Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation resources in Montana’s Greater Ruby Valley make for a sportsman’s paradise, and are the source of many a family’s fondest memories. Our Business Directory has several excellent, knowledgeable, local outfitters and guest lodges that are ready to assure you have the type of experience you’ve only dreamed of, whether it’s fishing, hunting, or family vacation.

Fishing

Ruby Valley in Madison County Montana, is in the heart of the best fly-fishing in the lower 48. Famous blue-ribbon trout streams, the Beaverhead, Big Hole, and Ruby Rivers have their confluence near the town of Twin Bridges, where they become the Jefferson River. Two of the top fly-rod makers in the country call Twin Bridges home, as do many highly qualified fishing outfitter/guides.

Jefferson River
If you enjoy a more leisurely float while fishing, the forty miles from Twin Bridges to Cardwell provides the best float experience in the area. The Jefferson winds through hay meadows, willow bottoms, and pastureland, with no rapids. Wildlife and classic Montana scenery provide superb photo ops. This river is underfished — primarily because of the more renowned rivers in the area. It’s not unusual to have the superb Brown Trout fishing to yourself. In recent years, there’s also been an increase in the numbers of Rainbow taken. Floating below Cardwell is a popular pastime for families and the non-fishers in the group.
Beaverhead River
One of Montana’s premier trophy trout streams. Highly challenging, but highly rewarding since more trophy Browns are taken here than any other river in the state. Also well-known for huge, flashy, Rainbow.
Big-Hole River
This wild 150-mile river has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the best fly fishing rivers in America. Diverse terrain and good access, provide satisfying floating and fishing experiences. In addition to trophy Rainbow, Brook, and Brown trout, you’ll have the opportunity to try your hand at Fluvial Arctic Grayling — a fish unique to the Big Hole in the lower 48.
Ruby River
One of Montana’s best-kept fishing secrets. With headwaters high in the remote Gravelly Range of southwest Montana the Ruby flows northward for 76 miles, through the Ruby Reservoir, eventually reaching its confluence with the Jefferson River at Twin Bridges. Wild mountainous terrain above the reservoir requires some hiking — and a watchful eye since grizzlies and wolves are both known to visit. Tenacious fishermen are rewarded with abundant catch of foot-long Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout, as well as occasional Arctic Grayling. Below the reservoir, flows are perfect for prime Brown Trout. Four public Fishing Access Sites service the nine miles immediately downstream from the reservoir. Access is extremely limited below that.
Ruby River Bonus
  • The Ruby is ideal for those seeking to escape the beaten path and experience Montana in the wild. National Forest campgrounds are available in the Upper Ruby as well as around the wide, and open reservoir. The gravel and sand beaches are covered with Montana Garnets, and make for a delightful pastime if you’re not a fisherman — or enjoy gem-hunting.
  • Take the time to drive the Ruby River Backcountry Scenic Route. Turn off highway 287 at Alder. In a few miles, you’ll be following the course of the river with the Tobacco Root Mountains on the east, and the Ruby Range to the West. Asphalt ends shortly above the reservoir. Since you can wander around on rough gravel roads with no service for a couple hundred miles, it’s advisable that you have a plan, a map, and a set time to return.
  • At Divide you’ll drop off into the vast Centennial Valley, which butts up against the Idaho border on the south side. The adventurous can reach Dillon, Monida, or even West Yellowstone without ever leaving the backroads. WARNING. NOT ADVISABLE for the inexperienced, bad weather travel, or passenger cars — especially rentals which typically have highway tires. (Hint: Local ranchers use 10-ply tires on their 4×4 pickups–and carry 2 spares.) Very remote, with no services, and spotty-to-none cell service.

Hiking and Horseback Trails, Camping

Surrounded by 7 mountain ranges — Tobacco Roots, Ruby Range, Gravelly Range, Green Horn, Snowcrest, Madison Range, and the Blacktail– the greater Ruby Valley has access to a full variety of backcountry experiences. Whether you are looking for an easy afternoon hike and a picnic along a lake, or whether you want to spend your vacation or summer camping, hiking, horseback riding, and exploring in the heart of the Rockies, you can base your adventure in one of our friendly small towns, camp in one of the several established campgrounds, or if you’re lucky (or brave), you may be able to rent a Forest Service cabin.

Branham Peaks Bridge Canyon Loop Trail
Up Mill Creek out of Sheridan. An excellent hike with breathtaking views. View Bell Lake, cross Indian Creek, camp at the Branham Lakes campground — to which you can drive. Low alpine wildflowers cover this windswept ridge where rock wrens, chipping sparrows, warbling vireos, Clark’s nutcrackers, and the Swainson’s thrush abound. Look for goats on the rocky peaks above the lakes. Branham Peaks/Bridge Canyon Loop Trail (15 and 610) is a short, steep hike. Length: 2 miles round trip. Moderate difficulty. .
Branham Peaks Bridge Canyon Loop Trail
Mill Gulch to South Mill Creek
A hiking and horse trail climbing down from Mill Gulch Road up and over Ramshorn and Porphyry Mountains then down the South Fork of Mill Creek to the Mill Creek Road. Note: Mill Gulch and Mill Creek are different streams in different drainages. Length: 9 miles one way. Moderate difficulty.
Mill Gulch to South Mill Creek
Snowcrest Trail
Snowcrest Trail (4) covers the entire Snowcrest Range from Lewis Creek Road on the Ruby River to Antone Cabin off Blacktail Deer Creek south of Dillon. Ideally a horse trip, the trail could also be a long backpack trip or broken down into several shorter hikes. Length: 40.0 miles. High difficulty.
Snowcrest Trail
Ramshorn Trail
Ramshorn Trail (16) leaves the road through a mix of Douglas Fir, Lodgepole Pine and small open meadows to begin its climb to the east up Ramshorn Creek. Length: 5.0 miles. Moderate difficulty.
Ramshorn Trail
Divide Creek Trail
A scenic trail starting in sagebrush/grassland, climbing through mixed timber and meadows, crossing the Snowcrest Range above timberline and dropping back down to the East Fork of Blacktail Creek. Divide Cabin at the beginning of the trail is part of the Forest Service Cabin Rental program. Length: 6.9 miles
Divide Creek Trail
Corrall Creek Trail
Length: 2.1 miles. Stonehouse Mountain Township
Corrall Creek Trail
Romy Creek Trail
Romy Creek Trail climbs through mixed meadows and wooded areas to the crest of the Snowcrest Mountains. Outstanding views from top of Snowcrest Range. Length: 5.0 miles
Romy Creek Trail

Hunting camp in the Upper Ruby

Hunting

You can’t talk about Montana Outdoors without talking about the hunting opportunities in southwest Montana. The Greater Ruby Valley lies in Montana Hunting Districts 320, 322, and 330. Bow hunting begins a few weeks prior to rifle season. Species include elk, deer, moose, bear, and more. Check Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks site for complete information. Do-it-yourself, or experience a fully guided hunt with one of our reputable member outfitters.

Bicycling

Bicyclers traversing the state of Montana are common visitors to the greater Ruby Valley. Both on and off the beaten path. One underdiscovered jewel along their path is the free Bike Camp located on the banks of the Beaverhead on the edge of Twin Bridges. Called the Bill White Bike Camp after its builder, the simple facility provides basic, but much appreciated needs of an enclosed, screened sleeping area, a work bench, electrical outlets, microwave, literature and maps, message board, and more. Watch this review by a pleasantly surprised bicycle traveler.


Resource Links

Southwest Montana – maps

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks

USFS – Beaverhead – Deerlodge National Forest

 

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