On the road between Yellowstone and Glacier, stop at these fascinating state parks to stretch your legs and learn a bit of history.
First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
Near Great Falls, Mont.
Just 15 minutes outside of Great Falls, see how ancient Native Americans hunted bison at one of the country’s largest bison cliff jump sites.
For more than 1,000 years before Lewis and Clark traveled through Montana, Native Americans hunted buffalo on a sandstone cliff in what is now known as First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park and National Historic Landmark. The tribes used the cliff as a means to kill the bison, which in turn provided meat for food and hides to make clothing and shelters.
Located in Ulm, Mont., you can explore remnants of paths created by hundreds of bison and used by 14 Native American tribes for more than a millenia. Below the one-mile long sandstone cliff rests 18 feet of compacted bison remains.
“There are still the drive lines where the Native American drove the bison off the cliffs,” says Pat Doyle, marketing and communications manager of Montana State Parks. “The park also has really cool tribal events that go on during the summer.”
Be sure to visit the gorgeous, 6,000-square-foot visitor center, which is home to buffalo culture exhibits, a gallery and bookstore. There also are playing fields and an amphitheater outside.
To visit, go to 342 Ulm-Vaughn Rd. in Ulm, Mont. Learn more at stateparks.mt.gov/first-peoples-buffalo-jump.
Pictograph Cave State Park
Near Billings, Mont.
Archaeologists have discovered more than 30,000 artifacts, including tools and weapons at this location. See warriors and animals painted on rock walls by ancient people more than 2,000 years ago in Pictograph Cave just five miles south of Billings. The cave is 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep, so bring your binoculars to see the art.
For more information, visit stateparks.mt.gov/pictograph-cave/
Wild Horse Island State Park
Near Missoula, Mont.
Hiking trails abound on this 2,160-acre island in Flathead Lake. Salish-Kootenai Indians allegedly swam their horses to the island to protect them from being stolen. Today five wild horses, eagles, mule deer and bighorn sheep inhabit the island.
Take a boat tour to and from the island. Vendors include Wild Horse Island Charters out of Lakeside Marina in Lakeside, Mont.; flatheadlakeboattour.com, or WildHorse Island Boat Trips in Bigfork, Mont.; wildhorseislandboattrips.com.
For more information, visit stateparks.mt.gov/wild-horse-island/