Visiting Bighorn National Recreation Area, Montana

The Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area surrounds the Bighorn Canyon and Lake and spans the border between Montana and Wyoming. With a lake that stretches for 71-miles and canyon walls towering up to 2,500 feet, this relatively undiscovered area is a spectacular place to enjoy a day (or more) of boating or kayaking.

There are several campgrounds and boat launch points along the canyon as well as fourteen hiking and interpretive trails. Keep an eye out for abundant wildlife, including peregrine falcons, bighorn sheep and black bears or visit one of the four historic ranches to learn about some of the area’s fascinating former residents.

Only a short detour on the road to Yellowstone from the east, this area is a relatively undiscovered beauty. There are both north and south entrances, although it’s not easy to get from one to the other as there are no direct roads. From Wyoming you can visit the Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center and access the recreation area near the town of Lovell. From Montana on the north end, visit the Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center near the town of Fort Smith.

Our trip took us to the north end where during the summer (from Memorial Day through Labor Day) pontoon boats are available for rent at the Ok-A-Beh Marina. Although the northern portion of the recreation area sits on the Crow Indian Reservation, the National Park Service maintains a road to the marina via a continuously renewed lease with the Crow Tribe and public access is allowed (along with lakeshore camping) from the lake to 30’ above the “full” water level.

Thank you to Visit Southeast Montana, Visit Billings, the Bighorn National Recreation Area, the National Park Service and the Crow tribe for hosting us.