Montana's Custer National Forest is one of the most ecologically diverse forests in the northern United States. This forest covering more than 1.5 million acres stretches from Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness outside of Red Lodge eastward across rolling grasslands, ponderosa pine and steep outcroppings, and the Pryor Mountains before it turns to the south near Ashland. Then, it encompasses almost all of southeastern Montana before stretching into eastern South Dakota. Many areas of this forest are easily accessible because Interstate 90 runs through and near it. The government has divided the forest into seven districts, with headquarters at Ashland, Beartooth, Bozeman, Gardiner, Hebgen Lake, Sioux, and Yellowstone. Various animals, including bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, pronghorns, and mule deer, live in this forest.
This trail near Pine Creek Lake runs through dense forests. You can see the two-tier Pine Creek Waterfalls from this trial on Black Mountain. You will likely see ground squirrels, marmots, and mountain goats while hiking. This trail starting near the Pine Creek Campground ascends and descends over 3,000 feet.
Length: 4.2 miles
Explore the western slope of the Absaroka Mountains by hiking along the George Lake Trail. There are many ascents and descents on this trail. Enjoy stunning views of Paradise Valley from high above it. This trail's final leg is a large ascent to reach George Lake, which is a great picnic spot.
Length: 5 miles
The Sweet Grass Trail starts off Forest Service Road 999 near Livingston, Montana. This rocky trail, which is often wet in areas, offers stunning views of open grazing meadows. Hikers have the option of combining this trail with the Middle Fork Sweet Grass Creek Trail 123 and Sunlight Lake Trail 273. The trail ends at Conical Peak, where you have the option of scrambling up the mountain for terrific views of the Teton range.
Length: 11.3 miles
This trail that starts near the mouth of the Bridger Canyon runs around the Fish Technology Camp's perimeter before reaching a Bridger Creek bridge. Hikers can then choose to follow the shaded, steeper right trail or the less-steep, sunnier left trail to see the Bridger Range and Gallatin Valley's beautiful views. This moderately used trail is dog friendly, and they can be let off their leashes at your discretion.
Length: 2.2 miles
The Danmore Gypsum Mine Trail starts near the Jefferson River outside Boseman. This trail runs by an old mine before reaching the cavern in Lewis and Clark State Park. Unlike many trails in Custer National Forest, this one is in a more desert environment, so it often stays dry.
Length: 2 miles
Depending on where you are in Custer National Forest and the season, you can enjoy many fishing types. Rock Creek and Stillwater River are fantastic places to fly-fish for rainbow trout. If you are looking for a secluded fishing location, consider heading to one of the high alpine lakes. Many people come to this forest in the winter to go ice fishing.
If you enjoy geocaching, head to the Stag Rock Geocache Site near Ashland. In order to find this geocache, park along Otter Creek Road #484. Then, follow the trail until you find the cache. Be aware that there are no restrooms. There is also no drinking water, so be sure to bring your own.
There are large groups of bighorn sheep near Stillwater, Rock Creek, and West Rosebud. One of the best places to go if you want to see elk is the Line Creek area near Beartooth. The Grand River area has several prairie dog colonies. Look in the forest north of Yellowstone National Park to discover grizzly bears.
The remoteness of many locations in Custer National Park makes it a fantastic place to go stargazing. Taylor Planetarium in Bozeman offers stargazing shows and events regularly. The Carter County Museum often hosts stargazing parties at various locations in or near this national forest.
Address: Custer National Forest headquarters, 5001 Southgate Drive Suite 2, Billings, Montana 59101
Fee: Entry fee $0
Custer National Forest is a great place to explore. There are fantastic places to go hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and stargazing. The best way to explore Custer National Forest is in an RV. If you do not have one, don't worry because it is incredibly easy to rent one on RVshare.com.