Sweet Grass County, Montana

sweet grass county
Sweet Grass County , Montana

Located in Southern Montana, Sweet Grass County is a beautiful spot in the heart of Yellowstone Country. With a total population of only 3,737, this county likely has as much wildlife as it does human residents!

The late Judge William G. Strong had the distinction of designating Sweet Grass County. It is named after Sweet Grass Creek, which travels from the Crazy Mountains’ eastern slope to the Yellowstone River.

The creek’s name is derived from the plentiful and fragrant grass that blooms in its valley and has a vanilla-like scent.

It was in 1895 that the county of Sweet Grass was established as a separate entity, created through the merger of three counties: Park, Meager, and Yellowstone. Sweet Grass County was divided into Stillwater, Golden Valley, and Wheatland Counties between 1910 and 1920. Since 1920, it has been at its current size.

Rare in today’s modern civilization are the many family-operated agricultural and livestock ranch properties that can be found across the vast plains of Sweet Grass County.

Nestled between the Crazy Mountains and the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountain ranges, the region offers unspoiled wilderness and breathtaking views.

Big Timber, the county seat and principal town, is situated in the valley where the Yellowstone and Boulder rivers meet. Located 4,072 ft above sea level, it serves as the hub of a flourishing region.

It has a good water supply and an efficient power system, as well as a newspaper agency, hotels, elevators, and a creamery.

The location where the Boulder River and Big Timber Creek pour into the Yellowstone River was dubbed “Rivers Across” by Lewis and Clark during their expedition through the region.

An Irish immigrant named the town Dornix in the late 1800s, based on the Gaelic word “durnog,” which means “a rock that sits perfectly in your hand and is suitable for throwing”.

The community was renamed Big Timber in 1883 because of its wealth of cottonwood trees along the Boulder and Yellowstone Rivers. Yellowstone River’s banks are lined with cottonwood trees that have been around for more than 200 years.

Aside from growing cattle and sheep, there are other dairying, beekeeping, and swine raising industries that are making steady progress. Conventional farming is also practiced, with the main crops being alfalfa and wild hay, various small grains, garden vegetables, and a few fruits.

The Yellowstone River basin and the Big Timber, Boulder, American Fork, Sweet Grass, and Otter creek valleys are the most important agricultural areas found in the county.

Visit the Sweet Grass County Government website.

County Towns

Adjacent Counties

Special Events

  • May – Crazy Mountain Fiber Fest in Big Timber
  • June – Sweet Grass Fest & Big Timber Rodeo in Big Timber
  • June – Annual Sweet Grass Fest Car & Tractor Show in Big Timber
  • Aug – Sweet Grass Brewfest in Big Timber
  • DecCrazy Mountain Christmas in Big Timber

Main Attractions

Crazy Mountains

crazy mountains

The Crazy Mountains in South-Central Montana is more like the Rockies than the state’s other rounder and more wooded isolated ranges because of their separation from the main Northern Rockies.

The Gallatin National Forest covers most of the footpaths, so there isn’t a lack of access. Big Timber Canyon is a popular route into the Crazies from Highway 191 at Big Timber and Harlowton.

Trailheads are located at Half Moon Campground, Conical Peak, and Twin Lakes, before dropping down to Sweetgrass Creek and yet another trailhead. From Wilsall and Clyde Park, you can reach the western edge of the range by tracks. Horse and walking trails cover around 66 miles of the Crazy Mountains area.

Big Timber Canyon Trail

North of Big Timber, Montana, Big Timber Creek emerges from Montana’s Crazy Mountains. The brook feeds through into the Yellowstone River slightly east of Big Timber after emerging from the mountains to the east. Despite its name, the Custer Gallatin National Forest is home to the creek’s headwaters, which are mostly on private property.

Access to Big Timber Creek can be found via US 191. The Big Timber Canyon Road, which leads west to the Crazy Mountains, is 11 miles to the north of Big Timber.

To return to the mountains, turn right at the fork in the road and travel another two miles on this dirt road. The trail ends just at Halfmoon Picnic Area, Halfmoon Campground, and the Big Timber Canyon trailhead afterward about 10 miles.

Crazy Mountains Museum

Crazy Mountain Museum showcases a unique collection of items that have had an impact on the history and people of Sweet Grass County. Archeological and geological artifacts are on display, as well as a room depicting the lives of early settlers.

You can see a re-creation of Big Timber from 1907, Jack Hines’s artwork of Sweet Grass County titled Historic Crossroads, a Norwegian stabbur replica, a tipi, a one-room schoolhouse, and more.

Lewis and Clark’s collections of Montana’s native plants, recorded between 1805 and 1806, were regarded as important discoveries. The garden displays the flora collected during the expedition and includes explanatory plaques with intriguing data about the expedition.