The new full color edition of Best Tent Camping: Montana, by Jan and Christina Nesset, is a guidebook for car campers who like quiet, scenic, and serene campsites, from the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness in the northwest to the Yellowstone River Valley in the south.
This completely updated guidebook includes 50 private, state park, and state and national forest campgrounds divided into distinct regions; detailed campground maps; key information such as fees, restrictions, and dates of operation; driving directions; and ratings for beauty, privacy, spaciousness, security, and cleanliness.
Whether you are a native Montanan in search of new territory or a vacationer on the lookout for that dream campground, this book by local outdoor adventurers Jan and Christina Nesset unlocks the secrets to the best tent camping Montana has to offer.
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Cave Mountain Campground
Enjoy spectacular vistas of the Rocky Mountains as you drive along the Teton River.
Beauty: 5 stars; Privacy: 5 stars; Quiet: 5 stars; Spaciousness: 5 stars; Security: 3 stars; Cleanliness: 5 stars
- Address: Canyon Road (County Road 144), Choteau, MT 59422
- Contact: 406-466-5341, www.fs.usda.gov/helena
- Operated by: Helena–Lewis and Clark National Forest, Rocky Mountain Ranger District
- Open: Memorial Day weekend–October
- Sites: 18
- Each site: Picnic table, fire grate
- Assignment: First come, first served; no reservations
- Registration: On-site self-registration
- Facilities: Hand-pump well, vault toilets
- Parking: At campsites
- Fee: $6
- Elevation: 5,200'
- Pets: On leash only
- Fires: In fire rings only
- Alcohol: Permitted
- Vehicles: 35-foot length limit
- Other: 16-day stay limit; pack in, pack out; bear-country food storage restrictions
Views of the Rocky Mountain front are spectacular as you drive along the Teton River to Cave Mountain. Ahead of you are Wind Mountain and flat-topped Ear Mountain. This is actually part of the original Old North Trail, used for centuries as a travel corridor between Canada and points south. Limestone cliffs rise 500 feet on either side of you, and viewpoints provide panoramic 360-degree vistas.
The road enters a gap in the cliffs, and not far beyond, a sign points the way to Cave Mountain. Two bridge crossings, one over the North Fork Teton River and one over the Middle Fork, lead to the campground entrance. Set under a beautiful mix of birch, aspen, and pine, the campground’s 18 sites are perfect for tenters looking for quiet and solitude. Sites here are spacious, and sites 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 back up to and are only a short walk from the North Fork of the Teton. You won’t go wrong picking any one of these pine needle–covered sites. Site 14, on the back end of the loop at the end of the road, is nicely secluded. Sites 5 and 7 are also well separated, with plenty of space to spread out for a few days.
This campground makes a great base camp for fishing, hiking, or mountain biking. The trailhead for Middle Fork Teton River Trail #108 is at Cave Mountain. It’s actually more of a stroll than a hike, as it follows the river bottoms: no mountain vistas, no dramatic canyons, just a walk in the woods along a stream where you can relax, watch industrious beavers, or fish for mountain whitefish or trout. From this trail you can also access the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
A mile east of the campground is the trailhead for Clary Coulee Trail #177. This 12-mile out-and-back trail follows an open bench with views of vast plains to the east and Rocky Mountain peaks to the west. Small stream crossings necessitate some short, steep up-and- down climbs, but overall this is a moderate trail that isn’t heavily used.
Another hiking option is North Fork Teton Trail #107, which winds along the river through narrow Box Canyon. During summer, the many river crossings on this trail are pretty simple, but during spring runoff, it’s quite possible that the depth and speed of the water will make them impassable. The trailhead for this 8-mile out-and-back trip is 4 miles west of the campground.
You can climb to the peak of Mount Wright on a day hike from the trailhead 10 miles west of the campground. The trail follows West Fork Trail #144 for the first quarter mile, and from there it’s a steep 4-mile climb through prime habitat for mountain goats and bighorn sheep. The descent can be challenging as well, but if you’re in good shape, the view from the 8,875-foot summit is spectacular and worth the effort. On a clear day you’ll see peaks at Glacier National Park and part of the Chinese Wall running through the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
About 5 miles east of the campground is a turnoff for Our Lake Trail and the Pine Butte Preserve, a 15,000-acre wetland owned by The Nature Conservancy that provides significant grizzly bear habitat. In order to preserve undisturbed habitat for the grizzlies, the 0.25-mile A. B. Guthrie Memorial Trail is the only hiking access provided. The 300-foot elevation gain allows views of a portion of the fen wetland complex and of limber pine savanna. You may not see any bears while you’re here, but dozens of other mammals like elk, deer, and coyote may draw your attention. More than 100 bird species have been sighted here, from songbirds to sandhill cranes.
If you’re heading for the trails instead of the preserve, take a right after you cross the river and follow South Fork Road (Forest Road 109) for 9 miles to the trailhead. Our Lake Trail #184 is a 5-mile out-and-back that climbs steeply in places and can be slippery before the snow melts in late June. Bears are seen often in this area, and many people see mountain goats clinging to the slopes on the other side of the lake. A waterfall about halfway to the lake is usually less crowded than the lake itself. If you are thinking about making this an overnight hike, camping is allowed near the waterfall, but not near the lake.
The Choteau area is famous for more than ranching and spectacular scenery. Nearby Egg Mountain is where paleontologist Jack Horner discovered fossilized dinosaur eggs and embryos, establishing the Willow Creek Anticline as an active site where finds are still being made. If you want to take part in a dig, stop at the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in Bynum for information.
From Choteau, take US 89 north for 4 miles to the Teton Pass Winter Sports Area and Eureka Reservoir signs. Turn left at the signs, onto FR 144, and go 23 miles to the campground. The last 5 miles are gravel and dirt.
GPS COORDINATES: N47° 53.483' W112° 43.617'
Table of Contents
Montana Campground Locator Map
Map Legend vii
Best Campgrounds x
Northwest Montana 11
1 Bad Medicine Campground 12
2 Big Arm Unit-Flathead Lake State Park Campground 15
3 Big Creek Campground 18
4 Big Therriault Lake Campground 21
5 Cut Bank Campground 24
6 Fish Creek Campground 27
7 Holland Lake Campground 30
8 Kintla Lake Campground 33
9 Lake Alva Campground 36
10 Pete Creek Campground 39
11 Peters Creek Campground 42
12 Sprague Creek Campground 45
13 Thompson Falls State Park Campground 48
North Central Montana 51
14 Cave Mountain Campground 52
15 Home Gulch Campground 55
16 Kading Campground 58
17 Logging Creek Campground 61
18 Many Pines Campground 64
19 Park Lake Campground 67
20 Thain Creek Campground 70
21 Wood Lake Campground 73
Eastern Montana 76
22 Beaver Creek County Parle Campgrounds 77
23 Camp Creek Campground 80
24 Crystal Lake Campground 83
25 Makoshika State Park Campground 86
26 Sage Creek Campground 91
South Central Montana 93
27 Battle Ridge Campground 94
28 Beaver Creek Campground 97
29 Falls Creek Campground 100
30 Greenough Lake Campground 103
31 Halfmoon Campground 106
32 Hood Creek Campground 109
33 Potosi Campground 112
34 Sheridan Campground 115
35 Spire Rock Campground 118
36 Swan Creek Campground 121
37 Tom Miner Campground 124
38 Wade and Cliff Lakes Area Campgrounds 127
39 West Fork Madison Dispersed Sites 130
Southwest Montana 133
40 Bannack State Park Campground 134
41 Charles Waters Campground 137
42 Dalles Campground 140
43 Grasshopper Campground 143
44 Lost Creek State Park Campground 146
45 Martin Creek Campground 149
46 May Creek Campground 152
47 Miner Lake Campground 155
48 Reservoir Lake Campground 158
49 Twin Lakes Campground 161
50 Three Frogs Campground 164
Appendix A Camping-Equipment Checklist 167
Appendix B Sources of Information 168
About the Authors 177