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Fanciful Farmland - US Highway 12

central Montana

One of Montana’s unofficial nicknames is “Big Sky Country.” And you’ll certainly understand why if you drive US 12 on a sunny day. Heading west, it’s one way to eventually reach Glacier National Park. It also provides a scenic alternative to I-90. The busy freeway runs parallel to US 12, 45 miles to the south. US 12 leaves I-90 in eastern Montana and then joins up again in the west on the way to Missoula. This essay follows a 127-mile part of US 12 as it crosses through the heart of The Treasure State. Most of the drive is farmland, carved out of the prairie many generations ago. Various tribes of Plains Indians lived and passed through the area. You can almost imagine the immense herds of buffalo, or American bison, that once roamed here before being nearly wiped into extinction by over-hunting and loss of habitat to farming. Like many places on earth, this peaceful, picturesque section of central Montana has a difficult history, easy to forget when blue skies, hayfields and sunshine fill the horizon.

Best Time to Visit

Spring brings wildflowers while summer and fall are harvest time. Winter isn’t ideal and conditions can be rough.

Route & Map      

US 12 west, Roundup to White Sulphur Springs

Length

127 miles

Time

2 hours

Major Towns

In Montana, distances are vast and towns generally small. Roundup and White Sulphur Springs, on either end of this drive, offer basic services. It’s worth continuing onto Great Falls, Helena or Billings depending on what direction you’re driving. Unless you like pie. The Central Montana Tourism Office’s website has a “Pie a la Road” section which aside from being brilliant, offers delicious stop suggestions.

Links

The Montana Office of Tourism has a section dedicated to Central Montana. Which is not to be confused with the Central Montana Tourism Office site also offering great tips, in addition to that pie trail.

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