If you're heading out and about in southwest Montana, why not check out what's happening above and below the ground at Montana’s first state park?
The tour of Lewis & Clark Caverns is a two-mile, two-hour tour that includes an uphill hike to the entrance, 600 stairs in the caverns, low bends, and the famous beaver slide before you exit. If that sounds a bit too physical but you'd still like to head underground, there is an option for you.
“So for those people that have mobility challenges we also offer the paradise tour, and that's a half-mile access getting into a big, big decorated room in the cave, only doing about a dozen stairs, no bending and then coming back out. So about a mile level and that allows more access to see the caverns that way,” said Rhea Armstrong, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park manager.
This is Montana's first state park, but folks have been visiting it for much longer than that.
“Some area ranchers found it in 1892 and Dan Morrison, a miner, developed it. All of that happened before it was a state park,” Armstrong said. “So our history is definitely something we try to give you as you visit our park. We want you to know these buildings are actually part of a national historic district because they were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. and merit that title—it’s a great place to share.”
The Caverns also have much to offer above ground: a year-round campground, miles of hiking trails, and a rich history.
“A lot of our visitors do just come and make use of the outdoor activities as much as the cave. We try to have programs on Saturdays and Fridays as well again outdoors. We do have two visitor centers and two shopping areas. The Montana Gift Corral across the way from the Caverns is opening up a grill this summer as well, so more food options are coming," said Armstrong.
The Caverns are easy to find. Follow the signs east from the I-90 Cardwell exit along Highway 2, or go west from Three Forks.