MAP OF VALIER MONTANA

Terry Badlands (12 miles) Generally when you think of wilderness you think of towering mountains, clear and cool streams tumbling over boulders, and iconic wildlife. The Terry Badlands will encourage you to adjust your thinking. These multi-hued formations just a few miles north of Interstate 94 at Terry offer a different perspective, but with at least one element in common with the more traditional perception of wild country: solitude.

The Terry Badlands are 44,000 arid acres of sedimentary rock that has eroded over millions of years to form dramatic hoodoos, arches, spires, washes, and other camera-friendly formations. The area is so uniquely wild that the federal government has designated it as a Wilderness Study Area, meaning it features characteristics worthy of protections under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Pronghorn antelope, bobcats, and prairie rattlesnakes are frequent sights among the wildlife, and the blooms on spring wildflowers, prickly pear cactus, and yucca are spectacular. Yet experiences here are so much more nuanced than in traditional wilderness that locals have lived in Terry for years without fully appreciating what they have in their backyards.

There are two ways to access the Terry Badlands: off MT 253 a few miles north of Terry, or due west of town on the Calypso Trail. The former is a short drive to an overlook; the latter is on a primitive dirt road offers more intimate glimpses of the landscape. Drive west of Terry on old US 10 for almost two miles to the old Milwaukee Road and turn north across the Yellowstone River on a rickety old one-lane railroad bridge until you reach a Bureau of Land Management kiosk. In all, it’s about seven miles of high-clearance dirt road on the Calypso Trail to its end at the Natural Bridges trailhead.

Fair warning: You’ll want a high-clearance vehicle, preferably 4-wheel-drive, if you intend to explore the Calypso Trail in a vehicle. And don’t even think about entering during or immediately after a rainstorm. These roads quickly turn into the dreaded gumbo, and at that point it’s not if but when you get stuck. The good news is the gumbo dries quickly and you might only have to wait a few hours before the road is navigable again.

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