The Crazy Range is a seldom visited range located in Southwest Montana between Billings and Bozeman. Geographically it is very distinct in that it is not interconnected with other ranges but instead stands alone. From the high peaks within its borders a view to the West is the sea of mountains that form the Rockies but turning East the view is of the seemingly endless American Plains.
I have explored into the Crazies but a scant few times and all within the SE corner (closest to my home). Getting there puts you on long stretches of gravel roads and it is very much located in the “real Montana” – more rancher than recreationalist. Our plan this summer was to check out at least a couple new zones so I put a trip into the Rock Creek drainage on our calendar.
The trail is a popular hunting access in the fall given the somewhat limited public access of the Crazies compared to the quality of game. It is also more popular to dirt bikes than backpackers and we encountered a few riders on our hike in. The trail is very, very rocky and we were pretty amazed at the kind of skill level required to navigate this trail behind the throttle.
The trail crosses a chunk of private land and in this section we had the exquisite opportunity of spotting a beautiful cinnamon-colored bear that I believe was a grizzly about a hundred yards off the trail. The bear was more interested in clawing apart logs probably in search of an insect snack than us but it did acknowledge our presence and we didn’t hang around too particularly long. After a short stint on a private road the trail crosses the swiftly-flowing Rock Creek and winds it’s way up the waterway. The valley is long and generally flat, only beginning to gain the major elevation to it’s headwaters in the very last few miles.
The climb is steep and the trail is faint due to the lack of motorbikes wishing to attempt this section and the otherwise low number of visitors. Faint trails are some of my favorites and it brings a sense of focus to an on-trail hike that can otherwise be lacking. We gained the top of this climb and although it was already August we were instantly transported into what is only early Spring in the alpine. Huge snowfields covered the landscape and in the sections that were melting the wildflowers popped with the brilliant color of fireworks.
A magnificent waterfall flowed out the headwaters and the creek ran rampant in braids over the lush and budding landscape. The actual headwaters up around the lake was more than likely a barren rocky expanse sans firewood and soft camping so we opted to pitch the tent here – knowing that we would fall asleep to the soothing rush of the water as it fell from the waterfall and moved swiftly past us in the creek.
A light rain began to fall so the shelter went up quickly as Torie inflated her sleeping mat for a quick nap. I took the opportunity to don my rainjacket, collect some firewood to keep dry under some trees and to photograph the waning alpenglow light as it twinkled behind the raindrops. The photos I’m sharing here today were some of the most brilliant color-wise I took all summer long. Not expecting the rain shower to last too long I prepared a warming fire for when Torie awoke and we wished to have dinner.
We enjoyed the evening, the stars coming out with absolute brilliance in a landscape completely devoid of artificial light. We slept comfortably and after a pleasant breakfast and coffee we picked our way back down the steep trail. On the way out along the creek we lingered in the swift ford to soothe our hot feet and upon reaching the highway and heading into Livingston we filled our bellies with requisite Mark’s In-and-Out burgers, fries, and malts. Another awesome Montana wilderness weekend was in the books.