From the deserts of Arizona to the rugged terrain of Montana, off-roading holds a universal allure. Today, we embark on a journey to explore the top 8 off-road trails in Montana tailored for 4×4 vehicles.
Montana has distinct geographical and environmental characteristics that create different views and experiences for visitors. If you a fan of Moab, Utah, you will find a totally different scenery from Utah.
Montana and Moab, Utah, offer strikingly different natural landscapes. Montana is characterized by its rugged mountain ranges, glacially-carved valleys, and vast expanses of wilderness. The state boasts abundant wildlife and numerous lakes and rivers, creating a sense of untouched, remote beauty. Moab, Utah, is known for its iconic red rock formations, including arches, canyons, and mesas, set in a high desert environment with arid landscapes and unique desert flora
If you are for mountainous terrain and wildlife-rich wilderness, Montana has many good places to go.
Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest
Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, located in central Montana, encompasses a diverse range of landscapes spanning from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains. While it is primarily known for its opportunities in hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing, it also offers options for off-roading enthusiasts.
The forest is interlaced with a network of forest service roads and trails that can be explored by off-road vehicles. These routes provide access to remote and scenic areas, offering a unique perspective of the forest’s diverse terrain.
Off-roading in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest caters to a variety of skill levels. Some routes are well-maintained and suitable for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), while others may be more rugged, demanding high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Exploring these off-road routes can lead to hidden lakes, alpine meadows, and breathtaking viewpoints.
Elkhorn and Crow Peak Trail
Located near Boulder, Montana, the Elkhorn and Crow Peak Trail is a 7.9 mile out-and-back trail with stunning mountain and forest landscape views. This lightly-trafficked trail has an elevation gain of 2,844 ft and is rated as difficult. It is primarily used for hiking and off-road driving between the months of May and October. When you’re in a well-equipped Jeep, driving this trail generally makes for a shorter off-roading adventure.
The hiking to Casey Peak is quite challenging, The designated “trail” began after a private property sign, though it resembled more of a rugged road. The conditions were demanding, with uneven terrain, loose rocks, and extensive scrambling. Negotiating the terrain required careful footing to avoid any mishaps.
Upon reaching an opening with a clear view of the peak, the terrain transitioned into a scramble. Navigating through loose and unstable rocks, they managed to find a faint path leading to the summit. The view from the peak was simply breathtaking, offering panoramic sights in every direction. They even spotted “Hidden Lake” when looking towards Crow Peak.
It’s a little hard to navigate to the peak, you may use Google Maps and some trail apps to help you to the final summit.
Fairy Lake via Fairy Creek Trail
Fairy Lake, accessed via Fairy Creek Trail, is a popular destination located in the Bridger Mountain Range near Bozeman, Montana. Widely regarded as moderately challenging, the trail typically takes around 2 hours and 28 minutes to complete. It’s a favored route for hiking, mountain biking, and off-road driving, yet one can still find moments of tranquility, especially during quieter periods of the day. The prime times to explore this trail are from May to October.
There are two ways to reach Fairy Lake. The route described here involves parking at the lower trailhead and trekking a few miles along Fairy Creek until you reach the lake. This trail is suitable for hiking, mountain biking, or off-road driving.
Alternatively, you can opt to continue driving up Forest Service Road 74 to the Fairy Lake Trailhead. From there, it’s a short walk to reach Fairy Lake. This alternative route is also available on AllTrails.
It’s important to note that the road leading to the trailhead can be quite rugged and muddy. Depending on the season, a 4WD vehicle with good clearance may be necessary. The route outlined on this page offers an alternative option in case the Fairy Lake Trailhead further up is inaccessible due to road conditions.
However Roads leading to this trailhead are subject to seasonal closure, check USDA for more info.
Hedges Mountain via Cave Gulch
Explore this 17.5-mile out-and-back trail in the vicinity of East Helena, Montana. Known for its challenging terrain, it typically takes around 10 hours and 27 minutes to complete. This versatile trail caters to hiking, mountain biking, and off-road driving enthusiasts, providing a relatively solitary experience.
The scenery along this trail is truly breathtaking! The higher you ascend, the more stunning it becomes. However, there are challenges to be aware of.
This trail is primarily designed for ATVs, so please take that into consideration. Personally, I’m comfortable with it, and my truck handles it well. Yet, it’s worth noting that the trail consists of very steep inclines and declines for most of the way.
If your vehicle isn’t well-suited for this or you lack confidence in it, it’s best to opt for a different trail. The slate rock surface can be quite slippery on certain inclines and declines. We thoroughly enjoyed our time, but it’s definitely geared towards experienced riders and vehicles, rather than leisurely outings or those new to this type of terrain.
Additionally, be prepared for continuous sun exposure. Bring ample water and apply plenty of sunscreen!
Ringing rocks trail
Located near Whitehall, Montana, the Ringing Rocks Trail is a 12.7-mile out-and-back route, often considered quite challenging. On average, it takes around 5 hours and 33 minutes to complete, making it a popular choice for hiking, mountain biking, and off-road driving. Despite its popularity, there are quieter times of day when visitors can enjoy some solitude along the trail, especially from April through October. It’s worth noting that dogs are welcome and may roam off-leash in designated areas.
Accessibility to the trail is possible by vehicle for most of the route. However, it’s essential to have a 4×4 truck or ATV to navigate the entire trail. The road conditions are rocky, featuring deep holes that can be potentially damaging to regular cars. The hike itself involves a 406 ft. elevation change, adding an extra element of challenge.
One of the intriguing aspects of the Ringing Rocks Trail is the phenomenon after which it’s named. Visitors are encouraged to bring a hammer to experience the unique rocks that produce a ringing sound when struck. The rocks are fascinating, each emitting a distinct sound. However, if a rock is shifted or dislodged from its initial position in the stack, it loses its ability to produce the ringing sound.
Terry Badlands Scenic View Road to Badlands Overlook
The Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area (WSA) lies in Prairie County, approximately 3 miles northwest of Terry, MT. To reach it from Interstate 94 at Terry, take Highway 253 and cross the Yellowstone River, covering about 2 ½ miles until you reach Scenic View Rd, an unpaved road. Turn left (west) and travel along this road for roughly 6 miles, arriving at the Terry Scenic View, an overlook situated on the outskirts of the WSA.
Alternatively, starting from Highway 243 in Terry, turn left (west) onto Old Highway 10, drive for approximately 3 miles until you reach the Milwaukee Road. Turn right (west) and continue along this road for about 3 miles, crossing a one-lane bridge over the Yellowstone River, originally a Milwaukee Railroad bridge. A kiosk is located about half a mile past the river, offering information about the area and marking the commencement of the Calypso Trail.
Widely regarded as an easy route, this trail offers excellent opportunities for mountain biking, off-road driving, and leisurely scenic drives. It’s uncommon to come across many other people while enjoying this trail.
The landscape boasts an array of geological formations, including sandstone bridges, spires, table tops, and buttes. These have been sculpted over millennia by the forces of wind and water erosion. The rolling benches are adorned with a variety of vegetation, including grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs such as sage, yucca, greasewood, and occasional juniper.
Daisy Pass OHV Route
Located near Wise River in southwestern Montana the Daisy Pass OHV Route offers adventure enthusiasts an exhilarating off-road experience.
This trail, winding through rugged terrain and showcasing the natural beauty of the region, provides an excellent opportunity for off-highway vehicle (OHV) exploration.
With its diverse terrain and scenic vistas, Daisy Pass OHV Route promises an exciting adventure for both novices and seasoned off-roaders alike. Get ready to embark on a thrilling journey through the heart of Montana’s wilderness on this dynamic OHV route.
The road isn’t for regular cars. Consider hiking instead. Opt for Lulu Pass and Daisy Pass roads with a high-clearance vehicle, advised by Gardiner Ranger Station. Daisy Pass road from below is rough. Due to smoky conditions, visibility was limited. For a more engaging experience, skip the loop and take trail 113 from Daisy Pass to Wolverine Pass. Explore other nearby trails for variety.
Granite ghost town
Granite is a renowned ghost town situated in the picturesque surroundings of Granite County, Montana. Founded in the late 1800s during the mining boom
Granite offers a wealth of opportunities for enthusiasts. The rugged terrain surrounding the ghost town beckons those with 4×4 vehicles or ATVs. There are various trails and roads in the area that lead through scenic landscapes, offering a taste of both history and adventure.
Be ready for a challenging ascent on the road from Phillipsburg to Granite. It climbs 1,280 feet in elevation and may require pulling over for passing vehicles, but the panoramic view is worth it!
Although only a handful of structures stand today, Granite’s main street was once a lively hub with saloons, a newspaper office, lodgings, and eateries. The state park now conserves the Granite Mine Superintendent’s residence and the remnants of the miners’ Union Hall, both documented in the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Montana boasts an abundance of trails that are well-suited for hiking, camping, and biking, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking these activities. While there are certainly opportunities for off-roading adventures in the state, it’s important to note that the majority of the trails are geared towards the former activities. If you’re an avid off-roader, there are still some fantastic 4×4 trails to explore, but they may be comparatively less in number than the hiking and camping options. Whether you’re on foot, bike, or behind the wheel of a 4×4 vehicle, Montana’s diverse landscapes offer a multitude of ways to connect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors.