Explore Stillwater County in the Spring!

Stillwater Balloon Rally, Columbus, Montana Stillwater Balloon Rally, Columbus, Montana. Photo by Kaden Harrison.

We're having our typical spring here in Montana's Yellowstone Country: 60 degrees one day, followed by freezing temperatures and snow the next few. Mother Nature likes to keep us on our toes! We’re excited for spring. As everything comes into bloom, the colors are surreal for a few weeks. The trees turn a striking chartreuse color as the buds come out, miles of rolling green hills set against a backdrop of snowy peaks, and if you look closely, the pop of wildflowers. It takes our breath away every year.

One of the most beautiful areas this time of year is Stillwater County. The Beartooth Absaroka Wilderness Area towers over the area, home to Montana's tallest peak, Granite Peak, at 12,807 feet. The Stillwater and Yellowstone River valleys are lush with farmlands, and the north end has beautiful alpine lakes. 




Stillwater Balloon Rally

The Stillwater Balloon Rally takes place May 3-5 in Columbus. The Stillwater Chamber of Commerce has added live music and food trucks to the festivities. Eight hot air balloons will launch each day and return each evening. Spectators can watch as they fire them up and take flight and again when they land.


Montana BBQ Cook-off

The annual Montana BBQ Cook-off in Absarokee  is June 7-8. Grill masters from across the region gather to show off their best BBQ, and the Grand Champion gets a chance to compete in the American Royal and Jack Daniels Invitational. There's delicious food, live music, vendors, and many laughs. 


Stillwater Brewfest

A benefit for the Museum of the Beartooths, this year's annual event will be held June 15 at the Columbus Civic Center and Fairgrounds. Enjoy local breweries, food trucks, and live music. 


Wildlife Watching

The Hailstone and Halfbreed National Wildlife Refuges are known for their abundance of waterfowl and migratory birds, and the country surrounding them is stunning. This area beckons you to slow down and take it all in. 

The Beartooth mountains are home to bighorn sheep and mountain goats, but they mainly reside in the higher elevations roaming around the rugged country. If you're out hiking, keep an eye out. 

You'll likely see deer grazing in the fields or along the rivers, and possibly a coyote or elk. The area has bears and wolves, so be bear-aware if you are hiking, camping, or backpacking! 


Fishtail General Store, Fishtail, Montana Fishtail General Store, Fishtail, Montana. Photo by Kaden Harrison.

Scenic Drives

Any of these events would make an excellent catalyst for a weekend of exploring. The area has several lodging options, and most attractions are within a very short drive. 


Fishtail and Nye

You'll want to venture to Fishtail and check out the Fishtail General Store, which opened in 1900 and is still going strong. You'll find items made in Montana, groceries, sundries, and a killer deli. (Note the breakfast burritos and sandwiches served all day!) You can grab a picnic and hike up to Sioux Charley Lake or simply cross the street to the town park, spread a blanket (maybe bring your book), and savor a bit of springtime.

Also in Fishtail, MontAsia, a blend of Montana and Asian food that has earned Chef Lee a 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Chef of the Year, and Tippet Rise Art Center, with large-scale art pieces spread out over a 12,500-acre working sheep and cattle ranch. Explore via hiking, biking, or sculpture van tours. 


Tippet Rise Art Center, Fishtail, Montana Tippet Rise Art Center, Fishtail, Montana. Photo by Kaden Harrison.

Reed Point and Rapelje

On the other side of the county, Reed Point, home to the Great Montana Sheep Drive, and Rapelje are both small towns surrounded by beautiful landscapes. You'll see fields of colorful crops and a seemingly endless skyline. In Rapelje, check out Grain Elevator Row—four early 20th-century grain elevators still standing the test of time. 


Overhead shot of Itch-Kep_Pe Park, Stillwater County, Montana Itch-Kep-Pe Park, Columbus, Montana, Photo by Kaden Harrison

Other Interesting Stops

Montana Silversmith's Factory Outlet is in Columbus. Since 1973, they have created exceptional silver belt buckles for most Western sports, jewelry, and accessories. 

The Museum of the Beartooths tells the history of Stillwater County through art, oral histories, artifacts, and images of the residents from the past 100 years. 

Itch-Kep-Pe Park, located on the banks of the Yellowstone River has camping, swimming, fishing, and a boat launch. If you’re looking for a central camping location, this is a beautiful one!

If you're a craft beer lover, Palladium Draughthaus is turning out some delicious brews. Or stop by the New Atlas Bar, known for its interesting taxidermy. (Check out the ladies' lounge in the front, a room for the women who were not allowed to drink in the bar with the men.) 

For more information on the small towns in Stillwater County, check out our Small Towns.