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MONTANA

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Experience: Hiking

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

GETTING TO MONTANA IS EASIER THAN EVER

 

TIPS

Difficulty

2 stars

Time to Complete

3.0 hours

A few hours to a full day depending on which trail you choose.

Distance

10.0 miles

There are 10 miles of trails in the park.

Seasonality

Spring | Summer | Fall | Winter

The park is open year-round, but tours of the caverns are only available May through September and in December for holiday tours. The temperature in the caverns is the same year-round.

Website

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Topo Map

Trails Map

Fees/Permits

Entry is free to Montana residents who pay the state park fee with their annual vehicle registration. For nonresidents, entry is $6 per vehicle or $4 if on a bicycle or on foot. Non-residents may also purchase an annual pass to all Montana state parks for $35. The fee to tour the cavern is $12 for adults. Camping fees range from $18 for a tent site to $54 for a cabin with discounts given to residents, annual pass holders and those camping during the off-season (late September through late May).

Dog Friendly

On leash only in the park, but dogs are not permitted in the caverns.

Destination Highlights

Great for families

 

INTRO

Established in 1941 as Montana’s first state park, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park offers a glimpse into history along with modern day adventure. Despite the name, Lewis and Clark did not in fact discover the caverns of this park, though hikers can take in views of the wilderness they did traverse from one of several challenging multi-use trails. The park also offers sweeping views of the Tobacco Root Mountains and over 200 species of wildflowers. Spanning 3,000 acres of land that rests above 4,000 feet, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is an excellent destination for a day of hiking, an afternoon of fishing, or a whole weekend of camping.

 

WHAT MAKES IT GREAT

Unlike the nearby town of Bozeman and surrounding area, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park’s winter season rarely lingers, making it an ideal spring and early summer spot for those eager to hit the trail. The prairie landscape has just the right touch of desert, and with that brings milder temperatures and seemingly endless sunshine.

 

Additionally, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is worth a visit due to the impressive variety of activities it offers. Most notably, there are the namesake caverns themselves, which can be explored on only through a guided tour (which lasts about two hours). These tours, which range from easy to challenging, give curious travelers a chance to navigate their way through massive cave rooms while seeing stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, columns, and passing bats.

 

The park also features a diverse trail system that spans 10 miles and gains more than 1,000 feet in elevation. Most of the trails are open to hikers and mountain bikers, and options range from gentle strolls to demanding uphill climbs. For a heart-pounding trail with serious elevation gain, the Cave Gulch Trail is a 1.9-mile trek that climbs 1,000 feet as it stretches from the campground to the visitor center. History buffs will enjoy the Danmore Mine Trail, an offshoot trail that journeys to the mountainside ruins of an old gypsum mine. For an easy hike to a tranquil fishing spot, the 1.3-mile Fishing Access Trail meanders along the banks of the Jefferson River, allowing ample opportunities for tired hikers and mountain bikers to dip their toes in the cool alpine runoff.

 

A campground nestled amongst cottonwood trees offers 40 sites for tents and RVs along with cabins and a single cozy tipi.

 

WHO IS GOING TO LOVE IT

Hikers who love adventures underground and aboveground, as well as mountain bikers looking to test their abilities on uphill terrain. A cavern tour makes for a family-friendly trip, while a hike or bike ride up the Cave Gulch Trail makes for a springtime challenge. Montana history lovers will appreciate walking in the steps of history, as this trail is the closest route to the one taken by early cave explorers. For anyone in search of a full day of mountain air and prairie views, several trails can be combined into a 5.9-mile loop called the Grand Loop.

 

DIRECTIONS, PARKING & REGULATIONS

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is located near Whitehall. Take I-90 west from Bozeman or east from Butte to State Highway 2. Drive south for seven miles and look for signage indicating the park entrance.

 

Day-use parking is available at the campground and visitor center, where most trails start and end. The park is open all year except for Thanksgiving, December 24, 25, 31, and January 1. Visitor center hours are from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the summer and until 6:30 p.m. at the height of summer. Winter hours are from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Campsites may be reserved online.