From the north, take the first exit into Dillon. At the first stoplight, hang a right and you’ll be on Montana Street. Head south five or six blocks and you’ll come to another signal. Take a left (east) and go three blocks to another signal. Take a right here and you’re on Pacific. Follow it south all the way through town and past the U of M Western campus. One block further, at Barrett Memorial Hospital, hang an angling left and you’ll be on Blacktail.
If coming from the south I-15 exit into Dillon, watch for the hospital on your right and turn right onto Blacktail there.
It is pavement for about a dozen miles before the gravel begins. Ironically, the pavement and the first stretch of gravel were rougher than the ensuing stuff, which was quite easily navigable. We found ourselves often running along at 40, even 45 mph.
A nice crosswind meant our dust, which was considerable in this arid country, was never catching up to, or passing, us. And the dust from the few farm trucks we met wasn’t problematic for the same reason – quickly dispersed to the side.
This route meanders through some true Big Sky Country of truly BIG ranches – the Matador Cattle Company’s Montana spread, for instance, runs for what seems like 20 miles and is reputed to be 250,000 acres!
And the sky over these rolling, pretty, rich grasslands is big! This is awesome, if lonely, country. Folks and their bivouacs are darned few and far between. Even the cattle seemed absent during mid-August, we suspect cached up on the Forest Service grazing leases in the mountainous and timbered terrain.
Again, top off your gas tank when you have the chance when venturing forth in rural southwest Montana. Make sure you have plenty of hydrating beverages and we’d recommend some snacks. No joke: think about packing a loaded pistol, not for banditos, but to keep varmints at bay just in case you wind up spending a night outdoors where you had no plans to do so.
By Cole Boehler
the author and publisher of