Visiting Montana is like grabbing treats from a candy bag. There are plenty of different flavors to choose from, and you can stumble upon a tasty morsel you weren’t expecting, or you can pick through to find your favorites. But no matter your tastes, there’s plenty to enjoy. The same goes for a trip to the Treasure State. So if you’re trying to narrow down your itinerary, here are just 10 must-see stops to squeeze into your Montana vacation.
Glacier National Park’s high mountains, blue rivers and deep alpine lakes are just the start of your scenic time here. You can also spy bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bears, plenty of birds and other wildlife. Whether you just want the drive of a lifetime along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, or you’re ready to strap on a pack and head deep into the backcountry, you can find an adventure in Glacier.
Rent a kayak, sign up for a guided paddle, or hop on a charter to get out to Wild Horse Island, smack dab in the middle of the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Once you hit the island, you’re on your own to explore. The island has some of the largest bighorn sheep rams in the world, along with its titular herd of wild horses. Take a hike to the top and enjoy some wildlife viewing in this culturally significant spot.
In Polson, you can take a deep dive into Flathead Lake’s history at the Miracle of America Museum. From the cultural side of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to eastern aggression, on up to the world wars, you can take in a lot from a few hours at the museum. Take in the displays, and immerse yourself in the region’s history.
When it comes to wildlife, the National Bison Range is as close as you can get to a guaranteed sighting, located just south of Polson. Of course, wildlife watching is never a sure thing, but you have the opportunity to spot bison, bears, and more as you drive through the site. A recently renovated visitor center dives deep into this place's cultural and ecological significance in vivid exhibits that bring history to life.
At the gateway to West Glacier, Hungry Horse is a dam town built on hard work. And nothing shows that more than a trip to that dam. While gravel roads can take you all the way around the reservoir, you don’t have to leave the pavement to see this impressive edifice rising up from the South Fork of the Flathead River. When you see the view highlighted with mountains peering over the reservoir behind, you’ll understand the magic of Glacier Country when you stop for a look.
As the nation’s first national park, Yellowstone has something for every park visitor. Between the wildlife, geology, geothermal activity and wide open spaces off the beaten track, you can lose yourself here for as long as you have time.
As we’ve mentioned, there are no guarantees when it comes to wildlife watching, at least in the wild. But the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center offers up a chance to see some of these animals up close, in a sustainable way. And your visit helps give back to rehabilitated animals, contributing to education and research for years to come.
Montana is just as beautiful underground as it is above. Step below the surface with a tour at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. The two-hour, two-mile classic cave tour takes you around twists and turns, up close with cave formations, and even down a slide.
There’s nothing quite like a stark look at Butte’s mining history from the lip of the Berkeley Pit. This vestige of Butte’s last gasp of mining prowess takes the form of an open pit mine, yawning open a mile long by a half-mile wide. Look into its depths, and get a glimpse of the past.
On the Montana Tech campus in Butte, rockhounds can get excited to explore the fantastical formations and mystical minerals on display at the Mineral Museum. Peek into the nooks and crannies here, discovering rocks from around the world and around the region.
When it’s time to settle in for the night, Highline Adventures has properties all along your western Montana route. Opt for a sustainable stay, and book your spot.