Boulder Mountains, Montana

Located conveniently between two of Montana’s major cities, the Boulder Mountains are a great place to enjoy some of Montana’s beautiful mountains without having to travel too far from the comforts of town.

The Boulder Mountains are a small range in the southwest part of Montana. The range runs between the cities of Helena and Butte, and is a popular range for outdoor recreation, particularly for locals, who enjoy an area that is a little less crowded. 

The range is located within three counties and is a part of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

While this range is not as dramatic as some of the other ranges in the state, the Boulder Mountains have a portion of the Continental Divide passing through them.

One of the most popular recreational opportunities in the Boulder Mountains is to hike a portion of the Continental Divide Trail.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Boulder Mountains were filled with prospectors looking to strike it rich on the precious metals that run through the mountains. This area was heavily used by gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc miners who were looking to make their fortune.

The Boulder Mountains are home to a number of Native Tribes, including the Blackfeet, Salish, and Shoshone Nations.

Today, the Boulder Mountains are still fairly remote, with limited trails. However, much of the area is public land so you are welcome to blaze your own trail and create an amazing adventure of your own. 

boulder mountains
Image: Amy Aletheia Cahill

Boulder Mountains Statistics 

  • Highest Elevation (ft/m) 8,819 feet (2,688 meters)
  • Most Recognizable Peak – Haystack Mountain
  • Season (when can it be accessed) All Year

Boulder Mountains Recreation Activities


hiking path

While hiking is a popular recreational activity in the Boulder Mountains, many people find that the lack of established trails makes this area a bit frustrating.

However, if you are willing to blaze your own trail, much of the range is located in the Deerlodge National Forest, so you can adventure in your own way. 

If you aren’t into making your own trail, there are trails that you can enjoy throughout the Boulder Mountains. However, trails are sparse and spread out from Helena to Butte.

Boulder, MT, located between Helena and Butte on I-15 is a great place to find a nice variety of hiking trails.

The Continental Divide Trail passes through much of the Boulder Mountains. Adventurous hikers can hop on the trail and enjoy a day or more of hiking between Helena and Butte.


There is an extensive network of single-track biking trails throughout the Boulder Mountains. Some of the most popular trails in the Boulder Mountains for mountain bikers either start from or connect to the Continental Divide Trail. 

And don’t forget that the Continental Divide Trail is also a popular route for mountain bikers, so if you are looking for a longer adventure, this is a great opportunity to put in some miles.



The Boulder Mountains lie within the Deerlodge division of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. This means that the area offers plenty of opportunities for camping. 

Within the Boulder Mountains, there are 6 National Forest campgrounds providing a range of camping options from tent-only spaces to RV-friendly camping spots. 

For the most up-to-date information on Forest Service campgrounds in the Boulder Mountains, check the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest website.

If you want a more remote camping spot, the Boulder Mountains have plenty of Forest Service discrete camping spots that you can utilize. 

Hunting and Fishing

The Boulder Mountains are a great place to hunt. The area is mostly public land so there are a good number of hunting licenses for this area. If you are looking to hunt in the Boulder Mountains, you will need to apply for a hunting license. 

Applications for hunting licenses can be found on the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks website.

The Boulder River crosses from west to east through the Boulder Mountains. This river is one of the nicest places to try your hand at fly-fishing on one of Montana’s blue-ribbon streams. Trout is the main fish species that you’ll find in the Boulder River. 

There are also a few man-made reservoirs in the Boulder Mountains that you can access from Forest Service lands that can be fished as well.

Like with hunting, everyone wanting to fish in Montana needs a current Montana fishing license, which can be purchased on the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks website. 

Boulder Mountains Trail Routes

Much of the Boulder Mountains are still quite remote, so there aren’t many trails that are easily accessed in this mountain range. However, there are some great trails that are available for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Mount Helena Ridge

Is a great point-to-point trail that starts from state highway 454 and wanders 12 miles to downtown Helena. The hike is considered to be fairly challenging, despite the minimal elevation gain. 

Most of the trail is at a bit of elevation, which adds to the challenge. Mount Helena Ridge is popular with hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, and equestrians, so you’ll see plenty of people on this trail.

One of the most popular features of the Mount Helena Ridge trail is the numerous open meadows along the trail. These meadows are full of wildflowers, including Montana’s state flower, the Bitterroot.

Blackfoot Meadows

Blackfoot Meadows is an easy 10.3-mile, out-and-back trail that starts near the Kading Campground. The trail follows along Blackfoot Creek and has numerous meadows and great views of the surrounding Boulder Mountains. 

This trail has a slight elevation gain of just 912 feet, so it is a good hike if you’re looking for some distance without a ton of climbing. This is also a great trail for families with older children.

Haystack Mountain

The Haystack Mountain trail starts just off of I-15 near Elk Park, MT. This trail takes you to the summit of Haystack Mountain, the highest point in the Boulder Mountains.

At the top, you can enjoy great views of the Boulder Mountains and the surrounding area. At the summit of Haystack Mountain, you can check out the site of the Haystack Mountain lookout, which was once used to watch for wildfires in the area.

This hike is a 6-mile, out-and-back hike with approximately 2,100 feet of elevation gain.

Cliff Mountain

Cliff Mountain trail is a nice wide trail that takes you on an 11.7-mile, out and back adventure from Emery Road to Cliff Mountain.

This trail is considered to be moderately difficult with 2,408 feet of elevation gain. This trail is popular for its wider trail width and the lush and cool forest that it passes through.

This is a great hike for warm summer days thanks to plenty of shade.

Boulder Hot Springs

Located just outside of Boulder, MT, this short 1.2 mile, out and back trail is a nice hike for those that want to explore beyond the Boulder Hot Springs resort area.

This is a nice easy trail for a relaxed walk. There is only 252 feet of elevation gain, so it is a great trail for most hikers, including kids and pets.

Colorado Mountain Pilgrimage

The Colorado Mountain Pilgrimage is a moderate, 4.8-mile, out-and-back trail. Accessed from Chessman Road, this hike takes you to the top of Colorado Mountain.

This is a very popular trail for mountain bikers, thanks to its big climbs and proximity to Helena. For hikers, this trail is moderately difficult and has a total elevation gain of 1,269 feet.

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