|Climbing Bandbox Mountain in the Little Belts|
The high quality of the recreation in the Little Belt Mountains is one of northcentral Montana’s best-kept secrets.From Great Falls or Lewistown this gorgeous, low-slung mountain range is an easy drive, providing great hiking, fishing, driving or wildlife viewing opportunities.For those on a tight schedule there are many half-day trips to be had.We took one of those on Sunday, setting off for Bandbox Mountain (elevation 8,100 feet) in the Dry Wolf Creek campground area about 20 miles south of Stanford.
Just as hunters have been scouting the mountains in preparation of elk season, we were scouting this area for cross-country and telemark skiing opportunities --- and found plenty.
We had used this area in the past as a jumping off point to ski up the massive Big Baldy Mountain (over 9,000 feet) in the spring. While we were doing that we looked east and south and spotted the big, above-timberline Bandbox and vowed to return.
Bandbox is easily climbed by ascending one of a number of ridges right up from the campground or a mile or two beyond the campground up the road. It is about 2,000 feet up the mountain from the valley floor.
The views of Big Baldy and Yogo peaks get progressively better as you ascend to the ridgeline. It is a true walk up where you don’t have to use your hands. The way is marked by giant rock cairns.
On top you can see Gibson Peak to the north, Butcherknife and Baldy to the west, Yogo and the parallel Ettien and Sand Point ridges to the south, to the east many rugged limestone canyons.
We left Great Falls before 7 a.m., were on the trail before 9 a.m., and on top before 11 a.m., and back to the car before 1 p.m., and home around 2:30 p.m.
It was surprising to see how green it was up this canyon. Far cry from the previous years of drought we’ve suffered through the past two decades.
We noted the Forest Service Cabin on Dry Wolf and decided we’d be back in several months to rent it to pursue the various trips we had conceptualized.
Saturday was an at-home day with hikes to the Farmers’ Market and along River’s Edge Trail to Giant Springs State Park. I encountered numerous out of state folks happily strolling through.
We also went to an anniversary party for two couples celebrating their 20th wedding anniversaries. Refreshing departure from the norm of divorcing couples.