Bison roaming in the foothills of the Spanish Peaks (photo by Rick and Susie Graetz)
The first question is - how did this range get the name Spanish Peaks? No one knows for certain but it is thought these mountains were named for prospectors who came north into what would become Montana from Mexican territories.
They rise abruptly from the west edge of US Hwy 191 and the Gallatin River shortly after entering the Gallatin Canyon to the Big Sky entrance and then dominate the northern horizon of Big Sky and beyond ending at the Madison River. The north face of the range is viewed from the public right away passing through the sprawling Flying D Ranch owned by Ted Turner. Bison can be seen roaming the foothills.
Very old, 1.6 billion year-old gneiss (nice), a metamorphic rock, forms these lofty summits. They rose along a fault line that extends southeast from the Spanish Peaks into the Gallatin Range. A narrow canyon, carrying the Gallatin River separates these two southwest Montana mountain ranges.
Gallatin Peak, 11,015’, is the highest pinnacle in the Spanish Peaks.
Rick Graetz | UM Department of Geography