Unique Places to Stay in Southeast Montana
Your journeys in the Big Sky State will be anything but normal – so shouldn’t your sleeping accommodations be the same? After a day full of adventures in Southeast Montana, you’ll be looking forward to a full night of sleep before another day of exploring. And there’s no shortage of places with unique views and experiences to rest and recharge.
Choose from the oldest continuously operating hotel in Montana, or take your pick of places under the stars. Wherever you rest your head – you’re sure to wake up with a new appreciation for Southeast Montana.
Established in 1902, the Kempton Hotel is the oldest continually operated hotel in Montana. Built by the Kempton family at the turn of the century, the hotel served as a resting place for those making their way through Terry, Mont. The Kemptons operated both the hotel, as well as their nearby ranch, offering folks from the “big cities” as well as railroad workers a chance to experience the Western way of life. Many famous figures stayed in the hotel throughout the years – including Calamity Jane and Theodore Roosevelt.
And of course, a building that old isn’t without its fair share of ghost stories and hauntings. Be prepared to hear spurs and footsteps on the main level, or to wake up to the image of a smiling woman who then disappears through the walls.
Today, the hotel features the same décor from 1902. Make your reservations to stay the night and learn all the stories of the 118-year-old building and the characters who spent the night. Sit on the big front porch or the upper porch to relax and think of days gone by while the trains whistle in the distance.
The Dude Rancher Lodge in Billings is another place for those who aren’t afraid of a little spookiness! The hotel was built in 1950 by Annabel and Percival Goan. After Percival died, Annabel continued running the hotel until her death in 1982. Since then, both guests and staff alike have reported strange experiences, including lights switching on and off, televisions mysteriously turning on, the sound of children running in the halls while no children were in the hotel and more. Read more about the haunted happenings at the hotel before booking your stay and seeing for yourself just what all the stories are about.
While offering the comforts of a modern hotel, you can still experience Western culture during your stay. Located in the heart of Montana’s largest city, you’ll be within walking distance of the Yellowstone Art Museum, Western Heritage Center and downtown – where you’ll be able to sample local beers and unique eats.
A teepee, or tipi, is a tent traditionally used by Plains Indians, including among tribes residing in Southeast Montana such as the Crow. For those trekking through Montana’s largest state park and looking for a place to camp for the night, reserve site #15, the only teepee available in the park. The site is part of the Cains Coulee Loop. You’ll sleep with the stars in your eyes since the top of the teepee is open to the sky. You’ll wake up refreshed and ready to learn about the dinosaurs that called the area home millions of years ago or play disc golf in the park. There are also sites for tents and RVs in the park.
If you’re looking to experience Montana through the eyes of a current ranching family, stay at the Dryhead Ranch in the far-southern edge of the Montana-Wyoming border. A week-long experience will have you herding cattle and learning how to ride horses. At night, choose from the bunkhouse or one of the cabins on the property. Established in 1907, the bunkhouse today has been updated several times throughout the years and features seven private bedrooms. Or, stay in one of the five cabins on the property and enjoy the quiet sounds of nature at night as you reflect on your hard day’s work as an authentic cowboy or cowgirl.
If you have a boat, kayak or canoe, spend the day exploring Bighorn Lake, also known as the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, and then camping under the stars. The 71-mile long lake straddles the Montana-Wyoming border with the north unit in Montana and the south unit in Wyoming. The north unit is known locally as Yellowtail, nicknamed after the Yellowtail Dam and former Crow Chairman Robert Yellowtail. On your way in, stop at the Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center in Fort Smith, Mont. to learn the full history of the waterway.
Several of the campgrounds are boat-in only, guaranteeing a quiet night under the stars. Spend your day exploring the inlets, considered canyons within the canyons. Spend the night relaxing and taking in the Montana skies through the 1,000 foot high cliffs. Make sure to pack in and out all your own supplies – and bring everything you need for your overnight trip, as there are no roads out.
Make reservations to stay in the Ashland Ranger District of the Custer Gallatin National Forest and discover the changing topography with rolling grasslands and steep rock outcroppings throughout the 40,000 acres of land. Here, you can stay in the Diamond Butte Lookout/Cabin, perched on top of a 30-foot tower, with 360 degrees of the surrounding forest and the Bighorn Mountains nearly 100 miles in the distance. Complete with three beds, be prepared to hike about 200 feet up a hill to reach the lookout. While there is no water and electricity, let your nights be filled with the light from the stars, or wake up at dawn for an unforgettable sunrise. A propane stove, lights and heater will keep you warm on cooler nights. Book your stay, but be advised, the lookout is unavailable from June to September, as it’s used as an active fire lookout for the ranger district.
Or, stay at the Whitetail Cabin, a former ranger station for the Whitetail Reserve. Now a registered historic site, the two-room cabin sleeps four people with an electric cook stove, refrigerator and wood stove for heat. While the cabin is at the end of a road, you may need to hike about 100 yards in the winter depending on weather conditions. Bring along your livestock to explore the surrounding forest land. There’s a round pen corral facility, two hitching rails and nearly five acres of fenced area to ride and keep your horses, mules, pack-goats and others.
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