A Wild Winter Adventure in the Pryors
Exploring one of Montana’s hidden mountain ranges
I live in Red Lodge, on the western edge of the Eastern Wildlands Chapter, and I’m very grateful to have so many amazing hikes available in the Beartooths and the Pryors. However, I wasn’t even aware of this unnamed trail – a two-track road, to be technically accurate – on the western side of the Pryor Mountains until I got an email from MWA inviting me to participate in this Wild Winter Adventure on January 26th. About 15 of us from Red Lodge, Columbus, Absarokee, and Billings gathered on a sunny but windy winter day in the foothills of the Pryors, prepared for a great day of adventure. A few of us were already acquainted, but we would all get to know each other over the course of the day.
Under the very able leadership of Eastern Wildlands Chapter President Roger Otstot and MWA's Eastern Montana Field Director Aubrey Bertram, we set out. We had originally planned for a snowshoe hike, but our leaders decided that since snow was lacking on most of the trail, we would set out on foot. We began a steady climb to the ridge - also unnamed, as is much of the Pryors - where we were treated to spectacular views of the Beartooths and even a glimpse of Heart Mountain, rising up to our south across the Wyoming border. We encountered a few deep drifts that we needed to post-hole through, but we made sure to send the taller folks first so they could tramp the drifts down for the rest of us.
One of the things I most appreciated about this hike was our pace, and the willingness of the group to take time to enjoy our surroundings. We stopped regularly for everyone to catch their breath and take in the amazing scenery all around us. We admired the contrast of the bright white snow and the wind-worn junipers and gazed at the drainages that emptied into the valleys below. What a privilege is it to have this beauty and solitude in our backyards. We stopped for lunch near the top, where I had a great conversation about cooking and favorite local restaurants with two hikers who had come down from Billings.
After we made our way down the other side of the ridge and finished with an easy walk along the road, we saw remnants of old mining areas and had a good discussion about the impact of those endeavors in this area that is sacred to the Crow Tribe. We shared our views about how effective efforts have been to preserve this amazing area, both to respect the Crow traditions and to allow responsible recreation and access.
I thoroughly enjoyed hiking this new-to-me trail, getting to know some fellow hiking and wilderness enthusiasts, and learning more about MWA’s amazing work from Roger and Aubrey along the way. I’m very grateful to MWA for organizing and making these opportunities available to us. I’m looking forward to many more wonderful hikes, in the Pryors and beyond, in the future.
– Martha Brown, Eastern Wildlands chapter
Don’t let winter trap you inside.
Explore our winter wildlands on a Wild Winter Adventure!
These free guided snowshoe outings will show you the best of what Montana has to offer in wintertime. And for the first time ever, we’re excited to announce that cross-country skiing adventures are also available. See the full list of Wild Winter Adventures and sign up starting December 9th at wildmontana.org/walks.