (it’s off the beaten path, but it’s a very busy campground for the locals who usually head from Helena every summer). But, there is boondocking right next to Holland Lake (walking distance even) called Owl Creek.
This might not be an “off the beaten path” place, but we hiked up to Morrell Falls and it’s worth a trip! The water that comes over the top of this falls is so intense, it was hard to get pictures because as soon as we lifted our camera, it would be full of mist. We hiked in, sat in the beautiful spray of the water, and ate lunch, and enjoyed a very easy hike back out.
Another favorite boondocking location in Montana:
Abbot Bay Boat Launch / Flathead National Forest GPS: 48.3428, -113.9812 – Beautiful lake views, and as you can see from the google picture attached, it can get busy. Our advice would be to arrive on a weekday, and off season.
Live Simply, Give More, Expect Less