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Custer National Forest

The Custer National Forest is the most ecologically diverse forest in the Northern Region, reaching from the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness near Red Lodge, Montana to the grasslands of South Dakota.

The Custer is home to 12,799 ft. Granite Peak, the tallest mountain in Montana. Granite Peak is located on the boundary between the Gallatin and Custer National Forest. Granite Peak is located in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, an arduous 21 to 25 mile trek (round trip) from either of three approaches. Granite Peak attracts hundreds of climbers each year, and is considered by many to be the toughest state high-point in the lower-48 states.

Grasshopper Glacier is an interesting phenomenon and natural wonder. The glacier takes its name from the millions of grasshoppers embedded in the glacial ice. Until recent years, visitors often dug perfectly preserved specimens from the ice. However, years of light snow during the winter and thawing during the summer months have exposed many of the grasshoppers to decomposition.

The Glacier, at 11,000 feet, is in the heart of the rugged, picturesque peaks of the Beartooth mountain range. It is approximately 1 mile long and ½ mile wide.

The Custer National Forest has three distinct Ranger Districts: Beartooth, Sioux, and Ashland.

The Beartooth Ranger District is adjacent to the Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests, and serves as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park.

The Beartooth Highway, a National Forest Scenic Byway, traverses the mountains from Red Lodge to Cooke City, and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone Park. This highway climbs to the 10,947 foot elevation at Beartooth pass and passes through the lands of the Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests.

Red Lodge Mountain Ski resort is located on the Beartooth District. In addition to downhill skiing, there are two ski touring trails that provide about 18 kilometers of cross-country skiing. The Silver Run trails complex provides opportunities for mountain bikes, horse, and summer hikers, in addition to winter ski touring.

The Sioux Ranger District, located in the southeast corner of Montana and the northwest corner of South Dakota, is an islands of green in a sea of rolling prairie.

There are two National Landmarks on the Sioux District, the Castles and Capitol Rock. The Castles, located in South Dakota, are a massive limestone uplift that resembles a medieval castle. Capitol Rock, located in the Long Pines Unit in Montana, is a massive white limestone uplift that resembles the Nation's Capitol building.

The Ashland Ranger District is located in south-central Montana. There are three riding and hiking areas on the District: Cook Mountain, King Mountain, and Tongue River Breaks. These areas offer hunting, solitude, and a good opportunity for nature study.

First-timer’s Adventure

Drive the scenic Beartooth Highway. The road traverses the mountains from Red Lodge to Cooke City, and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone Park. This highway climbs to 10,947 foot elevation at Beartooth pass

Statistics

State(s):

Montana, South Dakota

Nearest Large Urban Area:

Billings

Notes & Conditions:

Research campground locations and amenities at the U.S. National Forest Campground Directory. The Web site is full of pictures and detailed descriptions to help you plan your next trip.

If you want to experience a guided recreation trip in a National Forest, visit Adventure Vacation to learn about whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking and fishing trips.

Maps:

Visit the National Forest Store to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.