Like a kid in a candy store.
The Little Rockies are a scenic little island range located in north-central Montana, 35 miles south of Highway #2 and 85 miles from the nearest McDonald’s (Havre). Since I started teaching in Hays (on the western edge of the range) this past December, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hiking, snowshoeing, exploring the canyons and ridges, and learning about the fascinating history and geology of the region. There is some really cool stuff around here!
Looking for an angle.
I’ve been wanting to take a look at the Pegasus Gold Mines that operated from 1979-1998, and take some mountain-top photos for the Environmental Science class I will be teaching next year at Hays-Lodge Pole High School. Although nearby Antoine Butte (5,731 ft.) is the high-point in the Little Rockies, reaching its summit requires driving or hiking on unpredictable mining roads. Scraggy, which is almost as tall (5,708 ft.), seemed like it would be a much more enjoyable hiking experience – plus, the top of Old Scraggy looked to be the better vantage point for photographing the mine as well. So, this past Tuesday (4/28/2020) I made the 17-mile drive from Hays to Zortman, found the unofficial trailhead, and started hiking (see photo tour for map).
Below: View from the road into Zortman on 4/28/2020.
I remember that!
I followed an old jeep trail most of the way, before veering off and bush-whacking up the steep .3-mile slope to the top (850 feet of elevation gain). From the peak I had great views of the area. I could look into the heart of the Little Rockies, see the Bear Paws in the distance, and even spot the Big Snowies south of Lewistown – And the view of the Zortman mine was perfect. However, the most pleasant surprise was looking down into the middle of the mine area and seeing the old Ruby Gulch Mine (and mill). I remember being wowed by the structure as my dad drove our family past it when I was a kid (1960’s) – long before Pegasus altered the landscape. I can’t speak for Antoine, but I highly recommend the Old Scraggy hike for those looking for a nice peak-bagging experience on public land in north-central Montana.
Let’s play two!
The hike up and down Scraggy (~4 miles round-trip with 1,600 ft. of elevation gain) took me less than 3 hours, so I decided to climb Saddle Butte as well. I started the Scraggy hike .5 mile north of Zortman, and my walk to Saddle Butte started on the southern edge of town. I probably could have driven farther, but I wasn’t sure what the rutted dirt road would be like – I sure didn’t like the looks of the first part. With both hikes I was able to stay on public land, using the onX App to avoid private property as I walked south to the base of Saddle Butte. Unlike Scraggy, Saddle Butte lies within the area that burned in 2017, so it was interesting in a different way. The best part of the this hike was climbing around on the strange outcroppings at the summit – and not seeing any rattlesnakes!
- Photo Tour of the Old Scraggy and Saddle Mountain hikes.
Best viewed on a larger screen – Be sure to read the captions.
- Map of the Zortman area.
Zoom out or in, scroll around.
- Good article (PDF) about the history of the mines.
Zortman-Landusky with 20/20 Hindsight by William C. Maehl.
- Photos of the Landusky Mine a few miles away.
Taken from Mission Peak one week later.
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.