“Let’s drive half-way across the state to go hiking on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation” . . . said no-one EVER!

Going up the country.
I grew up in the small north-central Montana town of Harlem, 200 miles east of the Rocky Mountains and 3 miles north of the Ft. Belknap Reservation – a part of the state where very few people go hiking on a regular basis. As I was growing up there in the 60’s and 70’s, we admired the isolated buttes and distant mountain ranges, but didn’t give much thought to going out and actually climbing them. Fortunately, my attitude changed as I got older. Nowadays I make the drive from Helena to Harlem several times a year to see Mom and Dad (living in the same house since 1957), and lately it seems that no visit is complete without at least one trip to the reservation to explore the Little Rockies or hike onto one of the buttes. (Photo Tour)

Above: Looking toward the reservation from northwest of Harlem.

A good start to summer.
Since school let out on June 7th I’ve made a couple trips to Harlem. The purpose of the first trip was to take my daughter (Amy) on some Belknap hikes, and also give her a chance to spend some time with her grandparents before she took off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. On the second trip, my wife and I put Amy on the train in Havre (to start her adventure), then spent a few more days in the Harlem area. The hiking highlight of the second trip was a walk with my friend Rick into a canyon near Lodge Pole that bears the name of his great-great-great grandfather – “Little Chief Canyon”. All total, I enjoyed six really nice hikes on the Ft. Belknap Reservation (25-28 miles). I encountered one tick, zero rattlesnakes, and no other hikers. So, let me be the first to say it – “I’d drive half-way across Montana to hike on the Ft. Belknap Reservation!”

1. June 13 – Wednesday morning.
Amy and I hiked up onto the cliffs on the northern edge of the Little Rockies – about 35 miles south of Harlem (between Lodge Pole and Hays). The hike was an off-trail 2.7-mile loop. We got permission from friends to drive across their land to the base of the cliffs.

2. June 13 – Wednesday afternoon.
After hiking along the cliffs, Amy and I did an 11-mile hike from Mission Canyon near Hays to my cousin’s ranch near Lodge Pole. We left my car at the ranch, and had a relative give us a ride to the mouth of Mission Canyon. We walked into the canyon, hiked up “The Hole in the Wall Trail” to the top of the canyon, then followed Mission Ridge to an abandoned lookout building. From there we followed an old road to the ranch.

3. June 14 – Thursday evening.
Amy and I drove to Three Buttes, 30 miles south of Harlem, and summited the two taller buttes.

4. June 15 – Friday morning.
Amy and I did an early morning 3.5-mile loop hike on northeastern end of Snake Butte (10 miles south of Harlem – as the crow flies), before heading back to Helena.

5. June 20 – Wednesday morning.
Rick and I walked through the bottom of Little Chief Canyon, scrambled up to the cliffs on the south side, and then hiked back along those cliffs (5-mile loop). We accessed the canyon through private property (my cousin’s ranch).

6. June 22 – Friday morning.
I did a solo hike in Mission Canyon. I followed the “Hole in the Wall Trail” as Amy and I did on hike #1, but this time I walked along the cliffs, looking down into the canyon. This has to be one of the most scenic “easy” hikes in the state.

Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.