If you have ever wanted to walk a real dinosaur trail, then you must make Montana’s largest state park your next destination! Featuring over 11,000 acres waiting for you to explore, Makoshika State Park is the perfect family-friendly RV getaway. The history of the park dates back to millions of years ago when dinosaurs roamed, but it got its name from the Indigenous Lakota people who named this area around northeastern Montana, Makoshika, which can either be translated to bad land, bad earth, or bad spirits.
This stunning landscape features pine and junipers growing from badlands formations and scenic nature trails that make an idyllic setting for hiking, biking, wildlife watching, or picnicking. The striking views are made even more impressive by the range of dinosaur fossils that have been dug up here. Remains of the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops are just a few of the unearthed wonders that you can learn about during your visit.
The Visitor Center, located at the entrance to the campground, has some of these bones on display, with an impressive Triceratops skull ready to delight visitors. The park offers a large range of activities, including archaeology, bird watching, archaeology education, photography, and wildlife viewing. Active RVers will love other outdoor adventures like hiking, hunting, and mountain biking.
There are extensive amenities for any camper, and RVs are welcome in any of the park’s 28 primitive sites year-round, so what are you waiting for? Pack your RV and see for yourself all that Makoshika State Park has to offer. Peak season at Makoshika State Park runs from April to October.
Makoshika State Park is easy to drive for any experience level thanks to its handy location off Highway 94 near the town of Glendive. If you need any supplies before your trip, Glendive is the place to go as there are no other cities within proximity. The roads entering the park are paved, then they transition to gravel, and eventually become dirt roads. Makoshika remains hot and dry during the summer months, making driving across these roads simple. However, if the roads do get wet, or you decide to visit the park during the wintertime, they might be closed due to safety.
One thing to be careful of is that some parts of the park have gravel roads at a steep incline. While on a sunny day, most vehicles will handle that without a problem, but the slope could make you uneasy if you have never driven on gravel before. It is a good idea to check the state park website as there is periodically construction going on with road and trail closures.
Entry to some of the campsites might be at a slight incline, which should not be a problem for your RV, but these inclines might make you out of breath if you decided to bike around the roads within the park.
If you are just visiting for the day or camping elsewhere, there is a large parking lot at the Visitors Center where you can park your rig.
Cains Coulee Campground is the main camping area for RVers and consists of 14 campsites and one tipi. While there are no hookups available at the campground, there are vault toilets that are regularly cleaned and water available year-round for your convenience. Most sites can fit a 35 or 45-foot long rig, but if you have a big rig, you will be pleased to know that one site can hold an RV up to 70 feet long.
The campsites are located on paved pads under the stunning backdrop of Montana hills, so you will be able to take in some amazing views that the area is renowned for. Campsites must be booked two days ahead of arrival, and reservations can be made up to nine months prior. Typically, there will be availability throughout the week; however, you would want to book well in advance for school holidays or weekends. This campground is pet-friendly and open year-round.
The maximum capacity per campsite is eight people; however, if you wish to bring a bigger party, there are some double campsites available. Quiet time must be observed between 10 PM and 7 AM. Campfires are allowed in designated areas; however, the wood must be purchased from nearby sources to keep Makoshika a pristine, natural environment.
There are eight rustic campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis located in several different areas within the park. These campsites are primitive, so they are perfect for those looking to get back in touch with nature. Despite not having any hookups, there are some amenities available at each site, such as a picnic table and a fire pit. Please note that most of the rustic sites away from the main campground are only suitable for tents or small rigs, so make sure to check with the park if you are worried that you may have too large of a rig. Just like in the main campground, pets are also welcome.
Makoshika is the largest of Montana’s State Parks. It encompasses 11,538 acres at an elevation of 2,415 feet, so you will never have to worry about seeing everything that the park has to offer. This extensive landscape provides the perfect backdrop for any professional or amateur photographer. Enjoy the mesmerizing colors at every sunrise and sunset, as the light basks the badlands formations in glowing orange light. If you enjoy wildlife photography, you also have the opportunity to see many native animals wandering near your campsite, and the forest provides the ideal picture backdrop for any wildlife.
Many of the trails and roads through the state park are also perfect for mountain biking. This way, you can cover more ground and stop at various lookouts and views. The Paramount Trail is one of the easy options. It starts at the Makoshika State Park Visitor Center and ends near the Diane Gabriel Trail. It is only one-mile long and the perfect starting ride for the whole family. If you are an avid mountain biker, you can download the map off of the park's website and challenge yourself on a longer trail.
Whatever time of the year you arrive in Makoshika, the beautiful landscapes and extensive nature trails will call you to them. There are short or lengthy hikes available which leave right from your campsite and will give you a better view of the surrounding landscapes. The Caprock Trail leads you around 50 feet into some of the rock formations and natural bridges. For anyone afraid of heights, these impressive sights might make you a little uneasy. Meanwhile, the Diane Gabriel Trail is a loop through the flatter grasslands in the badlands. It then leads you up a flight of stairs to see the fossilized remains of a Hadrosaur. Whatever your fitness level is, you will find the perfect trail for you. The walking trails are not extremely well-groomed or maintained, but this adds to the wilderness charm of the park.
A must-see during a trip to Makoshika State Park is the impressive Visitor Center. Open all year at various hours; this is the best place to ask any questions to the park staff before you begin your stay. The center is also jam-packed full of exciting dinosaur information, and it even houses a Triceratops skull and various other dinosaur-related displays. If you are visiting the park during the off-season, the Visitor Center will be open Wednesday to Sunday.
If you are not ready to head out into the badlands and open country to try your luck with wild deer, the campground offers a stationary archery range for those who call the park home during their visit. Spending time at the archery range is the ideal opportunity to practice and improve your technique and aim. Whether you are a novice or an avid archer, don’t miss the chance to take advantage of this unique attraction during your RV vacation to Montana.
Makoshika State Park offers adventurous RVers the chance to hone their bow hunting skills. Much of the park is open for deer hunting, and visitors enjoy the task of intercepting deer while they move between their bedding and feeding areas. The proximity and patience required to shoot down a native deer is a test of skill any hunter should try and face. In comparison to hunting deer in forests, the badlands adds a level of difficulty since hunters are far more exposed to the elements.
Considering the number of fossils that have been found in the Makoshika State Park, it is only natural that one of the activities you can partake in is archaeology. Before you get too excited, it is strictly prohibited to bring your own metal detecting equipment or to dig and remove artifacts from the state park. However, the park’s Visitor Center offers education and the occasional paleontology field dig. These are public activities held along Montana Dinosaur Trail, and because of their unique nature, we recommend that you attend one of these unforgettable events.
A popular activity during the warmer months at Makoshika State Park is to pack a picnic and enjoy the amenities that the park has to offer. There are some great places for primitive picnicking, as well as some designated sites that feature fire rings, picnic tables, and grills. If you have a large group, there is also a group use shelter that is perfect for a group picnic, and that shelter is available for reservation before your arrival.