Makoshika State Park Sign in Montana

Where is Makoshika State Park

Located in eastern Montana, Makoshika State Park is the state’s largest state park. The state park and surrounding area possesses several badlands that contain dinosaurs and other fossils. The area also protects several ties to Lakatoa culture and traditions. Activities in Makoshika State Park include nature walks, scenic drives, archery practice, and wildlife viewing. The park’s facilities include a visitor center, an archery range, an amphitheater, and a campground. The closest town to Makoshika State Park is Glendive. Billings is 222 miles and a three-hour drive away west of the park, and the park is 196 miles and about a two hour and forty-five-minute drive west of Bismark, North Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located within 65 miles of Makoshika State Park.

How Large is Makoshika State Park

Makoshika US State Park is Montana’s largest state park and covers over 11,500 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of badlands, rocky hills, and deep gorges. Vegetation in the park is relatively sparse, but dense in small oasis zones. Several rock formations that rise over 100 feet over the landscape exist in the park. The park's campground contains 28 campsites that can all be reserved through the park’s website and reservation portal. Frequently throughout the year, Makoshika State Park utilizes its amphitheater, disc golf course, and other facilities to put on special programs for visitors to participate in.

Makoshika State Park Weather

The weather at Makoshika State Park varies heavily throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 60- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures in the park average between 5- and 45-degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest temperatures of the year fall upon the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures arrive in January and February. Makoshika state park sees about 45 days of rain per year. Yearly rain totals in the park normally amount to around 15 inches. Snowfall is common in the park in the winter months. Yearly snowfall totals in the park average to about 25 inches per year.

Hoodoos Makoshika State Park at Sunset Montana

When was Makoshika State Park Established

Makoshika State Park was first established in 1939. The initial area of the state park was only 160 acres which were donated to the state by Dawson County. The county donated an additional 80 acres in 1953. The additional acres that make up the state park’s current area of over 11,500 acres were acquired by the park from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Dawson County, and from private investors and donations. Fossils found in Makoshika State Park date back to the Cretecous period. Two notable fossils were found in 1991 and 1997. In 1991, a 600-pound female triceratops skull was discovered and in 1997, a fossilized Thescelosaurus was found. The latter fossil is the largest and most complete fossil of its kind.

Things to do in Makoshika State Park

Visitors traveling to Makoshika State Park will find a variety of activities waiting for them when they arrive. List of Parks highlights the most popular activities and adventures the park provides access to below:

Start at the Visitor Center

The best place for a visitor to start their Makoshika State Park trip is at the park’s visitor center. The visitor center was recently remodeled in the past few years and features several dinosaur fossils. The two main fossils are of triceratops and a tyrannosaurus rex. Other attractions in the visitor center include displays providing educational information on the area’s geography, culture, and ecology. A trip to the Makoshika State Park visitor center is also the best way for visitors to gain valuable information on the park and its facilities and trails.

Hike the Diane Gabriel Trail

The Diane Gabriel Trail at Makoshika State Park is a .7-mile trail that is great for all skill levels. The trail traverses a few of the park’s badlands and ends with exceptional views of a dinosaur fossil. The park also features views of several rock formations and wildflowers when they are in bloom.

Hike the Cap Rock Trail

Individuals looking for a more rugged hike that still is quite short, should check out the Cap Rock trail in Makoshika State Park. The trail covers various badland formations, a natural bridge, and various other highlights. The Cap Rock Trail is steep in several places. However, the trail is only a half mile long.

Dust off the Mountain Bike

Several trails within Makoshika State Park are designated for both hikers and mountain bikers. Popular trails amongst mountain bikers in the park include the Ponderosa Trail, the McCarty Trail, and the Vista Trail.

Friday Night Campfire Program

During the summer season, when visitation is at its peak, Makoshika State Park offers visitors the opportunity to attend campfire programs which are hosted every Friday night. These programs normally are held in the park’s amphitheater or campground areas and discuss various issues and topics related to the park’s history, culture, and ecology. The park’s visitor center can provide additional scheduling information.

Wildlife Viewing

Makoshika State Park provides a home to a variety of wildlife species. The park’s most notable species include sage lizards, bull snacks, rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, and mule deer. Visitors hoping to see any one or more of these species can consult the park’s visitor center on where the best place to start looking is.

Take Some Lasting Photographs

Whether you are hoping to memorialize the park’s fossils, rock formations, or wildlife, taking some time to take a few pictures is one of the best ways to create memories that you can access later in life. The Cap Rock formation and the dinosaur fossil at the end of the Diane Gabriel trail are great places to start taking pictures.

Camping in Makoshika State Park

The campground at Makoshika State Park contains 28 campsites that can be reserved online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Each campsite in the park includes fire rings and access to restrooms and other facilities. Camping fees range from $12 - $42 depending on the type of campsite visitors wish to reserve.

Erosion at Makoshika State Park Washington

When to Visit Makoshika State Park

A trip to Makoshika State Park is best completed in the summer months when temperatures in the park allow visitors to take advantage of all the park has to offer. Visitation in the park is also at its peak during summer.  Spring and fall are also great times to visit Makoshika State Park. However, park programs and other seasonal activities may not be offered. In winter, visitors can still visit Makoshika State Park, though colder temperatures may make hiking or camping unbearable.

Must Have Items to Bring to Makoshika State Park

Every trip outdoors requires packing and planning, and Makoshika State Park is no exception. The list below compiles essential items visitors may want to bring with them to the park.

Water and High Energy Snacks

Water is essential for every outdoor trip and activity. Our State Park Visitors Guide suggests bringing high energy snacks which are also essential for extended trips outdoors. Hikers and campers should bring additional water and snacks with them to the park.

Sunglasses and Sunscreen

The sun at Makoshika State Park can be bright and intense during the summer months. Wearing sunglasses and sunscreen is the best way to protect yourself from higher UV rates. Polarized sunglasses are a great investment for outdoor enthusiasts.

Layers of Clothing

Wearing a few layers of clothing to Makoshika State Park is the best way for visitors to ensure they are comfortable throughout their whole trip to the park. These layers will allow visitors to adapt to sudden gusts and waves of heat.

Camping Equipment

Campers visiting Makoshika State Park will want to create and utilize a camping checklist before leaving for the park. This checklist will allow visitors to ensure they have all of the necessary equipment with them before leaving their house.

Field Guides and Park Maps

Wildlife enthusiasts looking to explore Makoshika State Park will want to obtain a Montana or North America specific wild guide before arriving at the park. The best field guides include color pictures and a species description that make identification a synch. Park trail maps can be obtained from the park visitor center.

Makoshika State Park Montana

Where to Stay in Makoshika State Park

Visitors looking to stay within Makoshika State Park should make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel near the park will want to first check for options in nearby Glendive. However, if they do not find suitable options there or at any surrounding cities. Visitors can make the two hour and forty-minute drive to Bismarck, North Dakota or the three hour drive to Billings. Each of these cities will have expansive options that suit a variety of visitors.

Food Near Makoshika State Park

The closest food to Makoshika State Park is located in Glendive. However, the area does not have near the option’s larger cities like Billings or Bismarck, North Dakota contain. Visitors looking for anything they can get their hands on will be satisfied with the offerings in Glendive. However, visitors looking for additional options may need to make the two to three-hour drive to one of the previously mentioned cities.

Airports Near Makoshika State Park

The closest international airport to Makoshika State Park is located in Billings. The Billings - Logan International Airport is 222 miles and a three hour and 15-minute drive away from Makoshika State Park. The next closest regional airport to Makoshika State Park is in Rapid City, South Dakota. The airport is over four hours away.

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