Here is how you don’t want to visit the Pryor Mountains, located about 60 miles south of Billings.

You don’t want to take Highway 310 the 67 miles south to Warren with the idea of driving southeast along the base of the mountains on the gravel Gyp Road. If you do, you might end up wandering close to the old Swamp Frog mine in a sea of sagebrush and rock, uncertain of where the heck you are located.

Recalculating my inner tracking device, because it would be wrong to use GPS or a map, I finally hooked into the Crooked Creek Road (Forest Road 2085) — my original target — to climb up the valley between the East and West Pryors. That is one bumpy road, so don’t go that way unless you enjoy bouncy travel or testing your vehicle’s suspension.

To further my punishment, I drove up past the Big Ice Cave with the idea of continuing on to the wild horse range on another kidney-bruiser of a road (Forest Road 2849). But on the way to the Dry Head Overlook, at about 8,600 feet, we were turned back by snow and mud. So much for the quiet weekend drive, and no, we didn’t see any wild horses.

The way I should have gone, and you should travel, is to turn on to the Sage Creek Road just after crossing the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River south of Bridger. That’s a much better road, except for the section that crosses the Crow Reservation.

Despite all of my errors in navigation and judgment, we did see beautiful red cliffs near the base of Crooked Creek Road, wound past steep canyons and a small band of bighorn sheep. From the top near Dry Head the sun played in stunning stripes of gold across the badlands and bluffs below. From a pullout on Crooked Creek Road I could see the blue ribbon of Bighorn Reservoir about 15 miles and 5,000 feet below in Wyoming. On a clearer day the Beartooth Mountains and Heart Mountain would have shone in the distance.

So even a badly navigated trip into this island mountain range is still worth a weekend drive. Just don’t follow, or ride, with me.

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Montana Untamed Editor

Montana Untamed editor for the Billings Gazette.