Sluice Boxes State Park contains the remains of old settlement cabins, mines, and a portion of a railroad system set in a beautiful rugged canyon. Whether you’re looking to fish, camp, hike, or take a look at the old structures, this park is a great place to explore. Living in Great Falls, we visit Sluice Boxes very often and enjoy every visit no matter the season. Here are all the details to help you plan your visit!
Getting to Sluice Boxes State Park
Sluice Boxes State Park is located just off Highway-89 between Belt and Monarch. There are multiple parking areas and ways to access the trails in the park.
The main entrance is the Evans Riceville parking area. This lower trailhead has a fee station, restrooms, and some information about the park. The parking area is not huge, but we have never encountered issues with parking, even on weekends. If you are just driving by but want to stop and see the canyon, there is a pullout nearby on Highway-89. This overlook is not located within park boundaries.
Another way to access the trails in Sluice Boxes is to continue past the main entrance down Evans Riceville Road for about 1.5 miles. The Overlook parking area is smaller and has no fee station or restrooms.
Lastly, the park lists a trail access point further south at a sharp turn on Logging Creek Road but doesn’t list this as a parking area or trailhead. We have never accessed the park from this spot as the other two areas are closer and more convenient for us.
To view the park map, click here.
Montana residents who paid the $9 state parks fee when registering a vehicle don’t have to pay the day-use fee at Sluice Boxes State Park.
If you did not pay this fee or are not a Montana resident, it costs $8 per vehicle per day or $35 for a 7-day pass. Passes can be purchased with cash deposited at the fee station. You can also purchase a Montana state parks annual pass for $50 online beforehand.
- Pets are permitted on leash
- Pack out all your trash
- Alcohol is not permitted
- Check fire bans on the park website before your visit
Hiking in Sluice Boxes State Park
There are 7.5 miles of trails winding through Sluice Boxes State Park. The trails wind along the cliffs, Belt Creek, waterfalls, and structures that remain from mining times. The main aspect to consider when hiking in the park is that there are many river crossings on the trail. The park map shows the river crossings you may encounter and the distances between them.
In the spring when the water is too high or in the winter when it’s freezing and icy, we opt to hike from the upper overlook parking area because this allows us to hike the greatest distance before encountering a river crossing. We also enjoy hiking from this point in the winter because there is a waterfall near the upper parking lot that looks beautiful when frozen over. Hiking from this point down to Belt Creek results in more elevation change compared to the flat trails within the canyon.
In the summer and fall months, we generally start at the main entrance. When the river isn’t flowing as high, we enjoy crossing the chilly river. There are also some old cabins to peek in near this entrance just after the first river crossing.
No matter which trail you choose, you’ll be rewarded with some great scenery in the Little Belts!
There are no developed campgrounds in Sluice Boxes State Park. However, backcountry camping is permitted. For more information and to obtain a permit, reach out to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office in Great Falls.
Check the Sluice Boxes State Park alerts for fire restrictions. Proper food storage to deter bears is required. Also note that the park is surrounded by private property. Please be respectful of other’s property and the park boundaries when hiking and setting up camp.
Other Activities in Sluice Boxes State Park
Beyond hiking and camping, there are various other activities to do in Sluice Boxes State Park. One popular activity is fishing. We have seen many people carrying in their fishing gear and there are some great spots along the river to set up for a while. If you want to fish, be sure to bring your Montana fishing license.
Additionally, the river provides a great place to tube and swim. There are a few clear and flat spots on the rocky shoreline to hang out and take a swim in the nearby deeper pool sections. When swimming, tubing, or crossing the river, use your best judgement in regards to the water flow and your abilities.
As mentioned earlier, Sluice Boxes State Park has quite a few remnants of mining times scattered through the park. Mining once boomed in Montana, resulting in many little towns setting up in the state. This includes the Little Belt Mountains where miners, hunters and fisherman, and railroad workers settled and visited starting in the late 1800s. As you hike through the park, you’ll come across some wooden cabins, old railroad bridges and tracks, and other remains.
There is an array of wildlife that can be seen in Sluice Boxes State Park. Keep an eye out for a variety of fish and birds like eagles, hawks, and ducks. There are also deer, rodents, elk, and coyotes in the area.
Most notably, black bears and mountain lions are known to live in the Little Belts. Bring along the bear spray. We’ve seen a bear or fresh signs of bears during every summer and fall visit. We have also come across rattlesnakes, so watch your step and listen for rattle warnings as you hike.
What to Bring
Sturdy Walking Shoes: There are some rocky sections along the trails in the park. Consider water shoes, such as Tevas or Chacos, if planning to cross the river during your hike.
Mini First Aid Kit: An item we always like to have just in case.
Snacks: There are some great spots to hang out and eat some snacks or a packed lunch along the river.
Bear Spray: Bears frequent the area, so bring along your bear spray and know how to use it.
Layers: Even some summer mornings and evenings can be chilly. We recommend bringing light layers and/or a wind breaker. Heavier layers and gloves plus a beanie may be needed during colder parts of the year.
Sun Protection: Some of the trail is not shaded, so bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and/or a hat.
Crampons/Spikes: We have found these to be incredibly helpful in the winter when the trails are snowy and slick.
Other Gear: You may want to bring trekking poles, fishing gear, a hammock, camping gear, etc. – depending on your preferences and plans for your visit.