The Gravelly Range is a small mountain range located in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The Gravelly Range is commonly referred to as the ‘Gravellies’, and is a fairly remote range, with minimal road access.
There are two stand-out features of the Gravellies that bring visitors to this range. First, this range has some unique animal inhabitants that are prized by hunters and anglers.
The Gravelly Range is home to pronghorn antelope, and it is the highest elevation herd of antelope in Montana. Also, the Elk River that cuts through the Gravellies is home to the west slope cutthroat trout which draws anglers to the area.
The Gravelly Range is well known for its meadows and is home to the largest expanse of undisturbed natural prairie in Montana. This prairie gives visitors a glimpse into the past, at how much of the Great Plains looked before western expansion. The prairies are a mecca for wildflower enthusiasts and photographers, thanks to the prairie’s wildflower diversity.
We will take a look at the many reasons to visit the Gravelly Range, with an abundance of activities and places to explore:
Why Visit The Gravelly Range?
The Gravelly Range is home to Cave Mountain. This area has some amazing caves that are popular with spelunkers. The Cave Mountain area also has old Native American campsites that can be explored by those interested in the history of the Native People.
Gravelly Range Statistics
- Highest Elevation: 10,542 feet (3,213 meters)
- Most Recognizable Peak: Black Butte
- Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
The Gravelly Range is fairly remote, so there is limited access to much of the area. However, that doesn’t mean that recreation in this range is challenging. There are plenty of great recreational opportunities in the Gravelly Range if you want to get out and explore.
Hiking is a fairly popular activity in the Gravelly Range. Because the area is fairly remote, there aren’t a ton of established hiking trails.
However, because most of this range is still National Forest land, and considered open to the public, you can safely park near attractions that you are interested in, and take a walk.
Two of the most popular hikes in the Gravelly Range are the trail to the summit of Black Butte and the hike to Cave Mountain where you can enjoy beautiful wildflowers and interesting natural caves. This hike is popular with spelunkers that enjoy exploring the caves.
This area is heavily populated with all sorts of game species. However, it is the antelope that people come to hunt. The Gravelly Range has the highest altitude antelope habitat in all of Montana.
Some people believe that this makes the meat from antelope better. In addition to antelope, there is a substantial elk, deer, and black bear population. Recently this area was opened to a limited number of grizzly tags as well.
Elk River canyon is a very popular, but remote area in the Gravelly Range that is known for its trout fishery. This section of the Elk River has west slope cutthroat trout which are not found in many rivers or streams in Montana.
There are also some nice lakes south of the range in Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge that provide some opportunities for fishing near the Gravelly Range.
Due to the remote nature of the Gravelly Range, there are very few established trails. Thankfully, most of the range is on public lands, so it is easy to find trails or make your own.
The best place to find established hiking trails is in the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Area. This beautiful area bordering the southern part of the Gravellies is a great place to explore and experience some of the most pristine ecosystems in the United States.
Sparrow Pond Trail
This trail is a 1-mile out and back trail. It is considered a fairly easy trail and is both kid and dog-friendly (dogs must be leashed at all times). This trail wanders through the willows and tallgrass prairie area.
It is a great place to see some of the resident wildlife like sandhill crane, moose, and a variety of waterfowl. This easier trail will take the average visitor about 40 minutes to complete.
Odell Creek Trail
The Odell Creek Trail wanders through forest and mountains, allowing visitors to the Refuge to experience the Continental Divide along with the biodiversity of the area.
Hikers, who choose to, can travel further on this trail, outside of the Refuge boundaries. Outside of the Refuge, you may see wildlife like moose, elk, black and grizzly bears. The trail within the refuge is an easy 1.4-mile, out-and-back trail.
Many people try their hand at hiking to the summit of Black Butte. This is a popular route for hikers, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information available about this route.
Hikers wishing to hike to the Black Butte summit will find it accessible from Gravelly Range Road.