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Sep 09 2020

Day Trip: Explore the Terry Badlands

This eastern Montana gem is worth a visit

Exploring Montana

Montana’s beauty encompasses more than the mountainous landscapes of central and western Montana. In eastern Montana, the stark, rolling prairie of the Terry Badlands offers stunning sights of sandstone bridges and buttes — as well as plentiful wildlife viewing.

Better yet, you’ll encounter very few hikers along the trails in the Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area, leaving you to enjoy the rugged, wide-open landscape in solitude.

The Terry Badlands span 44,000 acres just a few miles northwest of Terry in eastern Montana. The Bureau of Land Management has managed the land as a wilderness study area since the 1970s, which has helped the wild character of the land remain. 

The Natural Bridges Trail is short and well known, but surprisingly lightly trafficked, making it a perfect day hike if you want to see some unique Badlands geology and broad views of coulees, hoodoos, and grasslands. 

To get to the trailhead, you’ll first have to navigate the Calypso Trail, a lightly maintained road that’s best driven in a 4WD vehicle. Signage makes it easy to find the Natural Bridges trailhead. The hike, which will take you through rolling prairie badlands, is about 3.5 miles roundtrip.

Natural Bridges Trail

Location: Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area
Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation gain: 325 ft.

More trail details >>>

Nearby campground: While there aren’t established campsites in the Terry Badlands WSA, you can find dispersed campsites on BLM land along the Yellowstone River just outside of the WSA. Turn right just after crossing the one-lane former railroad bridge at the start of the Calypso Trail to find the Cottonwood Grove campsites. Take care to minimize your impact by following Leave No Trace principles

Nearest town: Terry is the closest, but the Terry Badlands WSA is almost equidistant from Glendive and Miles City, which are about one hour east and west, respectively. Depending on where you’re traveling from, both towns are worth a visit.

  • Terry, MT - About 25 minutes south of Terry Badlands
  • Miles City, MT - About one hour southwest of Terry Badlands
  • Glendive, MT - About one hour northeast of Terry Badlands

Nearby businesses:

Prairie County Museum and Evelyn Cameron Gallery (Terry)
Established in 1975 in the historic State Bank of Terry building, the Prairie County Museum now resides across a large campus of historic buildings that are just as interesting as the artifacts they hold. Learn about life on the prairie while exploring the original 1906 building, a pioneer homestead, train depot, and an old wooden red caboose. Be sure to stop into the famous Evelyn Cameron Gallery to see rare photos of ranch life on the prairie in the 1800s and 1900s.

Tongue River Winery (Miles City)
Wine tasting may not be what you had in mind when planning a trip to eastern Montana, but you’d be foolish to miss out on an opportunity to visit southeast Montana’s only vineyard. Being the only vineyard in the area isn’t Tongue River Winery’s only claim to fame: their wine has garnered more than 50 awards!

Girl Ran Away with the Spoon (Miles City)
Explore downtown Miles City and do a little gift shopping while you’re at it. This little boutique offers cute gifts and jewelry crafted by Montana artists. 


Cross Country Brewing (Glendive)
Opened in 1917, Cross Country Brewing is housed in the old Cross Petroleum building. The business is a family affair — the Cross family, who has lived in Glendive since 1951, owns and operates the brewery that regularly offers their flagship beers and a handful of rotating seasonals in their taproom.

To find other trails less traveled, visit hikewildmontana.org to explore more than 350 trails across the state.

Keely Damara
Communications Coordinator

Keely provides communications support for our chapters, programs, and campaigns and manages our social media channels. In her free time, she enjoys fly fishing on Montana's scenic rivers, hiking, camping, and exploring public lands in her home state.
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