As Rebecca and I mention on our podcast, We’re No Dam Experts, the number one question we are asked by our in-market guests (commonly known as tourists), is “Where are the falls?” We have maps that show where they are, parking in the area, as well as the historic points and art along the way. Once they see the material we have, they are excited to leave our office and start their journey.
Another question we are asked often is “What is there to do here?” While I could talk hours and hours on this subject (oh, and do on the podcast), I usually follow-up their question with one of my own, trying to find out their interests so I can give them relevant information. If they are looking for sightseeing, day hikes, historical areas, or family friendly outdoor things to do, I make sure I tell them about Sluice Boxes State Park. Unlike the material we have on where the falls are along the Missouri River, the material we have for the Sluice Boxes is a postcard, blogs, and some trail information. Not exactly as detailed or informative as other material we have, but it does pique their interest.
We packed plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. The parking lot was a little packed in the upper area, but it didn’t bother us. The park is so large, that we didn’t think it would impact our experience. On the way to the Cliff Trail (Also, I forgot the official title of the Cliff Trail, it could be Cliff’s Edge Trail. Let me know!) which you can start at by parking in the upper access area, we heard people coming. They had portable music and were in a large group. At first, I thought to myself, “Who listens to music when they hike? And on a boombox?” Then I remembered, everyone recreates differently, and listening to music isn’t a bad idea; it lets bears know where you are- which is a good thing.
When we were hiking downhill, another long group of hikers was coming up. Since I know my trail etiquette (only because I had to do some research about #RecreateResponsibly for our podcast and website) I knew that the uphill hikers had the right of way and had my family stand to the side.
We carried my daughter most of the way, especially when the trail narrowed. The waterfall, trees, cliff, and overlook are a bit distracting, and we didn’t want her taking a long walk off a short trail.
We decided to take the more difficult path down to the pool of water and I did it carrying my daughter. So, was it that difficult? Not really. I think I am pretty good with my footing and know to take my time. My husband was in front of us, and so I knew he was there if I needed help. The less difficult route isn’t much longer, so don’t worry.
Once we got to the pool of water and the creek, we were amazed. It is simply stunning, which I hope you can tell by all these photos that I am sharing throughout this write-up. I took plenty of photos and videos when we got there, and then I put my phone down and enjoyed the moment. My daughter loved all the colored rocks and I tried to teach her how to skip rocks. By the way, she is horrible at skipping rocks. Other families were in the area and everyone was just relaxing, trying to get to the larger boulders in the middle of the creek, or had their fishing poles. I’ve heard that the fishing there isn’t the best, but when we talked with some guys there, they said they always catch a few. We stayed long enough that everyone else left. I took some slow-motion videos, panoramic shots of the area, and even used the cliff edges to set my phone on and set the timer to get a family picture a few times. I know the memories we captured are going to be hung on our walls for years to come.
Sluice Boxes State Park Trail
38 Evans Riceville Rd, Belt, MT 59412
Here are some helpful times and things to consider when hiking in Sluices Boxes State Park:
-No alcohol is allowed in the park. Now when you think about camping and enjoying the outdoors, the mountains, and the views, I understand that having a nice cold beer would be perfect for the moment. However, you need to stay hydrated when hiking- with water or other non-alcoholic drinks. You also want to keep your wits about you. You remember the cliff I mentioned? And the bears? Instead, have a beer when you get back into town and are looking through the amazing photos you took.
-Trail Etiquette is a thing, but not everyone knows that. So don’t get frustrated or upset, they may not know that uphill hikers have the right of way, or to hike in a single file and not four across.
-Know your limits. Sure, if you can walk you can snowshoe, but just because you can walk, doesn’t mean you can hike. Have the right gear for your excursion. Whether that be proper hiking shoes, comfortable clothes, plenty of water and snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, bear spray, or hiking poles – be prepared to be in the outdoors. I visit with in market guests that are senior citizens and express their concerns of hiking and when they tell me their limitations, I let them know that they can still have fun in the park. The lower-level area where the first parking lot is, is another great spot to start your hike. There isn’t any elevation gain, you get to stare up at the cliffs, and can hear the creek while you hike. You could do a 30-minute walk down and back from the creek and call it a day. Your photos will still be stunning, and you can get back in your car and still drive to the upper-level area and see the views. There are plenty of places to pull off on the side of the road, park, and walk safely to the edge and see the views.
-Which reminds me, there is driving etiquette for park areas too, especially with gravel roads which Sluice Boxes State Park has. When you drive on gravel roads, tons of dust is kicked up. If you are passing people that are near the road, remember to slow down significantly. Like I said, photographers love the area because they can easily park, have the family be outdoors without a hike, and still get amazing backgrounds for their photos. So slow down so they aren’t eating dust for minutes on end. Wouldn’t you appreciate the same?
-If you go there in the winter, slow down everything you do. Slow down driving, slow down hiking, and slow down your decision-making process. It is a fun park for every level of adventurer, but the adventures take on more risk in the winter. So be careful.