Out and About


On the Trail: Exploring one of Montana’s most scenic waterway trails

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-19 19:36:27-04

Fort Smith, Montana- In a state as big as Montana, there’s always new places to explore.

Several can be found in southern Montana.

The Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Waterway Trail can be accessed just a short drive from Billings. The 71-mile path travels through Big Horn Lake.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know Big Horn Canyon exists. It’s unexpected. No one expects this canyon in the middle of nowhere,” explains Christy Fleming, a spokesperson for the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

One small portion of the trail that’s popular amongst kayakers and canoeists is the 2.8-mile trek from Barry’s Landing on the southern end of the canyon to Medicine Creek Campground, one of three campgrounds in the Recreation Area only accessible by boat.


Medicine Creek Campground is home to just five sites. It’s also a jumping-off point for the short but popular hike to Barry’s Island, which provides panoramic views overlooking the canyon.

The campground is well off the beaten path, which also means incredible views after dark.

“The stars are so bright it lights up the canyon. You crawl out of your tent and all you see is the shadow of the canyon. It’s experiences like that you don’t expect,” explained Fleming.

It’s experiences you don’t expect that make the trail such a great getaway, and one that’s right here in our own backyard.

If you’d like to check out the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Waterway trail, the National Park Service has put together a guide that can be found here.

The National Park Service also offers ranger-led kayak excursions in the canyon but is unable to launch the program until July of this year due to a staffing shortage.