Of all the outdoor destinations in the northwest, the National Parks certainly do have the highest attendance numbers, yet these prime time destinations may not be the best choice for those who just want to getaway from it all. Although most visitors are eager to experience a spiritual awakening at the majestic National Parks, the overcrowding, long waiting lines and high prices do have a way of wearing down the nerves. For this reason, if all that you want to do is find a peaceful spot to relax and relieve stress, it may be best to seek the lesser known outdoor destinations that are not in the limelight.
For those who only intend to go on an outdoor adventure with the goal of relaxing, goofing off and have a peaceful fun time, there are nearly endless options to be found in the National Forests and BLM Recreation Areas of the northwest! There are plenty of these lesser known destinations and they offer a good value too. Overcrowding is rarely a problem and campsites are easy to find, so some long overdue stress relief will be within reach.
Some good examples of easy going BLM Recreation Areas can be found along the Upper Madison River in western Montana. There are four recreational area campgrounds in a row that are located along Highway 287 about 40 miles west of the Yellowstone National Park West Gate. These spots are a good option for those who cannot find an empty campsite inside Yellowstone and for tourists seeking a stopover on the way to Glacier National Park. Both the Virginia City and Nevada City ghost towns are only a few miles north of these BLM campgrounds, so there is plenty to see and do in this area.
The Ruby Creek Recreation Area is the northernmost of the four campgrounds along Highway 287 and there are plenty of wide open spaces in this area. The Ruby Creek Campground is right on the banks of the Upper Madison River and there is a boat ramp, so all that a visitor has to do is break out the fishing gear to catch dinner! This campground has 22 campsites, limited facilities and running water. Most of the campsites have fire rings and picnic tables, while full RV hookups are not available. Just like with most BLM campgrounds, Ruby Creek has a seasonal host, so it is customary to check in with the host after selecting a campsite. The camping fee is cheap by modern standards and can it can be paid at the self service station.
The Ruby Creek Campground is situated in a very picturesque glacial valley setting and the main attraction is fishing in the Upper Madison River. Even more adventures can be found by following the dirt roads from the recreation area uphill into the Beaverhead National Forest. Toward late summer when the hunting season begins, the Ruby Creek Campground is a nice choice for a basecamp because of the prime location.
My experience at the Ruby Creek Campground only involved a late in the day overnighter during the autumn season and I broke camp at dawn the next morning. I was on my way south from Glacier National Park, so it was like the last chance to find a cheap campsite before getting to Yellowstone. About one week prior I did camp at the neighboring BLM Palisades Recreation Area, which is also located next to the Upper Madison River, so I was familiar with the area. This region definitely is Grizzly Bear and big Black Bear country, so it pays to read the kiosk board postings before setting up camp. Bears were recently reported roaming through the area, so using Bear Safe food storage methods was necessary to do.
The Ruby Creek Recreation Area is a cozy little spot to find some peace and quiet in a beautiful wilderness setting. There are no big crowds, yet Yellowstone Park is only about one hour away. If rest, relaxation and rejuvenation while doing some trout fishing is in the plans, then be sure to keep the BLM Recreation Areas along Highway 287 in mind!
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