It’s typically not top of mind on a crisp and breezy January day when you decide to visit a park. This isn’t just any park though – it’s the nation’s largest county park with some incredibly varied terrain. I only saw patches of snow, somewhat rare for January, but those beautiful endless blue skies had me captivated.
The statistics. Beaver Creek Park begins 10 miles south of Havre. The park is a mile wide, 17 paved miles long, it covers 10,000 acres and I counted 23 different campgrounds. The campgrounds aren’t large so you won’t be in the middle of huge crowds. Most campgrounds have tables, fire grates and vault toilets. Campsites are easily accessed so your camper and vehicle won’t be covering bumpy roads.
Go where the water is. Besides the rambling creek for which Beaver Creek Park is named, there is Beaver Creek Reservoir (locals call it first lake) and Bear Paw Lake (you guessed it, locals call it second lake). Fishermen know these lakes are stocked with rainbow and brook trout, walleye and Northern Pike, bass and perch.
As you drive to the park from Havre, you travel through rolling fields of crops and pasture land. When I was there a few days ago I saw a small herd of antelope grazing in a grain stubble field. I stopped on the road to take some photos, they turned and looked at me, then decided to go somewhere else for lunch.
When you enter the park there is an Iron Ranger for your park permit payment ($10 day use, $55 annual permit), also a kiosk with a map of the park. This area overlooks first lake and the views are amazing. The foothills of the Bear Paw Mountains loom in the background, yet the lake is easily accessed with a vehicle pulling a small watercraft (limit of 10 horsepower for motorboats on this lake, no wake).
Let’s talk hiking.
Mount Otis Trail is 2.06 miles, with about 750′ in elevation gain. The trail is easy to access off Mooney Coulee Rd. A few switchbacks take you up the mountain and you’ll find a bench at the top of the mountain to absorb the views.
Bear Paw Nature Trail is 5.74 miles long but only gains about 325′ in elevation. About a third of the trail takes you across an open hay meadow. The remainder of the trail skirts the western contour of Beaver Creek Canyon. Aspen
groves (my favorite), juneberry and raspberry bushes add ambience (and a berry or two). Benches are located at key lookout points and there are a couple of bathrooms. This route is also great for snowshoeing.
Rotary Canyon Loop Trail – the lower loop is short and sweet at 1.08 miles long and 180′ in elevation gain. The upper loop is 2.4 miles with about 230′ in elevation gain. If you have little kids, take the short loop and get them interested in outdoor activities.
And, my new discovery when I was at Beaver Creek the other day is a Dark Sky viewing area as you enter the road for the Rotary Canyon Loop Trail. If you live in Montana it’s easy to assume that everyone has an option to view dark skies. We are lucky and it’s great to have this designated area.
Bird watchers will have a heyday at Beaver Creek Park. Diverse terrain with streams and lakes, rolling
grasslands, aspen and cottonwood groves, plus cliffs, all contribute to a variety of birds in the area. View our designated birding trail at Beaver Creek Park.
There is also a camp (Kiwanis Camp) and a small chapel at Beaver Creek Park. As a youngster I attended 4-H camp at Kiwanis for many years. Lots of memories, and you can make the same with your family and friends.