Each month we highlight an airstrip with hopes that you will get out and enjoy these special places. In honor of our 20th anniversary month, we’re featuring Ryan Field, Montana.

The last twenty years have seen incredible change at a very special place called Ryan Field, 2MT1.

What began as a quarter section of forest near West Glacier, Montana became a twentieth century homestead for two remarkable people, Ben and Agnes “Butchie” Ryan, U.S. Army World War II veterans. After their military service and careers that took them all over a troubled world, they toured America in search of just the right place to settle for good. Ben built a sawmill and scraped a 2,500 foot runway out of the forest. Butchie planted yellow and purple Iris that added spring color around their A-frame home after long winters.

Their most frequent visitors were deer, elk, mountain lion, black and grizzly bears, and an occasional moose roaming through.

The RAF founders were introduced to Ryans in 2004, and the couple recognized that the start-up foundation had the right mission to consider as eventual stewards of their land. Ryans gave permission to RAF volunteers to begin building a few rustic amenities to serve backcountry aviators. The pilot shelter, with a vintage wood cookstove was dedicated in 2006, and became the hub of activity for Ryan Fly-in steak barbecues, potluck spreads, and baking contests. Volunteers added a privy and shower enclosure. Each year, thanks to volunteers’ efforts, the runway turf flourished, lined with mountain wildflowers, (and many bear scat sightings!) These volunteers were fortunate to have known Ben and Butchie. She often brought cookies or ice cream to them, even wild strawberries when they were in season.

The Ryans are gone, but their desire for a place for all to enjoy backcountry aviation lives on. Depending on the time of your visit, you may see Butchie’s Iris blooming, abundant beargrass, or in late summer you can vie with the bears for huckleberries. Fall brings colorful foliage and fleeting alpenglow.

Butchie’s Iris bloom in front of the Ryan Barn, photo by Mike Hines

There are rustic cabins at Ryans available for hard-sided camping. Reserve by emailing ryancabins@theraf.org.  

The Amish timber Ryan barn, also raised by volunteers, not only houses essential maintenance equipment, but has a shiny new wood cookstove to keep the homestead tradition going when the RAF hosts events. Two modern plumbed restrooms are available 24/7 for campers. Select a bright orange Adirondack chair and enjoy the sunset from the barn porch, or circle the RAF fire pit for evening warmth under the stars.

Please sign in at the kiosk, where you’ll find hiking maps and other information for your enjoyment of this special place. 

“Over the years I had the opportunity to talk to both Ben and Butchie lots of times,” said Chairman John McKenna. “The one thing they said each and every time I was with them was we just wanted people to always have this place remain an airfield where folks could come and enjoy. The RAF has worked hard to fulfill their desire and we hope this becomes your special place as well.”

A weather station on the field is operational May-October. Simply text the letter “A” to 406-223-8069. See the Airfield Guide for details and the required Safety Briefing.

Submitted on May 30, 2023.


  1. Margie Prill on June 2, 2023 at 10:36 am

    The original pilot shelter is still, for me, the heart of Ryan Field, filled with many memories of hard work and happy times with members of my RAF family. It is also still available for use, along with it’s wood stove, picnic tables and fire pit. So if you have not been to Ryan Field yet be sure to add it to your bucket list. You will not be sorry.

    Oh, and keep your eyes open for the painted rocks that some of our junior visitors have left there. If you want to leave your own mark, I challenge you to leave a rock, some chopped firewood, or message of your own in the visitors log.

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