A good place for visitors to start their time at the National Bison Range, MT is the Visitor Center. The center's knowledgeable staff are available to provide all kinds of information on the area, including information about current flower in bloom, photo opportunities, and wildlife sightings. There are several exhibits within the Visitor Center that display the conservation and natural history of bison. Exhibits covering Native American history, local history, and the history of the Refuge can also be found. Guests can also view an orientation video.
For visitors who are more outdoor enthusiasts or eager to see wildlife, some of the best opportunities for photography and wildlife viewing available can be had at the National Bison Range. Wildlife in the area are accustomed to vehicles passing by, and if visitors follow some hints and tips that can be found on the site's website or at the Visitor Center, there will be a greater likelihood of catching a glimpse of animals. Following certain guidelines will also make things more enjoyable for fellow wildlife viewers and less stressful for the wildlife.
The primary means of getting around the National Bison Range is by car. Visitors can choose from a number of different drives to explore the land. One such drive is the Red Sleep Mountain Drive, open from the middle of May to early October. The one-way nineteen-mile loop road features a 10% grade and several switchbacks. Visitors should allow 1.5-2 hours for the drive. Bighorn sheep can be seen at higher elevations, and two walking trails can be found along the drive.
One of the trails along the Red Sleep Mountain Drive is the half-mile Bitterroot Trail. This roundtrip walk is fairly rocky, but fairly flat. The trail is a good place to view the bitterroot, Montana's State Flower, in bloom during the summer, hence the trail's name. Wildflowers are also found prominently along the walk. The Refuge's highest point can be reached by the roundtrip one-mile High Point Trail. The trail starts at the Geology Display, presenting information about Glacier Lake Missoula, along the Service Road. The trail features a steep incline, however, the view from the top cannot be seen on any drives. It's possible to spot Bighorn Sheep from this trail as well.
The roundtrip fourteen-mile Prairie Drive is open to visitors year-round. This gravel road heads along the flats, providing access to Alexander Basin and Mission Creek. Pronghorn antelope can be seen in the open, and white-tail deer can often be found at the creek bottoms. The one-mile West Loop offers a much shorter drive for those short on time. White-tail deer, bison, and several species of grassland birds can be seen along the way during the summer.
Two other trails available to visitors are the Nature Trail and the Grassland Trail. The Nature Trail, found in the Day Use Area, is a one-mile path traveling along Mission Creek and around ponds. Dense junipers and large cottonwoods offer cavity nesting birds a great habitat in which to live, including northern saw-whet and pygmy owls, wrens, chickadees, and woodpeckers. Behind the Visitor Center, the short Grassland Trail offers views in the spring of prairie wildflowers.
58355 Bison Range Road, Moiese, Montana, Phone: 406-644-2211
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