The National Bison Range is a very pretty 18,000 acre area of
meadows, hills and trees. It was created in 1908 in an effort
to provide a safe haven for the bison. While the herd is relatively
small and only includes three hundred to five hundred animals,
they are easy to spot. The Bison Range is managed by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and located 43 miles northwest of Missoula
Montana. Follow 93 north and the signs for the refuge.
The Bison Range feels like an adventure to me, and many people
a "mini-Yellowstone". It almost has a Jurassic Park
kind of feel to it, basically being a self guided auto tour. You
enter the property, then work uphill towards the visitor center
where you register and pay. From here, a narrow one way road leads
up a steep mountain. Immediately you can see bison. As you climb,
you look down over slopes of grass, and can often see hawks soaring
below you. The road climbs for quite awhile, past key bison habitat,
then ultimately reaching a cool pine forest. The drive really
shows off the diverse habitats of the range. The wildlife viewing
is fantastic. You can see bison, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep,
mule deer, whitetail deer, bald eagles, a wide variety of raptors,
coyotes, bear, owls and other creatures. This is easily one of
the best places to see wildlife in the west. Remember that the
road is gravel and there are no barriers preventing you from going
over the side. Those afraid of heights may find this an unsuitable
Bison at the Bison Range with horn scars.
Hours of operation:
Fall(September 8 to Mid October): Visitor center open
from 8 am to 6 pm weekdays. Weekends the center is open from 9
am to 6 pm. Red Sleep Mountain Drive is open from 6 am to 6 pm,
and your drive must finish by dark.
Winter(mid October to mid May): Visitor center open from
8 am to 4 pm weekdays. The Bison Range is closed weekends and
holidays during the winter. Red Sleep Mountain Drive closed in
winter. The Winter Drive is open 7 am to dark.
Spring( May 9 to May 22): Visitor center open from 8 am
to 6 pm. Weekends and holidays 9 am to 6 pm. Red Sleep Mountain
Drive open daily from 6:30 am to 6 pm, must finish by dark.
Summer(May 23 to September 7): Visitor center open from
8 am to 6 pm. Weekends and holidays 9 am to 6 pm. Red Sleep Mountain
Drive open daily from 6:30 am to 7 pm, must finish by dark.
Remember that scenic roads can close ay anytime due to a variety
of conditions. Fees for the Bison range are $5 per vehicle per
day. Annual passes are $15.
At the top of the Bison Range looking upon the
The Bison Range is not just about wildlife. The scenery is also
outstanding. At the top of the drive, you can see the spectacular
Mission mountains rising five thousand feet straight up from the
valley floor. The Lolo National Forest and Flathead Indian Reservation
stretch on forever when looking to the west. Mission Creek flows
through the range. This river is incredibly clear and cool, with
a deep aqua color. Bald eagles can be seen along certain stretches.
There is no camping at the National Bison Range. This is the only
page on this excellent location for both scenery and wildlife
viewing. As always, low light hours are the most suitable for
wildlife viewing. Think early morning to late morning, and late
afternoon to evening. The Bison Range is truly one of the best
wildlife locations in the U.S.
Image note: This is from the western portion of the Bison Range
looking east to the spectacular Mission Mountains. These rolling,
grassy hills teem with wildlife.