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For thousands of years before settlers arrived in Montana, Native American tribes would visit the sacred sandstone formations at Medicine Rocks State Park for their medicinal qualities. Today, visitors come to the park and have similar experiences, enjoying the solitude and mystic qualities of this magical place. Theodore Roosevelt was one of this area’s first tourists and immediately fell in love with it. But long before any of them were here, this area was inhabited by unique prehistoric animals that have left a vital fossil record in the shale.
Medicine Rocks State Park is approximately four hours east of Billings, in eastern Montana. This relatively small park, only 330 acres, still has plenty of activities to justify prolonged stays in a rental RV. The park is set in a prairie dotted with pine trees and interesting sandstone formations jutting out of the ground. These sandstone formations have been eroded by wind and water for millennia, carving out swiss-cheese like holes and larger arches in the soft rock. Some of these rock formations contain carvings and dates of settlers who had been through this area well over 150 years ago and carvings from Plains Indians pre-dating them. Medicine Rocks was transferred from a cattle ranch to the state of Montana in 1957 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. It's one of the great places to visit when you book an RV in Carter County.
Medicine Rocks State Park, despite its small size, has three beautiful hiking trails, none of which are longer than one mile. The one-way Dalton Trail is just under one mile and connects to the park's main road. The trail takes you past the sandstone formations, including Dalton Rock, one of the most prominent and photographed features in the park. The one-mile out-and-back Sunset Loop Trail will take you to a complex of isolated sandstone formations, making a perfect backdrop for sunset. The third trail is the quarter-mile North Rock Trail, which takes you through the sandstone formations to the north end of the park. Interpretive signs are scattered throughout the trails, giving you an idea of what life was like here for generations.
Photographers of all types have plenty to work with at Medicine Rocks State Park. It’s a popular location for astrophotography thanks to its remote location and the sandstone formations that make excellent foreground subjects. Wildlife photographers should bring their long lenses to photograph antelope, grouse, deer, eagles, and foxes. And of course, it's a landscape photographer's dream.
Additional park activities include mountain biking, picnicking at the numerous picnic shelters, and stargazing.
The Medicine Rocks State Park campground is quite small with 12 primitive campsites. It's a simple operation, and you'll only find vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and pumps for potable water. Because the park isn’t serviced, park managers request that all RV campers pack out everything that they packed in. Medicine Rocks State Park campground is open year-round, and pets are allowed.
The campground is quite isolated, which may be exactly what you want during your motorhome camping expedition. Even the 12 campsites at the park are healthily spread out among the park’s one-mile, one-way road. Campsites are set amongst the trees and rocks for an immersive experience. They don’t all have shade, but they do offer privacy.
Be sure to stock up with everything you need for your Medicine Rocks State Park camping trip before coming here. There are some small towns surrounding the park, but your best bet for provisioning will either be in Miles City, 100 miles to the west, or Bowman, 70 miles to the east. There are some gas stations closer to the park in Ekalaka and Baker. If you feel like dining out, you can find several old-fashioned Western steakhouses and grills in these small towns.
Baker, 25 miles to the north, is home to two fantastic golf courses. Baker is a quaint little town surrounding Lake Baker, a small recreational lake. The O'Fallon Historical Museum, displaying historical artifacts from Baker, also has a unique claim to fame. It's home to the largest steer ever recorded, stuffed and mounted in the center of the museum. There's also another great museum in Ekalaka, 14 miles to the south. The Carter County Museum has its own distinction of being the first museum to display dinosaur fossils. It houses a rather large collection of dinosaur finds and hosts the Dino Shindig every July.
If you’re taking your RV camping adventure outside of Carter County, you’ll have to drive 90 minutes north to the nearest interstate. Taking it west will lead you to Billings, and east will lead you to Bismark. Rapid City is three hours to the south along smaller highways and may be the scenic route that you’re looking for while traveling through Big Sky Country in a camper rental.