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Lewis and Clark Caverns
State Park

Planning a trip to Montana?

Be sure to visit Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park - even if you have to go out of your way to get there.

The campground is comfortable and well-equipped, but it's the tour of the caves that makes this park memorable.


Lewis and Clark campground


Where is it?

Lewis and Clark Caverns is 45 miles west of Bozeman, Montana. 




The campground

The campground has 40 spacious sites. There's also a tipi and three camping cabins.

camping cabin at Lewis and Clark state park


Since the campground is in an open area, the sites can be windy. There are not a lot of trees, but most sites have at least some shade.


camping tipi


There's a full bathroom with pay showers, flush toilets, and sinks. There's an outdoor dishwashing sink.

Some sites have hookups. There's an RV dump station, too.

There's a nice playground for the kids.


playground


There's a smallish visitors' center with some good interpretive displays. There's even a limited selection of camping supplies for sale.

In the summer months, the outdoor theater features evening programs. We enjoyed hearing a Montana history buff telling stories about the old days.


Winter camping at Lewis and Clark Caverns

The campground is open all year, but in the winter the washrooms are closed and the drinking water taps are turned off. You can use the outhouses, but you'll have to bring your own water.

If you visit on a weekend in December, you can take a special candlelight tour of the caves!




The caverns

The highlight of a trip to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is, of course, a tour of the caves!


entrance to Lewis and Clark Caverns


Two-hour guided tours run daily from May to September. Please note that you can tour the caves only with a tour guide.

You'll need to be in reasonably good physical shape to attempt the tour. You'll be walking for about 2 hours, and there is some bending, crouching and sliding.


Getting to the caverns

From the campground, drive up the road to the parking lot and sign in (and pay) at the ticket booth. You'll be given a scheduled time.

You may have to wait for a while, so go and check out the gift shop and the snack bar. If you're hungry, have a snack now, because there is no food allowed in the caves - not even chewing gum.

At the appointed time, report back to the ticket booth.


The tour

The most strenuous part of the tour is the 3/4 mile walk to the mouth of the cave. It's uphill all the way. On a summer day, it's hot!


Once your whole group has made it up the hill, your guide will give a brief introduction, and then in you go.


inside Lewis and Clark caverns


You'll see stalagmites and stalactites, of course.

You'll also see countless rock formations in weird and wonderful shapes. We had fun trying to decide what the formations looked like. It was sort of like looking for pictures in clouds. We found "cave bacon", "cave popcorn", "soda straws" and more.


rock formations


You'll squeeze through tunnels, scoot through tight spaces and even slide down a natural rock slide.

Your guide will entertain and enlighten you with stories about the cave's history.

You are allowed to take photos, except in the first part of the cave where the  Western big-eared bats live. Don't worry - the bats won't bother you.




Cavern Tour Tips

  • Wear hiking shoes or good walking shoes.
  • Bring a sweater. You might have a hard time convincing your kids to carry a sweater on a hot summer day - but they'll thank you once they get inside the cave. It's 50 degrees F inside!
  • Use the bathroom before you head up the hill! You won't have another opportunity for a couple of hours.
  • Wear clothes that can get dirty and worn. Sliding down the Beaver Slide is hard on the seat of the pants!




Did you know?

  • The explorers Lewis and Clark never actually set foot in the caverns, although their expedition did pass through what is now the park.
  • The park is just 60 miles northwest of the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. For a really memorable vacation, why not visit both parks?




Now that you know about Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, click here to learn about more of my favorite US State Parks - and to tell us about the ones you have visited!


Before you set off on your next trip, be sure to visit the Complete Family Camping Guide home page for lots of fresh camping ideas.





               

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