Top 10: American Prairie // Tyler Dunning – Parks Project

By Tyler Dunning

@tylerdunning //
Age: 33
Location: Bozeman, MT
Occupation: Writer (Author of A Field Guide To Losing Your Friends)

Where to stay

Get ready to call it a night in one of the best places in the American Prairie Reserve.

Buffalo Camp

The American Prairie Reserve is large and consists of disconnected properties. At the epicenter is the Sun Prairie property, and this is where you will find the most prominent (and cheapest) APR campsite: Buffalo Camp. This is a great place to use as a home base (starting at $10/night) while visiting the surrounding properties during your visit.

Where to enjoy a cold one

Because we both know that you deserve a reward after a strenuous hike, so always pack a cold one.

Zortman, MT

With a population of maybe seventy, Zortman offers one store, one motel, and some cabins. But they do also have a bar: the Miner’s Club. You aren’t going to find fancy cocktails here, but you will take a step back in time to the mining culture that helped develop Montana.

Must-see landmark

If you're only gonna see one thing while you're here, make it this thing.

The Missouri River Breaks

The keynote landmark of the region is the Missouri River, carving dramatic breaks (resembling badlands of the Dakotas) into an otherwise horizontal landscape. Fourchette Bay is an excellent place for this, as it is easily accessible, but my favorite place to overlook the river is the southeast sliver of the Burnt Lodge property.

Where to see sunrise/sunset

If you're gonna visit a park, always make time in your agenda for sunrise & sunset!

Anywhere & Everywhere

The power of the prairie is that it’s wide open, endless horizon in a 360-degree panorama. This allows for incredible sunrises and sunsets wherever you may find yourself, the sky a painted cornucopia of swirling clouds and incandescent oranges, pinks, blues. Looking west, however, when the sun is setting, you’ll get a nice silhouette of the Bears Paw Mountains.

Secret Spot

Shh! Don't tell too many people, but here's the insider's favorite place.

Cow Island

Cow Island is a small APR property buried in the middle of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. This little island, 1.2 miles long and 150 feet wide, holds historic prominence because, back in the late-1800s, it became a trans-shipment point on the way to Fort Benton, as well as a battle site during the Nez Pierce War.

Where to hike

Sometimes the best views take a bit of work.

Box Elder Crossing

Being a relatively new—yet growing and thriving—reserve, there are few established hiking trails (though APR is in the process of developing a hut-to-hut hiking system). Because of this, your best bet is going to be the Box Elder Crossing, a 5.8-mile (one-way) trail that will give you expansive views and a strong chance of spotting bison.

Where to refuel

Eating & drinking is just as important as camping & hiking.

Malta, MT

Once on the prairie your food options are going to be limited; your wisest option would be to pack food in. But if you are craving a dining experience, Malta is your best bet (about an hour and a half drive). Joe’s In and Out offers dive-like burgers and fries, while Stockman Bar & Steakhouse is going to give you a quintessential rural Montana meal.

Selfie spot

You didn't actually visit the park if you didn't get a selfie in front of something iconic ;)

PN Property

If you’re looking for a photo with a little more context than wide-open prairie, the PN property offers contrast with historic ranches, predating the state by twenty years, and containing the likes of a home and store built in 1884.

Radical Activity

Every park has a somethin' radical to get yourself into.


As already stated, the Missouri River is the center piece of the prairie, and, as such, it gives numerous opportunities for water activities, canoeing fulfilling a historic homage to the expedition of Lewis and Clark. Plus, with enough days, you could traverse APR property as well as the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

Quintessential Scenic Drive

When your legs start to give out from hiking, hop in your car and go for a drive!  

BLM #1142 / CMR #474

This drive is particularly beautiful, when leaving the Sun Prairie property, because it offers true enlightenment concerning the expanse of the prairie, leading you through a prairie dog town and out to the Indian Lake Rock Cultural Site. Along the way you’ll probably even see herds of bison, roaming the prairie as they would have hundreds of years ago.

More Posts

Search our store