The Crazy Mountains are an isolated mountain range in South Central Montana. A part of the greater Rocky Mountains, the Crazy Mountains stand alone, spanning over 40 miles. The prominent Crazy Peak and Big Timber Peak stretch up to the sky from the middle of the range as seen from the Eastern side of the Mountains, creating a picturesque, balanced vista.
Because the Crazy Mountains in Montana are detached from other nearby mountain ranges, they are a dramatic and majestic range, appearing to rise out of nowhere. Explorers and hikers in the Crazy Mountains range will be richly rewarded by finding breathtaking vistas and peaks to summit, and many hidden mountains lakes, some of which contain large schools of wild trout.
Most of the Crazy Mountains range is surrounded by private land and ranches, many of which are still owned by the descendents of the original homesteaders to this area! Because of this, access to the Crazy Mountains is limited to only a few public roads like the Big Timber Canyon Road which leads to Halfmoon Campground. Thankfully, Montana Cabin Rentals provides not only luxury mountain retreat cabins, but also access to the Crazy Mountains in Montana for explorers, fishermen, and even hunters.
One of many hidden Mountain Lakes in the Crazies
Crazy Mountains, a Montana Legend
So why the Crazy Mountains? A fascinating legend explains this unorthodox name. And like any legend, the facts and fiction of the story were likely blended somewhere along the way, leaving the reader to determine how much to believe.
A long time ago, when Indians still roamed the wild and cowboys spent long, lonely nights guarding their cattle herds on the prairie, a family settled high in the woods of these mountains. The mother, father, and their three boys built a cabin somewhere deep in the vast expanse of what is now known as the Crazy Mountains. Genuine pioneers whose name has been long forgotten, this family likely migrated from Europe and then set out across the wild and untamed Western United States to build a new life for themselves.
And they did build a new life. Many such sojourners and travelers, pioneers and explorerers, and eventually homesteaders under the Homestead Act, followed the trail blazed by Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery with similar intentions. But this was a harsh and rugged land. Still completely untouched by Western civilization, this was a land of harsh winters and high winds, rocky soil and and rugged mountains. Many pioneers and homesteaders gave up and went back to their homes in the East, often with a much smaller family than had set out to begin with because of disease, hardships or starvation, and even violent encounters with Indians. Only the few heartiest and most determined lasted a lifetime and can be properly credited with settling these wild lands.
The family in the legend of the Crazy Mountains was indeed heartier than most. Faced with hardship and opposition, dangers and trials, they outlasted and conquered every trial, surviving year after year off the land. One fateful summer afternoon, the father and his three sons were busy around the cabin, perhaps cutting firewood in expectation of a long winter ahead. The mother took the opportunity to get away for a short time. Perhaps she loved long walks in the shadows of the majestic mountains as much as nature-seekers do today. It was a trip that she likely regretted the rest of her life.
View up the mountain canyon from Fisher Cabin
When she came back to their cabin home in the mountains, something felt terribly wrong. There was no sound of wood being chopped, or of a family conversing and laughing together. The fire in the wood stove must have burned itself cold, because no smoke rose from the chimney. With that instinct innate in only the most caring mothers, she ran in fear to the cabin door which stood ajar, half torn from its home-made hinges. A gaping hole had been torn through the door near the handle, which she hardly noticed as she peered around the corner through the opening. What she saw made her gasp.
There was her husband, sprawled out on the floor face down, with a strip of scalp having been cut from the top of his head. His fingers still encircled the family rifle, but his skin was pale and cold to the touch. Her children, likewise, lay dead around the cabin. Pools of drying blood encircled savage wounds. In the chair by the fireplace sat her oldest son, rigid and dark with wide eyes of terror. A tomahawk stuck in his chest, with a beaded band around the handle and feathers tied just below the blade. Her family was gone. She was alone.
No one knows what happened in then ensuing moments. Some say the woman stood in the doorway for a day and a night in terrible, silent shock. Some say she screamed and wailed so loudly and so long that her wails were carried down from the mountain by the winds, and old sheepherders solemnly listened to the cries of what they thought was a banshe. Some say not a single tear dropped from her face, but she buried her family in silence beneath a young cottonwood tree.
What is believed by most, however, is that something snapped in the mind of this woman. Perhaps it was as she buried her family by the homestead they'd built together. Perhaps it happened when she pulled the tomahawk from her oldest son's chest. She became a solemn and hard woman- a very different kind of person from the one who had left on that afternoon walk in the shadows of the mountains.
She likely knew the Indians would return for her, and she likely awaited this moment with fear and anticipation. But she did not flee as most would have. In fact, she never came down from the mountains again. One week later, the Indians returned.
Legend has it that the lone woman set aside her rifle, and did not pick up the revolver or the blade her husband had worn in the war. Rather, she took up the tomahawk which had killed her oldest son. She did not wait for the Indians to come into the cabin but went out to meet them, thirsty for war and for vengeance. Tradition holds that the woman charged the Indians with tomahawk in hand, and attacked them savagely and brutally, wildly swinging the tomahawk.
The Indians did not kill her that day. Perhaps they admired her courage. Or perhaps she had attacked them so brutally and wildly that they fled before her wrath. The Indians gave her the name of Crazy Woman, and never bothered her again. Later, settlers would learn the name which the Crow Indians still called the mountains where that family had settled so long ago- "Crazy Woman Mountains." They shortened the name to "Crazy Mountains," by which they are still called to this day.
Hundreds of homesteads dot the Crazy Mountains range
No one knows how much of story of Crazy Woman is fact and how much is fiction. But there are ruins of many homesteads in the Crazy Mountains which can still be seen today, and surely all of the Crazy Mountains have not been explored yet. Perhaps, one day, someone hiking in these mountains will find the remains of a homestead with four graves laid side by side beneath an ancient cottonwood tree. Perhaps an old, beaded tomahawk will lay beside them.