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Written by a native Montanan, this guide showcases some of Montana's Big Sky Country's finest places and attractions.
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Hiking Montana offers 100 of the best hikes in Big Sky Country, from pleasant family outings to backcountry adventures.
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The West Boulder Backcountry Drive

The Absaroka Mountains
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The West Boulder Backcountry Drive is a twenty-four mile route that closely follows the northern base of the Absaroka Mountains between McLeod and Livingston, Montana. The drive, in combination with part of the Boulder River Backcountry Drive, provides a far more scenic alternative than plodding down Interstate 90 between Big Timber and Livingston.

The West Boulder Backcountry Drive follows two different roads for the trip, the West Boulder Road and Swingley Road. Both roads, while rough in spots due to washboards and an overdue need to be graded, have an all-season gravel surface and will pose no difficulties for passenger cars during dry weather conditions. Only during periods of intense wet weather or when the road is snow covered will a four-wheel drive vehicle be required.

The eastern starting point of the drive begins at the junction of the West Boulder Road and the Boulder River Backcountry Drive, less than a mile south of McLeod, Montana. For the first seven miles, the route follows the West Boulder River, which frequently runs through small but scenic meadows and valleys. Additionally, as the road continues to the west, the views of the Absaroka Mountains continue to get better and better.

The Scenic Absaroka Mountains
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After seven miles, the route reaches a junction with Swingley Road. The West Boulder Backcountry Drive follows Swingley Road to the west, while the West Boulder Road turns left, following the West Boulder River toward the Absaroka Mountains and a nice campground that exists near roads end.

Beyond the road junction, the road starts closely following the base of the Absaroka Mountains while providing spectacular views of the mountains. The road also starts to twist and turn through the foothills of the mountains, ascending and descending several steep climbs.

After ten miles, the West Boulder Backcountry Drive reaches the junction with Little Mission Creek Road. Visitors can follow the Little Mission Creek Road back to the Interstate Highway is they choose, although the fastest route to Livingston will be to continue following the scenic byway.

Following this road junction, the route makes a final, steep ascent of a hill that provides excellent views of the distant Crazy Mountains. The route then starts slowly losing elevation as it begins descending toward Livingston. The views of the Absaroka Mountains are superb on this section. As the road heads toward Livingston, the visitor will notice several large mansions that have, shall we say, “superb locations.”

As the byway leaves the mountains, it enters a broad meadow that slowly slants down to the valley below. In addition to providing excellent views of the Absaroka Mountains excellent, the Crazy Mountains and the Bridger Range are also clearly visible. The West Boulder Backcountry Drive ends at the junction with US Highway 89, two miles to the east of Livingston.

Overall, the West Boulder Backcountry Drive is a beautiful route that virtually nobody ever follows. The route, used in combination with the Boulder River Backcountry Drive, provides asuperb scenic alternative for those traveling between Big Timber and Livingston.

Quick Facts

  • Length: 24 miles
  • Highlights : Absaroka Mountains, West Boulder River, Crazy Mountains
  • Road Type : Gravel
  • Nearby Towns : Big Timber, Livingston, McLeod
  • 4wd needed? : No, except when road is very wet or muddy
  • Traffic : Very Light
  • Trailers? : Yes
  • Season : Year-round, weather permitting

Map of the West Boulder Backcountry Drive

The map below shows the route and location of the West Boulder Backcountry Drive in Montana, along with other nearby scenic routes.

Map of the Boulder River Backcountry Drive Bridger Mountains Scenic Drive Paradise Valley Scenic Loop West Boulder Backcountry Drive Boulder River Backcountry Drive Livingston, MT : Information & Photos Big Timber, MT : Info & Photos Bozeman, MT : Info & Photos

Topographical Map Books

Montana Benchmark Atlas : Large-scale Landscape Maps and a complete 30-page Recreation Guide make this an ideal planning tool for outdoor adventures.    More Info

Photos of the West Boulder Backcountry Drive

West Boulder River Scenic Views Mountains & Prairie

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Where to Stay & Other Services

There are no services or lodging along the route. However, both Big Timber and Livingston have plenty of places to pick up supplies of all types. Both towns also have many lodging options. Since the West Boulder Backcountry Drive passes through private land for much of its length, camping is limited along the route.

Lodging in Big Timber

Lodging in Livingston

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