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Reasons to Love Acton Recreation Area, MT

Gorgeous view from the bluffs at acton campground

Introducing Acton Recreation Area 

If I have to think back on all of the different campsites that I have visited throughout my life (I think we’re into the hundreds at this point) there aren’t too many that can beat the beauty, remote serenity, and stillness of Acton recreation area. Only a hop skip and a jump away from Billings, Montana, if you’re on a road trip or just looking for a weekend away, this is your place. 

This camp site is in my top three favorites. Maybe it was the fact that we had just driven a 100 degree Fahrenheit day without any air conditioning and could finally get out of the car, maybe it was the nice friendly cows greeting us along the way, but I think it was just the land itself that made us feel welcomed.

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I want everyone (maybe not everyone, since it’s a rather small area) to know just how lovely a place this is to visit. This article is going to go through how to get there, wonderful activities to do, and all the ins and outs of camping at Acton. Full disclosure: this is a camping area that is rather remote and does not have many amenities, so if you’re looking for hook ups, this ain’t your jaunt! 

I personally discovered Acton recreation area by using the app iOverlander, which is the BEST app made by campers, for campers. It’s a forum based app where you can look at a map and see wild, camping, or city camping all over the country. I highly recommend if you don’t already have it. 

Are you headed out on a road trip? We’ve created the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List here!

Are you going camping? We’ve created the Ultimate Camping Packing List here!

Reasons to Love Acton Recreation Area

Beautiful sunset through ponderosa pines at acton recreation area

If you’ve ever been to Montana before, you know that the desert regions of that state are anything but welcoming in the dead of summer. Hostility comes alive in incessant heat with no repose of cloud, with no lick or drink of water in sight, and endless yellow plains, seemingly void of life. 

And though Acton recreation area is still very much badlands, there is something special and calm about this place. This area is located within the Hoskins Archaeological district, which if you aren’t familiar, is the only place – along with northern Wyoming – where conical and cribbed Aboriginal dwellings can still be found.

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These unique types of dwellings are huge lodges made from thin logs that were once very common, but unfortunately throughout the decades these remains have become more and more rare due to human impact. The lodges have been disassembled mostly for us of firewood or fence posts. It’s a real loss. 

Because of these unique remains and because of the rare and teeming wildlife in the area, off roading vehicles are strictly not allowed to protect these things. However, there are a ton of mountain biking trails that will take you all throughout the recreation area. 

Acton recreation area is a fantastically diverse region of 3,800 acres, with geological events dating back to the cretaceous period. The camping area itself lies atop an upland bluff (this type of formation is characterized by the most elevated and steep area of a hardwood forest) of Eagle sandstone, which is a geological formation that is entirely unique to Montana.

These are known as minor badlands filled with weathered shale, steep drainages, sage brushes, and tall stands of gorgeous ponderosa pine trees (which also so happen to be my favorite tree! I named my Jeep, Ponderosa!). Ponderosas a large and gorgeous evergreen conifer trees with unique bark and lovely shapes. 

How do you Get to Acton Recreation Area?

The Acton recreation area is located just outside of the large metropolitan area of Billings, Montana.

Latitude/Longitude: 46.04515, -108.66518 

  • If you’re coming from Billings, take highway 3 past the town of Acton
  • take a right onto Oswald road, which is located between mile markers 18 and 19 
  • continue down Oswald for 6.5 miles until you reach Haeg road
  • take a right and continue for 2.5 miles until you reach the parking lot entrance
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Take note: the road going in to Acton is a gravel road. It is wide, but make sure you don’t go too fast down the road as traction is low. It may also disturb your neighbors! You don’t need a 4×4 vehicle or a lift to be able to drive the road. 

What is the Camping like at Acton?

Small tent set up at acton campground

Acton recreation is dispersed camping on BLM land. I absolutely adore BLM land. If you aren’t familiar with BLM, it stands for Bureau of Land Management which is dedicated to maintaining places for folks to camp under the stars. While some BLM land requires a fee from its visitors, dispersed camping is free. 

There are all sorts of different campers out there with different preferences. My personal preference is a camping area that is super duper minimal, I don’t even really care for a toilet most of the time. (Did you know that the new, proper Leave-No-Trace method for pooping outdoors is by smearing it on a rock and leaving it to dry in the sun? Graphic!) 

So if you’re the type of camper who requires service, plug ins, showers, and running water, this place might not be to your liking. Though it’s only about 40 minutes away from town, make sure you bring more than enough water to last you. 

The campground at Acton is friendly to both tent campers and big rig campers. There are about 10 campsites in the area and they are very generously spaced apart, so you have a ton of privacy and can’t hear your neighbors. Each camp site over looks the bluffs down into the badlands.

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View of campsite at acton recreation area

Electricity: NO

Wifi: NO

Showers: NO 

Running Water: NO 

Dumping Station: NO

Pit Toilet: YES

And did I mention that camping at Acton is completely free

What Activities can you do at Acton?

The main attraction for people at Acton is the 6.6 miles of mapped roads for motor use. Remember not to go off the trails to protect wildlife and those lodge remains we were talking about! 

There are 12 different trails in total, with an average rating of 4 stars and all different levels of difficulty so that everyone can get involved! 

You can find the website mapping out the different trails here!

Gorgeous view overlooking acton recreation area

Mountain Biking

The main attraction for Acton recreation area is definitely the mountain biking. Numerous mountain biking festivals and competitions have been held here! There are a dozen trails at various difficulty levels, meaning there’s something for the whole family. 

Hiking 

Acton is also marvellous or easy hiking. You can use the same trails as the mountain bikers do, just make sure you stay on alert for those speedy bikers zipping by! 

Horseback Riding

Acton is a gorgeous place to go horseback riding. The trails are nice and wide and aren’t too steep for horses. 

Hunting 

Hunting is another super popular sport to engage in at Acton, but only during the legal hunting season according to Montana state law. 

Nature Observation

Make sure that you don’t forget your binoculars, because there is a ton of wildlife to see out here! Folks have been known to see:

  • osprey
  • bald eagle 
  • golden eagle 
  • antelope
  • bighorn sheep
  • bison
  • bobcat
  • lynx
  • coyote 
  • elk
  • gray wolf
  • mink
  • moose
  • mountain goat 
  • mountain lion 
  • mule deer
  • white tailed deer 
  • red fox
  • skunk 
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Sun streaming through ponderosa pine tree at acton campground

FAQs

Can I bring a pet to Acton recreation area?

Acton is dispersed camping on BLM land, so they’re very chill about having unleashed pets on the area. But as always, the discretion is always up to the pet owner. My dog has excellent recall and also has good depth perception, so I felt safe letting her off leash.

Since the camp ground is on the edge of a canyon, it may make some folks a little bit nervous if their pet got a little bit too close to the edge. Additionally, there are always folks going by quickly on the trails and there’s always danger of your pet getting in the way. 

What should I bring to camp at Acton recreation area? 

Since there aren’t any amenities close to or on the Acton property, you should arrive at the campsite with everything that you need for the length of your stay. I brought a ton of drinking water and all the groceries that I needed to eat. Additionally, I made sure to have a big garbage bag so that I could pack out everything I needed to dispose of. 

Are there rangers on the Acton recreation area?

There are no active rangers on site.

How much does it cost to go camp at Acton recreation campground? 

Acton recreation is dispersed camping on BLM land. I absolutely adore BLM land. If you aren’t familiar with BLM, it stands for Bureau of Land Management which is dedicated to maintaining places for folks to camp under the stars. While some BLM land requires a fee from its visitors, dispersed camping is free. 

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Are there toilets at Acton recreation area?

There are pit toilets just at the parking lot entrance of the Acton recreation area, but there are not toilets within the grounds itself.  

Are there bears on the Acton recreation trails? 

Both black bears and grizzly bears are present in southwestern Montana, but the landscape around Acton is not entirely suitable for their lifestyle. They may be seen passing through the area, but they do not populate the area. 

Are there garbage cans at the Acton recreation area?

There are no garbage cans at Acton recreation area. Though this may seem odd to some people, it is because this is BLM dispersed camping land. This means that the grounds are available to the public but they are not actively maintained. 

It is the responsibility of the visitors to dispose of the waste that they bring in. The most important rule of respectful camping it LEAVE NO TRACE. This means that whatever you pack in, you pack out as well. This is the most respectful way to engage with the land. 

Is there service at the Acton recreation area?

There is no service at Acton recreation area. 

How many campsites are there at Acton?

The campground at Acton is friendly to both tent campers and big rig campers. There are about 10 campsites in the area and they are very generously spaced apart, so you have a ton of privacy and can’t hear your neighbors. Each camp site over looks the bluffs down into the badlands.

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Do you have to reserve a campsite in order to visit Acton recreation area? 

Since Acton recreation area is dispersed camping, there is no way to reserve a spot. It is a first come first served type of situation which may be risky to some, but it is also entirely free to camp at Acton.

Are there ticks at Acton recreation area? 

Ticks are actually quite rarely found in southwestern Montana. Though cases have been reported, all of them have been infections on animals. It is nothing like the tick problem in more eastern states, as ticks prefer to live in more moist areas.

Is there running water at Acton recreation area?

There is no running water at Acton recreation area, potable or otherwise. It is very important to bring as much water as possible, since there are also no lakes or rivers nearby either.