IMPORTANT: Black Butte is surrounded by private land. You must have permission to hike up there!
Drawn to high places.
There are several “Black Buttes” in Montana – This one is in the Judith Mountains northeast of Lewistown, an 8-mile drive south of the tiny town of Roy. My roots are on the Hi-Line, so I’ve driven past it countless times on the way back and forth to Billings. I like the way it stands alone, apart from other peaks in the Judith Mountains. Another factor that piqued my curiosity is that Black Butte is where legendary medicine man Bull Lodge experienced the first of seven visions. Bull Lodge (ca 1802-1886) was a spiritual leader, healer, and keeper of the Feathered Pipe of the Aaniih (formerly known as Gros Ventre). From the ages of seventeen to twenty-three he experienced seven visions on seven peaks in north-central Montana from Black Butte in the Judith Mountains to Porcupine Butte in the Sweet Grass Hills. The visions are chronicled in the book The Seven Visions of Bull Lodge by George Horse Capture. I’ve included a map of the seven locations in the photo tour (see link below).
Once in a lifetime experience; a true character-builder.
I’m back in Hays for the school year (science teacher), and this past Saturday (8/15/20) I convinced a couple friends to climb Black Butte with me (68-mile drive south from Hays) – Rick and I have been friends since elementary school in Harlem, and Paul is the PE teacher at the high school in Hays where I teach. There is no trail, so my plan was for us to walk eastward from Black Butte Road and then southward, eventually ascending the steep forested north slope (map included in photo tour). Although the hike was only 5 miles round-trip, I’m not gonna lie, scrambling up that slope was very unpleasant; no trail, alternating between thick pine trees and scree, and all of it on steep slopes – a tough combination. Once we reached the summit, Paul who is from New Zealand, commented that this would be a “oncer” – Doing this hike one time was enough for him. Although we all enjoyed our hard-earned summit time, Rick and I agreed. Not sure why Bull Lodge picked such a tough one for his first vision quest, but it probably had something to do with his age – He was in his teens when he ascended Black Butte in the early 1800’s. (Photo Tour)
- Photo Tour of the Black Butte Hike.
Best viewed on a larger screen – Be sure to read the captions.
- Map of the Black Butte Area.
Zoom out or in, scroll around.
Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several others along the Rocky Mountain Front – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.