Monday, January 3, 2011

Diamond Butte ...

There are lots of interesting hotels and B&Bs in Montana, but for my money the best places to stay out here are the ones you can reserve at These lodgings are very different from your typical motel -- they're mostly old Forest Service cabins and fire lookouts, built decades ago for ranger patrols and now rented to adventurous travelers. Nearly all are extremely remote and quite rustic ... no electricity, running water, or paved roads at these places, just lots of solitude and spectacular views. And peace.

I've rented a number of these cabins over the years, and they've all been idyllic places. Here's one of my very favorites: the old Diamond Butte Lookout, an hour or so south of Ashland in an almost-unvisited corner of the Custer National Forest. It's a thoroughly isolated spot, and I think the lookout only gets a handful of reservations a year, but staying there is a wonderful experience. I took this photo on a July evening last year as I arrived at the lookout, just after a summer thunderstorm had passed. It was a glorious evening, watching the sun set over the prairies and hours of nighttime lightning strikes off towards the Black Hills. I didn't see another soul, and it was if I had the world to myself.


  1. Oh, wow! You DID have the world to yourself...gloriously.

    Welcome back! Missed you!

  2. That country south of Ashland is one of my very favorite parts of the whole state ... I absolutely love it down there. It's a beautiful and evocative land, and almost entirely without people, and I like it for both of those reasons. :)

    And thank you, my friend. It's very good to be back, and I hope I can keep it up for a while.

  3. Lovely Photo--I also love the land from Custer Forest down into Powder River Country. I would love to spend time in the Diamond Butte Lookout!

  4. I was the Wildland Fire Watchout at Diamond Butte the summer of 2013. I employed by BLM-Fire(, for the Custer-Gallatin National Forest( I had a fantastic summer!

    1. Joseph, very cool! I could definitely spend a summer there.

      Diamond Butte was the first fire lookout I stayed at, but I've became much more intrigued by then in the years since, to the point where I spent part of three summers volunteering as a lookout for the Flathead NF. I kept a blog of some of those days at this address:

      Montana Journal

      I'll be at Porphyry Lookout in the Lewis & Clark NF this summer.