Be Mesmerized by the Boulder River Valley
South of Big Timber, deep in the heart of the Beartooths, originates the Boulder River. This amazing waterway flows through the Boulder River Valley etching its way along creating pools and rapids. Along its shores are a number of campsites, and for those who want to stop and fish, they can snag some amazing Cutthroat Trout.
The area was settled well over 100 years ago as a mining community. Way up at the end of the valley sits Monument Peak. The creeks and streams that flow through the area are rich with gold, and old prospectors took advantage of this. To this day you can follow their same trails to the remnants of cabins, huts, and sluice boxes that punctuate the otherwise uninhabited area. But the history of gold mining near Big Timber is not the point of this article, if you want to know more about the history of the area, check out this site, and this site.
The Boulder Valley became famous in the 1992 movie A River Runs Through it. The movie showcased the amazing fly fishing that can be found on the river. As you drive up the valley you will notice numerous campsites, cabins, private residences, summer camps, and pullouts. Huge mountains line the valley, and the river runs all the way up getting smaller and smaller with every passing mile. While you can drive much of the way up the valley (you will need a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle the last several miles) you will have to hike if you want to get to the true headwaters of the boulder river.
Most of the time when I go to the Boulder it is so I can go fishing. I am not a fly fisherman, but there is nothing more pristine than watching someone casting along the Boulder River. There are quite a few marked spots along the paved portion of the road, but I prefer to keep going, into the forest land, after the road turns to dirt. Any time you are not on private land, the fishing is excellent. Even all the way up to where it is just a creek rolling through the mountains. If you want some of the best Cutthroat fishing I have ever experienced, take a good off-roading rig up to Blue Lake (in fact, learn more about the trip on the first Expedition Overland video seen here)
If you choose to stay the night you will not be at a shortage of campsites. Along the road, there are a number of established areas to throw down a tent or park your trailer/RV. At a cost of just $5 per night, this is one of the better deals in Montana. Want to rough it? If you are in the forest land, just throw down a tent wherever it is flat (make sure you are at least 200 feet from a lake and 100 feet from a stream though).
Even if fishing is not your thing there are a lot of hiking trails in the mountains along the Boulder River. You can get up there pretty much year round (of course you will need a nice 4 wheel drive rig, or a snowmobile, to make it very far during the winter months). During the summer the road is maintained enough to get a passenger car up there. So in the coming months, get out there and enjoy the Boulder River Valley. Respect the wilderness, carry bear spray, and take a lot of pictures.