The Palisades Campground is a BLM-managed recreation site in southern Montana. The eighty-acre campground sits along the banks of the Upper Madison River between the Custer-Gallatin National Forest and the Beaverhead National Forest. It's a superbly scenic area surrounded by extensive grasslands with the peaks of Madison Mountain Range to the east and the Bighorn Mountains to the west.
The campground is a small one, and its relative remoteness makes it the ideal spot for a get-back-to-nature RV camping vacation in Montana. There are ten gravel-surfaced, water-front campsites at the campground spread around a single loop. All camping is primitive with no utility hook-ups, but there are vault toilets on-site. There are no trees between the pitches and no shade anywhere on the campground. Each campsite has its own picnic table and fire ring. There's also a day-use area next to the campground where boat owners can launch a craft from the ramp. The campground is open all year and operates on a first-come-first-served basis.
The Palisades Campground is a favorite pitch with RV campers who want to go fishing on the river. There are also lots of opportunities for doing backcountry hiking and the trailhead for the West Fork Beaver Creek Trail in the Custer Gallatin National Forest is less than half an hour's drive away. The campground is perfectly situated for lovers of the great outdoors who want to explore some of Montana's incredible parks and forests. The Harriman State Park and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest are under one hour's drive to the south of the campground. The Yellowstone National Park is around one and a half hour's drive to the east. There are also lots of exciting things to do in nearby West Yellowstone.
The Palisades Campground is an easy to get to BLM campground, located just off Highway 287 between Ennis and Grahams Place. The turn-off to the campground and the day-use area are signposted on the highway. The access roads are well-maintained. RV campers should be aware that services along the Highway 287 are few and far between so fuel up and purchase provisions when you have the chance.
If you're motoring to the Palisades Campground after RV camping in the Helena National Forest, you can join the US 287 southbound in Helena. The drive down will take up about two and a half hours of your day, so leaves you plenty of time for other activities when you get there. If you've been camping out in the Sawtooth National Forest, head for Sun Valley then Idaho Falls. It's a trip up on the US 20 that will take around five hours -unless you stop off along the way for an impromptu picnic lunch.
If you happen to roll up in your rig and all ten campsites at the Palisades Campground are occupied, you might want to consider another BLM managed campground nearby as an alternative. The Ruby Creek Recreation Area or Ruby Creek Campground is just twelve miles upriver to the Palisades Campground but on the opposite side of the river. It's a campground that's open all year and is first-come, first-served. Stays are limited to a maximum of fourteen days.
If you're heading to the Ruby Creek Campground from the Palisades Campground, just drive back north along the US 287 and cross over the river on McAtee Bridge, then make the left turn onto Ruby Creek Road which will take you to the campground. It's a short drive of less than twenty minutes.
The Ruby Creek Campground has twenty-two campsites suitable for RVs. The gravel-surfaced pads can accommodate both medium and large rigs, though long rig drivers should be aware that the access is along forest roads that might be difficult to negotiate in a big rig after heavy rain. Most of the pull-through sites at the campground are close to the river and have great views. They're also furnished with picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. There are no utility hook-ups at the campground or trash disposal services and on-site amenities are limited to vault toilets and a boat ramp.
Lots of visitors camp out at the Palisades Campground to make the most of the Madison River. It's a great place for canoeing and kayaking, floating downstream in a riverboat, or for having fun with the youngsters tubing.
The summer months are the busiest, and the river receives a lot of boat traffic so if you were thinking of doing a quiet bit of fishing from your boat, June, July, and August might be months best avoided.
While there are no defined trails around the Palisades Campground, the grass-covered flatlands along the riverside are ideal for cross country hiking and don't require a lot of stamina. Guaranteed, you'll enjoy the views and the fresh air without getting overtired.
For a more challenging trek, drive over to the trailhead for the West Fork Beaver Creek Trail. It's just twenty-five miles south of the campground along the US 287 in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The seven-mile out and back trail runs alongside the fast-flowing creek and through dense pine forests.
Anglers who've pitched camp in the Palisades Campground won't have far to go from their RV before their hook hits the water. The Madison River runs right by the campground and whether you want to boat fish, shore fish or wade in for some fly fishing, it'll all be right outside the door.
The river has a good stock of brown and rainbow trout but the bad news for fisherfolk casting into the waters of the upper river is - it's all catch and release, so no taking anything home for dinner.
If you want to do some wildlife spotting when you're pitched up at the Palisades Campground but don't feel like trekking through the countryside, don't worry. Pull up a chair outside your rig, put your feet up and wait. It's an area popular with bald eagles who hunt the river for fish and nest nearby.
You could also see pronghorn antelope roaming over the grasslands on the other side of the river and there's always the chance a black bear will make an appearance. Yes, it's bear country so make sure all your food supplies are kept safely locked away and out of bear reach or you could be having unexpected guests for dinner.
While they might be elusive in the wild, you can see grizzly bears and wolves at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. The not-for-profit park is under an hour's drive from the Palisades Campground and is open every day of the year from eight-thirty in the morning to four in the afternoon.
The grizzlies at the center have either been orphaned or needed to be relocated as they'd become accustomed to scavenging for human food. The wolves were born in captivity but at the center live as they would in the wild. The three different packs live in separate enclosures and are a delight to watch as they frolic and play. At the same time, they're being studied to ensure wolves have a more understood place in the world.
For a massive adrenaline thrill, head over to the Yellowstone Aerial Adventures Park in West Yellowstone. It's an adventure playground open from May to September that will seriously test your head for heights. Zoom across sky-high ziplines from one platform to another fifty feet in the air or test your nerves as you wobble across the ladder bridge.
If you've no head for heights you won't feel left out as you can go sluicing for gems at ground level. It's a fun day out for all ages and less than an hour's drive from the Palisades Campground.