If you want to experience travel in Glacier National Park as it was more than 100 years ago, book a reservation at Many Glacier Hotel.
Many Glacier Hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914-15. Today the hotel still stands and retains its historic charm and grandeur. A true architectural gem. The hotel is a National Historic Landmark.
Many Glacier Hotel is located deep in the wilderness on the east shore of beautiful Swiftcurrent Lake. Guests at the hotel are surrounded by nature. Prominent glacier-carved mountain peaks include Grinnell Point, Altyn, Allen, Wynn, Henkel, and Wilber. A mature forest consisting of lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, and quaking aspen adds amazing beauty to the landscape. It’s hard to imagine a more scenic and spectacular setting in America.
The hotel has 205 guest rooms, plus two suites and seven family rooms. The atmosphere is rustic, but basic amenities of modern travel are here to satisfy needs of guests. True to the hotel’s historic character, no TVs or noise from modern air conditioning ruin your experience. Old-world charm here at its best.
In addition to the rooms, the hotel features Swiss lounge; Heidi’s Snack Shop; a gift shop; and the Ptarmigan Dining Room. The dining room has breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
At breakfast, the Ptarmigan Dining Room serves buffet-style or guests can order entrees such as Ptarmigan Parfait, Greek Yogurt, Muesli, Fresh Berries, and Cacao nibs, for $8.95. A more traditional breakfast, 49er flapjacks with powdered sugar, Huckleberry Jam, and Syrup, goes for $7.95.
For dinner, a favorite is Sautéed Rainbow Trout, Lemon, Capers, Brown Butter, Parsley, Brown & Wild Rice Blend, for $29.90. Braised Bison Short Ribs Dark Beer, Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes, $32.50.
All yummy and supreme for sure and served in the most splendid ambiance that hospitality can offer. Dining in the Ptarmigan Dining Room is first-come-first-served.
Many Glacier Road (Route 3) is the only road to Many Glacier Hotel. This road starts from near the small village of Babb, Montana on the east side of Glacier National Park. Drive west on Many Glacier Road (Route 3) to reach the hotel. The distance is about 12 miles from the junction of U.S. Highway 89 and Many Glacier Road (Route 3).
Many Glacier Hotel is some distance away from Going-to-the-Sun Road and busier parts of Glacier National Park. Still, many people visit this area for its outdoor recreational opportunities, especially hiking and nature viewing. A few people stay at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins and Many Glacier Campground, not far from Many Glacier Hotel. This area is often called Many Glacier Valley.
If they choose, guests at Many Glacier Hotel can go hiking on Swift Current Nature Trail which borders Swiftcurrent Lake. This trail is a 2.3 mile loop, partly wheelchair accessible, with a trailhead near Many Glacier Hotel.
Travel tip: The area around the hotel has abundant wildlife such as mountain goats, black bears, grizzly bears, osprey, and songbirds. In the outdoors, guests should take precautions when near wildlife and follow the regulations/rules set by Park officials. Wildlife is wild and unpredictable and can be dangerous.
Are you ready for a luxury vacation? If so, four high-end guest ranches and resorts in the mountains of southwest Montana are ready to welcome you.
• Triple Creek Ranch in the Bitterroot Valley, near Darby, Montana, offers much fun. TrippleCreekRanch.com (406) 821-4600
• The Resort at Paws Up near Greenough, Montana, 35 minutes northeast of Missoula, rivals the best. PawsUp.com (877) 580-6343
• The Sage Lodge a few miles south of Livingston, Montana is sparkling new. SageLodge.com (855) 400-0505.
• The Silver Bow Club near Butte offers has abundant activities for guests in a beautiful setting. Silverbowclub.com (406) 491-2157
These Luxury vacation destinations offer extra nice lodging, great cuisine, and activities galore, all in beautiful surroundings. Best of all, highly trained staff are eager to help and guide you at every turn. Prices at luxury guest ranches and resorts are high; still, for those rolling in the dough, the experience is well worth the cost.
Triple Creek Ranch offers wellness treatment, stocked trout ponds, fitness center, swimming pool, tennis court, horseback riding, hiking trails, and more. A wine cellar will satisfy the most discerning oenophile. If that’s not enough, off-ranch activities (for an extra fee) such as guided fly-fishing, trap shooting, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and cattle driving, and golfing, can be arranged.
The Resort at Paws Up offers mountain biking, cross-country skiing, archery, tennis, nature hikes, fitness center, and more. If you like to learn new things, this is the place to go. You can participate in workshops on photography, wildlife painting, and wilderness skills. Most interesting is Paw’s Up cookbook live culinary series. This activity features talented chefs who share recipes, cooking skills, and what inspires their cookbooks. Chefs at two on-property restaurants prepare exceptional cuisine. For breakfast, be sure to savor the taste of huckleberry pancakes. Plenty of entertainment is another reason why guests come here. This ranch caters to families and kids.
The Sage Lodge has exceptional guest rooms and suites. So nice. A spa is onsite for those who like to be pampered. Guests dine in The Grill at Sage Lodge or in The Fireside Room. On the menu Bison Bolognese, pappardelle, dark roasted hazelnuts, and pecorino, $31. Activities at Sage Lodge include fly-fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, trail hiking, snowshoeing, and more. The Sage Lodge is in a convenient location near Livingston and Bozeman. Yellowstone National Park is a few miles to the south.
Silver Bow Club is an 1,800-acre paradise, with frontage on the legendary Big Hole River in southwest Montana. Guests can choose to stay in suites, lodge rooms, or log cabins. Activities include fly-fishing, pheasant hunting, horseback riding, trap shooting, ATV riding, and duck hunting. The Silver Bow Club is a classic, with definite western-style flavor and ambience.
Before you go, learn more about these wonderful destinations. Choose the one that best suits your tastes and interests. A lot to consider, cuisine, lodging, activities, and location. No two of these luxury destinations are alike. Still all are excellent.
Trail of the Cedars is a nature trail. It is a short loop trail accessed from Going-to-the-Sun Road near Avalanche Creek Campground northeast of Lake McDonald. The trail is about one-half mile long and passes through old-growth forest of western red cedar and western hemlock. Abundant ferns are mosses add to the natural beauty of this area.
The western red cedar is nature’s gift to man. Western red cedars live for a long time, 500 years or more, and reach great heights, up to as much as 150 feet above the forest floor. Western red cedars have a broad base, up to ten feet in diameter. Mature trees are giants.
Western red cedars have grey to reddish-brown bark. Branches sprout soft, green leaves, not needles as is characteristic of conifers. A peculiar feature of western red cedar is an unusual scent, some say like spicy pineapple, emitted from leaves when crushed. At the Trail of the Cedars, these trees add special diversity to Glacier’s wild landscape.
About mid-way on the Trail of the Cedars a footbridge passes over Avalanche Creek. This point on the trail is very scenic. Avalanche Creek is a vigorous mountain stream cascading down from high mountain peaks in a narrow gorge. A waterfall is visible from the footbridge.
In this same area, a short two-mile trail branches off from the Trail of the Cedars and goes to Avalanche Lake. As the trail to Avalanche Lake rises in elevation, the forest cover changes dramatically, becoming a mix of spruce and fir trees. Deer and other wildlife are often seen along the trail.
The Trail of the Cedars is part boardwalk and part paved. It is wheelchair accessible, so everyone can enjoy. Trail of the Cedars is a nature lovers paradise. Due to popularity of the trail, parking is limited. Go early in the day to snag a parking spot. Besides, nature is always at its best during early morning hours. Be rewarded. Don’t miss this special place in Glacier National Park.
As an aside, more western red cedar forests are found in other areas of northwest Montana. Red cedars are abundant in the Purcell and Cabinet Mountains near Libby. Ross Creek Scenic Area, southwest of Libby, is another great place to view these magnificent trees.
Glacier National Park has an abundance of wildlife. The wildlife thrive in natural habitats far from human civilization. Glacier wildlife are protected in a natural environment. Here are a few of the species viewed by many visitors to the park.
Do you want to enjoy travel lodging in the northern Rockies as it was more than 100 years back in time? You can at Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park. The Lodge was very upscale when it opened in 1914, a few years after Glacier National Park was created in 1910. In the present day, Lake McDonald Lodge still offers visitors a unique and special lodging experience.
Lake McDonald Lodge is a complete package: Guests experience a page from history in a beautiful wilderness setting, while enjoying the normal amenities of travel. The Lodge faces Lake McDonald, a story-book glacial lake. Mountains are a prominent part of the landscape near the Lodge. The Lodge, lake, and surrounding alpine environment are nothing short of spectacular.
The Lodge was designed in Swiss-style architecture common to structures found in the Alps of Europe. The Lodge features a huge lobby which rises three stories, nearly to the top of the building. A massive stone fireplace is a focal point in the lobby. Adding to the Lodge’s historical appeal, many furnishings from when the Lodge was first built remain for visitors to awe over.
Lake McDonald Lodge has 82 rooms for guests, many in the main Lodge, a few in nearby cabins and two other buildings, Cobb House and Snyder Hall. Rooms inside the main lodge have a rustic vibe even while retaining many comforts for guests to enjoy.
The Lodge offers three dining options: Jammer Joe’s Grill and Pizzeria; Lucke’s Lounge; and Russell’s Fireside Dining Room. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on premises. And visitors can order beer, wines, and cocktails. An Elk Burger, with grilled mushrooms, swiss, lettuce, tomato, onion, goes for $12.95. Huckleberry ice cream is a special delight on the menu.
The Lodge has a General Store to pick up a few supplies. In the Lodge’s Gift Store, visitors can buy niffy gifts, some crafted by Montana artisans, and cool souvenirs.
Lake McDonald Lodge is owned by the United States federal government. The Lodge is, at present, assigned to Glacier National Park Lodges to operate as part of a concessions contract.
Lake McDonald Lodge is located on Going-to-the-Sun Road about 10 miles inside the west entrance of Glacier National Park, not far from the small village of West Glacier, Montana. A classic for sure, Lake McDonald Lodge!
With thousands of people visiting Glacier National Park each day during the peak season, July and August, transportation in the park can be a real challenge. Basically, visitors have three options for motorized transportation: free Shuttle Buses (courtesy NPS); the iconic Red Buses (for a fee); or by private vehicle.
Each option comes with pros and cons. With the free Shuttle Buses, riders can sit back and enjoy the scenery. The buses make multiple stops traveling up and down Going-to-the-Sun Road. Shuttle Buses add to your enjoyment with interpretive and educational materials at shuttle stops. On the downside, the free Shuttle Buses are almost always crowded. And people often to wait in line to catch a ride. On Shuttle Buses, it takes a full day to get from one side of the park to the other and return to the point of departure. The Shuttle Buses operate July through Labor Day.
The Red Buses are few, only 33 operate in the Park. With open, roll-back, tops, the Red Buses are an ideal way to view the wildlife and magnificent scenery in the Park. The Red Buses depart from both the east and west sides of the Park. The ride is round trip and departure and return are to the same location. As with the Shuttle Buses, the Red Buses fill up fast, with a seating limit of 17 on each bus. Because demand is high, it may be difficult to snag a ride on the Red Buses.
Both the Shuttle Buses and Red Buses leave the stress of driving on a narrow, winding, mountain road to others. This may be important, especially for older visitors as well as many others.
Private transportation may be the best option. With private transportation, you can take along plenty of food, beverages, clothing, hiking equipment, binoculars and whatever else suits your needs. In this case, the driver is disadvantaged as full attention to navigating the road is a must. And parking can be a real hassle. However, at stops along the way, outlooks/pull-outs, you can take as much time as wanted to view wildlife and scenery.
Officials at Glacier acknowledge that the Park is a busy place. Transportation inside the Park, regardless of the option you choose, can be difficult. The best advice, choose transportation wisely and, above all, allow lots of time to make sure you can see and do the things you came for and, at the same time, get to where you want to go, safely and conveniently.
Due to the Pandemic, Shuttle Bus and Red Bus services are cancelled for the 2020 season. Check the Park’s Website before you go.
People often have fond memories of visiting Glacier National Park, even decades after their journey to the park ended. Some may think that spending eternity in Glacier would be a dream come true, a gift from God.
Well, the National Park Service may be able to accommodate, that is, make a dream reality. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Section 2.62b (Memorialization), cremated ashes of humans can be spread in national parks.
Section 2.62b says, “The scattering of human ashes from cremation is prohibited, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit, or in designated areas according to conditions which may be established by the superintendent.”
The key language here is “except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit, or in designated areas according to conditions which may be established by the superintendent.”
At Glacier National Park, the steps to make this happen are straightforward. Complete an Application for Special Use Permit, Spreading of Ashes. In this case, in the “proposed activity” part of the application, is your request to scatter cremated human ashes. Add details as you choose, such as a statement about relationship to the deceased. The application also asks for detailed information about preferred date, location, and time, as well as alternate choices. Other specific information is requested on the form, as well.
The Park’s administration will review the application and make its decision on whether to issue a permit, which allows for an individual to go forward with scattering human ashes in the Park.
PDF of the application is online on Glacier National Park’s Website.
Or obtain an application form from:
Glacier National Park
West Glacier, MT 59936
Spreading human ashes is a private and sensitive matter, so exercise good judgement when on public lands. Doing its part, Glacier National Park’s administration has special rules/regulations/guidance pertaining to this activity.
On its Web site, the Park’s administration writes as follows:
“In Glacier National Park, human ashes may be disbursed only in undeveloped areas of the Park; that is, not within 200 feet of any developed location, such as a road, trail, building, parking lot, boat ramp, swimming beach, campground, lake, etc. The ashes must be scattered and not deposited in any type of container. No marker or memorial of any sort may be placed at the site.”
“Also, please keep in mind that winter-like weather can occur at any time during the year, usually November through April, which may make access to a particular area impossible.”
“When you are ready to disburse of the ashes, send in a special use permit application and a letter will be sent to you which will serve as the official permit required by the citation referenced above and the instructions regarding location and notification will serve as the terms and conditions required by the citation. This letter or a copy thereof must be in the possession of at least one member of the party present when human ashes are scattered in the park.”
How many permits for spreading of ashes in Glacier National Park have been approved in recent years? According to Park officials, 2015: 17 permits; 2016: 16 permits; 2017: 27 permits; 2018: 21 permits; 2019: 20 permits; 2020: 16 permits (through September).
Some believe that spirits of the departed soar over the mountain peaks and valleys in Glacier during warm summer evenings. During winter months, spirits hibernate beneath timber falls and openings in nooks and crannies of mountain sides at lower elevations.
That the National Park Service and the U.S. government are happy to accommodate the wishes of many Americans is appropriate in this case. All parties gain satisfaction with this arrangement. Surely, peace of mind comes to family members. Further, the ashes, once a life, are returned to the natural environment, co-mingled with the elements and plants and animals in the Park.
Okay, so you are going to Glacier National Park. Your journey will take you through the center of the park on Going-to-the-Sun Road, an iconic mountain highway. Going-to-the-Sun Road runs west to east from the town of West Glacier to Saint Mary, Montana, over a distance of about 53 miles. The road passes through America’s most spectacular wilderness country.
Glacier is a land of mountains. Pushing up toward the clouds, mountain peaks near Going-to-the-Sun Road reach elevations as high as 10,014 feet (Mount Siyeh) and are often in view. That gorgeous mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and alpine valleys and meadows are all bundled together is a huge part of the allure of Glacier National Park.
Going-to-the-Sun Road was constructed in the early part of the 20th century, and it opened for the public in 1933. After eleven years of construction, 1921-1932, the road was completed. Drivers will experience a narrow, winding road, with some hairpin curves along the way. This is a two-lane and paved road, an engineering masterpiece.
Going-to-the-Sun Road features spectacular scenery in every direction, mountains, forests, waterfalls, alpine lakes, rock walls, and alpine valleys. Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, grizzly bears, and other wildlife live here and can often be seen not far from the road.
Historic lodges and engineering marvels, such as tunnels and bridges, add to the wonder of it all. Many scenic outlooks along the road allow motorists to stop, take pictures, and simply enjoy.
From the Park’s entrance near the town of West Glacier (3,198 feet in elevation), Going-to-the-Sun Road follows McDonald Valley for several miles in a northeasterly direction, gradually gaining in elevation until the road reaches about 3,572 feet in elevation. At this point, the road veers sharply to the northwest toward an area called the Loop. Here the road runs northwest for a short distance before it abruptly turns back to the southeast and continues in a southeasterly direction toward Logan Pass.
At the beginning of the Loop (elevation 3,572), the road starts its ascent up the side of the mountains. Along a path of several miles, Going-to-the-Sun Road increases in elevation, as it hugs to the side of the mountains, until it reaches Logan Pass at 6,646 feet elevation.
Starting from the head of the Loop, going in a southeast direction, Going-to-the-Sun Road starts to get scary for some drivers. Along the shoulder of the road (passenger side of car), a steep cliff goes down slope, several hundred feet in many areas.
On the driver’s side is the rock face of the mountain and oncoming traffic. Drivers need not worry as a low speed limit and guardrails protect vehicles from going off the road. However, as if anyone needs a reminder, drivers must keep eyes centered on the road. Passengers can enjoy the awesome scenery.
From Logan Pass, Going-to-the-Sun Road starts a gradual descent to Saint Mary Lake at about 4,718 feet in elevation. The road runs along the north shore of Saint Mary Lake for about 9.9 miles before ending near the Park’s Saint Mary Visitor Center at an elevation of 4,495 feet.
By Montana standards, Logan Pass is not unusually high in elevation. Near Red Lodge in south-central Montana, the Beartooth Highway starts from Red Lodge at 5,568 feet in elevation and ascends into the mountains until the highway reaches Beartooth Pass at an elevation of 10,947 feet.
Some have suggested that Going-to-the-Sun Road is less scary if driven from east to west. If this is the case, the face of the mountain is on the passenger side of the car and the steep cliff side (the drop-off) is one traffic lane over from the driver and thus seems less worrisome. Regardless, drivers must be extremely careful and keep eyes on the road ahead.
Accidents do occasionally happen on the road. In July 2018, a two-vehicle collision snarled traffic for hours west of Logan Pass, near Triple Arches. No personal injuries in this one, but traffic from the West Entrance was stopped from entering the Park, and traffic that had reached Logan Pass in the east was turned back.
The wonders along Going-to-the-Sun Road are almost endless. A short list of things to experience and enjoy, traveling west to east, over the distance of 53 miles, includes:
START OF ROUTE: Apgar Visitor Center at west entrance to the park
Mile 3.0: Fabulous Lake McDonald, a 10-mile long glacial lake
Mile 10.9: Historic Lake McDonald Lodge
Mile 12.8: McDonald Falls
Mile 16.2: Avalanche Creek Campground
Mile 20.8: Start of The Loop at Goose Curve where the road veers sharply left to the northwest
Mile 23.3: West Side Tunnel, cut some 192 feet through a mountain
Mile: 23.9: Head of The Loop where the road bends back and continues in a southeasterly direction toward Logan Pass
Mile 29.8: Triple Arches, a 65 foot long stone bridge built across a gap in the mountain side
Mile 32.0: Logan Pass Visitor Center on the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet elevation
Mile 32.9: East Side Tunnel, a 408 feet long structure cut though a mountain
Mile 39.2: Saint Mary Lake, a 9.9-mile long glacial lake
Mile 43.0: Wild Goose Island in the middle of Saint Mary Lake
END OF ROUTE: Saint Mary Visitor Center and the town of Saint Mary
Due to deep snow blocking the roadway, a section of Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed during the winter months. A few reports say the snow can get over 80 feet deep at Logan Pass.
Officials at the Park do not give an exact date when the full length of the road will be open. They say opening is typically late June or early July. Usually the road remains open until the third Monday of October. However, portions of the road at lower elevations are open year-round giving travelers access to some locations and activities inside the Park. In alpine environments all depends on the weather which can change quickly, causing officials to close the road at any time.
Visitors flock to Glacier, some 3,049,839 came in 2019 alone. Without stopping, the Park service says it takes two hours to drive from West Glacier to Saint Mary. Many who travel the road spend a half-day or longer to drive the full distance of the road. So much to see and do. When the journey is over, visitors take home memoires that will last a lifetime.
Lodging is limited along Going-to-the-Sun Road inside Glacier National Park. Guest rooms are available at Lake McDonald Lodge and Apgar Village Lodge and Cabins on the west side of the Park. And Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins offers rooms near Saint Mary Lake on the east side of the Park.
Campgrounds are another option on Going-to-the-Sun Road inside Glacier National Park. Three campgrounds are on the west side of the Park: Apgar (194 sites); Sprague Creek (25 sites); and Avalanche (87 sites). The east side of the Park has two campgrounds: Rising Sun (83 sites); and Saint Mary (148 sites).
On any journey surprises are always best. However, in this case a quick read in advance is recommended. The book is Going-to-the-Sun Road: Glacier National Park’s Highway to the Sky, by C.W. Guthrie.
Lose of a Young Person’s Life in Glacier NP
A tragedy occurred on Going-to-the-Sun Road on August 12, 2019. A car was traveling westbound from Logan Pass when rocks from the face of a mountain broke loose and fell to the road below hitting the car. A 14-year-old girl was killed and four others in the same vehicle were injured. NPS reported that the rockfall would have filled the bed on a small pickup truck.
Safety is always first on the minds of Park officials, but nothing could have averted this catastrophe. Of the sorrow and pain felt by the family, no words can convey.
What is the weather like in Glacier National Park? How crowded is the park? And when do visitors arrive? Savvy visitors usually weigh all three factors when timing their visit to Glacier. Data in the charts below is useful for planning a trip to Glacier.
Data in this chart is for West Glacier, Montana, at 3,200 feet in elevation. This weather station is at the west entrance to Glacier National Park. At Logan Pass, along Going-to-the-Sun Road, inside the park, the elevation is 6,647 feet. Expect much cooler temperatures at Logan Pass, as temperatures decrease with increasing elevation.
During July and August, the weather is very pleasant with comfortable, warm, daytime highs and cool nights. As can be expected for northerly latitudes, average daytime highs are still nice in June and September. In May and October, however, it’s time to wear cold weather clothing.
With average low temperatures in the 40s or less in every month, extra clothing is always a necessity.
Most visitors to the park arrive from May through September. The peak months are July and August, with somewhat fewer visitors in June and September. Earlier and later in the season, the number of visitors is low. The park’s opening and closing, plus the weather are big factors in the number of visitors going to the park. And, of course, mid-summer is when many Americans and others hit the trail.
During the peak tourist season, Glacier National Park gets very crowded. Only one road, Going-to-the-Sun Road, runs through the Park. In a word, think traffic. It’s not uncommon for NPS to report that Apgar parking lot near Lake McDonald is full early in the day. NPS on its Website says, “Expect crowding and congestion in many areas of the park. Plan accordingly.”
Data in the chart show visitors to Glacier National Park in 2019. The table provides statistics for categories of use and by month. Annual totals for each category of use:
Recreation visitors (3,049,839)
Non-recreation visitors (13,103)
Concession lodging (119,960)
Tent campers (118,181)
RV campers (126,099)
Concession camping (0)
Backcountry campers (34,759)
Misc. campers (926)
Total overnight stays (399,924)
Many visitors choose to stays in tents or RVs. This arrangement puts visitors close to nature. The National Park Service provides wonderful campgrounds to accommodate. Tents and RVs are expected as regular lodging is limited inside the park. And the lodging, such as Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge, may be too expensive for some family budgets.
Some Facts About Glacier (source: NPS)
number of glaciers: 26
number of lakes: 762
number of species of mammals: 71
number of species of birds: 276
number of mountains: 175
number of class A campgrounds: 8; 943 sites
number of class B campgrounds: 5; 61 sites
number of backcountry campgrounds: 65; 208 sites
number of trails: 151; total length, 745.6 miles
As for size of Glacier National Park, measured on Google Earth, east-west distance is about 35 miles; from north to south, distance is about 60 miles.
Bring binoculars. Mountain goats hang out in high elevation, mountainous regions of Montana. The Montana FWP estimates that 5,900 mountain goats live in the state. Of the total, thirty-eight per cent are found in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.
Viewing mountains goats is easy, finding them is another matter. Mountain goats are not seen ambling along regular roadways as is commonly the case with other wildlife such as bears, buffalo, and elk. Go explore the backcountry is the best advice for finding mountain goats in their preferred habitat.
Given the large number of mountain goats in Glacier National Park, this may be a good place to go to see one of these magnificent animals. While mountain goats like to stay at higher elevations in the mountains, in Glacier they are often seen wandering on the park’s many trails.
Amy Grisak, a writer for the Great Falls Tribune, describes the best places to go for viewing mountain goats in Glacier National Park. A few hot spots are: Goat Lick along U.S. Highway 2 near Essex in the early season; Logan Pass; Sperry Trail and Gunsight Pass in the western part of the park; and in the area around Many Glacier, the eastern part of the park. At Many Glacier, mountain goats can be viewed high on cliffs above Iceberg Trail and along Ptarmigan Tunnel.
More mountain goats make their home in the cliffs and canyons of the Bitterroot Mountains south of Missoula. In a recent census, a Montana FWP biologist, Rebecca Moray, counted 13 mountain goats in Blodgett Canyon and even more goats in nearby canyons, says Perry Backus in the Missoulian. The Bitterroots are a rugged and wild region, so finding mountain goats here might be hard to do.
Closer to civilization, near Helena, a small number of mountain goats live in the Big Belt Mountains east of the city. Tourists on guided boat tours on the Missouri River through an area called Gates of the Mountains, a large canyon, can sometimes view mountain goats feeding high above the canyon’s walls.
Mountain goats are not usually on people’s radar. Nevertheless, they are a delight to see in the wild. You need some imagination to understand how the goats can climb, even run, on high, treacherous mountain cliffs. This is one of the mysteries that create so much interest in viewing mountain goats.
Many Glacier Campground is a favorite of many folks who like to stay close to nature in Glacier National Park. The setting is unrivaled in nature with high mountain peaks in view from inside the campground. Swiftcurrent Creek and Lake are nearby.
Many Glacier Campground is located on the east side of the park, along Many Glacier Road which runs east to west inside the park and is a continuation of Glacier Route 3 from near the tiny village of Babb, Montana. Elevation at the campground is about 4,500 feet, so after sunset it can get cool outside.
The area around the campground is heavily forested. Large lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, quaking aspen, and other vegetation blanket the landscape. Wildlife including bear, bighorn sheep, and moose live in the mountains near the campground.
Space is available for tents and RVs: 109 sites. The campground has potable water, restroom facilities, and bear proof food lockers. Each campsite has a picnic table.
This campground is a good stop for hikers, since Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg-Ptarmigan, Swiftcurrent Pass, and Cracker Lake Trailheads are nearby. Swiftcurrent Nature Trail in this area is an outdoorsy delight.
For services, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is a short distance from the campground. The Inn has a restaurant, some groceries and shower facilities (for a fee). More services are available in the town of Babb, about 12 miles east of the campground, outside the east entrance to the park. Babb has general store, gas station, general store, restaurants, and a U.S. Post Office.
Check for details about the Many Glacier Campground on the park’s Website. Notice: NPS says Many Glacier Campground is closed for the 2020 season.
Campgrounds in Glacier National Park have regulations on length of stay and the types of RVs allowed. Other rules for using the park’s campgrounds must be followed, as well.
In addition to Many Glacier Campground, other popular campgrounds in Glacier are at Apgar (west side); Avalanche (west of Continental Divide); and St. Mary’s (east side). All three campgrounds are along Going-to-the-Sun Road inside the park.
Most campgrounds in the park are first-come, first-served, signed up for at entrances to the park. For some campgrounds, however, advanced reservations may be allowed. Check the park’s Website.
Glacier National Park boasts over 700 miles of trails. A hiker’s paradise to be sure. No matter the trail, magnificent scenery can be seen in every direction. Four nature trails are very popular:
Forest and Fire
Running Eagle Falls
Trail of the Cedars
Swiftcurrent Nature Trail
Trails often mentioned by hiking pros are:
The National Park Service wants hikers to have a fun time and an enjoyable experience when hiking in the park.
Some good advice is offered by the National Park Service and hiking professionals:
Always take along bear spray
Let someone know where you are going (including route), description of what clothing you’re wearing, when you plan to return, and a description of your car (including where parked and license plate number)
Don’t count on cell phone service in the park
Be prepared to help yourself as help from others may be a long time coming
Get familiar with the hazards associated with hiking
Learn about the trail(s) you will be hiking on before you go
If available carry a map of the trail(s)
Always check the weather before heading out on a trail
Stay close together with your hiking group
Above all always hike with a group for safety
Some good advice to prepare yourself for hiking:
Wear suitable hiking shoes
Take along first-aid supplies
Carry plenty of water
Pack some food and ready-to-eat snacks
Physically condition yourself for walking in rough, often steep, terrain
Tackle only trails that match your abilities and condition
Be prepared for changes in weather conditions
A light rain jacket and suitable clothing (think layers) are essential
Take along sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and insect repellent
Carry a sturdy water-proof backpack
There are many challenges in hiking Glacier as there would be in any mountainous area. It’s unlike a stroll in a city park. But the rewards that come with hiking Glacier are well worth the effort.
The publishing world has many guides for happy and successful hiking. Read one.
Day Hikes of Glacier National Park Map-Guide by Jake Bramante
Top Trails: Glacier National Park by Jean Arthur
Day Hiking: Glacier National park & Western Montana, by Aaron Theisen
Excellent trail maps by the National Park Service are online.
The authors of Hiking in Glacier have published a very good online guide to 65 trails in Glacier. They did some sifting and came up with a list of the 10 best trails in the park.
Cabins come in many vintages, so it is a good idea to do some research before you go. Location and setting may be the most important.
The three cabins for rent by Montana Cabin Rentals are about 20 miles northwest of Big Timber, in south-central Montana. The town of Big Timber is about mid-way between Billings and Bozeman on Interstate Highway IH-90. Starting from Billings or Bozeman it takes is a little over one hour to drive to the cabins.
The cabins are built in Big Timber Canyon, a beautiful valley that runs in a westerly direction up into the Crazy Mountains. Big Timber Creek runs down the valley and passes near the cabins. Renters have access to 1.5 miles of stream-side frontage along Big Timber Creek. A very scenic setting for sure. Best of all the cabins have a remote feel, away from civilization yet are very accessible.
These cabins come with extra nice amenities. Grizzly Cabin has two bedrooms. Guests enjoy a hot tub, sauna, HDTV, fireplace, washer/dryer, plus stainless appliances. A RV hookup is available too. From $189 per night.
Fisher Cabin, with two bedrooms, has a rustic vibe, the cabin being built from logs, and it has log furniture. The cabin has a loft, fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, a hot tub, WIFI, and more. From $169 per night.
Creekside Cabin has a large master bedroom. The living room in this cabin is arranged in such a way so it can be used as a second bedroom. This cabin has a fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, a hot tub, and WIFI. From $169 per night.
Fisher and Creekside Cabins are separated from one another by mature vegetation, so privacy is not an issue.
By any standard, all three cabins come close to luxury. Guests enjoy amenities of modern life all the while staying in a remote, quiet, beautiful mountainous setting, with the best of nature out the front door.
A huge plus, dining out is only a few minutes away at The Grand Hotel in Big Timber. The Grand serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner is from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., daily. Enjoy great food in two nice dining areas in The Grand Hotel. For upscale dining, guests at the cabins can drive to Livingston, a short 35 miles west of Big Timber, and dine at the 2nd Street Bistro in the Murray Hotel.
The cabins are available for rent year-round. There are many great cabins for rent in Montana. These three cabins rank among the best. (406) 599-6772.
Montana’s small towns are not of the cookie-cutter variety so often found in other states. Why is this? Simply put, most small towns in Montana have retained their heritage and historical roots. Urbanization and rapid population growth have not arrived, at least not yet.
Livingston (pop. 7,784) fits this picture very nicely. Someone who left Livingston for greener pastures 50 years ago and came back to visit in 2020 would feel right at home. A good thing in a fast-paced world for sure.
It is worth contrasting Livingston with Bozeman, a city a few miles to the west on IH 90. So much about Bozeman is fast paced, while Livingston is more about take your time and enjoy life.
In history, Livingston was a hub for the railroads as they pushed rails to the West Coast. Due to industrial activity associated with the railroads, the city flourished. The city was also a destination city for many who wanted to experience the wonders of Yellowstone. Not much has changed, but the railroad industry has moved on.
Many beautiful buildings were built in the downtown area in the early 1900s, and they remain today, used for commerce and cultural activities. Go to the Murray Hotel for starters. The Murray was built in 1904. The building and its amenities retain a historical flavor, from the time when first built. The public library in Livingston is a Carnegie Library. Check it out.
Livingston is located in the upper Yellowstone Valley. Yellowstone National Park is 56 miles south of Livingston on U.S. Highway 89. The wild and pristine Yellowstone River flows near the city. The Absaroka Mountains tower over Main Street looking to the south of the downtown. A picture postcard setting for sure.
Livingstone is proud of its rich history. The artifacts and exhibits housed in the Yellowstone Gateway Museum showcase and tell the story of the city’s rich industrial, ranching, and cultural beginnings. Learn about Native Americans, Lewis & Clark, and the pioneers. This museum is a genuine treasure.
Livingston is not overrun by chain hotels and restaurants. In Livingston, visitors experience homegrown businesses, lodging, art galleries and small shops such as the Elk River Books. Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop is a first stop for many, even if wading in the trout-filled Yellowstone near town is not of interest.
For upscale dining, go to Second Street Bistro in the Murray Hotel. Beef, chicken, lamb, and produce are locally sourced, says the manager of the restaurant. On the menu: Bistro sirloin and fries pan-seared Yellowstone grasslands flat-iron, herbed french fries, red wine demi pan sauce, whole grain dijon mustard. $28. Gil’s Goods is another eatery adjoining the Murray. Great breakfasts, pizzas, and sandwiches served at Gil’s.
Livingston ranks high among the many small towns in Montana. Enjoy!
No conversation about Montana history is finished without talking about Carl Rowan (1909 – 1996). Mr. Rowan was the owner and chief cook and bottle washer of Gamer’s Café in the city of Butte from 1944 until 1993, when he finally retired and sold the restaurant.
Over that stretch of time Mr. Rowan likely met every person in Butte, and, for that matter, a huge swath of the citizens of Montana and points beyond. Guests entering Gamer’s Café were always greeted by the man himself, even before an order was placed. You can meet a ton of people over a lifetime, a few are memorable, most are not. Mr. Rowan falls in the former.
On a typical morning at the restaurant in the early 1990s, Carl took your order and served the meal. This was out of necessity since Carl was the only person on duty to take care of customers. By this time, Carl was 83 years old. But nothing slowed him down. He was on the job every day.
During his later years at Gamer’s, business was often slow on many days. Why? It is hard to say. On the plus side, with so few customers around, Carl always had lots of time to chat with customers. The Chief of the local division of the Montana Highway Patrol came in regularly. He likely knew that Carl’s days in the restaurant business were coming to an end. Anyway, the two men, one middle-aged, and Carl, now old, bonded. Other customers shared a close relationship with Carl, as well.
This was Carl, a friend of everyone. Noticing his big smile and cheerful disposition, customers could tell Mr. Rowan thrived on relationships. Not the fleeting kind but always enduring and so human and genuine.
Some may suggest that Mr. Rowan was a little on the eccentric side. More likely, Carl’s behavior can be understood as a reflection of his zeal for showmanship. Take for example, a common business practice in his restaurant. After Carl presented a customer with the check, the customer, if a regular, knew the next step in the process to complete the transaction. With Carl at some distance away behind the counter, the customer was expected to march to the cash register on the far end of the counter, open the cash drawer, make the correct change, and deposit the amount due. An honor system such as this could only survive in Carl Rowan’s world, Butte.
Carl likely heard a zillion stories from locals over his many years in the restaurant business. On one day, in the winter of 1992, a not so regular dropped in to share with Carl a photograph taken near the end of WWII in Italy. The elderly man from Butte, a veteran, was in Italy in 1945 and saw what had happened in the chaos in northern Italy at the end of the war. A photo no one would ever show to children for sure.
Every story has an element of mystery. Butte-Silver Bow had around 33,000 residents in the early 1990s. Yet, few showed up to dine at Gamer’s Café at least on weekday mornings during the fall and winter months. Why did Carl stay so long in Butte? He had talent and charisma that would have taken him far in other larger cities? Still, Carl stayed and was undaunted and satisfied. He enjoyed his job and above all he loved every customer who entered the front door of Gamer’s.
Nowhere is it recorded how many people showed up for Mr. Rowan’s funeral on a crisp fall morning in late October of 1996. Looking back on that day, if they did not go, they missed an opportunity to say a final farewell to a man who gave so much of himself to so many. Butte can be proud to claim Mr. Carl Rowan as a favorite son.
Montana lodging does not have to be expensive, that is, if you are willing to go off the grid. For the grand sum of $35 per night, Crandall Creek Cabin is available. This is a U.S. Forest Service property in western Montana. The cabin has a 5-night stay limit maximum. Sleeps up to six people.
This rustic cabin is about 24 miles northeast of Wilsall in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The area around the cabin is in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains. Access is by a dirt road and a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must to get here.
Need to know (info from U.S. Forest Service): no power in cabin, no garbage service, no water in cabin, cell phone coverage limited or not available, risk of hantavirus at remote cabins.
Call the Yellowstone Ranger District Livingston Office at (406) 222-1892, during weekday business hours (MST) for more information about the cabin. This cabin is not too far from Livingston (about 52 Miles), so may be a good option for some travelers. Reservations handled by Recreation.gov.
The city of Kalispell (pop. 23,938) and the region around the city are a major tourist destination in northwest Montana. Glacier National Park, a few miles to the east of Kalispell, draws more than 3,000,000 visitors annually. Many arrive during peak season, June thru September.
It is not only Glacier Park that attracts. Vast wilderness areas near Kalispell offer limitless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Fishing, hiking, and boating to name a few. Outdoor recreation is king in the area around Kalispell.
Many tourists arrive in Kalispell at Glacier International Airport. Many others arrive by auto, train, or tour bus. No interstate highways reach Kalispell. Two main U.S. highways connect Kalispell with the rest of Civilization. U.S. Highway 93 runs north-south from the Canadian border to Missoula and U.S. Highway 2 runs east-west connecting Kalispell with Spokane to the west and Havre and other cities to the east.
Many hotels and other types of lodging are available in Kalispell and the surrounding towns and rural areas. Due to the influx of so many visitors, an amazing variety of places to stay can be found here. Cabins, resorts, bed & breakfasts, lodges, and more. As for traditional lodging, the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel may be a better choice than most of the chain hotels in town. The Kalispell Grand offers a continental breakfast, massage studio, and art gallery to make your stay more enjoyable. (406) 755-8100.
Flathead Lake is a few miles south of Kalispell. Fishing and boating on Flathead Lake are a common activity. Five State Parks offer facilities for outdoor activities near the shores of Flathead Lake. Wayfarers/Flathead Lake, close to the village of Bigfork, draws many visitors: Picnicking, fishing, camping, boating, and swimming are a few of the activities allowed at this state park.
A couple of nice attractions are found in the city of Kalispell. The Conrad Mansion Museum, built in 1895, is a window into early pioneer days of Kalispell. Mr. Conrad, a rich businessman, built the house with income from hauling freight and other business activities. The museum features many exhibits and well-manicured gardens enhance beauty of the grounds.
For history buffs, the Northwest Montana History Museum is a must see. The museum showcases the history of early frontier days. A neat glimpse of the old central school in Kalispell is a special attraction in the museum. Artifacts and displays of Native American culture are also interesting.
For upscale dining in Kalispell, try Jagz Fine Dining. A full pound center cut ribeye, char-grilled and topped with bourbon onion sauce goes for $32.95. The Desoto Grill is wildly popular too. The Desoto Grill serves BBQ, sandwiches, desserts, and beer. A smoked chicken sandwich, $12.25. Banana pudding, $4.75. Yum!
Natural beauty is the hallmark of the region around Kalispell. Mountains, pristine lakes, and wild rivers add to the splendor. This part of the country is hard to match anywhere else in the United States. The Visitor Information Center,15 Depot Park in Kalispell, is ready to give good advice and help make your stay more enjoyable. Phone: (888) 888-2308.
Many folks like to stop for a cup of Starbucks coffee when traveling or on a vacation. There is often more than one Starbucks store in most larger cities. Stores can vary in size depending on the location and some stores can look a little different from other stores even in the same city.
Starbucks serves tasty coffee and more: Featured on their Website this week: creamy, all-new, iced coconutmilk drinks and Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino Blended Beverage. Always something new at Starbucks. Yum!
Starbucks stores in Montana are modern as the chain arrived here later than in many other cities. Stores are easy to find, on or near major streets, in every city. Just look for the mermaid. A few favorites:
Billings: Starbucks at 910 Grand Avenue (close to downtown)
Bozeman: Starbucks at 1122 West Main Street (close to downtown)
Kalispell: Starbucks at 10 North Main Street (in the heart of downtown)
Missoula: Starbucks at 5260 Grant Creek Road (just off the interstate highway)
Butte: Starbucks at 2307 Harrison Avenue (south of downtown area)
Helena: Starbucks at 1300 Prospect Avenue (close the state capitol)
Great Falls: Starbucks at 1000 10th Ave. South (south of downtown)
Region as a concept is commonly used in geography to describe different areas of the world, sometimes based on political divisions, commercial interest, or travel interests. Examples of regions are many: In the case of travel, in Europe, Provence in France is widely thought of and, for many, Wine Country may conjure images of Sonoma County in northern California. In whatever way defined, regions are a useful tool to promote and drive interest in special geographic areas.
The Northwest is commonly recognized as a region in the United States, different from that shown on the map below: The Northwest traditionally includes more area in the far west, the Cascades and west of the Cascades along the pacific Coast in Washington and Oregon. These areas near and along the Pacific Coast are not included in Absaroka, the distinctive travel region described in this Web page.
Even so, Absaroka emerges as a slightly larger Northwest. It includes the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, parts of northern Utah and Nevada, plus Washington and Oregon east of the Cascade Mountains.
Absaroka as a travel region envisioned here is a vast area of mountains and plains, extending from the lower Yellowstone Valley in the east to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and the Sierra Nevada in the west and south beyond the great Salt Lake.
Some of America’s most spectacular landscapes are found in Absaroka. Outdoor recreation opportunities are limitless. Wildlife such as grizzly bears, mountain lions, and bison inhabit the wilds in a natural environment. As a bonus, an Absaroka travel region has a low population and is remote from heavily populated centers in other parts of the United States. An Absaroka Region could be considered a refuge from a hectic and busy world. Truly a wonderland,
When on vacation, most people travel near home in the region which they live, say New England or the Midwest. By designating an area as a special travel region in the Northwest, tourists from close to home would have a convenient framework to understand what their destination would be like, as well a guide for planning activities they might partake and participate in. Those traveling from distant places would benefit too.
From a marketing viewpoint, traditional geographies do not work that well. Montana tourism has its own Website and tourism promotions, the same for Wyoming and Idaho. To illustrate, consider a traveler interesting in visiting world-class museums. In Wyoming, travel promoters are eager to talk about the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. Well enough. But for a more successful and informative approach aimed at tourists with this interest in mind, why not mention in the same promotional literature the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena, a premier museum of western history, as well.
As an aside, Montana tourism already openly markets Yellowstone National Park even while the entire park lies in Wyoming, except for narrow borderlands in Idaho and Montana. The door is open!
A travel region called Absaroka, more expansive than single states, increases possibilities in so many ways. If this kind of regional tourism takes hold, everyone benefits, particularly the tourists themselves who after all is what this story is about.
As for a broader approach to tourism promotion in the Northwest, the Website Go Northwest!: a Travel Guide has a head start. The region presented on this Web page achieves much more by branding an entire area in the Northwest, east of the Cascades, under a common name, Absaroka.
Lewistown (pop. 5,870) is a small ranching, farming, and commercial community located in the geographic center of Montana. The nearest large city is Great Falls, 105 miles to the northwest on U. S. Highway 87. Vast plains and small mountain ranges are common features of the landscape near Lewistown.
Lewistown is a very stable community with a population that remains essentially unchanged over the past 100 years. In 1920 Lewistown had a population of 6,120, in 1940, 5,874, and, in the most recent census, 5,910. Few communities in the entire United States enjoy such stability. A good thing.
Lewistown is blessed by natural beauty. Nearby low mountain ranges, the Big Snowy Mountains and Judith Mountains, offer recreational opportunities galore. Wildlife are abundant in the countryside: mule deer, antelope, porcupine, and many other species are common.
Lewistown is a special place to visit. Beautiful historic buildings from the town’s early beginning still stand on main street. And many friendly merchants are found on main street selling clothing, gifts, antiques, artwork, sporting goods and much more. Moccasin Mountain Art and Gifts is a first stop for many visitors.
Bring a camera and shoot lots of pictures. This a town to remember years after your visit. Government buildings are often impressive in most cities. In Lewistown, the Fergus County Courthouse is an amazing architectural structure. Down the street is Lewistown’s public library, built in the early part of the last century by funds from the famous industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
Lodging is somewhat limited in Lewistown, but the city can usually handle the low number of visitors who arrive. The Yogo Inn is a good choice. In addition to well-appointed rooms, the inn has superb dining in Stetson’s Restaurant and beverages for every liking in the Golden Spike Lounge. Big Spring Brewery at the east edge of town is exceedingly popular: Command Bomber IPA, anyone?
For a quiet experience close to nature, stay at the Pheasant Tales Bed and Bistro, a lodge located about four miles south of Lewistown. Wildlife in the area and mountains views are only a coupe of reasons why guests stay at this wonderful lodge. Guests are offered evening meals, with advance reservations. (406) 538-2124.
Lewistown ranks high among the best small towns in Montana, along with Red Lodge, Livingston, and Bigfork. All four of these towns have so much homey charm and historical interest, plus all are situated in beautiful natural settings with mountain environments close by.
Great Falls (pop. 58,701) get its name from five magnificent waterfalls that existed during historic times on the Missouri River near the City of Great Falls. Over many years, dams were built on the river and three of the falls largely disappeared from the natural landscape. Only Crooked Falls and Rainbow Falls remain untouched. Nevertheless, much beauty can be seen in the area around the dams and along the Missouri River more generally.
Interstate Highway, IH-15, is a main north-south road that runs through Great Falls and connects the city with Canada to the north and Helena, Butte, and Salt Like City to the south. Another major road, Montana State Highway 200, runs east-west through Great Falls and is the main artery across a huge swath of central Montana, running from North Dakota in the east to Idaho in the west.
Great Falls is headquarters for a vast region. And an amazing city. To the east and north of the city are endless plains, to the west the Rocky Mountains. Fun in the outdoors beckons in the city and the vast largely unpopulated hinterlands spreading out in every direction.
Giant Springs State Park, one of state’s best parks, is almost inside Great Falls city limits. Giant Springs is a great place for hiking, bicycling, picnicking, fishing, and bird watching all the while experiencing wonderful scenery along the Missouri River. The park is famous for its underground spring that pumps millions of gallons of water into the Missouri River every day. A segment of River’s Edge Trail passes through the park. All of this can be had with an urban environment close by.
Great Falls has two major museums: C.M. Russell Museum tells the story of an early artist during Montana’s frontier days. Many originals of Russell’s art are on display. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretative Center in Great Falls is a classic. Exhibits at the museum explain the discovery of the region by Lewis & Clark at the beginning of the 19th century.
If you stay overnight or for a few days, the historic Hotel Arvon is a good choice. The Celtic Cowboy, a pub and restaurant adjoining the hotel, is amazing for its old-world charm. Lots of craft beers to drink here. Think Irish. Dante’s Creative Cuisine in the downtown area is tops for evening dining.
Great Falls is not the first thing tourists think about when they plan a trip to Montana. Many should reconsider, less an opportunity is missed to enjoy so much offered in and around Great Falls.
Helena (pop. 31,429) is Montana’s state capital. The city is quite small, so it is easy to get around, even for first-time visitors. Tourists generally do not flock to Helena like they do other hot spots such as Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and cities and towns near the parks.
Helena is defined by Last Chance Gulch, the main street through downtown. Why go there? Last Chance Gulch is lined with many historical building dating back to the late 1800s. Architects and common folks will marvel at the beauty of these old buildings, many built with stone.
On the Gulch or near the Gulch, on side streets, are some of the city’s best restaurants and hotels. For upscale dining, try On Broadway and Lucca’s. More casual dining is found at Bert and Ernie’s. The Parrot Confectionery, on Last Chance Gulch, is a must-visit old-time establishment, serving malts, mild shakes, chili, and other delights. Plus, the Parrot makes home-made chocolate candies that are in a word, the best.
Two hotels stand out on or near Last Chance Gulch: DoubleTree by Hilton Helena and the Great Northern Best Western Hotel. Both hotels have or are near excellent dining for guests and the public.
As for attractions, the Montana Historical Museum near the state capitol is outstanding. The museum has displays and artifacts covering the early days of Montana’s history. The museum also includes a wonderful art gallery which has many original pieces by famous artist C.M. Russell. The museum is open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. weekdays and Saturday, closed on Sundays and holidays.
The state capitol is open to the public. The building is magnificent, a genuine treasure for such a small town. The capitol is open 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. weekdays and 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. weekends.
Missoula (pop, 74,428) is home to the University of Montana. College towns tend to have a distinctive vibe, different from regular cities. Missoula does not completely fit this picture, since the city and the surrounding towns have some industry, especially related to forestry. And Missoula draws lots of tourists.
One major interstate highway, IH 94 going east, connects Missoula with Billings and states in the Midwest. Going west from Missoula, IH 94 leads to Spokane and Seattle. Many flights arrive daily at Missoula International Airport. Missoula is far away from other centers of population. It’s a drive of 200 miles to Spokane, and Billings is 342 miles to the east.
Missoula is a destination for outdoor activities. The Bitterroot River Valley and surrounding mountains south of town offer almost limitless opportunities for hiking, bicycling, fishing, and other outdoor recreation. For beautiful scenery, a drive south of Missoula in the Bitterroot Valley is special. The Bitterroot Mountains, carved by glaciers during the Ice Ages, are spectacular to see and experience.
Missoula has a shopping mall with lots of national chair stores. Beyond that shopping is spread throughout the city. Many stores are owned by local businesses, especially restaurants and shops that cater to needs of people who seek fun in the outdoors.
Since Missoula is mainly an education center and a commercial hub, few big attractions are in the city. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation appeals to a few folks. A carousel will surely keep the kids happy if they are traveling along. The downtown has a historical importance, with a few places listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Given the mix of people who live in and visit Missoula, it is obvious why the city is noted for its excellent dining and drinking places. The Shack just off Higgins Street downtown snags many customers. Bernice’s Bakery is always a good choice. Every visitor should stop at Worden’s Market and Deli. Many young adults hang out at the Iron Horse Bar & Grill. For upscale dining, try the Pearl Café. The décor at the Pearl has an intimate feeling that appeals to many who pay big bucks for dinner.
Bayern Brewing is more than a place, it’s a destination for many. Many beer labels sold here. Dancing Trout, Dump Truck, and Face Plant show this guys have an imagination when choosing names for Bayern Brewing beers. A part of the brewery, Edelweiss Bistro serves food sourced from local farms and ranches. Order a Weisswurst, two poached white sausages served Bier Hall-style with a pretzel and Händlmaier’s Sweet Bavarian mustard. $9. Yum!
Bozeman (pop.48,532) is a small city with a big city attitude. The city sort of feels like it would fit nicely anywhere in the Rocky Mountain region. Say as a neighboring city to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Main Street in the downtown area is always busy. A beehive for sure.
From Bozeman, travelers can easily reach many popular vacation hot spots in southwest Montana. The north entrance to Yellowstone, near the small town of Gardiner, is south of Livingston on U.S. Highway 89. And the west entrance to Yellowstone, near the small town of West Yellowstone, is directly south of Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191.
One major interstate highway, IH 94, going east, connects Bozeman with Billings and states in the Midwest. Going west from Bozeman, IH 94 leads to Missoula, Spokane and Seattle. Many flights arrive daily at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.
Bozeman is an education center and a vacation hub. Montana State University is headquartered in Bozeman. The city has limited shopping in a traditional way. But many stores supply visitors with all sorts of goods for having fun in the outdoors.
Is Bozeman a party town? Maybe. Many bars and good restaurants are ready to serve visitors. Some great dining choices here, even extra nice places like Plonk Wine which, you may have guessed, has imported wines from Europe that can set you back $400 a bottle.
Bozeman offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. At the top of the list is fly-fishing for trout in the Gallatin and Madison Rivers. During winter months, many ski bums head for Bridger Bowl near Bozeman. Hiking, bicycling, and whitewater rafting are other major activities enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts.
Two attractions standout in the Bozeman, leaving aside Yellowstone. The Museum of the Rockies with its splendid dinosaur collection is a must see. If wildlife is of interest, Montana Grizzly Encounter is a few miles east of Bozeman.
Lots of traffic on Bozeman streets at most hours of the day. Parking spots are hard to find especially on Main Street downtown. City leaders have noticed. Parking lots on streets to the north and south of Main Street are ready to serve drivers.
Bozeman tends to cater to visitors who have fatter wallets than most. But some of the outdoors stuff is FREE.
Billings (pop. 109,550) is called Montana’s Trailhead. From Billings, travelers can easily reach many destinations in south-central Montana and the Bighorn Basin in northwest Wyoming. The northeast entrance to Yellowstone National park is a short drive from Billings.
One major interstate highway, IH 94, connects Billings with points to the east including Bismarck and Minneapolis. A second interstate highway, IH 25, connects Billings with cities in central Wyoming and south to Denver. Going west from Billings yet another interstate highway, IH 90, connects with Missoula, Spokane, and Seattle. Many flights arrive at Billings Logan International Airport each day.
Billings is a major trade, medical, and entertainment center. And the city is a shopping hub for a huge geographic area. Great dining choices here, even yummy German cuisine at the Oktoberfest German Restaurant in west Billings.
Billings offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, and major attractions are nearby. At the top of the list are the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area southwest of Billings and, for history buffs, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument located a few miles southeast of Billings. Visitors to Billings often stop by Zoo Montana to learn about and experience nature, without having to take a trip into the wild.
Besides having fun in the great outdoors, tourists often shop at local gift stores. Merchants offer lots of interesting things to buy, saying I’ve been to Montana. You can find a nifty t-shirt with a picture of native wildlife, a beer mug from a local craft brewery, a baseball cap embroidered with a bear and the name of a quaint small town, say Bigfork. A jar of huckleberry preserves is another favorite delight made locally. Choices are many.
A souvenir of some sort is always nice. Bring back memories of fun and experiences had on your trip to Montana, even years later.
In case you cannot find a special gift for yourself or family and friends back home, consider that digital shopping is only a click away. All kinds of things that say “Montana” can be purchased online.
Montana businesses have great Web sites for buying everything from art to food from Montana kitchens. Eva Gates will send you huckleberry preserves. Randy McIntyre offers art for your den and more delights. Many “Made in Montana” e-merchants are waiting for your order.
Etsy.com is always good option as this shopping Web site has a huge inventory of Montana stuff to choose from. Maybe best though, when you shop at a local gift shop, say in Red Lodge or Bigfork, you can immediately enjoy, especially local food products or clothing items.
Millions of people will visit Yellowstone National Park this year. And why not? This park is America’s Wonderland.
Most come to see nature in all its glory at Yellowstone. As for wild animals: elk, black bears, grizzly bears, gray wolves, buffalo, moose, mountain goats, and bald eagles live and thrive in Yellowstone’s wild ecosystem. To see these magnificent creatures in a natural setting is stunning.
Be patient and observant if you are eager to experience wildlife. Wildlife come and go on their own schedules and are found in different areas of the park. Their lives and activities reflect seasonal patterns of nature. It’s good to have a pair of quality binoculars for best viewing.
Then there is the landscape. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River rivals the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The canyon of the Yellowstone River is a huge slice cut out of the earth, caused by action of the river over millions of years. When you see it close-up, it’s hard to imagine how the forces of nature were able to create the canyon.
One feature along the canyon is nothing short of spectacular. This is the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. It’s magical, the waterfall and canyon converge in space, making the Lower Falls one of the most photographed scenes in America.
Panoramic landscapes in Yellowstone are uncommonly beautiful and inspiring. Hayden Valley (central Yellowstone) and Lamar Valley (northwest Yellowstone) are the stuff of travel posters. Yellowstone Lake (southeast Yellowstone) is another huge attraction.
Other features found on Yellowstone’s landscape are very different from anything found elsewhere in America. Features on the landscape such as geysers, fumaroles, hot springs, and mud pots are significant attractions. In part, Yellowstone owes its appearance to volcanic activity deep below the surface of the land. Emblematic of it all is Old Faithful geyser near the western edge of the park.
Yellowstone is also a mecca for outdoors activities, such as camping, hiking, boating, and fishing. Some visitors take guided trips while others take part in programs led by park rangers. Yellowstone officials like to say they have something for everyone.
Yellowstone National Park is unrivaled for its natural bounty, a sensory experience cherished and remembered by all who come. Outdoor activities in nature are a bonus. Memories are made in Yellowstone.
Vacations homes and other properties are popular in Montana. Out-of-state buyers, many from the West Coast, find Montana a place to get away and enjoy the splendor of wonderland at the same time.
Few people live in Montana. This makes the state an even more attractive place to hang out away from America’s big crowded cities.
Two areas are especially sought after for vacation properties: Flathead Valley in far northwest Montana and the Bozeman area north of Yellowstone in southwest Montana.
In 2020, be careful if you are a Buyer. The real estate market is red hot in Montana’s prime vacation home areas. Chaos in some areas of the United States may be creating additional interest in remote vacation properties as people search for places of refuge. Driving the boom, also, are exceedingly low interest rates in the summer of 2020. At this time, it may be a real estate bubble in Montana, who knows.
Be aware: Montana is in a very remote part of the United States. It may be a long drive to get to your new vacation home. Still, all the hot spots are well connected to the world by major airlines. The Glacier park International Airport in Kalispell serves northwest Montana and the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport serves parts of southwest Montana.
Drive over or fly-in and check out these prime vacation home destinations. Good luck and bring deep pockets.
Montana is the West. As you might expect horses and horse culture are found throughout Montana, in both rural and urban areas.
Horses by themselves are amazing animals, so beautiful, and horses bring great enjoyment. Broadly speaking “saddlery” is part of the deal. Most people have no idea. But if you are a tourist, you can see all the gear that goes on a horse before the ride begins. Make a visit to Three Forks Saddlery, in Three Forks, Montana, a small town near Bozeman in southwest Montana.
A learning adventure at this place for sure. Just go to experience the scent of all the leather, amazing.
Three Forks Saddlery sells gorgeous saddles, bridles, and saddle pads. Much more here too for cowboys and cowgirls, even if you never get near a real horse. How about a set of spurs to hang on a wall in the den back home? Denim wear, western hats, bags, western shirts, and more.
Three Forks Saddlery is a sliver of horse culture in Montana. A visit to Three Forks Saddlery or a saddlery in some other town in Montana should be on the list of to dos for all visitors. Even, young folks might enjoy. Three Forks Saddlery.
Montana has lots of marvelous attractions, many so interesting. The Mineral Museum operated by the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology on the campus of Montana Tech in Butte, Montana is a must see.
The museum claims to “amaze and inspire.” This statement coveys so much about a place that is even much more. The numerous exhibits at the Mineral Museum offer a window into the science and beauty of rocks and minerals.
The crown jewel at the Mineral Museum is a 27.5 ounce gold nugget, officially named The Highland Centennial Gold Nugget, discovered in the mountains a few years ago near Butte. The museum staff are also especially proud of a large smoky quartz cluster. Measuring two feet in diameter, it’s called The Rheanna Star.
The Mineral Museum is an international collection as specimens come from many parts of the world. A large amethyst quartz geode is from Brazil, for example. As an added attraction, the Mineral Museum has a small collection of dinosaur bones. Over many years, museum staff have amassed a collection of around 13,000 specimens, acquired by donation and other support.
The museum has a gift shop on site. Visitors can buy gifts from a wide selection of rocks and minerals. If you can imagine, admission is FREE.
Hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily during the summer months, June 15 – September 15. Winter hours, open on Wednesdays, only.
You don’t have to be a naturalist to appreciate the displays found here. Here’s a chance to see minerals as they exist in nature. A few exhibits will help you understand and appreciate gems stones you may own for jewelry. There’s very high public interest in this museum, some 42% of visitors are from out-of-state. So impressive.
Do UFOs snatch motorists who drive late in the night on lonely backroads of Montana during summer months? Not likely, but if you find yourself out on U.S. Highway 12 between Roundup and Harlowton at 2:00 A.M. in the morning be alert.
It’s exhilarating and, at the same time, spooky to be out on the road, U.S. Highway 12, at this late hour. Likely, you’ll be the only car driving on this stretch of highway.
The night sky, bright with undimmed stars, moonlight some nights, and seemingly empty landscape offer a driving experience remembered long after.
Head for this or other remote backcountry roads in Montana at late-night hours and find out for yourself, if you seek a different kind of adventure that few ever experience.
Chocolate candies, malts, and milk shakes are as good as motherhood and apple pie some may suggest. Combine this with special ambience and an old-time atmosphere, complete with booths and counter stools, and you have the Parrot Confectionery on Last Chance Gulch in downtown Helena, Montana.
The Parrot makes over 100 kinds of home-made, hand-dipped chocolates and caramels. Want a bowl of chili, they have it. This place will stir old memories and, as if on a time machine, take you be back to the 1950s and 1960s. The Parrot is way cool, Do NOT miss the Parrot during you next stay in Helena. MTbest™
A small town feel with big time dreams. Lewistown answers the call from all those who make this town home and to all who visit.
With miles upon miles of paved walking and biking trails you can explore the town on foot and see the historical views, bubbling spring creek, and wildlife all while staying within minutes of city center.
Surrounded by four mountain ranges Lewistown’s opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting are endless.
Visit for the famous Chokecherry Festival in September and you are guaranteed a good time from morning to night. The famous painter, Charlie Russell, has a namesake dinner train that travels along miles of the Old Milwaukee rail system. With entertainment on board and outside you are sure to enjoy your journey.
Lewistown offers a variety of dining as well. You can get many styles of food, and all eateries offer friendly service, with gusto and a smile. The dining experience will keep you wanting to come back again and again. Lewistown offers plenty of good lodging options to suit everyone’s needs.
There’s more fun year-round in Lewistown. In the spring, enjoy the opening of the Central Montana Museum, a visit to ways of the past at Pioneer Power Days, and join in at Montana’s Longest table for a taste of foods produced in Montana.
Summer offers golfing, car racing, and the annual Montana Poetry gathering. Fall gives way for fossil hunting, homestead tours, and the famous Bale Trail.
In the winter season, the North Pole Adventure Train takes trips to the North Pole (well, Lewistown’s North Pole). There are ski hills nearby, and the mountains offer places to snowmobile, snowshoe, or go cross-country skiing.
Lewistown comes together for an annual Christmas stroll on Main Street having s’mores, parades, bonfires, and, of course, the man in red, Santa Claus, makes a stop! It’s a community event of sharing and friendship, and so another season ends, with a magnificent celebration showing why Lewistown is so special.
So much is nice in Lewistown that you may even want to stay on and make Lewistown your new home. With an excellent school system, parks scattered through the town, and established youth activities families are sure to find many opportunities to stretch their legs or put down roots.
Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce
408 NE Main
Lewistown, MT 59457
Being a large city, Billings offers many great dining options. Bistecca at the Granary has the best food and atmosphere in Billings. The Granary’s bar is special and a delightful place to have a seat even if you only order a Coke. The Granary is open for lunch and evening dining and located in a quiet neighborhood on Poly Drive.
The City Vineyard is on Grand Avenue in far west Billings. This place is exceptional. Don’t miss! Sandwiches, salads and soups, desserts, and more. Try the “create your own meat and cheese board.” Great selection of Montana craft beers and wines are served.
City Vineyard sells a very large selection of quality wines. Deer Creek Field Medal cheese from Wisconsin and other treats found here too. Next door and adjoining City Vineyard is the City Brew Coffee shop. This is a very, very nice coffee shop. MTbest™
Harper and Madison is another top eatery in Billings. Pastries, desserts, sandwiches, salads, and locally roasted coffee are on the menu. Great breakfast menu. This restaurant is very popular with locals and is located near the hospital-Billings Clinic area north of downtown area. The setting is in a local neighborhood. Open Tuesday thru Friday (7:00 am – 2:00 pm), and Saturday (7:00 am thru 1:00 pm. casual surroundings. Great Harvest Bread is always another good choice.
Bratwursts, schnitzels, apple strudel and many tasty German foods are on the menu at Oktoberfest German Restaurant on Grand Avenue in west Billings. The food is authentic German. The restaurant’s owner is from Stuttgart. MTbest™
For an extra nice atmosphere and good prices dine at Jake’s restaurant downtown. For yummy seafood and ribs, try Montana’s Rib & Chop House on Majestic Lane in the far west end of Billings. Don’t miss McCormick Café’s sandwiches and fresh-baked goods. McCormick Cafe is on Montana Avenue downtown.
Meatloaf sandwiches just like you mom used to make are on the menu at The Fieldhouse restaurant in downtown Billing on Montana Avenue. The Fieldhouse has many other delicious foods too: Burrata (Benton’s ham, crouton, flathead cherry, sage); Lamb Bolognese (with orecchiette pasta, herbs, pecorino, shaved fennel salad); and many more savory temptations.
The 406 Kitchen & Taproom has a great location on north 27th Street, not far from downtown, the airport, and area colleges. On the menu Famous 406 nachos, halibut sandwich, are many more tasty delights. The atmosphere at 406 Kitchen & Taproom is very average but the kitchen has good hours of service.
The Burger Dive in downtown Billings is a favorite for a quick bite in casual surroundings. Great Harvest Bread is always another good choice.
To find dining in Bozeman, head for Main Street. Western Café on east Main Street is a favorite of locals. It’s easy to understand why. A Western Breakfast Sandwich (large biscuit, egg, cheese, ham and sausage OR bacon) cost all of $6.50. Management at The Nova Cafe claims to serve “the best breakfast in town.” Too boastful? Well go and find out. Starbucks coffee is served on west Main Street.
Don’t miss the Baxter Hotel. This establishment features Ted’s Montana Grille and the Bacchus Pub. As you leave the Baxter Hotel pick up some fine chocolates and other gourmet treats at the La Châatelaine Chocolat Co.
Plonk Wine Bozeman on east Main Street has, what else, a great selection of premium wines. Top shelf red is a bottle of 2014 Mommessin Monopole Grand Cru Clos de Tart, Morey St-Denis, only $495. More budget friendly is a 2016 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $42. Cocktails served too. Plonk serves tasty cuisine, often prepared from products sourced from local farms and ranches. Beef tartare and pan roasted chick breast are favorites on the menu. A special ambience makes Plonk Wine a most satisfying experience.
Blackbird Kitchen is a Bozeman dining place on everyone’s list of top restaurants. You know the cuisine great when management advertise “happy local organic wood fired casual dining.” On the menu: goat shank, beef sirloin, spaghetti and meatballs, and a large selection of delicious pizzas. Find a super wine list here. If your taste is birra, order Kloster-Andechs Weissbier Heil or Propolis Brewing Spruce.
bisl offers another fine dining experience in Bozeman. As with Plonk Wine locally sourced ingredients are used when possible. Montana Short Rib and Scallop run about $31. Enjoy your meal with wine or beer, carefully selected from local, national, and international sources. bisl is on east Main Street.
Italian cuisine is the regular fare at Blacksmith Italian restaurant. The Open Range is another restaurant with great reviews. Dining at the Bay Bar & Grille is convenient while shopping at the Gallatin Valley Mall. Other good dining options are: Squire House, Urban Kitchen, South 9th Bistro, and Seven Sushi.
Missoula restaurants and bars are tops. Most of the best restaurants and bars are concentrated along a five-block section of Higgins Avenue, a major north-south artery though the downtown area. The Shack Cafe is a good choice for breakfast, lunch and evening dining. For fresh pastries, breads, and desserts, don’t miss Bernice’s Bakery.
The Iron Horse Brew Pub sells every beverage imaginable, plus has good food, especially sandwiches. The Iron Horse Brew Pub rocks even on weekdays. Tasty sandwiches and veggies are served at Worden’s Market and Deli. Tamarack Brewing (downtown) is a popular sports pub with a low-key, dining experience on the upper level.
The Pearl Café is open for upscale dining. Try the “Boneless trout with Dungeness crab,” cost a mere $29. The menu at Caffe Dolce lists house-made pasta, pizza, salmon, lamb burger and more. Wines are from Italy, France, and Spain. Red Bird at 111 N. Higgins offers upscale dining. Scotty’s Table has tasty delights, local meat, produce, and grains for an exceptional dining experience.
Plonk Wine Missoula on Higgins Avenue has, what else, a great selection of premium wines. Top shelf red is a bottle of 2009 Domaine Clerget Echezeaux Burgundy, only $320. More budget friendly is a 2013 Tangent Grenache Blanc, Edna Valley, $32. Cocktails served too. Plonk serves tasty cuisine, often prepared from products sourced from local farms and ranches. Alaskan halibut, $32. and grilled local bone-in park chops, $25., are favorites on the menu. A special ambience makes Plonk Wine a most satisfying experience.
Great Falls has many good dining spots. Tops is the Celtic Cowboy in the Hotel Arvon in downtown Great Falls. The Celtic Cowboy is a pub and restaurant. On the Menu for breakfast try “Scotch Eggs” for $9 or Irish Porridge (Irish oatmeal) $6. For lunch try their Celtic Burger (ground bison or elk, with cheese, tomato, and slaw) $15. A favorite for dinner is Irish Whiskey Glazed Salmon, $24.
On the pub side, the Celtic Cowboy offers about 35 craft beers made in Montana. Go for a craft beer or to dine, the Celtic Cowboy is an amazing place. MTbest™
Dante’s Creative Cuisine has a nice atmosphere and, according to management, offers “casual [dining] elegance in the heart of Great Falls, Montana. Perfect steaks and prime rib, delicious seafood entrees, southwestern specialties and delectable desserts make us hard to resist!” On the menu, Manicotti Italiano, $18.95, Chicken Milano, $19.95, Charbroiled Salmon, $28.95, and Grilled Ribeye, $29.95. A great selection of wine, beer, and spirits here, too.
Wheat Montana Bakery and Deli makes delightful sweet baked goods, soups and salads, and sandwiches. Made from the best Montana ingredients. Great Harvest Bread is always a good choice. JB’s Restaurant is a family dining restaurant near major shopping areas and the city’s main mall.
Restaurants are plentiful in Helena. Those who like superior Italian cuisine and good wine dine at Lucca’s on Last Chance Gulch. Exceptional service here.
For other upscale dining, try The Wassweiler Dinner House & Pub. Pan Seared Salmon with creamy goat cheese couscous, tomato, mushroom, sweet corn, spinach, and lemon caper beurre blanc is on the menu at $34. Drive a short distance west of Helena on U.S. Highway 12 to arrive at the Wassweiler.
For a good wine selection and splendid cuisine, many dine at On Broadway near the downtown. The Brewhouse Pub & Grille in the Great Northern Town Center, a few blocks north of the downtown area, is very popular.
The Parrot Confectionery, located downtown on Last Chance Gulch, opened in 1922 and serves famous chili, malts, and milk shakes. Best of all you can try over 100 kinds of home-made, hand-dipped chocolates and caramels. This place has an old-time atmosphere, sort of like out of the 1950s. A neat spot if you have a sweet tooth.
Try Steve’s Café for the best breakfast. For tasty coffee, tea, baked treats, and lunch in Helena try Hub Coffee on Last Chance Gulch downtown. Great Harvest Bread is always a good choice. The Grub-Stake, a few miles north of Helena on I-15, is an interesting hang out for locals.
For upscale dining in Kalispell, try Jagz Fine Dining. A full pound center cut ribeye, char-grilled and topped with bourbon onion sauce goes for $32.95. The Desoto Grill is wildly popular too. The Desoto Grill serves BBQ, sandwiches, desserts, and beer. A smoked chicken sandwich, $12.25. Banana pudding, $4.75. Yum!
The Montana Club restaurant is in the downtown area just off Main Street. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For this reason, the Montana Club is a good choice. Sometimes it’s hard to find a restaurant that serves breakfast.
The Carbon County Steakhouse on Main Street has a wonderful dining atmosphere and cuisine is first-rate. A large wine selection is served. This is upscale dining Red Lodge, so don’t look at prices on the menu.
Locals and visitors enjoy tasty cuisine at the Carbon Fork Restaurant in downtown Red Lodge. Try their Huckleberry ice cream for dessert, so good. There’s a lot to love at the Carbon Fork. Foster & Logan’s Pub & Grill on Main Street is another spot to have a good meal. A special at Foster and Logan’s is a Folo’s Dog, a 1/4 pound all beef hot dog with extras for only $7.95. Bogart’s serves a variety of Mexican food.
For a tradition pub atmosphere, go to the Snag Bar. A beer at the Snag goes for $3.00, a burger $8.00. A pool table and a few video gaming machine attract some visitors to the Snag Bar.
The Rock Creek Resort (1-800-667-1119) is located a few miles south of Red Lodge on U.S. Highway 212. The nearby Old Piney Dell Restaurant and Bar is a favorite dining spot for locals. The restaurant has a very rustic setting, along the banks of Rock Creek.
Shell, Wyoming: population 83….people, that is….not horses or cows. Lots more of the four-legged variety in that vast and open expanse.
I’ve just returned to California from The Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch – my second visit and wish I had extended just ONE more week, but alas! This all-inclusive destination resort has a loyal and well-deserved following that is not about to wait for me or you to figure it out – the Hideout gets booked up fast!
If you are looking for a truly special guest ranch experience, you will find the most unexpected pleasure you’ve sought about an hour and a half east of Cody, Wyoming.
Since 1992, the Hideout’s current owners Marijn and Peter De Cabooter have made this family-owned operation the guest ranch lover’s dream come true.
If you want to learn about horsemanship as a beginner or enjoy the skills you already possess on lovingly cared-for animals The Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch is a wonderful place to go: At the Hideout, you’ll feel both free and safe on horseback; explore some of the most beautiful and varied terrain in Wyoming; be part of a cattle drive or roundup on a working cattle ranch; and feel embraced as a single, couple or family group. You will really enjoy The Hideout. It is the best kept secret I know of.
And aside from feeling like family with owners and staff, you are treated to end-of-day slide shows of your adventures, a social hour before your gourmet dinner, comfortable, rustically elegant accommodations and stimulating conversation with an international group of 25 or so VERY interesting dudes and dudettes!
The Hideout is not for young kids or spa-loving softies looking for facials, massages and general pampering, but the accommodations and meals are top notch, as are the guests, owners, staff and stock.
Horseback riding is an activity many visitors enjoy in Montana. The rider and horse come together in a way nothing else can match. Horseback riding takes skill but anyone with patience can learn. Fun for sure. A bonus, ranches which offer horseback riding are found in scenic areas of the state.
This is an activity that families can enjoy together in the great outdoors. Memories never forgotten. If you stay at a guest ranch, horseback riding is usually part of the package. Ride as often and as much as you like.
For other visitors a short ride, maybe an hour or half-day, is all that’s wanted. Many ranches/outfitters offer this more limited service. A few are listed here. Always contact the ranch/outfitter in advance before arrival to make sure horses and wranglers are available when wanted.
BILLINGS: Car rentals at Billings Logan International Airport: Hertz (406) 248-9151, Alamo (406) 252-7626, Avis (406) 252-8007. For taxi service call City Cab (406) 252-8700 or Yellow Cab (406) 245-3033.
BOZEMAN: Car rentals at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport: Avis (406) 388-6414, Hertz (406) 388-6939, Alamo (406) 388-6694. North of Yellowstone Shuttle & Charter Service, operating out of Livingston, provides long-distance transportation to several towns in southwest Montana. They offer taxi, shuttle, and private car service to Big Sky, Livingston, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, Chico, Gardiner, West Yellowstone, and other locations (406) 580-2286. The company does not provide service in the city of Bozeman. For taxi service in Bozeman, call Greater Valley Taxi (406) 587-6303.
MISSOULA: Car rentals at the Missoula International Airport: Avis (406) 549-4711, Hertz (406) 549-9511, Alamo (406) 543-0926. airport. For taxi service, call Missoula Green Taxi (406) 728-8294 or Yellow Cab of Missoula (406) 543-6644. A Web page by Missoula airport lists shuttle services.
HELENA: Car rentals at the Helena Regional Airport: Alamo, (406) 442-1765, Avis (406) 442-4440, Hertz, (406) 449-4167. For taxi service, call Capitol Taxi (406) 449-5525.
KALISPELL: Car rentals at the Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell: Avis (406) 257-2727, Hertz (406) 758-2220, Alamo (406) 257-7144. For taxi service in Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls call Glacier Taxi (406) 250-3603. Arrow Shuttle also provides ground transportation in the Kalispell area (406) 300-2301.
GREAT FALLS: Car rentals at the Great Falls International Airport: Alamo (406) 727-0273, Avis (406) 761-7610, Hertz (406) 761-6641. For taxi service, call Diamond Cab (406) 453-3241.
Bus transportation is available for many cities. Check out Greyhound or Jefferson Lines. Another choice, travel by train on AMTRAK’S Empire Builder.
Some folks may choose to fly. Modern airports are found in major cities. Billings (BIL), Bozeman (BZN), Missoula (MSO), Helena (HLN), Kalispell (FCA), Butte (BTM), and Great Falls (GTF) airports are especially nice and all are served by major airlines and conveniently located near downtown areas. Booking flights on Expedia or other travel Web site is easy.
Travel tip: How far is Missoula? Montana is a very big state and distances between major cities can be as much as 100 miles or more. Plan ahead with the DOT’s distance calculator.
Bed & Breakfasts are popular some people. Campgrounds are often the choice of RVers. More recently, vacation rentals are all the rage.
Commercial travel Web sites can help find and book lodging. In some cases, you can also book lodging with the proprietor or a local vendor. If you dial up a phone number with the area code (406) you are likely reach a local business.
Montana is the heart of the West. You can experience a western lifestyle when staying at a guest ranch. Wranglers saddle-up the horses when guests are ready for horseback riding, a most popular activity. Of course Montana’s guest ranches offer much more, activities galore. Here are a few of the ranches:
Travel tip: Before you go be sure to ask the guest ranch about their horses. How many do they have? Are the horses suitable for pros as well as riders with little or no experience. What sort of terrain is near the ranch’s corral? Horseback riding on flat land is okay, but trails off in the hills and up in the mountains are more fun.
Indigenous Americans celebrate at Crow Fair Powwow, Crow Agency, Montana. Photo courtesy Crazy Crow Trading Post.
Indigineous American powwows and fairs are special events held annually at various cities around Montana. Powwows highlight singing, drumming, stories, dancing, and dress of indigenous American peoples. Fun for the entire family. The granddaddy of them all is Crow Fair near Hardin, Montana. Crow Fair attract thousands of visitors.
Kyiyo Powwow, Missoula
American Indian Council Powwow, Bozeman
North American Indian Alliance Powwow, Butte
Little Shell Chippewa Powwow, Ulm
Last Chance Community Powwow, Helena
MSUB (Montana State University-Billings) Powwow, Billings
Sweetgrass Society Powwow, Havre
Salish Kootenai College Powwow, Pablo
North American Indian Days, Browning
Valley of the Chiefs Powwow and Rodeo, Lodge Grass
Rocky Boy Powwow, Box Elder
Wadopana Powwow, Wolf Point
Hays Powwow, Hays
Poplar Indian Days, Poplar
Crow Fair Powwow and Rodeo, Crow Agency
Dates of events may change from year-to-year. Just do a look-up on Google for a powwow/fair and find dates and a description of activities. NOTICE: Many events in Montana are being cancelled in 2020, due to concerns about coronavirus. So check on an event before you go to see if it still scheduled to take place in 2020.
What is the Laughing Horse Lodge all about? The name sounds a bit whimsical, but a little more digging tells the full story about this lodging gem. To begin, the Laughing Horse Lodge is a seasonal business, opening on May 12 and closing in October in 2019.
May 12 is Mother’s Day and the Laughing Horse aims to please mom. At brunch you’ll be entertained with music by Second Wind. At supper, Electric Avenue Blues is on the “stage.”
In the main lodge, visitors are greeting by a cozy dining area and a bar. Chef Kathleen is a wonderful lady and she wants to make you feel right at home.
In case you want authenticity, listen to Kathleen: “In our 18th years here at the Horse, the practices we have tried to implement as much as possible are providing natural, hormone-free, known-sourced food…” Dining here is special. Try Kathleen’s bakedcambozola topped with Turkish figs and warm organic fig preserves served with crostini.
A lovely garden is immediately out the back door. A few steps away are several small cabins all nicely decorated with log furniture and western art. Cozy quilts cover the beds. No TVs, great! Very homey for sure.
Laughing Horse Lodge is located a few miles south of Bigfork on Montana Highway 83. Glacier National park and Flathead Lake are not too far away. If I were asked to give a rating, I’d say the Laughing Horse gets five stars. Contact them at 406-886-2080. Laughing Horse Lodge.
2020 Season is cancelled, due to coronavirus concerns
Join us June 5-13, 2021
The highly acclaimed Red Lodge Music Festival is a premier event in Montana. Participants learn and perform: musical groups include wind ensembles, jazz ensembles, and orchestras. Talent shows, ball games and more make this event so enjoyable.
Performances, by faculty and students, are scheduled for the general public and are held at the Red Lodge Civic Center Auditorium. For 2019, this event runs June 1-9.
Schedule of performances open to public, Red Lodge Music Festival:
Faculty Chamber Concerts are June 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8.
Concerts begin at 7:30 and are held at the Civic Center.
Tickets are $12.00 each per concert.
Student ensemble concerts are Thursday and Friday the 6th and 7th and start at 7:00. No charge. The final band and orchestra concert is Sunday afternoon, June 9th.
Don’t miss this one. A ton of talent here. So nice.
The era of the mountain man, the most active period being roughly 1810-1850, is one of the most interesting periods in northern Rocky Mountain history. People who live in Montana have not forgotten this special period.
Modern day folks gather to celebrate the culture and history of mountain men. These events are called a rendezvous. This summer a dedicated bunch of locals in western Montana puts on a great show.
No Green River excesses (as of early day gatherings, 1830s, of mountain men in Wyoming) at this rendezvous. This event is pure family fun.
In 2020, Wild Horse Rendezvous is May 22-25. Active participation or just hanging out is okay. Public welcome. Vendors come too with period clothing and food.
Due to coronavirus concerns, this event is cancelled for 2020.
Popular wisdom says, if you want to eat at good cafes with best prices go where the locals go. Even while travelers and tourists occasionally want to seek out fine dining in new cities, at times just a great meal is all that’s wanted. A few good cafes in Montana come to mind: In Helena, Steve’s Cafe; in Bozeman, Western Cafe; in Missoula, Burns Street Bistro; and in Billings, Stella’s Kitchen & Bakery
Price comparisons are interesting. For example bacon, eggs, and biscuit/toast cost:
Steve’s Cafe, Helena: $7.95
Western Cafe, Bozeman: $6.50
Burns Street Bistro, Missoula: $9.00
Stella’s Kitchen & Bakery, Billings: $9.65
Tourists are usually unfamiliar with local communities, so finding the best cafes can be elusive. Hey you can always pay more. The Shack Restaurant in Missoula quoted $13.00. Asking a local on the street corner or a clerk in a store often points the way. Another clue is to watch where local policemen dine. As a tourist, you don’t want to turn this search into a science. But money saved on dining can leave more cash for other fun things.
*data from phone interviews March, 2, 2019 or from online menu
Nature is king in Glacier National Park. Nature operates and plays by its own rules, not within artificial boundaries understood and set by man. Since 1910, when Glacier National Parkwas established, 260 people have met death at the hands of nature or from other causes in the park. Many more experienced dangerous situations and lived to tell about it.
The National Park Service does all it can do within its power to make the park safe for visitors. But when nature and people come together, bad things can sometimes happen.
For those who want to learn more about the tragedies in Glacier’s history, Death & Survival in Glacier National Park: True Tales of Tragedy, Courage, and Misadventure by C. W. Guthrie is well worth a read. Another book, “Death in Glacier National Park: Stories of Accidents and Foolhardiness in the Crown of the Continent by Randi Minetor recounts much the same.
Perhaps the most shocking is a tragedy which occurred in August,1967. Within the space of a few short hours, at separate locations in Glacier National Park, two teenage girls, Julie Helgeson from Minnesota and Michele Koons from California, met death at the hands of marauding grizzly bears. This story is told in a book entitled Night of the Grizzlies, by Jack Olsen.
Visitors to Glacier should learn lessons from the past and be careful; further, religiously heed and follow the rules and guidelines for visitor activities and behavior set forth by the National Park Service.
Every visit to Glacier should and can be a wonderful and safe experience. This post is not of the cheery sort, but tells of important things to know about nevertheless.
Bozeman is a very expensive city for travelers. A local hotel recently charged $339 for a one night stay in late September. At one restaurant on Main Street a simple buffalo burger with coffee cost $20.13 (including tip).
A car rental (Wednesday to Wednesday) in September from a local new car dealership for a Chevy Malibu cost $591.43. One visitor offers, “visitors to Bozeman should plan to leave their wallets behind when they drive out of town.”
High interest and much progress in grizzly bear science is reported in a recent technical paper by John Sandy. This research appears in the journal Science and Technology Libraries.
Grizzly bears inhabit wilderness areas in the northwestern region of the lower forty-eight states, western Canada, and areas of Alaska. Because of the settlement of the west and loss of prime habitat, populations declined rapidly in the nineteenth century, and in 1975 federal action was taken to protect grizzlies under the Endangered Species Act. Since 1950 about 722 technical papers have been written on the grizzly bear. Major research has focused on ecology, conservation, reproductive biology, behavior, dietetics, anatomy, and physiology, among other topics. Due to geographic distribution of the species, much of the research has been carried out by authors and organizations in western regions of the United States and Canada where major grizzly populations exist. A significant number of technical papers appear in three key journals: Ursus, the Journal of Wildlife Management, and the Canadian Journal of Zoology. According to data in WorldCat, about 1,167 records, covering monographs and technical reports, contain information on grizzlies and present research findings. The bulk of monographs appeal mainly to a general audience. However, citation analysis reveals a core of highly cited technical papers, many written with an emphasis on special themes or topics, whereas others focus on the grizzly itself, all together advancing the science on this species.
A new technical paper on Little Bighorn Battlefield is ready for readers. Just released. Abstract of paper is shown below. This technical paper is a preprint on deposit in the Institutional Repository at The University of Alabama.
Characterization of Geographical Aspects of the Landscape and Environment in the Area of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, Montana
John H. Sandy
Abstract: On June 24, 1876, a large military force of the United States Army 7th Cavalry converged on the lower Little Bighorn Valley in the Montana Territory, aiming to capture a large number of Native Americans. A major military battle ensued over the following two days. The landscape near the Little Bighorn Battlefield is both gentle and very rugged. The upland to the east of the Little Bighorn Valley is highly dissected by a complex drainage system, consisting of ravines, coulees, and ridges. Elevations from the valley floor to the upland change as much as 340 feet. The slope in parts of the upland is greater than 10 degrees, and in rugged areas of the bluffs and along some ravines and other erosional features in excess of 30 degrees. The Little Bighorn Valley itself is a gentle northward sloping plain, with the Little Bighorn River flowing to the east side of the valley adjacent to the upland. Local vegetation of the area is highly diverse, bearing a close relationship to the physiographic features, hydrology, and climate of this area. Certain characteristics of the Little Bighorn River and the bordering riparian zone add to the diversity of the landscape. A brief analysis suggests ways that elements of the landscape and environment affected the course of the battle.
Keywords: Little Bighorn Battlefield, physiography, weather, topography, vegetation, Montana, military history, Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, U.S. Army, George Custer, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull