Pursuing the perfect panorama? Searching for a scenic selfie spot? Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur, the beauty of Southeast Montana is waiting on the other side of your lens. With hundreds of miles of open space, the region is a haven for those looking for the perfect photo op.
We take inspiration from those who’ve so majestically captured the landscape before us. Evelyn Cameron is one of those people who found inspiration behind the lens of her camera, inspiring others to do the same. Coming from Europe to Montana in the late 1800s, her timeless work provides a glimpse of what life was like the on the prairie more than 100 years ago. Since then, thousands have followed in her footsteps, capturing the beauty of Southeast Montana on film.
One reason we love pictures so much? The memories and emotion they invoke. Cameron’s photos remind us how much, and how little things have changed in Southeast Montana over the years. Our own pictures do the same for us, evoking what we were feeling at the time the shutter clicked -- happy, inspired, awestruck, content. No matter what the emotion, we took the photo because we found something we wanted to remember.
So pull out that camera, and start creating those memories. Not sure where to start? We’ve made it easy with a map and 10 locations ranging from historical sites to state parks to scenic drives. Make sure to tag your pictures with #OutHereMT and #SoutheastMontana, and share the beauty you capture.
Start in Montana’s biggest state park. Famous for the dinosaur fossils found throughout the badlands formations, Makoshika boasts numerous scenic trails complete with lookouts. Weathering and erosion over millions of years has created distinct features throughout the park, a perfect setting for pictures. With limited light pollution, this is a premiere spot to camp out under the stars and get photos of our dark skies out here.
The 71mile-long Bighorn Lake (known locally as ”Yellowtail” after the dam) boasts 1,000 foot high cliffs and wildlife aplenty (watch out for those bears!). Bring your own boat or rent one from the Ok-A-Beh Marina and spend hours exploring the bends and breaks of the lake. Or pick a trail and stretch your legs. The view from the Visitor Information Center – North Unit (open seasonally) is truly jaw-dropping. Either way, you’ll have pictures sure to make all your friends jealous.
Don’t miss the chance to get the perfect shot of the Yellowstone River, the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states. A short hike at Four Dances Recreation Area gives way to a plateau overlooking of the body of water with panoramic views of Billings and the Beartooth and Pryor mountain ranges in the background. Giving you the feeling of standing on top of the world, this spot is popular for moon shots, as well as sunrises and sunsets.
Looking for a spot the locals love? Known locally as “The Rims,” this spot in the Custer Gallatin National Forest is located in the Sioux Ranger District near the Montana/South Dakota border. Bring your long-range lens because you can see the Devils Tower National Monument to the south on clear days. Pack a picnic and enjoy the sight of the sweeping prairies spread out in panoramic views around you.
Sometimes described as “otherworldly,” the Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area is a place you won’t want to miss. Make sure your vehicle is up for the challenge before heading out here: high clearance vehicles are highly recommended and only on dry roads. But with 360-degree views from the outlook, the buttes, vistas and spires are worth the trek. To see more of the WSA, try the Calypso Trail. Note: wheeled traffic off the “road” is prohibited.
As the name implies, this area was used as a place for “big medicine” for Indian hunting parties. Capture the beauty of the sandstone rock formations, which after years of weathering, have a “Swiss cheese” look. This is another spot with limited light pollution, so pull out those cameras at night and catch a shot of the Milky Way, or the thousands of stars that dot the dark skies.
There’s no question why this area was named Strawberry Hill. The rock formations rising above the valley are painted in a reddish color. Make sure to watch them when the sun hits the hill, you won’t believe the colors exploding in front of you. With so much wildlife in the area, chances are good you’ll be able to capture the animals in their natural habitat, just make sure to give them plenty of room.
You can’t miss this spot in Southeast Montana. Captain William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, carved his signature into the side of the rock pillar. Today, it remains the only physical, in-the-field evidence of his and Meriwether Lewis’ journey to explore the Louisiana Territory. Hike the 202 steps to the top of a 150-foot pillar for extensive views of the Yellowstone River Valley.
This spot is definitely off the beaten path in Southeast Montana. Make sure you take on this challenging dirt road in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Once you do, stunning views of the Devil’s Basin and Snowy Mountains will be waiting for you. Sunsets, sunrises, fields of flowers and more are all part of this scenic drive.
Made up of two battlefields, here you will be able to drive through the hills and valleys where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s forces met and were soundly defeated by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors as they fought to preserve their way of life. Take a moment of reflection as you observe the 7th Calvary Monument and Indian Memorial.