By Tim Lee
Attempting to explain the beauty of Montana is simply an impossibility. No word, text, or picture could ever give the feeling of seeing this beautiful state in person. Undiscovered treasures hide behind every tree, butte, coolie and mountain in Montana, and we want to take a few pages, and introduce you to one place that is very near and dear to our hearts here at Lifestyles Montana.
The Little Belt Mountains are easy access from Great Falls. These mountains contain a rich history highlighted by small mining towns, countless trails to explore, canyons, caves,
and 89 named peaks, the highest being Big Baldy Mountain standing at 9,190 feet. These mountains were home to the likes of C.M. Russell, a world-renowned Western painter who spent many years cowboying in the Russian Flats and Utica area.
Not to mention the intrigue of silver miners who dreamed of making their fortunes during the silver mining rush of the 1880s, or Jake Hoover, who was the first miner to discover the
precious Yogo Sapphire in 1895, the only sapphire of its kind that can only be found in these mountains.
There is no end to the adventuring opportunities that the Little Belt Mountains offer year-round. Both sides of the Little Belt Mountains are accessible by car via Highway 87 and 89 or Highway 12 and 191. If you are the adventurous, outdoorsy type, you can even cross over the Little Belt Mountains from one side to the other by ATV or snow mobile through Spring Creek Road near Checkerboard, or from the opposite side of the mountains on South Fork Road near Sapphire Village. There you can stop by the Blue Nugget Bar and buy your own Yogo Sapphire or try one of Oxen Yoke Inn’s famed hamburgers just fifteen minutes away in Utica. For more history, stop by the Utica Museum.
From a day drive through the scenic byway, skiing and snowboarding at the beautiful Showdown Ski Resort, hunting or fishing along the Sluice Boxes, easy access camping at 50-plus camp sites on the Monarch/Neihart side of the mountains, with access to countless ATV, and hiking trails, or visiting staples like Cougar Canyon Lodge, Bob’s Bar, and The Inconvenience Store, you will find inspiration, peace, rejuvenation, and kindness from many of the communities as you explore this beautiful landscape.
Before you begin your journey through the Little Belt Mountains, we suggest you learn a bit more about the communities you will be traveling through, adventures you can experience, and get up-to-date road conditions via web cameras with the help of IntoTheLittleBelts.com, a website started by Charley and Ally Willett who thrive in the small community of Neihart. Their website is a one-stop-shop to everything you need to know before you go.