Summer Activities | Big Sky Day Trips Part One: Missouri Headwaters State Park


summer-activitiesMy aunt is on a mission to experience more of our home state—Montana. Having just lived here short of two years myself, I thought that I might join her pursuit. So we got to plotting, convinced my uncle to come along and decided to start in our own neck of the woods by taking a day trip from Big Sky.

The itinerary: Missouri Headwaters State Park, Lewis and Clark Caverns, and Virginia City. We made a big loop, leaving Big Sky headed north through Bozeman and then coming home through West Yellowstone.

Thankfully, the Sunday we chose for our adventure started out overcast but quickly turned into one of the few and far between sunny days we’ve had this spring. After the hour and 15 minute drive to Headwaters State Park the clouds had dissipated and we were basking in the sun (if you’re reading this Sun, please come back).  So just what is Headwaters State Park? I actually didn’t find out until we got there.

Like so much else in southwest Montana, Headwaters is partially caught up in Lewis and Clark’s expedition. In 1805, they camped on what are now the park grounds. As you explore Headwaters dotted throughout the trails are little anecdotes about their expedition. The park is named for the confluence of the Jefferson and Madison rivers, which form the headwaters of the Missouri river. The Gallatin flowing from Big Sky, joins the Missouri soon after. All can be viewed at the park.

“Both Capt. C. and myself corresponded in opinon with rispect(sic) to the impropriety of calling either of these [three] streams the Missouri and accordingly agreed to name them after the President of the United States and the Secretaries of the Treasury and state.”
July 28, 1805, Meriwether Lewis

For me, the highlights of the visit to the park were the views. A short little hike takes you to vantage points that allow you to see four mountain ranges in one panorama—Bridger, Gallatin, Madison (home of our Lone Peak) and Tobacco Route. Definitely bring your camera if not for these views, the park itself has country charm to it.  Starkly different from the lodge pole pines that line my field of vision daily. I see future picnics at the Headwaters in my future.

Stay tuned to hear about the rest of our journey.


The Details
Distance from Buck’s T-4: 62 miles
Drive Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Along the way: Bozeman, a laid back, cruisy town with some of the amenities Big Sky lacks  (full size grocery store, movie theatre, mall) and a character all of its own. In the summer, Bozeman like Big Sky comes alive with music, outdoor concerts and crafts fairs.
Park Admission: Free to Montana Residents, $5.00/vehicle for non-residents
Dogs: Allowed on leash
Camping: Yes, $15 residents, $18-$23 for non-residents, you can even stay in a tipi
Open Year Round


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