Hidden in Plain Sight: Montana’s National Bison Range

Truth time: some of Montana’s most incredible places are hidden in plain sight. One such example is the National Bison Range.

The National Bison Range is located in Moiese, Montana on a small mountain that's connected to the Mission Mountains by a spur.

The National Bison Range is located in Moiese, Montana on a small mountain that’s connected to the Mission Mountains by a spur.

This pile of elk antlers, collected on the range, welcome visitors to the range and its visitor center.

This pile of elk antlers, collected on the range, welcome visitors to the range and its visitor center.

Located just off Highway 93 north of Ravalli, the National Bison Range has 18,500 acres of terrain that’s home to an estimated 350 herd of bison, as well as antelope, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, coyote and black bear. It’s also home to three scenic drives: Red Sleep Mountain Drive, Prairie Drive and West Loop. Since snowfall will soon close Red Sleep Mountain Drive, a gorgeous 19-mile-long one-way road (and one of my favorite drives in Western Montana) that takes visitors through the heart of the range, I grabbed a pal and we headed to the National Bison Range to make the drive before winter arrives.

And while we could definitely tell that fall has officially arrived in Montana, it was such a beautiful day.

Take a look…

Welcome to the National Bison Range!

Welcome to the National Bison Range!

The start of the drives: to the right is Red Sleep; to the left is West Loop.

The start of the drives: to the right is Red Sleep; to the left is West Loop.

This guy slowly made his way along the road.

This guy slowly made his way along the road.

After chowing on some grass, he started making his climb up the mountain.

After chowing on some grass, he started making his climb up the mountain.

The view from the backside of the range on Red Sleep Drive.

The view from the backside of the range on Red Sleep Drive.

Early fall brings incredible weather patterns to Montana, resulting in skies like this.

Early fall brings incredible weather patterns to Montana, resulting in this sky.

This bison was taking a nap. I think.

This bison was taking a nap (I think).

We saw several bighorn sheep along the drive's route.

We saw several bighorn sheep along the drive’s route.

Driving through history and the highest water mark of Lake Missoula, a massive prehistoric lake that covered this area 15,000 years ago.

Driving through history and the highest water mark of Lake Missoula, a massive prehistoric lake that covered this area 15,000 years ago.

This buck's antlers were velvety gorgeous.

This buck’s antlers were velvety gorgeous. He also did a great job blending into the landscape.

Some antelope, trying to blend in. They stood there motionless.

Some antelope, trying to blend in. They stood there totally motionless.

After seeing a handful of bison along Red Sleep Drive, we saw this massive herd as we were getting ready to leave.

After seeing a handful of bison along Red Sleep Drive, we saw this massive herd as we were getting ready to leave.

A few things to keep in mind when visiting the National Bison Range: 
-The bison range is open year-round and each season offers a chance to view wildlife.
-There are three drives on the range: Red Sleep Mountain Drive (open mid-May to early October), West Loop and Prairie Drive. Both West Loop and Prairie drive are open year-round. Learn more about all three drives here.
-Vehicles over 30 feet long are not allowed on Red Sleep Mountain Drive.
-The National Bison Range is an ideal location for viewing wildlife and remember that they are most active at dusk and dawn. The NBR has helpful hints for how and where to photograph wildlife on the range here.
-When visiting the range, take time to explore its nearby communities including Moiese, Ravalli, St. Ignatius and Charlo.
-If you’re looking to overnight near the National Bison Range (allowing for easy access to early morning views and prime wildlife-watching), check out Ninepipes Lodge near Charlo.
-Front gate hours are 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
-Cost to visit the range is $5 vehicle.

And if you need a personal guide on your visit to the National Bison Range? Call us (or actually tweet us at @GlacierMT)!

xo,
TT

2 thoughts on “Hidden in Plain Sight: Montana’s National Bison Range

  1. Pat Walgamott

    This is probably the finest Park in the Whole World! We have been here 4 times and loved every second every mile, every critter, every view ……and so forth. I am thrilled you viewed this park… But , shhhhhh !!don’t tell everyone about it!!

    Reply

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