Approx. Distance: 247 miles round trip
Approx. Ride Time: 5 hours 27 minutes
Take US 87 north of Great Falls to historic Fort Benton. Drive into Fort Benton, once the world’s most inland port as steamships carried supplies up the Missouri River. There is fine dining at the Union Grille in the Grand Union Hotel and great home cooking at the Banque Club where the former bank vault is now the cooler. Try the Wake Cup for a yummy breakfast or lunch and of course, a good cup o’ joe. You’ll find history around every corner in Fort Benton so plan your ride with some spare time to enjoy what was once termed the “bloodiest block in the West”.
Cross the mighty Missouri River on MT 80, drive past Geraldine and Square Butte. The little town of Square Butte is home to the eclectic Square Butte “Country Club” where you can find great food, very unique art and there is usually a local on hand to chat with. You can see the iconic butte for which the town was named … and the Square Butte jail (quarried from local stone) as you drive this route. Take MT Highway 81 at the junction and ride to Lewistown. Lewistown is a community of about 7,000 people nestled between several island mountain ranges in the geographic center of Montana. Ride US 87 from Lewistown to Great Falls (about 100 miles). This route is designated the C. M. Russell Trail. You’ll pass many scenes from Russell paintings still visible today. There’s a great side loop, about 25 miles and all paved from Hobson to Windham. In the middle of this loop is Utica and the Oxen Yoke Bar. The “Ox” serves a half pound burger and more fries in a basket than anyone should eat! Request a free copy of the C. M. Russell Auto Tour booklet (800-527-5348) that gives history of the area and great information about the western artist’s paintings.