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On the Trail: A cool spot in the Pryor Mountains

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Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 00:17:20-04

Finding a cool spot on these hot summer days can be difficult, but a pretty cool one can be found in the heart of the Pryor Mountains.

It’s known as the Big Ice Cave, and even on hot July days, the temperature inside is barely above freezing.

There are no easy ways to get to this part of the Pryors. The road is rough, rutted in places, and sometimes impassible without a four-wheel drive vehicle, but you will also be treated to some spectacular views of these ancient mountains.

“The Pryors are a very unique landscape in Montana because you can start in a red desert-type terrain and within a few steep miles end up in a sub-alpine meadow. Also has a rich human history with Indigenous people having lived here for thousands of years,” says Ian Davidson with Wild Montana.

While the drive to the Big Ice Cave is slow going, the walk to the cave from the small picnic area at the top of the mountain is an easy one. There is also a longer, more strenuous hike to the top.

There are steps that lead you into the cave and a platform for viewing. You are not allowed to wander inside the cave.

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It is pretty cool—the view and the temperature. It was 36 degrees inside the cave on a recent hot July day.

The Big Ice Cave is just one of several caves carved by groundwater in the limestone throughout the Pryors.

Another thing you might see if you look closely at the rocks are fossils of shelled marine animals that lived during the Mississippian period more than 300 million years ago.

The U.S. Forest Service says it's seen increased interest in recreating in the Pryors since new maps were released this past spring detailing the many opportunities.

“Recreation such as hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking have been getting more developed,” says Davidson.

Just a few of the many things to do and see in these majestic mountains.