Ringed by mountains and crisscrossed by rivers and creeks, the incomparable town of Big Timber is overlooked far too often by tourists. With excellent dining, incredible access to natural spaces, and unique opportunities to see important wildlife, Big Timber is the perfect jumping-off point to explore South Central Montana.
If it’s your first time visiting, it would be good to familiarize yourself with the offering of the area, as some of Big Timber’s best places to visit can be a little off the radar.
We will look at the best things to do in Big Timber, and if you’re traveling on a budget, we have also included a list of free events.
The Best Things To Do In Big Timber, Montana
1. Overland Golf Course
If you’re into golf, head to Overland Golf Course just off Big Timber Road. This is the premier golf course in the area, and as well as typically scheduled tee-times, they also have twilight specials with huge discounts for visiting after 3 or 5 pm.
This 9-hole golf course has been serving Big Timber since 1976, though several major improvements over the years have kept it contemporary to appeal to modern tastes.
2. Spring Creek Campground and Trout Ranch
With ATV trails, rafting, and golf the Spring Creek Campground and Trout Ranch is way more than just a simple fish farm.
Not only are there sites for both RV and tent camping, but there is plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, and, of course, plenty of trout fishing.
The campground requires reservations if you want to stay overnight, but they can easily be made online.
3. Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park
Less than 15 minutes outside of Big Timber is the home of the protected black-tailed prairie dogs: Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park.
They serve an important role in the biodiversity of Montana’s plains and are highly entertaining to watch. Binoculars are recommended when visiting so you can get the best view of these small mammals.
4. Eat a Meal Fit for a Cowboy
Montana is known for its hearty, classic Americana meals. Big Timber offers a plethora of dining ranging from casual to fine dining, but you’ll get that same Montanan hospitality wherever you decide to dine. Here are a few that you should try while you’re in town.
Part neighborhood bar, part restaurant, the Timber Bar and Grill has been around since 1957 and boasts an iconic vintage neon sign. With a number of rotating taps featuring both local and national beers, there’s plenty available to accompany your classic bar fare.
While they are strict about requiring a reservation for dinner, you are welcome to merely swing by during the Grand Hotel’s breakfast and lunch service. Just keep in mind that they prepare some of the most exquisite fare in the region, and their dining room can fill up quickly.
Serving American barbecue and classic bar grub, the Thirsty Turtle may look humble, but locals adore the food here. If you’re up to it, you can try the Gut Buster Challenge: four and a half pounds of cheeseburger, bacon, and fries that you’re supposed to eat in a half-hour or less.
5. Peruse the Local Wares
This enchanting non-profit gallery showcases original art from artists in Big Timber and South-Central Montana.
Featuring paintings, photography, sculpture, and many other types of crafts, Two Rivers is one of the mainstays in the arts community in Big Timber.
The brainchild of Lisa Fauth Wagner, this trading post sells jewelry and clothing that’s all handcrafted in her Big Timber studio.
Other items in stock are all carefully curated and sourced from other local artisans, designers, and craftspeople.
An extremely varied antique store with a regularly rotating stock, you’re bound to find at least a couple of one-of-a-kind items that you may need to take home with you.
If you’re looking for unique souvenirs and gifts, they are known to have Montana-themed and holiday-specific items in stock as well.
6. Check Out the Weekly Pro-Rodeo
Big Timber is host to a weekly Rodeo event produced by the JS Rodeo Company, whose owner and operator was a Canadian World Saddle Belmont Champion twice in the 1980s. Apparently, these horses are the absolute best in the area and he likes nothing better than showcasing them.
The Big Timber weekly Pro-Rodeo is held on Wednesday evenings. This is seasonally between August and September when locals and visitors alike get to see Western elements of the town come alive with cowboys and cowgirls competing in the rodeos and other events and activities.
This is reasonably family-friendly entertainment, and the gates are usually open at 5 pm but the action doesn’t begin until 7 pm.
Visitors can find food, beer, and other vendors, and admission is between $15 and $20, with under-10 kids getting free admission. The event has been voted the best small PRCA rodeo in Montana before.
7. Take a Scenic Drive from the Edge of Town
There are no less than three scenic drives that start just outside of Big Timber, namely: the Crazy Mountains Backcountry Drive, the Boulder River Scenic Drive, and the West Boulder Scenic Drive.
The Crazy Mountains Backcountry Drive
This 40-mile route takes drivers much closer to the vicinity of the mountains than the usual Highway 191 does and also features impressive views of prairie and grassland environment terrain at the base of the mountains.
The drive follows a series of primarily gravel roads between the small towns of Two Dot on Highway 12 and Melville.
Some of the trip’s main highlights include fantastic views of the Crazy Mountains, as well as some fairly remote and untouched grasslands.
The Boulder River Backcountry Drive
This is a 47-mile Backcountry Drive that heads right into the Absaroka Mountains just to the south of the town. The route closely follows the Boulder River, a popular spot for some reportedly fantastic fishing as well as easy access.
The first section of the route is paved for around 20 miles with the last stretch on gravel and it eventually ends up at a popular trailhead on the outer perimeter of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area.
Highlights include the Natural Falls Bridge State Monument, the Boulder River, grasslands, and prairie fields south of Big Timber.
Whether you are looking for camping, trout fishing, or just a nice drive, the Boulder River Backcountry Drive is a scenic route well worth taking.
The West Boulder Backcountry Drive
This is a twenty-four-mile route that runs along the northern base of the Absaroka Mountains. It starts out a mile or so from the small town of McLeod and ends up at Livingston.
This route provides a far more scenic alternative to the usual and somewhat droll Interstate 90 between Big Timber and Livingston. The drive culminates at the Highway 89 junction just to the east of Livingston.
8. Drop By the Local Farmers’ Market
Big Timber Sweet Grass County Farmers Market is held Fridays from 4:30 to 7:30 pm during the summer between July and September. The venue is the Lions Community Park, and the local and friendly event is always something of a social gathering.
Visitors to the market will find everything from homemade jams and baked goods, and a food truck to a bouncy house, music, fresh fish, local produce, and handcrafted goods.
There is also an informational Bear Awareness Booth that provides information on how to best deal with bear encounters in the vicinity. They also train people how to use bear spray canisters that the public can use.
3 Free Things To Do In Big Timber Montana
9. Crazy Mountains
At the end of this scenic highway is Half Moon Campground, where you can spend the night or merely use their parking lot for free to enjoy some hiking during the day.
Read more on the mountain ranges in Montana.
10. Crazy Mountain Museum
With collections covering the archeological, geological, and historical culture of Sweet Grass county, the Crazy Mountain Museum has both research libraries and exhibits to peruse.
Even if you’re not visiting to do extensive historical research on the area, you can still enjoy the recreations of early immigrant settlers in the Pioneer Room and the Cobblestone City: a replica of the town of Big Timber as it existed in 1907.
11. Natural Bridge Falls Picnic Area
Though the naturally occurring rock span that gave the area its name collapsed in 1988, the Natural Bridge Park is still home to a fantastic picnic area, dense forest, and one of Montana’s best waterfalls.
Located inside the Custer Gallatin National Forest about 40 minutes south of Big Timber, there is enough to do here to make an entire day of it, so be sure to leave plenty of time.