youtubeThe surge of people camping and visiting popular outdoor sites like national parks is expected to continue into the summer of 2021 due to lingering fears of Covid-19. You may find yourself asking, where can I take the family camping in the Pacific Northwest that won’t be overrun?

Over the next couple of months we will focus on little known places in the State of Montana that are family friendly and unlikely to be crowded.

Mission Canyon located near Hays, Montana, on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, is definitely one of those places. This beautiful canyon features steep, multihued limestone cliffs towering hundreds of feet above you.


Author Enjoys Mission Canyon by Motorcycle

Within the canyon are natural bridges, arches, windows, waterfalls, and a unique grotto called Devil’s Kitchen that can be reached via a ladder made out of lodgepole pines. The canyon has been carved over centuries by People’s Creek as it flows downstream out of the Little Rocky Mountains. Other named points of interest along the creek include Wilson Park, Needle Eye and Kid Curry's Hideout.


Devil's Kitchen

Most of the sites can be seen by traveling a well-graded, graveled road which winds its way along the creek. Along the way you will encounter interpretive signs erected by the tribe telling stories of the canyon and their ancestors. You will also find roadside pull-outs featuring fire rings, picnic tables, and BBQ grills. Many are large enough to accommodate larger RVs.

Hole in the Wall Trail

To fully experience the canyon, plan on hiking one of the several named trails. The trailhead for the Hole in the Wall Trail is easily reached via any vehicle. The trail allows you to walk under a natural bridge, enjoy stunning views of the canyon, and stand upon a small arch. The moderate trail is one mile roundtrip with 500 feet of elevation gain.


Author at Natural Bridge

As you exit the tall walls of Mission Canyon traveling in the upstream direction, look for a side canyon departing to the east (left) where you will find a small waterfall and more beautiful views of the limestone cliffs. (Note: This side road is not suitable for RVs.)

If you find yourself visiting in August, you might also take in the Hays Pow Wow featuring Native American dancing, music, and cultural events. The Pow Wow is open to the public and provides a chance for visitors to experience the traditions of some of the indigenous cultures that shaped the region. Due to COVID, dates for the 2021 Pow Wow are currently pending.

Tribes that called the Fort Belknap Reservation home are the Assiniboine, or Nakoda, along with the Gros Ventre, who refer to themselves as A’aninin or “People of the White Clay.” The combined population is approximately 4,000.

Planning your trip to Mission Canyon

Navigate to Hays, Montana just off Highway 66 in the north-central portion of Montana. Continue southwest on paved Main Street through town. After approximately one mile, you will reach a welcome sign at the mouth of Mission Canyon at N47° 58.129 W108° 40.130 where the road becomes gravel. There is a wide spot at the mouth of the canyon where you can drop your RV and proceed in your tow vehicle or dinghy if desired. For added convenience and mobility, the author, his wife and friends chose to visit the canyon via dual sport motorcycles and ATVs.


Author and Friends Explore the Side Canyon

Camping:  According to the Visit Montana website, picnicking and camping is permitted in the canyon.

Nearby camping options include:

Montana Gulch Campground operated by the Bureau of Land Management


Montana Gulch Campground

Fort Belknap Tourism Office and Information Center: The Information Center offers RV parking, showers and picnic grounds.

For more information, contact the Fort Belknap Indian Community located at 656 Agency Main, Harlem, MT 59526 or call 406-353-2205.

Covid-19: Click here for current mandates and announcements concerning Covid-19 on the Fort Belknap Reservation.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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