Big Hole Battlefield Trail In Montana

Here is everything you need to know about the Big Hole Battlefield Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Montana
  • Length: 24 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: dirt
  • Managed By: Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website:

The Big Hole Battlefield Trail holds significant historical importance as it commemorates the Battle of the Big Hole, a pivotal event in the history of the American West. This trail is located in southwestern Montana, near the town of Wisdom, and is managed by the National Park Service. The Battle of the Big Hole took place on August 9-10, 1877, during the Nez Perce War.

The Nez Perce, a Native American tribe, were pursued by the U.S. Army as they attempted to flee to Canada to avoid forced relocation to a reservation. Led by Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce sought refuge in the Big Hole Valley. However, Colonel John Gibbon and his troops, along with local volunteers, launched a surprise attack on the Nez Perce camp during the early morning hours. The battle that ensued was intense and brutal, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.

The Big Hole Battlefield Trail allows visitors to explore the site where this tragic event unfolded. The trail provides interpretive signs that offer historical context and information about the battle. Walking along the trail, visitors can imagine the intense fighting that took place and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by both the Nez Perce and the U.S. Army during this tumultuous period in American history. The Big Hole Battlefield Trail serves as a poignant reminder of the conflicts and struggles that shaped the West and the impact they had on Native American tribes.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Visitor Center: The Big Hole Battlefield Visitor Center serves as the main access point for the trail. It provides information about the battlefield and its history, as well as maps and guides for the trail.

2. Chief Joseph Monument: Located near the visitor center, the Chief Joseph Monument marks the final resting place of Chief Joseph, the leader of the Nez Perce during the Battle of Big Hole.

3. Nez Perce Campsite: This trailhead is located near the Nez Perce campsite, where the Nez Perce tribe set up their camp before the battle. It offers a starting point for exploring the battlefield.

4. Battlefield Overlook: The Battlefield Overlook provides a panoramic view of the Big Hole Battlefield, allowing visitors to see the terrain and understand the strategic significance of the area during the battle.

5. Indian Creek Trailhead: This trailhead is located near Indian Creek, which played a crucial role in the battle. It offers access to the trail that follows the creek and provides insights into the events that unfolded there.

6. Soldier’s Camp Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the Soldier’s Camp, where the U.S. Army troops camped before the battle. It offers a starting point for exploring the battlefield from the perspective of the soldiers.

7. Nez Perce Trailhead: The Nez Perce Trailhead provides access to the trail that follows the route taken by the Nez Perce as they retreated from the battlefield. It offers a unique perspective on the events that followed the battle.

8. Big Hole River Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the Big Hole River, which runs through the battlefield. It offers access to the trail that follows the river and provides insights into its importance during the battle.

9. Wisdom Visitor Center: Located near the town of Wisdom, the Wisdom Visitor Center serves as an alternative access point for the Big Hole Battlefield Trail. It provides information and resources for visitors interested in exploring the battlefield.

Transportation Available

1. Big Hole Battlefield Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from the Big Hole Battlefield Trail.
2. Local Taxi Service – Taxi service available for transportation needs in the vicinity of the Big Hole Battlefield Trail.
3. Rental Car Companies – Various rental car companies offering vehicles for rent near the Big Hole Battlefield Trail.
4. Ride-Sharing Services – Popular ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft operate in the area around the Big Hole Battlefield Trail.
5. Public Bus System – Local public bus system with routes that include stops near the Big Hole Battlefield Trail.


The amenities available at the Big Hole Battlefield Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available for visitors to use.

2. Parking: There is a designated parking area for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: The trail offers camping sites for those who wish to stay overnight. These sites may have facilities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack.

5. Visitor Center: The Big Hole Battlefield Trail has a visitor center where visitors can obtain information about the trail, its history, and any events or programs taking place.

6. Interpretive Signs: Throughout the trail, there are interpretive signs that provide information about the historical significance of the area and the events that took place.

7. Trails: The trail itself is an amenity, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the battlefield and learn about its history.

8. Benches: There are benches along the trail where visitors can rest and take in the surroundings.

9. Drinking Water: There may be drinking water stations available along the trail for visitors to stay hydrated.

10. Accessibility: The trail may have accessibility features such as ramps, paved paths, or designated accessible parking spaces to accommodate visitors with disabilities.

Please note that amenities may vary, and it is always recommended to check with the official website or contact the Big Hole Battlefield Trail directly for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Bannack State Park – Historic park with camping and RV sites near the Big Hole Battlefield Trail.
2. Wisdom Motel & RV Park – Lodging and RV park offering comfortable accommodations in Wisdom, Montana.
3. Jackson Hot Springs Lodge – Rustic lodge with hot springs, lodging, and dining options in Jackson, Montana.
4. Elkhorn Hot Springs – Remote hot springs resort with lodging and camping facilities near Polaris, Montana.
5. Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Hospital – Local hospital providing emergency medical services in Anaconda, Montana.
6. Wisdom Medical Clinic – Medical clinic offering emergency services and healthcare in Wisdom, Montana.
7. Wisdom Volunteer Fire Department – Local fire department providing emergency services in Wisdom, Montana.
8. Anaconda Police Department – Local police department serving Anaconda, Montana and surrounding areas.
9. Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Office – County sheriff’s office providing emergency services in Dillon, Montana.
10. Wisdom Post Office – Local post office offering mailing services in Wisdom, Montana.

Big Hole Battlefield Trail Difficulty Notes

The Big Hole Battlefield Trail presents a moderate level of difficulty for hikers. Spanning approximately 1.6 miles, this trail offers a mix of flat terrain and gentle inclines, making it accessible to most individuals. However, the trail does feature some rocky sections and uneven surfaces, requiring hikers to exercise caution and wear appropriate footwear. Additionally, the trail’s length may pose a challenge for those who are not accustomed to longer hikes. Nevertheless, the captivating historical significance of the Big Hole Battlefield and the stunning natural surroundings make the moderate difficulty level well worth the effort for those seeking an enriching outdoor experience.

Features And Attractions

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Usage Guidelines

– Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Bicycles are allowed on the trail, but riders must yield to pedestrians.
– No motorized vehicles are permitted on the trail.
– Camping or overnight stays are not allowed on the trail.
– Hunting or fishing is prohibited on the trail.
– No littering or dumping of any kind is allowed.
– Fires or open flames are not permitted on the trail.
– No smoking is allowed on the trail.
– Seasonal restrictions may apply during extreme weather conditions or maintenance periods.

Seasonal Information

The Big Hole Battlefield Trail, located in southwestern Montana, is a significant historical site that commemorates the Battle of Big Hole, which took place in 1877 between the Nez Perce tribe and the United States Army. This trail offers visitors a chance to explore the battlefield and learn about the events that unfolded during this pivotal moment in American history. When planning a visit to the Big Hole Battlefield Trail, it is important to consider the best times of the year to visit and any seasonal closures that may affect your trip.

The best times of the year to visit the Big Hole Battlefield Trail are during the spring, summer, and early fall months. Spring, from April to June, offers pleasant weather with mild temperatures and blooming wildflowers. This is an ideal time to witness the beauty of the surrounding landscape and experience the trail’s serene atmosphere. Summer, from July to August, is the peak tourist season, as the weather is warm and sunny, making it perfect for outdoor activities. During this time, visitors can enjoy hiking the trail, attending guided tours, and participating in educational programs. Early fall, from September to October, brings cooler temperatures and stunning fall foliage, creating a picturesque backdrop for exploring the battlefield.

It is important to note that the Big Hole Battlefield Trail is open year-round, but there may be seasonal closures or limited access to certain areas. During the winter months, from November to March, the trail may experience heavy snowfall, making it difficult to navigate. Additionally, some facilities, such as visitor centers or restrooms, may have reduced hours or be closed entirely during the off-peak season. It is advisable to check with the Big Hole National Battlefield Visitor Center or the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information on closures and accessibility before planning your visit.

In conclusion, the best times of the year to visit the Big Hole Battlefield Trail are during the spring, summer, and early fall when the weather is pleasant and the trail is fully accessible. However, it is important to be aware of any seasonal closures or limited access that may affect your trip. By planning your visit accordingly and staying informed about current conditions, you can have a rewarding experience exploring this historically significant site.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces close to the trail entrance for easy access.
2. Paved Pathways: Smooth and level pathways throughout the trail suitable for wheelchair users.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Restroom facilities equipped with ADA-compliant features for individuals with disabilities.
4. Wheelchair Accessible Viewing Areas: Designated areas along the trail with clear views of the battlefield, accessible for wheelchair users.
5. Braille and Tactile Signage: Signage with raised lettering and Braille for individuals with visual impairments.
6. Assistive Listening Devices: Available upon request to enhance audio experiences for visitors with hearing impairments.
7. Accessible Visitor Center: The visitor center is equipped with ramps, elevators, and other accommodations for wheelchair users.
8. Service Animal Accommodations: The trail welcomes service animals and provides necessary accommodations.
9. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and seating options for individuals with disabilities.
10. Accessible Interpretive Exhibits: Exhibits along the trail designed to be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including tactile elements and audio descriptions.

Safety Information

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked paths to avoid getting lost or damaging the surrounding environment.
2. Wear appropriate footwear: Use sturdy shoes or boots with good traction to navigate the sometimes uneven terrain.
3. Carry enough water: Bring an ample supply of water to stay hydrated, especially during hot weather.
4. Dress for the weather: Wear layers and appropriate clothing to protect against changing weather conditions.
5. Use sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect yourself from sunburn and insect bites by applying sunscreen and repellent.
6. Be aware of wildlife: Respect the wildlife and maintain a safe distance, avoiding any potential encounters or disturbances.
7. Watch for uneven surfaces: Be cautious of uneven ground, loose rocks, or other potential tripping hazards along the trail.
8. Stay alert for snakes: Keep an eye out for snakes and be cautious when stepping over rocks or logs.
9. Carry a first aid kit: Have a basic first aid kit with you in case of any minor injuries or emergencies.
10. Inform someone of your plans: Let someone know about your hiking plans, including the trail you’ll be on and your estimated return time.

Conservation Notes

The Big Hole Battlefield Trail, located in Montana, holds significant historical and cultural importance as it commemorates the Battle of the Big Hole, a pivotal event in the Nez Perce War of 1877. In terms of conservation status, the trail is managed and protected by the National Park Service as part of the Big Hole National Battlefield. This designation ensures the preservation and maintenance of the trail’s historical and natural resources.

As a protected area, the Big Hole Battlefield Trail benefits from conservation efforts aimed at safeguarding its unique features. The National Park Service actively monitors and manages the trail to minimize human impact and preserve its historical integrity. This includes implementing measures to prevent erosion, maintaining the trail’s infrastructure, and ensuring the protection of archaeological sites and artifacts.

Conservation efforts also extend to the surrounding landscape, as the Big Hole National Battlefield encompasses a larger area beyond the trail itself. The park service works to maintain the natural habitat and biodiversity of the region, protecting the flora and fauna that call it home. By preserving the natural environment, the conservation status of the Big Hole Battlefield Trail ensures that visitors can experience the historical significance of the site while also appreciating its natural beauty.

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