There are plenty of beautiful camp sites surrounding the Ovando area. Although they all provide beautiful scenery, none of them provide electricity or "flushy" toilets. Clean vaulted toilets are usually the norm:
• Harry Morgan: Pretty scenery, fishing, parking and camping along the North Fork of the Blackfoot River. Take the gravel Helmville-Ovando Road east outside of Ovando. It is only 4 miles out, past the "dump" and before the bridge over the North Fork. Look for the Henry Morgan fishing access sign.
• Monture Creek - Lower: Lovely scenery along the meandering Monture Creek, just before it empties into the Big Blackfoot, with large secluded camping spots. This is near where Meriwether Lewis camped with his group on his return trip without Clark on July 6th, 1805. Take Highway 200 west approximately 5 miles to Monture Creek fishing access. There are parking spots and camping right off the highway, or follow the road back for more seclusion, and better fishing.
• Monture Creek - Upper: Beautiful timbered scenery amongst old growth forest near the boundary of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. From the west Ovando exit, cross Highway 200 right onto Monture Creek Road. Continue up for about 15 minutes. The bridge will cross over the Creek and parking and camping are available.
• River Junction: Fishing, parking, 2 day use picnic areas and 4 campsites on the Blackfoot River. Road is not maintained, especially towards the end so the 8 miles to it are rough on vehicles. Large recreational vehicles are NOT recommended. Take Highway 200 west 5.5 miles to River Junction fishing access sign. Continue south across the bridge and follow signs to River Junction; taking a left at the first 'Y'.
• Russell Gates: Wide Blackfoot River fishing in open areas, with camping and parking accessibility. Also a top spot to put in or take out your rafts. Take Highway 200 west approximately 9 miles. Pull into the Russell Gates fishing access area.
• Clearwater River: They call it Clearwater because it is. Camping, fishing and parking easy to find. The camp sites are spacious. Take Highway 200 west approximately thirteen miles, and a little past Clearwater Stop & Go [Stoney's] gas station and home of the giant blue eyed bull at Highway 83. At bridge crossing the Clearwater, on your right, enter the parking area and campground. OR…. Take Highway 83 north a mile or so and take a left at Henry's Lake fishing access. Continue on the road past the lake where it ends at the creek and plenty of camp spots.
• Browns Lake: Big Open Prairie Lake with stocked fish, some huge! Camping area is located on the west end near the boat launch. There is little shade there, and the wind can really blow, but if you are into boat fishing and relaxation, this is a grand place.
• Coopers Lake: Timbered lakeside tent camping with boat ramp and fishing access at close to 5,000 foot elevation. Limited parking so RV's and trailers could have a rough time. Take highway 200 east about 8 miles to Coopers Lake Road on your left, past North Fork of the Blackfoot crossing.
• Upsata Lake: Only five camp sites are available here along this tiny lake but the view is worth it if you can find a spot. With the rise of the Rockies and the entrance to the Bob Marshall Wilderness as your northern view, and the rolling prairies to your south, it is a pretty spot. As there is a Guest Ranch next door the traffic on the road can be frustrating during high summer. Take Highway 200 west to mile marker 38, take a right on Woodworth Road, at the Blackfoot Game Range. Continue up the dirt road for about 4 miles to the 'T' intersection. Continue to your right following the signs. Lake and campground will be on your left.
Ovando has been a stop for cyclists (manual and motorized) since 1897 when 20 Buffalo Soldiers, led by Lt. James A. Moss, rode their bicycles 1,900 miles from Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri.
"The 25th Infantry U.S. Army Bicycle Corps stationed at Fort Missoula, Montana set out across the country on their bicycles in 1896-7. Lt. James A. Moss led the company of black soldiers on several obstacle intensive test runs of the iron two-wheeled alternative to horses for transportation. Their greatest trip covered 1900 miles to St. Louis, Missouri, returning to Missoula by train. The 25th Infantry gained fame and was nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers."
Since that time Ovando welcomes cyclists on the Tour Divide Race, Great Divide Trail, Bicycle Rides NW, Cycle Montana, Lewis and Clark Trail, and Park 2 Park tours, along with hundreds of folks bicycling through from all over the world. We work closely with Adventure Cycling. We've even had two gentlemen from Belgium using electric Segways to make their way across America.
Visit our More Summer Fun page to learn about biking trails, horseback riding and Garnet Ghost Town.
Beyond the general hospitality offered up, Ovando provides for the cycling enthusiast the following amenities to make their travels more comfortable.
For help call Kathy Schoendoerfer (just call her Kathy S.) at 406-793-0018 or 406-793-3474.
• Ovando Inn is available for those in need of a private room, private bathroom and general R&R.
• Camping is free on the grass next to the Brand Bar Museum, on the gravel near the teepee, or at the Ovando Valiton Park at the end of Main Street. There is an outhouse near the Sheep Wagon/teepee and the Ovando Park.
• $5-a-night rentals, all proceeds go to the OVANDO COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT FUND, are available in the form of:
The SHEPHERD'S WAGON, downtown, provides an enclosed and warm environment with a cushioned bed and even pillows.
The TEEPEE, includes two cots to throw your bedroll on, giving you protection from the elements.
The HOOSCOW [Jail], by the Museum and the original town jail from the 1800's, has been restored and provides old rope beds and can accommodate 2 to 4 people if 2 of ya want to sleep on the floor.
• A porta-potty is located behind the Shepherd's Wagon and by the Ovando Park for cyclist use.
• A shower/toilet is located in the back of the Blackfoot Commercial Company. Just go ask them for the key. Includes soap and a towel.
• A laundromat is located in the back of the Blackfoot Commercial Company. Just go ask them for the key. Includes soap.
• The teepee/wagon area and the hooscow all have clotheslines, mirrors, and an LED lantern for your comfort.
• Horseshoe pits are located by the teepee for your entertainment.
• A white board for messages to fellow bikers and a route map is available downtown by the Blackfoot Angler.
We are always open to suggestions to make your travels more pleasant.
• The Stray Bullet Cafe, downtown, is open from 7 am to 3 pm for high carb breakfasts and healthy lunches along with beer and wine.
• Trixi's Antler Saloon, up along highway 200, is open from 10 AM 'til 9 PM. They serve lunch, dinners from hamburgers to steaks and have a fully stocked saloon.
• The Blackfoot Commercial Company market, downtown, provides espressos, munchies, snacks, bottled water and sodas, canned and packaged foods, the BEST ice cream in the valley and a free cup of coffee in the morning with a friendly hello.
• The Blackfoot Angler, downtown, for our hundreds of cycling friends from all over the world has available for emergency repairs: brake pads, brake lines, lube, tubes, tires, pedals, chains, and a bunch of stuff we don't really understand, along with Hammer Nutrition bars and gels, camping gear and of course Bear Spray.
Over 1,000 bicyclists pass through Ovando every year. We're here to fill your water bottle or your belly, or just help you sleep in safety and comfort.
The Blackfoot River is well known to local anglers and floaters. It's a lovely, un-dammed river noted for its variety of fish habitats and its 30 miles of "recreation corridor", which allows easy public access to the river.
The Blackfoot River allows for fishing along open meadows and pastures, deep canyons, rolling hills and heavily timbered slopes. Wading and floating the river are both popular with many access points. Deep pools, gravel bars, and white water foam lines add to the variety in fishing the Blackfoot.
Meriwether Lewis traveled along the Blackfoot River on his return trip across Montana. The Big Blackfoot is surrounded by unsurpassed beauty and is the centerpiece of Normal MacLean's classic "A River Runs Through It".
Fishing, especially for the native West slope Cutthroat, has long been a major preoccupation in the Blackfoot Valley. Rainbow, Brown's and Bull trout also populate the Blackfoot and its tributaries: the North Fork of the Blackfoot River, Monture Creek, and the Clearwater River. The Blackfoot is a fly fisherman's dream.
Brown's Lake is a popular local lake, notorious for the "hog" size rainbow trout that come out of it during spring spawning. A ten pound trout is not just for wild tales but for the taking. The shallow 300 acre lake situated between Ovando and Helmville on a large flat grass and sagebrush valley, is also popular for Ice Fishing during the winter.
With camping available around the lake it is a year around destination for both fishermen, and wind surfers. The latter, especially fond of the winds that can whip through the region during the summer afternoons.
The Marshy areas within the lake also provide excellent bird watching opportunities.
A small lake with a huge view, Upsata Lake is located just west of Ovando 4 miles down Woodworth Road. Surrounded by private property, the lake has one access, a boat ramp that allows you to take your canoe, row boat, tubes or other small boat onto the lake to fish for the large population of Perch and Bass. The bass were reintroduced, so must be catch and release only. Due to the private property issues, there is no walking access, only boat access.
The lake has a no-wake policy that the adjacent land owners will make sure you adhere to. The view is unsurpassed with large peaks leading up into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to your north and grassy prairie knobs to your south.
A cold, deep, crystal clear lake in high timbered country this is a special, not heavily used lake to spend a day on. The lack of people is usually because the fishing can sometimes be only "so-so". Not a lot of action, but spending a day there to catch maybe only one trout is still a day spent well.
The following hikes are all an easy drive from Ovando and a wonderful way to spend a day, a morning or half a day:
• Morrell Falls: 5 mile hike round trip. Easy, beautiful hike to breathtaking falls. Directions: Take Hwy 200 west to Highway 83 north about 15 miles. Just outside of Seeley Lake, cross the bridge next to the Vets Memorial, and take a right at Morrell/Clearwater Road. Follow the signs to Morrell Falls trailhead [watch the signs as you will take a left from the main road] and parking area. Note: on trail, when you come to a 'T', take the trail to the left.
• Holland Lake Falls: 3 mile hike round trip to the falls and a breath taking view of Holland Lake. Difficult, especially in hot afternoons as it climbs up a sunny hill. Falls are beautiful and you can walk under them in lower water. Approximately 1 ½ hours from Ovando but worth the drive. Continue up Highway 83 approx 40 miles to Holland Lake exit [on right]. Follow dirt road to end and park. Follow signs. Note: when it looks like the trail ends at a rock pile, continue. The path is just on the other side of the rock fall.
• Monture Creek Trail: As long a hike as you wish as the trail goes into the Bob Marshall Wilderness over twenty miles. Easy hike that crosses creeks and streams and into old growth forest. From Ovando, take west exit across the highway right onto Monture Creek Road. Follow road approximately 15 minutes. Just before bridge that crosses Monture Creek, look for entrance to camping/trailhead. At end of road park at trailhead.
• Monture Creek Falls: Continue on the above hike for 12 miles round trip. Wonderful seldom seen falls.
• Lubrecht Forest: Self guided, easy, as long as you want on informative nature trails. Take Highway 200 west toward Missoula. Just before Garnet Ghost Town exit, take the left into the Experimental Forest entrance. Park at the buildings. The area is surrounded with paths and brochure pick up points that detail the vegetation and environment.
• North Fork Trailhead: Highway 200 east from Ovando, over the North Fork of the Blackfoot, take North Fork Trailhead road on your left, driving through the flats up into the canyon where the road ends at the trailhead. You hike for as little or as long as you want. A 16 miles round trip can take you to the Falls. Bring plenty of food and water. Bleak beginning on the trailhead from a fire that ravaged the area enters into wonderful canyon lands and open alpine areas to spectacular falls.
Honestly, there are too many to even try to list. With the Blackfoot Game Range to the west, the forest and wilderness to the north and wildlife viewing areas to the east, you can hike forever and still not see everything.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is a Congressionally designated wilderness area and Ovando is at its front door; with the Monture Creek Trailhead entry only 8 miles north and the North Fork Trailhead 17 miles away. It is named after Bob Marshall, an early forester, conservationist, and cofounder of The Wilderness Society. Formally designated in 1964, the Bob Marshall Wilderness extends for 60 miles along the Continental Divide into Canada and consists of 1,009,356 acres.
As directed by the Wilderness Act of 1964, "The Bob", as it is informally known, is to remain roadless. The only permanent structures here are some old ranger stations and horse bridges. "The Bob" is the fifth largest wilderness in the lower 48 states with 1,856 miles of trail that are open to foot and stock use only. No motors, no bikes.
Bicycling is a big summer sport for a lot of people with tour groups bringing people through weekly. If you want a taste of the sport, bring your bike and try out these locations:
• Boot Tree Road: The Old Timer's Boot Tree is gone but a new one is starting up again. Look for the boots – and other foot paraphernalia—being tossed into the branches. A dirt road going through some post logging areas, but not too strenuous and nice views. The road is located just east of Ovando.
• Great Divide Trail: The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the longest mountain bike touring route in the world. It begins at the port of Roosville in Montana and, following the Continental Divide as closely as possible, meanders 2400 miles on it's way to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the Mexican border. My humble opinion is that the Route is a must do for anyone who considers themselves a mountain bike enthusiast. Why? Because it will open your eyes to a whole new way to enjoy your mountain bike and in the process see an amazing part of this country.
Not everyone has two months to wander through the Rocky Mountains. The good news? You don't have to! The Great Divide Route invites you to explore it in parts and pieces with numerous opportunities to do a week or two at a time. A fantastic section, although challenging, is to start at Roosville and ride to Helena (10-14 days). You will see a spectacular part of Montana, you're guaranteed to meet some characters, you will see tons of wildlife, you will be challenged, you will be rewarded, and you will come away with an overwhelming appreciation of what you and your bike can do.
Ovando is Cycle Friendly!
Family fun is floating in your own kayaks or rafts down the beautiful Blackfoot River. Beauty surrounds you and wildlife abounds. Floating the river is a seasonal activity. Please do not attempt during high water season and if you don't know the river, ask someone about its quirks before you attempt it. Some portions can be tricky and for experienced handlers.
If you don't have your own horse you can contact Rich Ranch in Seeley Lake and they can try to fit you in with a trail ride. If you have your own horse, there is many a mile for you to travel.
• Monture Creek Trailhead: Corrals, watering area, large parking for trailers, camping sites and mile after mile of beautiful trail to follow. What more do you need? From Ovando, take the west exit across the highway right onto Monture Creek Road. Follow road approximately 15 minutes. Just before bridge that crosses Monture Creek, look for entrance to camping/trailhead. This trail leads you into the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
• Garnet Ghost Town: Beautiful timbered setting for of the most intact yet mostly unpreserved Ghost Towns in Montana. Stroll through leaning homes, a restored hotel that was once the largest 3 story hotel in the state and commercial buildings under renovation. Garnet is a historic mining ghost town located in west central Montana and sits at an elevation of about 6,000 feet at the head of First Chance Creek. It was named after the brown garnet rock which was used as an abrasive and a semi-precious stone found in the area. The town dates back to 1895 and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Garnet Preservation Association, a non-profit citizens group. More than 30 buildings have been preserved. Visitors to the ghost town will find a Visitor Center, interpretive signs and self-guided trails, as well as books, cards and other memorabilia. Leashed pets are permitted. The town is open to visitors all year. The road is closed to wheeled vehicles from January 1st to April 30th. In winter Garnet is a popular snowmobile and cross-country ski trip. Winter cabin rentals are available.
• Marysville Ghost Town: With a brewery, 27 saloons, 3,000 residents and three newspapers, Marysville once was one of the most thriving gold towns in the area. It remains one of the best preserved. The local Catholic church was fully restored in the 1980's, and old abandoned buildings still line Marysville's street.
The Blackfoot Valley can usually find itself in snow from November through March. With long nights, short days and temperatures as low as 40 below zero some years, you'd think we would hate it out here. But we love it! For one thing it is beautiful outside. For another, we are not lacking of recreational entertainment.
Winters are long out here so you always make the best of it. Snowmobiling IS the best of it with over 500 miles of groomed trails to partake in, and you can reach most of them straight out of Ovando, all on groomed trails. Drive across Highway 200 to either Monture Road [to head to Seeley Lake] or Boot Tree Road [to head toward Lincoln]; or do the entire Lincoln to Seeley trek!
• Seeley Lake: Tucked between the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range on scenic MT Hwy 83, Seeley Lake is one of western Montana's most popular year-round recreation areas. Starting from town, snowmobilers can fan out in nearly every direction to scenic lookouts, cozy lodges, cafes and backcountry lakes for ice fishing. The area provides over 230 miles of groomed trails. Located only 30 miles from Ovando, take Highway 200 west to Highway 83. Go north 12 miles to Seeley Lake. Rentals are available at two locations.
• Lincoln: Explore more than 250 miles of groomed trails and unlimited play areas. Eight major trails start right in town where sledding is permitted on roadway shoulders. Most trails are lightly traveled, with breathtaking views around every turn. Deer, elk and an occasional moose may be seen. Located only 35 miles from Ovando, take Highway 200 east to Lincoln. Several rental sites are available along the highway.
• A favorite day long snowmobile tour is to travel Lincoln to Seeley Lake via Huckleberry Pass with a stop over in Ovando for food, drink, and gas.
• Garnet Winter Recreation Trails: More than 100 miles of trails, including the 31.5-mile Garnet National Winter Recreation Trail, are open for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Visitors can rent two rustic cabins in the Garnet Ghost Town for overnight stays (reservations necessary for cabin rental). A major attraction along the trails is the Garnet Ghost Town with a visitors center. The ghost town is located 11 miles south of the parking lot off Montana Highway 200. The elevation here ranges from 4,200 to 7,000 feet. Pets are allowed.
For some people nothing beats a cold, breezy, winter day, sitting on a frozen lake, with your favorite ice fishing pole, sitting on a milk carton or in a warmed hut, hovering over a 12" deep hole jigging for fish. For others, this sounds like utter nonsense. But for the former, there is plenty of ice fishing to keep you busy during the winter.
• Brown's Lake: A very popular ice fishing spot, and located only 9 miles from Ovando this is the place to be for large winter trout. Take the Ovando-Helmville Road east of Ovando and watch for the sign on your left to the lake.
• Swan Valley: Numerous lakes dot the Seeley Swan Valley, and most feature excellent ice fishing--including Salmon Lake, Holland Lake and Placid Lake. Prevalent species in these lakes include bull trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon and northern pike.
• Upsata Lake: This small beautiful lake is packed with perch and use to be the home of some very large non-indigenous northern pike.
It's quite easy to get to a cross-country skiing destination in Montana. First, step out of your door. Then, strap on your skis. The fact is, Montana has millions of acres of public lands open to cross-country skiing just about anywhere you go.
• Exit Ovando on the west side, travel across the highway to Monture Creek Road. Drive up to the bridge that crosses the creek, in the forest area and park. You can ski the same groomed trails that the snowmobilers use.
• Seeley Lake also boasts a world-class Nordic ski trail system. Folks can enjoy the serenity and beauty of this winter wonderland on a horse-drawn sleigh ride or on a guided sled dog ride.
• Race to the Sky:The Race to the Sky Sled Dog Competition is one of Montana's premier winter events occurring every February. The 350-mile race is one of the most physically and mentally challenging races of any kind. Dozens of mushers and dog sled teams from around the country test their strength and strategy in this long distance winter run across Montana's mountainous backcountry. Public viewing areas are located at guest ranches, lodges and restaurants along the route which also serve as check points for the human and dog team competitors. All events are public.
• Lincoln is the home to many a musher. Many of them provide sled rides within the regional trail system. Be ware though. What looks to the untrained eye as a smooth "cool running" ride, can be quite different depending on the conditions.