Stillwater River Cascades and Trail to Sioux Charley Lake

SUMMARY: Take an easy one hour drive, through beautiful ranch country, from Red Lodge to the trailhead where the Stillwater River comes out of a narrow canyon. For a short hike alongside spectacular cascades and rapids, proceed up the Sioux Charley Lake Trail for approximately 1 mile. Keep control of your children and pets as the trail follows along the River’s edge through the narrow canyon. The cascades and rapids are most spectacular through mid-summer. For those who want a day hike, proceed on through a heavy forest to the pristine Sioux Charley Lake (3 miles one way from the trailhead). Pack a lunch and spend time relaxing by this high mountain lake. Make sure you take adequate clothing as we frequently have afternoon storms and the temperature can drop quickly.

RATING: Easy to moderate day hike(2-6 miles total;) approximately 600’ elevation gain from trailhead to Sioux Charley Lake; very spectacular scenery; paved road to trailhead; and, usually you will find many people and some horses on the trail because of its great popularity.

BEST TIME OF YEAR TO HIKE: Early June until late September or early October. The Beartooth Ranger District Office is located on Highway 212 on the south side of Red Lodge. For up to date information on the paved Forest Service Road from the Stillwater Mine, just west of Nye, to the Trailhead and for information on the Sioux Charley Lake Trail, either stop in the Ranger District Office or telephone: (406) 446-2103

AMOUNT OF TIME NEEDED: Allow I hour each way for the drive from Red Lodge to the Sioux Charley Lake Trailhead. If you plan to hike only the first mile of the Trail along the cascades (2 miles round-trip), then four to five hours (including the drive) should be sufficient time. If you are up for a longer hike, the 6 mile round-trip hike to Sioux Charley Lake is well worth making this a full day outing. The scenery is spectacular, the geology is interesting; and, the Lake itself is a perfect place to have lunch and explore or fish. Pack a lunch and enjoy an all day adventure!

DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD: From Downtown Red Lodge, drive on Broadway to 3rd Street (State Hwy 78); turn left (northwest) toward Columbus, MT; proceed northwest on Hwy 78 approximately 30 miles to the intersection of County Road 419 with Hwy 78 (3 miles south of Absarokee); turn west on County Road 419 (the Fishtail, Nye road) and stay on this road for approximately 28.6 miles until it ends at the trailhead about 8 miles past Nye; at the end of the road, the campground is to the left and the trailhead parking is to the right.

BONUS: The drive from Red Lodge to Nye is through beautiful Montana ranch country with mountains (snowcapped most of the year) almost constantly within view. The Fishtail General Store is a welcome oasis, the longest continuously operated general store in Montana.  Stop there for any provisions you need for your hike; or, on your return, stop in for an ice cream or other refreshment.  If it’s dinnertime, have a great steak dinner at the Cowboy Supper Club.

The Stillwater River above the canyon is noted for great fishing. For more hiking take the trail from the campground across from the Sioux Charley Lake trailhead to the Woodbine Falls Overlook.