Looking west toward the Rocky Mountain Front, Crown Butte appears as a Ship on a Sea of Grass. Standing atop this ancient laccolith, you will experience a dramatic view of the land as the Corps of Discovery of the Lewis & Clark Expedition saw it over 200 years ago.
30 miles south of Great Falls, Crown Butte was formed by intrusions of molten rock that flowed between layers of shale and sandstone that were laid down as marine deposits. After the magma cooled, the rock contracted, causing vertical fractures that formed the towers and columns responsible for the breath-taking scenery you will see today. The mild temperatures of the Fall will keep you cool after the trek, and this is an ideal time to view wildlife and bird migrations. What impresses most people about Crown Butte is that once atop, you will see distant mountains in all directions, and each vantage point offers a distinct view.
Crown Butte provides a rich habitat for wildlife. Mule deer are often seen browsing on the summit or along the north slopes of the butte. The loud chants and trills of the rock wren can be heard from every outcrop on the butte. American kestrels, Cooper’s hawks, great horned owls, and prairie falcons hunt the butte, as do golden eagles. The rocky remains of an “eagle catch” are found on the southeast corner of Crown Butte. In the circle of stones that form the catch, native people would hide under branches and by placing meat or other bait on the branches, they lured eagles to the catch.
Getting There | To access the trailhead from Cascade or Simms, take the gravel Simms-Cascade Road. 15 miles from Cascade or 6.5 miles from Simms, turn west onto a dirt road along the edge of a ranch. Follow the dirt road for 1.5 miles to a parking area marked by a sign. Walk along the road through a gate. The road turns into a walking trail that will take you to the top. Hike to the top and enjoy the view!
Safety | Drive a high-clearance vehicle. Watch for rattlesnakes; pick a day that is too cold for snakes to be active. Don’t throw or push rocks over the cliffs since there are of nests and dens below the cliffs. Bugspray, sunscreen, and good boots are a must!