Located in south-central Montana, Stillwater County is a hotbed for horseback riding, fishing, whitewater rafting, and camping. Visitors to the area will be thrilled to explore the Beartooth Mountains and the Custer Gallatin National Forest in the south and the vast, rolling plains of the north.
It’s known for having an enormous population of wildlife, particularly up north near Rapelje and Molt. There are two federally protected wildlife refuges in the area to help protect the local animals for generations to come.
The seat of Stillwater County is Columbus, also the largest town in the area. Here is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of lodging, dining, and attractions.
Visit the Stillwater County Government website.
Annual Events in Stillwater County, Montana
Tradition and classic Montana values dominate in Stillwater County’s annual events. If you’re lucky enough to attend, be prepared for the small-town charm imbued into the ethos of these community gatherings.
Held at the Stillwater Pavilion, this business and sports expo will please both entrepreneurs and laypeople with any interest in outdoor sports.
September – The Great Montana Sheep Drive
Beginning with the traditional Fireman’s Breakfast just after dawn, the day of the Great Montana Sheep Drive ends with hundreds of sheep merching through town. Throughout the day you can enjoy a parade, live music, a classic car show, and more.
December – Absarokee Snowflake Festival
This all-day event kicks off the holiday season in Absarokee. It starts with local vendors selling Christmas wares from booths set up downtown, and ends with a parade and fireworks. There’s an annual costume contest, and it coincides with the lighting of the Absarokee community Christmas tree.
Attractions in Stillwater County, Montana
While in the area, there are several key attractions and activities that you should try to make time for.
Museum of the Beartooths
Run by the Stillwater Historical Society, the Museum of the Beartooths collects, preserves, and maintains the history of the Stillwater region. They have several rotating exhibits featuring items from the areas colonial past as well as its indigenous beginnings. They have a small gift shop that sells items of note to the area.
Grass Lake National Wildlife Refuge
This animal sanctuary is overseen by the Fish and Wildlife Service as a part of the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It’s known for being home to a vast variety of wildlife, birds in particular. Though it is unstaffed, visitors are free to explore it as long as they adhere to a code of conduct.
Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge
Another satellite wildlife refuge associated with the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge is a piece of protected land surrounding Hailstone Reservoir. Historically a marshland, the creation of a small dam created the reservoir, though some of the original water flow was restored when portions of it were removed recently. It is overseen by the Fish and Wildlife Service though it is unstaffed.
Although it’s technically not quite a town, this census-designated place in Stillwater County looks like it traveled through time directly from when Montana was originally settled. Many of the buildings along Central look just like the ones that remain unused in Montana’s many ghost towns, those these still see use by Reed Point’s small but stalwart population. Pop into the Hotel Montana on North Division if you fancy a pint, a bite to eat, or a place to sleep for the night.
Tippet Rise Art Center
Surrounded by a 12,000-acre working sheep ranch, the Tippet Rise Art Center showcases large-scale, outdoor sculpture and hosts world-class chamber music concerts. During the season, there are opportunities for visitors to hike and bike on the property.
Columbus Farmers Market
In the summer, visit the pop-up farmers market in Granite Peak Park for fresh produce and handmade goods and wares.