The Top 10 Geological Field Trip Locations in Montana and Yellowstone

The MSU web development team has put their heads together to name the top ten geology field trips in Montana and Yellowstone, based on superb geology, scenery, access, and educational value. For each location, we list our favorite road logs or field guides. They are listed below in no particular order.

Old Faithful Geyser
1. Yellowstone National Park

The world's first national park highlights spectacular volcanic and hydrothermal features in one of the world's largest active volcanic areas.


Rock Creek Valley
2. Beartooth Highway

One of the country's most scenic drives features one of the continent's most complete records of early crustal evolution and growth, as well as classic examples of glacial landforms.


geologists in the field
3. Stillwater Complex

One of the best-known, best-studied, and most-accessible layered mafic intrusions in the world.


Heart Mountain fault
4. Heart Mountain Detachment Fault

The largest known subaerial landslide on Earth and the focus of intense geologic research into one of the great, long-standing mysteries of geology.


Hebgen Lake Earthquake damage
5. Hebgen Lake Earthquake Area

The largest historic earthquake within the Intermountain Seismic Belt occurred in Montana in 1959 and produced spectacular fault scarps, a large landslide, a deformed lake basin, and a new lake.


Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park
6. Glacier National Park

The spectacular scenery of Glacier National Park features Proterozoic sedimentary rocks, basaltic sills, thrust faults, active glaciers, and glacial deposits.

Bug Creek
7. Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary at Bug Creek

One of the best-studied terrestrial sections across the K/T boundary in the world and a classic locality for the study of the paleoecology and stratigraphy of dinosaur extinction and early mammalian radiation.


camas ripples
8. Glacial Lake Missoula and the Spokane Floods

Glacial Lake Missoula was the largest of several lakes impounded by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. Periodic melting of the ice dam resulted in at least 36 catastrophic floods, causing large-scale erosion of the Clark Fork River Valley and large areas of eastern Washington State and deposition of giant ripples 35 feet high in Camas Prairie.


Butte mining district
9. Butte

Porphyry and vein-type Cu-Mo-Pb-Zn-Ag deposits associated with the Boulder batholith made the historic mining town of Butte the "richest hill on Earth".


Sun River Canyon in the Sawtooth Range
10. Sun River Canyon

Sun River Canyon in the Sawtooth Range highlights one of the best exposed examples of imbricate thrust faulting in the foreland fold and thrust belt of the western United States.


Photo Credits

Old Faithful Geyser - Michael Hoffmann, California Institute of Technology; Rock Creek Valley - Bob Bauer, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, and used by permission; Heart Mountain fault - Kurt Hollocher, Union College Geology Department; Hebgen Lake Earthquake damage - J.B. Hadley, U.S. Geological Survey; Going-to-the-Sun Road - John Stumpf, []; Bug Creek - Jan Smit, Department of Sedimentology, Vrije Universiteit, The Netherlands