The Castle Mountains are a small range located east of White Sulphur Springs, MT. This small range encompasses less than 200 square miles. It is perhaps one of the smallest mountain ranges in Montana.
Like many places in Montana, the Castle Mountains were once filled with miners looking to strike it rich in gold.
However, this small range was not a productive place for miners, and it became deserted as quickly as the miners rushed to its hills. The area is dotted with old mining claims, buildings, and dig sites.
The range itself is less towering than other ranges, most peaks in the Castle Mountains are less than 8,000-feet tall. The tallest peak in the range is Elk Peak which stands at 8,589 feet tall and is also the highest point in the Castle Range.
The range gets its name from the craggy spires of rock that jut from the summits of the range. These castles are popular with rock climbers and are fun landmarks to hike to.
The range is most popular with hunters in the fall, who come for elk and deer which are populous in the area. If you are traveling in the Castle range during the hunting season, you’ll want to make sure you have a high visibility vest so that hunters don’t mistake you for a wild animal.
Castle Mountain Range Statistics
- Highest Elevation (ft/m) – 8,589 feet (2,618 meters)
- Most Recognizable Peak – Elk Peak
- Season (when can it be accessed) – All Year
Castle Mountains Recreation Activities
Hunting is probably the most popular recreational activity in the Castle Mountains. Since much of the land that surrounds the range is private land, and part of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, this area is a great place to hunt, but not as great for other types of recreation.
The area is most popular with hunters looking for elk or deer. From September through early December, the Castle Range is filled with hunters that are in search of their perfect elk or deer.
It is during this time that the Castle Mountains are the busiest. During the rest of the year, you’ll find that there are few people recreating in the Castle mountains.
All individuals that want to hunt in Montana will need to purchase a hunting license and make sure that they’re fully aware of the hunting rules and regulations in the Castle Range and in Montana in general.
The website for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks will have all of the information that you’ll need to hunt in the Castle Range.
There aren’t many designated hiking routes in the Castle Mountains. However, many trails take off from the two forest service campgrounds in the area.
Many visitors to the Castle Mountains enjoy utilizing the many ATV roads that wind through the hills.
Many of the ATV roads are very busy during the fall months when they are used by hunters to access popular hunting locations in the range. In the spring and summer, these roads are perfect for hiking.
You’ll have to be mindful of your surroundings while hiking these roads, since they will still be used by ATVs, though not as heavily, outside of the elk and deer hunting seasons.
Mountain biking is another popular activity in the Castle Mountains. You’ll find that the ATV roads in the range are heavily used by mountain bikers during the spring, summer, and fall.
There are around 50-miles of ATV roads and biking trails that can be accessed on your mountain bike.
The best place to start your biking experience in the Castle Mountains is at one of the two forest service campgrounds, located on the north end of the range, accessible from Highway 12.
Camping is a popular recreation activity in the Castle Mountains, especially during hunting season. There are two forest service campgrounds that can be used, year round in the Castle Mountains.
The Grasshopper Campground is the largest of the two, with 12 camping sites, running water most of the year, and a vault toilet. The Richardson Campground is smaller, with only 3 campsites, and no running water, but it does have a maintained vault toilet.
For those that want to leave the campground behind, there is plenty of available dispersed camping within the Castle Mountains. Make sure that if you’re going to dispersed camping in the Castle Mountains, you are aware of property boundaries, and are only camping on public lands.
Approximately 41% of the range is privately owned, so be respectful of land owners, and only camp, hike and hunt on public property.
The Castle Mountains offer some great rock climbing opportunities if you’re willing to do a bit of hiking to get there.
The west side of the Castle Mountains has unique granite spires that give the mountain range its name. This is the most popular area for climbers. However, the east side of the range has some great limestone climbing, and there are routes here to be climbed.
Green Canyon has the most climbing routes, with approximately 40 developed routes, some of which are already bolted.
The Grasshopper Rocks area has fewer developed routes, and you’ll have to hike a good distance to get to the best climbs. However, the Grasshopper Rocks area does have the best camping, with proximity to the Grasshopper Campground.
Castle Mountains Trail Routes
While the Castle Mountains are well used for hunting, the area is not as popular for other types of recreation. Because of this, there are few maintained hiking trails in the Castle Mountains.
The mountain range is also devoid of features that would normally draw visitors to hike, such as lakes or waterfalls. Much of the hiking available in the Castle Mountains is on forest service roads or ATV roads that are normally used by hunters.
The trail to the top of Elk Peak, the highest point in the Castle Mountains, is the only designated hike in the Castle Mountain Range. This hike isn’t terribly difficult, but it will challenge you. The hike is a 14-mile round trip.
The hike is an out and back, mostly on established ATV roads. Since you’ll be hiking to the highest point in the Castle Mountains, expect a good amount of elevation gain – 2,654 feet, to be exact.
There are a variety of ways to access Elk Peak, but the most popular starting point is from the Grasshopper Campground. If you’re visiting the area outside of hunting season, this is a nice place to set up camp.
Because much of the route to the top of Elk Peak is ATV road, you may want to bike as much of the trail as you can, it will shorten your hiking time.