The small city of Hardin in Montana can be found in the south-central regions of the state to the west of the Big Horn and Little Big Horn Rivers’ confluence.
Hardin is probably most well-known for its proximity to the historic Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument, and the main community is located along I-90 about 60 miles from the state border with Wyoming.
The city name came from Samuel H. Hardin, a cattle trader from Wyoming who helped establish a town while raising his cattle on land leased from the Crow Reservation in the late 1800s. The city was officially founded as Hardin in1906.
Hardin is the county seat of Big Horn County, the sixth-largest in the state, and the city is largely the hub of regional trade and government for the county.
In the late 1800s, the area around Hardin was settled by cattle ranchers, and was officially Hardin has long been the center of some rich agriculture and ranching, and the city is one of the top ten suppliers of beef in the U.S.
This is especially the case in the North and the South along the BigHorn River, which supplies the water to the city via the valley.
The agriculture in the area also received a boost to its irrigation with the construction of the Yellowtail Dam in the 1960s, which lies just over 40 miles from Hardin in a south-westerly direction and was established in no small part to aid the self-sufficiency of the Crow Indians.
Other local industries in Hardin are related to surface coal mining, fishing, and tourism for recreation and historical purposes.
The area is rich in historical aspects, many of which are related to the Crow culture and festivals, and the annual Crow Fair is one of the biggest such events in the state.
Hardin is rich in history and attracts many visitors for events, festivals, and exhibitions like those occurring at the Crow Fair, the Little Big Horn Battlefield, and the Big Horn County Museum, as well as the recreation offered by the regions of the BigHorn River and the Yellowtail Dam.
Main Cultural, Historic, and Outdoor Attractions in Hardin
Around the time of August, the hills surrounding the Little BigHorn River are transformed by the wave of teepees and traditional camps.
They come along with hundreds of horses and the thrall of revelry that accompanies the throngs of participants all gathered for the Crow Fair and Rodeo public event.
Almost a century old, this festival is one of the largest annual gatherings of indigenous people in the U.S. held in celebration of native heritage.
The event boasts impressive traditional regalia, dance competitions featuring tribes from across the nation, traditional art and craft, a rodeo, and much more.
Spectators are welcome during all seven days of the event, and weekend passes for adults and children are usually available.
This place has been Hardin’s gateway to the past since it opened in 1979 and it is now Montana’s largest historical museum.
Located just off the I-90 east of Hardin, the museum is located in a renovated 1910 farmhouse across 22 acres of land. The structures have grown across the years and there are now 26 restored historic buildings here, many of which were moved from other sites.
The museum offers a gallery with rotating exhibits, an information center, and a gift shop which was all added a couple of years after opening. Some of the artifacts include wagons, farm equipment, and other antique vehicles.
The museum has become something of a focal point for the region’s rich history and also holds regular exhibitions, events, and other gatherings.
The battlefield is 15 miles to the south of Hardin, and the monument commemorates the battle on the Northern Plains in which Custer’s Last Stand occurred.
The Last Stand Reenactment is one of the main attractions of this site, and it has previously been listed as one of America’s ‘Top 100 Events’. With its sweeping pageantry and high plains history featuring more than 200 participants, it is not hard to see why.
Some of the major recreation opportunities in the area are to be found at the Yellowtail Dam and the BigHorn Canyon National Recreation Center located just over 40 miles south of Hardin.
Little Bighorn National Monument has a 1.4-mile route that is rated as easy if that’s your preference. This is an out-and-back trail that is pretty popular and it takes somewhere in the region of half an hour to complete.
Fees do apply if you enter the site of the monument and it is cheaper on foot.
The Alkali Creek Trail is another fairly easy 2.2-mile stretch with three different endpoints, namely: Senators Boulevard, Alkali Creek road, and Bench Blvd.
From there you can connect to the Jim Dutcher Trail if you fancy challenging yourself a bit more with a few more miles on a trail that stretches along 6 miles of the Yellowstone River.
Fly Fishing in the BigHorn River is a dream for many visitors to the state.
Sections of it near Hardin flow out from the Yellowtail Reservoir as well as through the Crow Indian reservation, and these regions offer some of Montana’s prime trout fishing destinations.
The Grand View Campground is the closest full-service campground to the Bighorn National Battlefield and has extra-wide pull-through sites to accommodate RVs although tent camping is also available. Reservations are available at this scenic and peaceful campground HERE.
The Hardin KOA is another local camping option with pull-through sites. The park has a few unique amenities–especially for those with pets–and it is open April through September.
Black Canyon Campground is just one of the many campground options in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area that stretches into Wyoming. This is a 17-site campground with picnic tables typical of the ones within the recreation area.
Accommodation–Hotels and Lodging
Special Events in Hardin
- Jun—Little Bighorn Days & Stampede Rodeo—annual, historic, 4-day, local event featuring legendary events from the past and rodeo
- Aug—Crow Fair—public event which attracts more than 50,000
- Activities and other Points of Interest near Hardin
Activities and other Points of Interest near Hardin
Forests/State/National Parks/Wilderness Areas
- Little Bighorn Battlefield
- Bighorn National Forest
- Custer-Gallatin National Forest
- Buffalo Bill State Park
- Hell Creek State Park
- Shoshone National Forest