The somewhat scary-sounding Hell Creek region of Montana is often associated with the archaeological and geological history of the state. And the area does indeed have a rich history of unearthing various dinosaur and plant remains, as well as fossilized primates from the Cretaceous era.
The park is situated on the Hell Creek Bay area of the huge body of water known as Fort Peck Lake. And although there aren’t too many dinosaurs around this area these days, you will find enthusiastic hordes of campers, fishermen, water-sport lovers, and general outdoor types in this natural open space.
Hell Creek State Park is quite renowned for fishing these days. That is not too surprising when you consider that it sits along a western stretch of Fort Peck Lake, which is also home to some great facilities for water sports.
Fort Peck itself contains 1,500 miles of shoreline and is surrounded by the C. M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge as well as the Missouri Breaks, for which it serves as a launching point for boat camping.
The state park is at an elevation of 2,231 feet and spans more than 300 acres. It includes a private marina that sells bait and various other necessities, including seasonal firewood. The park is open throughout the year although some services are limited between October and May.
You can access the park via the rather winding Hell Creek Road, which runs through the spectacular landscape of the Missouri Breaks. Inside Hell Creek State Park, there is lots of large vehicle parking near the boat launch and the marina.
There are plenty of amenities at the state park to make fishing, boating, and camping all the more enjoyable including a seasonal fish cleaning station, fire rings, grills, picnic tables, an RV dump station, drinking water, showers, a playground, toilets, and boat ramps.
Pets are allowed if kept on a leash, and fees are charged for day use and camping, which means non-residents with a vehicle pay $8.00, and half of that for walking in.
Hell Creek State Park Stats
- 337 acres
- Open year-round
- Over 70 campsites
- Non-resident fees
The main attractions of this state park are fairly straightforward — boating and fishing! It’s a great stop-off for anyone on a boat camping trip along the Missouri.
The fact that it has some camping sites close to the docks is a bonus, and it is clean, with outhouses — not to mention a reputation for being the most heavily-fished state park in Montana.
Aside from that, camping is the main objective for a lot of visitors to the site. Yes, there are a variety of other recreational opportunities as you will see, but setting up base camp prior to exploring is a must for many visitors.
Aside from the top-notch boating, water-skiing, windsurfing, fishing, swimming, and camping at Hell Creek State Park, the area also brings in hikers and mountain bikers, as well as wildlife watchers.
Bird watching is popular due to the wide variety of species that can be spotted around the campground area and road. The wildlife areas of the park are patrolled by deer, coyotes, badgers, elk, mules, and various other animals.
Hell Creek State Park includes 71 campsites, 44 with electrical hook-ups. Some sites can be reserved, as can a group facility which is available special for events. Camping is available year-round, as is electricity, and the campgrounds are a great destination for RV campers.
Reservation camping includes two main sites by way of the Hell Creek Lower Loop and the Hell Creek Upper Loop. The Lower Loop is ideal for anyone who decides to spend a weekend here off-the-cuff. They’ll find 11 electric back-in sites and a nearby children’s play area. The Upper Loop site is the largest in the park and the camping area has 33 reservable electric sites.
Most sites have fire rings and picnic tables and are mostly back-in sites. Some are pull-through and an RV dump station is open year-round. Restrooms and showers are usually available in the summer, with some limitations in winter.
First-come-first-served sites include the Boy Scout Camp, and this eight-site campground has a flush toilet in summer, although water is only available between May 15 and October 1.
It features no hookups, but there is a boat launch and day-use beach area. Milroy’s Cove comprises 17 sites – again no hook-ups – but this is next to the lake. This campground is a more open area with plenty of space but little shade. Drinking water and flush toilets are usually open in the summertime, making this an ideal rustic lakeside camping experience. Campsite fees range from $4.00 to $34.00 per night, according to season and available amenities.
The Hell Creek fishing calendar usually kicks off in early April. The water temperature is just starting to rise, as are the lake trout. Some of these fish are big – over 20 pounds.
Around Memorial Day time Walleye begin feeding and by summer they are everywhere, until around August, when the water starts to cool. This is the time to start looking out for Chinook salmon, which are active throughout the fall. You can also expect a bounty of northern pike and small-mouth bass to fish.
The RV campers on the sites have full use of the park’s fish-cleaning station. This facility is open between mid-May and October, and the private Hell Creek Marina has stocks of bait, groceries, gas, and other camping and fishing necessities.
When the waters are starting to cool in September and October the fish come into shallower waters, and many anglers meet them head-on with either powerboats, hand-powered craft, or from the shoreline.
Camping out along the shoreline regions is a favorite for anglers in spots such as these, among the natural beauty and solitude.
Bikers within the state park get to whizz around on roads that lead out from the campground and are somewhat primitive. Head out to the wildlife refuge for some natural and rugged terrain, and bear in mind that the tracks are used by other vehicles.
The landscape of the bike tracks can be quite varied and features upland overlooks with some decent views that make biking up the uphill sections of the trails worthwhile.
Hunting and Wildlife Viewing
Fall is hunting season in the vicinity of Hell Creek State Park, although many visitors don’t realize that it is not actually allowed inside the park.
That said, there is plenty of wildlife and game in the area, so many RV campers use the park and the marina as a base camp. The region is ideal for wildlife viewing as mule deer, antelope, and elk roam around and you can often spot them towards the western side of the park and the more remote stretches of Hell Creek Bay.
Serious hikers won’t actually find too many challenges along the maintained trails in the park. The main route is near the campground and quite short – but if you fancy a spot of rambling there are hills and canyons surrounding the area that may prove more challenging.
Mule Deer Trail
Mule Deer Trail is an easy 1.5-mile loop trail around the vicinity of Fort Peck Lake. This region is part of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, as is much of the land in Hell Creek State Park.
Hell Creek Walk
This trail is less than three-quarters of a mile long and is a lightly trafficked out and back trail route. The lake features along this easy trail which is used mainly for walking, as well as being in the vicinity of camping, wildlife, and bird watching. The route is mainly flat with a couple of steep sections, and there is little shade along the way.
The Paleo Trail
The Paleo Trail is a 3-mile loop trail used by prehistoric enthusiasts as well as anyone just out for a hike. This stretch of trail is in the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, as is much of the land inside the state park. The region is known for its dinosaur fossils, hence the name.