This weekend we took a trip to Big Timber. It was a spur of the moment trip without much forethought or planning. We just happened to have a free afternoon. Don’t you just love it when that happens? The sun was shining and it was a balmy 54 degrees - practically unheard of for December in Montana.
Once we got to Big Timber we decided to head south along the Boulder River. We have been this way a few times but haven’t spent a lot of time exploring this area. As we got further from town, my OCD planner personality started to get anxious, thankfully I had my backpack with me and there was a cooler in the backseat. We lost cell service meaning no access to any maps on All Trails. No planning, just us and a road trip.
We stopped at the Natural Bridge area, 26 miles from Big Timber. Easy access, great views, few cars in the parking lot = WIN. The Boulder River used to flow under a natural rock bridge, until the bridge collapsed in 1988. We have visited the Natural Bridge area before, when our kids were little or with my husband’s parents or my parents. The area has a restroom, picnic tables, several signs that explain the geology and the wildlife of the area, and overlooks in different locations along the rim of the canyon where you can see the collapsed natural bridge and the waterfall. In the past, we have stuck with the paved trail to the overlook for the falls and the bridge.
This time we went straight across the man-made bridge, paused for a look at the river and the collapsed natural bridge and headed up the trail. Even though we had been to this spot several times before, we had never explored past the main visitor area.
The main trail winds along the edge of the canyon with several places to see the waterfall, the natural bridge and the area below the falls. There are a couple of trails that go down into the basin below the falls. The trail looked icy and since we didn’t bring our spikes (remember no planning for this trip), we didn’t go down the trail to the basin. However, the views from the rim of the canyon are amazing and different from the views on the other side of the canyon. I would love to be there in the spring when the river flows are at their highest and the river roars over the top of the natural bridge as well as coming through the hole which forms the falls.
At the fork in the trail, you can also choose to take the Green Mountain Trail. We followed this trail a short distance to the top of a hill where we were rewarded with amazing views and some wind. The Green Mountain Trail is roughly 5.5 miles long so we decided to save that hike for another day.
It was getting late into the day, so we headed back to Big Timber. A Crazy Heifer beer with some pita chips and hummus at the Circle T Taproom really hit the spot. I highly recommend this local treasure – a pleasant surprise in a small town with a huge selection of beers and snacks. The beer is brewed next door by the Crazy Peak Brewing Co. If you are needing more than just pita chips to curb your hunger, finish your beer at Circle T and cross the street to the Thirsty Turtle. The Thirsty Turtle offers a full menu of pub food and has great burgers.
For a spur of the moment adventure to a place that we thought we already knew about, we had a pretty fantastic day. Just goes to show you that the places that are close to home that you think you already know, are worth another trip.