Epic Road Trip 2017 (Day 7)

Published on August 22, 2017

Leaving Yellowstone and the state of Wyoming behind (the state line was just a couple miles north of my campground), I dropped quickly from the 6,000 foot elevation to the valley I overlooked the previous evening into Gardiner.

There, the road weaved around the base of grass- and tree-covered hills and mountains. These foothills eventually gave way to the primary terrain of eastern Montana, which is a lot like western Kansas - long stretches of plains. Thankfully, the plains of Montana are accented by hills, trees, and the occasional mountain range. Still, I saw a lot of wheat and alfalfa fields.

Highway 89 was primarily long stretches of wide turns through the hills, with occasional climbs through mountains. One such climb was through the Little Belt Mountains, between Livingston and Great Falls. It twists and turns through the Lewis & Clark National Forest, eventually presenting you with a unique overlook I’d not encountered before.

The pullout overlooks the Belt Creek Sluice, north of the upper part of Sluice Boxes State Park. A sluice is something that was used by miners panning for gold, as well as a way to power water wheels. In this case, this was a natural sluice which is, essentially, a box canyon and the river narrows.

I traveled further than originally I had originally planned and stayed at a campground on the outskirts of the small town of Choteau. For an extra $10, I upgraded to a small cabin (nothing fancy, but I didn't have to set up the tent for a night) and spent the evening sitting on a bench in front of a fire, sipping a beer. Worth it.

What I Learned

Montana doesn't re-surface roads, they "re-do" roads. As in, they tear them up completely such that you're driving on dirt and gravel in order to improve them. That got a little interesting as a large section (about a five mile stretch) was torn up just north of I-90 after I passed through Livingston. Montana also has an entirely new set of liquor laws that I hadn’t yet encountered. You can buy beer and wine in grocery stores, but if you want hard liquor, you have to go to state-run liquor store. At least the beer found in grocery stores isn’t near-beer, like it is in Utah.

Valley surrounding Gardiner, MT
Thunder Jack statue
Pronghorn Antelop
Showdown Pass summit
Sluice Boxes