Montana : Safety by City
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Fans of the hit television series Yellowstone will love to hear more about Darby, Montana, but even those who just love the small-town mountain west vibe of this remote region will fall in love too.
Darby is part of the Bitterroot Valley, surrounded by mountains and with a river and lakes nearby.
Several wildlife refuges dot the landscape, this being moose country and all, but there’s a big game and plenty of hunting opportunities.
This is also a place where you can mine for sapphires as easily as visiting a real-life ghost town.
There are plenty of hotels, campsites, inns, and retreats, but the real showstopper is the Chief Joseph Ranch.
Yellowstone fans will recognize this as Dutton Ranch, and yes, you can stay there.
However, don’t expect Rip to come to tuck you in at night.
You can sleep in his cabin from Season 1!
Darby is a small town of fewer than 700 people, but 20 minutes north, the town of Hamilton has just under 5,000 people and offers great options to include in your tour of the Bitterroot Valley.
Warnings & Dangers in Darby
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk across the county, and we're only going to be able to share Ravalli County crime data as that's the only official information provided in 2021. With the abundance of things to do in the great outdoors, the real safety risks come with not being prepared for the Montana wilderness. We're going to help you out with that.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Renting a car is really the only option here, as taxis and rideshares will be only sporadically available. Since this isn't a huge tourist destination but is more often sought out by people looking to get away from it all, there aren't buses available around the region. You can get a shuttle from the Missoula airport. Be sure your rental car at least has an all-wheel-drive, if not a four-wheel-drive.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Five purse snatchings in the past five years, but none from 2020 and after. The risk is low, but you also don't want to leave your valuable outdoor equipment lying around. Most of the thefts here fall into an "OTHER" category, which could mean campsites, yards, or wilderness areas.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The emergency management plan for Ravalli County lists the following natural disaster risks: wildfire, severe weather, flooding, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Winter weather is also guaranteed here, and some storms can leave you stranded for a few days. Treat it with medium risk and take all the precautions, including preparing a safety kit for your car and lodging.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The town hasn't seen more than three robberies a year since 2000, with nine of those years having no robberies. The risk is historically and currently low.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
The Ravalli County Emergency Management plan discusses the possible risk of radioactive attacks or other acts of terrorism but admits the risk is low. The key message to visitors is just to stay vigilant and report anything suspicious.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
There have been several reports of scams, but they target businesses with fake checks or stolen funds. For the most common risks in America, check the Better Business Bureau website, and the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office will post current scams on social media.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk, but also a lot of education and training women should have to survive and thrive in the wilderness. This is definitely a more rugged country, absent of spas and upscale amenities.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance, but there were two violations, both related to the late reporting of documents and one test. You should bring your own drinking water into the wilderness and not drink from rivers, streams, and lakes.
Safest Places to Visit in Darby
Visit Bitterroot Valley is the official tourism website for the region.
Look for travel guides to get a broad tourism overview, a map of historical sites, an antique shopping guide, and a list of artists’ studios in the region.
The Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce is another great website.
Downtown Darby is a main road with a rustic, Old West feel and has restaurants that serve hearty portions, souvenir shops, and stores for cowboy hats, boots, and other ranch attire.
The historical sites of this Gold Rush region cover 54 miles from Darby to Lolo.
In Darby, you have these options:
- Historic Darby Ranger Station and Museum
- Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum
You can also take historic drives through Nez Perce National Historical Trail, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, and Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail.
At the Sapphire Studio in Hamilton, you get all the gear you need to mine your own sapphires.
Experts on-site will evaluate your stash and even help design custom jewelry.
Wildlife refuge locations in the Bitterroot Valley include:
- Calf Creek Wildlife Management
- Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge
- Teller Wildlife Refuge
- Threemile Wildlife Management Area
The Chief Joseph Ranch is known on television as the Dutton Ranch, and two cabins are available to rent when filming isn’t happening.
It’s just two miles from central Darby.
Guests are welcome to take a photo at the gate, but tours of the ranch aren’t available.
If you rent one of the cabins (Rip or Lee Dutton’s cabin), you will get a tour of the ranch and set locations on the property.
Bitterroot National Forest covers 1.6 million acres just west of Darby.
This region was carved out during the Ice Age, with deep valleys rising to peaks up to 10,000 feet above sea level.
Lake Como is a popular beach spot and swimming hole in the summer.
Along the Bitterroot River on the eastern edge of the city, you can access the fishing bridge or enjoy a riverside walk at the town park.
There are more than a dozen fishing access sites in the region.
Horseback riding, rock climbing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing are just a sample of things to do in the Big Sky Country great outdoors.
Lost Trail Ski Area is 30 minutes south of Darby.
The outdoor options span into Idaho, which is 14 miles west of Darby in the mountains.
Places to Avoid in Darby
You won’t find dangerous neighborhoods or parts of the county too dangerous to drive through.
The only caution I’d give is to avoid driving on private roads or streets, which will be clearly marked.
Avoid going onto the Chief Joseph Ranch, no matter how big of a Yellowstone fan you are.
There will be times of the year when filming is taking place, and security will be tight.
Don’t try to talk your way in, either.
The ranch is privately owned, and a family lives there when filming isn’t taking place.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Darby
- Darby does have a Marshall for law enforcement locally, but the Ravalli County Sheriff takes over outside the town lines. You can find them on Facebook and stay updated on safety advice, road issues, and local events.
- The Ravalli County Sheriff posts daily news releases of crime reports that can in the previous day, offering a great glimpse into the most current crime rates. We only have official data from 2021, so this updated information gives you a better sense of current concerns.
- Sign up for Ravalli County Hyper-Reach alerts through the Emergency Management website to stay updated on weather, fire, and road risks.
- If you’ll be in the wilderness, bring a NOAA weather radio to get updates. Mobile phone service will be limited, and those notifications won’t be helpful if you can’t receive them. The NOAA radio words on batteries can be heard anywhere.
- When you’re driving a dirt or gravel road, so slow. The dust from your car can kick up and blind drivers behind you. If you are caught in a dust cloud from another vehicle, slow down or stop until the dust settles.
- It’s especially important to use 511 MT to check road conditions before you head out on these rural roads. You can use the website or download the app. Each section of the road has a highlighted color explaining the conditions, and if you click on the color, a summary of the roadway pops up. You can also use live cameras and customized alerts to learn more information.
- Anglers need a fishing license and explore the different types of fishing options and the non-resident requirements on the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website. Getting a hunting license is more complicated and requires more training, so research that before making it part of your itinerary.
- To receive powder alerts straight to your phone from Lost Trail Ski Area, text “POWDER” to (406)625-0585. You can also view the snow report on the Lost Trail website.
- Use Inciweb to get check fire conditions, controlled burns, and active wildfires in this region before you head into the wilderness. You also want to know about the fire risks and wind activity, as a small fire can quickly grow with the wrong combination of dry brush and strong winds. Check out the Moose Fire videos from 2022 to see what I’m talking about.
- If you have any information about a crime that isn’t urgent, use the Crime Stoppers anonymously hotline to share information. That number is (406)721-4444.
So... How Safe Is Darby Really?
Violent crime is 80% lower than the national average.
Just 9% of those crimes (3 total) happened against strangers in 2021.
Even theft is very low, with just 10 car break-ins in 2021.
The safety concerns are mostly around the wilderness, wildlife, and weather.
If you don’t know the difference between escaping a charging moose or bison, you should review wildlife safety.
Unsure what to pack?
The Emergency Management office has a lot of great information, but the Ravalli County Search and Rescue group offers lists of what they carry for 72-hour survival outside.
Admit what you don’t know and ask.
The locals know the terrain and gear better than anyone.
Regular hiking boots might need crampons in the winter, or you could wear the wrong base layer fabric.
Stay out of wildfire-ravaged areas, and never assume a fire in the distance won’t impact you.
Check the daily avalanche reports.
There are just a lot of risks you should prepare for to keep your own risk low.
Not all communities in Montana as this safe crime-wise, so read our other articles for additional places you plan to visit.
How Does Darby Compare?
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A passport and visa or visa waiver are required for all international visitors, and the same requirements apply for entering through Canada or the airport. If you plan to visit Canada while you're here, the requirements differ, so check with the Canada Border Services Agency to get more information.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here, and take care of your currency exchange before you get to these small towns. Your home bank will offer the lowest fees. Plan ahead because it might take a day or two for them to get the currency ready.
Bring a lot of comfortable layers with waterproof, sweat-absorbing, and insulation for each season. Summers can get warm, but most days, you'll need a jacket or sweatshirt at some point in the day. Cowboy boots, hiking boots, or snow boots should get you through any day. Bring sunscreen and bug spray too.
The commercial airport in Missoula is the closest option, and that's 90 minutes north. The Bozeman Yellowstone airport is three and a half hours away.
Basic travel insurance is good, but adventure insurance for outdoor activities is great. Also, consider supplemental health insurance to cover any accidents or urgent care visits.
Darby Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Montana - Safety by City