To drive from one end of Montana to the other you will drive 630 miles. That is the same distance to go from Portland, Main to Richmond, Virginia - and on that trip you pass through ten different states.
It is no surprise that Montana’s landscape varies around the state. Today we are focusing primarily on the west half of the state and exploring the mountains of Montana. People come from all over the world to explore the mountains of Montana. It was recently reported by The Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, MT that the June visitors for Glacier National Park were up 28% to last year with a total of 341,317 visitors. Glacier is just one of the mountainous areas you can explore in our great state, but let’s start there.
1.The Lewis Range in Glacier National Park runs North to South on the Eastern side of the continental divide. Exploring this side of the park is my personal favorite. There are so many things to do and places to explore. Some of my favorite hikes are Grinnell Glacier (Grinnell Lake if you are looking for something a little shorter) and Iceberg Lake (where you get views of Iceberg Peak). Be sure to check out Many Glacier hotel even just to look around and grab a snack! I once sat in the living room of the Many Glacier hotel while it poured rain and watched a Grizzly hang out on the mountain out the window for hours.
Two Medicine also has some amazing peaks in the Lewis Range. Last year I was able to go on a day trip through the Hockaday Museum of Art with artist Nancy Cawdrey and watch her paint for a plein air event. Keep an eye for other unique adventures like this into the mountains with the Hockaday and other organizations in the valley.
2.The Livingston Range runs north to south and is in the northwestern areas of the park. Polebridge Mercantile is a popular destination in the Livingston Range (and totally worth it!). My recommendation is filling up on baked goods at the Mercantile and continue going north and go up and over through the….
3.Whitefish Range. I’m partial to this area because this range goes through Red Meadow Forest which was the area my grandpa watched over when he was in the forest service. It is a great place to go for a drive (on a very narrow road- go slow!) and see some incredible views. Recently my siblings and I went up in the Whitefish Range with my dad for Father’s Day and did some target shooting (just make sure you do it safely and in an appropriate space of course - there are signs to designate appropriate areas).
I A glimpse of Red Meadow Forest on the Whitefish Range I
4. These days I do a lot of traveling between my home in Kalispell and what I like to think of as my second home in Missoula and the best part of that trip is the Mission Range. I will never forget bringing a friend of mine to Montana for the first time and driving past the Missions. She continued to stare at them in awe and repeat over and over how incredible they were. And they are. That was such a nice moment and one that I think of often as I do that drive over and over - I hope I never forget to take a moment to look at those mountains in awe.
Be sure to check out the National Bison Range if you haven't before. It is a great way to spend an afternoon and look at the Mission's all day. You can stock up on snacks at the Mission General Store in St. Ignatius!
5. Lastly, let’s talk about the Cabinet Mountains. The cabinet mountains are to put it simply... incredible. There is not a time of year that these mountains don’t look amazing. There are many possible adventures in these mountains! You can check out Kootenai Falls (part of The Revenant was shot there!) and walk across the swinging bridge. It took me three times to actually be able to cross the bridge, but once you do it is well worth it.
I The Swinging Bridge in the Cabinet Mountains is a must see! I
I would also recommend driving up through the mountains to Noxon and down to Thompson Falls and Plains. There are many great treasures including The Shire of Montana - you can actually stay there! - Minnie’s Cafe - the breakfasts are wonderful! - and the Sanders County Fair - people come from all over - check it out at the end of August this year!
Looking at our Montana map we can see that Mountains do cover the western side of our state. These are just a few of the gems that I’ve found on my adventures!