The Bad Lands of Montana’s Makoshika State Park

The Lakota people used to call the area around far northeastern Montana “Makoshika.” Depending on who is doing the translating, it either means Bad Land or Bad Spirits. And while it is as hot, dry and seemingly inhospitable a place as you can imagine, the Makoshika State Park is well worth a visit and an RV overnight.

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For one thing, it is a place where the fossil remains of such dinosaurs as tyrannosaurus and triceratops were found. A visitor information center at the park entrance houses a triceratops skull and other badlands interpretive displays.

And on a hike from the small but spacious campground, I came across a place where the vertebrae of a Hadrosaur was dug out of the sandstone. Hadrosaurs are also known as the duck-billed dinosaur and ranged in size from 10 to 40 feet (3 to 12 m) long. They had horny, toothless beaks and hundreds of cheek teeth in the sides of their jaws.

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This was home turf for many a dinosaur

Makoshika, near the town of Glendive, Montana,  is the largest of Montana's state parks, encompassing 11,538 acres at an elevation of 2,415 feet. The 28-site campground offers outstanding views of the rock formations and you can take off for short or lengthy hikes right from your site. Beware of rattlesnakes. I didn't see any in several hikes, but regulars tell me they are indeed out there.

Sunsets and sunrises are equally impressive

Sunsets and sunrises are equally impressive

Sunsets and sunrises are spectacular, right from the campground.

There are no hookups or showers. The toilets are vault, but cleaned regularly by park staff. That was no problem for Jennifer and me in our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL with its solar power and lithium batteries. It was very hot the mid-June afternoon we arrived and we ran the AC for a couple of hours to cool down the inside. But after the sun dropped beyond the cliffs, the night cooled fast and we slept comfortably with just the windows open.

Our campsite at Makoshika

Our campsite at Makoshika

Besides the hiking, the park road is great for bike rides, though an six percent grade a half mile from the campground will either have you walking up or huffing and puffing.

This road makes a great bike ride

This road makes a great bike ride

We loved Makoshiko. While the Montana Badlands are not nearly as well known as South Dakota's Badlands National Park, or the Badlands around the Theodore Roosevelt State Park in North Dakota, we found the place super quiet and with a stark beauty that forced you to just be still and stare at nature.

This hiking trail takes you up and down the rock formations

This hiking trail takes you up and down the rock formations

We had no problem getting a campsite without a reservation mid-week but the place almost always fills up on summer weekends.

That's me up there at the top of one rock formation,  shadowing the next formation over.

That's me up there at the top of one rock formation, shadowing the next formation over.




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  • David Malone

    Thanks for visiting! I grew up in Glendive and frequently went camping and hiking in Makoshika.
    Your article captures the parks beauty perfectly!!