Everybody needs to go to Glacier Nationwide Park…like 3 million folks a yr. However what many park-goers don’t understand is that the majority of Western Montana was carved by the identical glacial exercise, providing so many different beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests—with a fraction of the vacationers. To assist extra folks discover the lesser-known gems and maintain them pristine, we took our expertise as off-grid RVers with a inexperienced coronary heart, and partnered with Glacier Nation Tourism for a #RecreateResponsibly street journey. Over the course of 12 days, we traveled from the Bitterroot Mountains to the far north of Kootenai Nation, by way of three nationwide forests, dynamic Native American territories, charming small cities, the largest freshwater lake within the West, and a ton extra in between. Listed below are a few of our favourite Western Montana street journey locations and the methods you’ll be able to depart these locations higher than you discovered them.
Biking the Route of the Hiawatha
Spanning the Idaho and Montana border, the Route of the Hiawatha is without doubt one of the crown jewels of the US’s rails-to-trails system. When constructing the railroad line from Chicago to Tacoma within the early Twentieth-century, the crew reached the Bitterroot Mountains and it was the hardest terrain they’d encountered. To create this 15-mile stretch, they bore 10 tunnels (some over a mile lengthy) and constructed 7 trestle bridges towering over the forest. And all that tough work remains to be paying off with this unbelievable bike path. To get equipped, we went to Lookout Go Resort for bike leases and a rack, then drove to the Montana aspect to start out the experience. With a mild downhill pitch and extensive grime path, it’s all about having fun with the sweeping mountain views and engineering marvels lining the way in which. To make it even simpler for all ages, Lookout Go affords a shuttle with a information to entertain you all the way in which again to the parking zone. Name us slackers, however the return shuttle allowed us to take our candy time for numerous picture stops, studying the handfuls of interpretive indicators, having fun with a picnic, and climbing up a waterfall. Watch this video from our experience.
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: Plan Forward. Carry a raincoat and headlamp to be prepared for the tunnels.
Catching a County Honest
From summer time to fall, there are gala’s throughout Montana and we had been in simply in time for one of many largest occasions in Ravalli County. Amusement rides, cornhole tournaments, bake-offs, livestock demonstrations, classic automotive reveals, and a full-blown rodeo…this was a cultural affair decked in cowboy boots. And we could also be metropolis people, however we obtained in with the perfect of them, chowing down on huckleberry pie and cheering on the wagon races. Along with the rodeo clown, who was our favourite character on the honest? Smokey Bear. He was representing on the Bitterroot Nationwide Forest sales space, providing data on tenting and fireplace security for locals and guests alike. Thanks, Smokey!
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: Know Earlier than You Go. Wildfire season is a really actual factor within the West, verify MTFireInfo.org for the newest fireplace standing and restrictions.
Swinging the cultural pendulum, we went from a county honest to an indie rock live performance at Montana’s premier music venue. The state-of-the-art Kettlehouse Amphitheater is tucked in a notch of the mountains on the foot of the Blackfoot River (yea, the one Brad Pitt was fishing in A River Runs By It), incomes it a spot in as one among Prime 10 Amphitheaters within the World, in line with Pollstar. Including to the cool issue, it’s adjoining to the Kettlehouse Brewery, and contemporary craft beer is delivered proper to your live performance seat. We noticed Dying Cab for Cutie they usually had been superior, although it barely issues what band is on the town…the venue is so extraordinary, you’re gonna have a terrific night time.
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: At all times Recycle. We love that Kettlehouse Amphitheater was all about minimizing waste with recycling, compost, and cardboard water bottles, although touring in rural areas could make it trickier to maintain up these good habits. In the event you don’t see recycling straight away, stash it in your trunk till you see that service—you’ll discover it will definitely!
Garnet Ghost City
Being the Treasure State, Montana has outdated mining cities all all through the mountains, with the best-preserved being Garnet. Taking a flip off the properly paved Route 200 and onto the rugged Garnet Vary Backcountry Byway, we wound by way of the mountains for 11 miles. Following a brief climbing path right into a valley, we obtained a view over this 130-year-old time capsule. Not your common ramshackle mining city, Garnet had 4 lodges, three livery stables, two barbershops, a union corridor, faculty, sweet store, physician’s workplace, and 13 saloons. Finally, a gold shortage and the 1913 fireplace drove the city into ghost standing, however when prohibition and the melancholy period hit, their hidden saloons and gold claims obtained a second wind. We beloved wandering by way of the outdated buildings, many with their authentic fixtures and relics, and up the hill to the Nineties miners’ cabins. Take a half-hour hike alongside the Sierra Mine Loop Path and also you’ll discover outdated gold claims tucked within the pines.
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: Take solely pictures. Like several historic website, you could come throughout little artifacts as you wander about city; depart them behind and assist maintain the story of Garnet in context.
Seeley Lake & The Clearwater Canoe Path
Between the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Mission Mountains lies the Seeley-Swan Valley Chain of Lakes and the ever-popular Clearwater River Canoe Path. We rented SUP boards from Tamaracks Resort they usually dropped us off on the put-in. Paddling this 3.5-mile meandering waterway by way of the willow marsh with mountain views on all sides was wonderful. Once we reached the river’s finish, we had been greeted with a floating backyard of lily pads and a seashore to benefit from the expansive Seeley Lake. Conveniently, there’s a half-hour climbing path to attach again to the put-in spot; in the event you rented from Tamaracks, simply maintain paddling for 20 minutes to succeed in their lakefront property. FYI, this historic resort is a charmer with nice cabins and campsites if you wish to keep awhile and absorb the lake life. One other nice lodging and eating choice is Double Arrow Lodge. We went for dinner at their Nineteen Thirties log-cabin restaurant and indulged in truffle root vegetable risotto and Grand Marnier chocolate mousse cake. We earned it with that paddling journey, proper?
Mountain climbing Holland Lake & Falls
On the northside of Seeley-Swan Valley is one among our favourite hikes in Montana: Holland Falls Nature Path. With only a fast stroll by way of the tamarack and alpine forest, you attain the turquoise Holland Lake surrounded by sheer peaks. It was so attractive we might have referred to as it there, however following the shoreline, the views saved getting higher as we steadily climbed to the 40-foot waterfall. In the event you’re up for a little bit of rock scrambling (not advisable for youths), a steep path will carry you from the underside of the falls to a wide ranging view over the lake.
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: Brush it Off. In the beginning of this trailhead, the forest service supplies a boot brush. Wipe off your sneakers earlier than and after the hike to stop the seeds and spores of invasive species from spreading. Whereas not each path affords this, it’s nonetheless a terrific follow to brush off or clap your sneakers collectively when getting into and departing new wilderness areas.
Do you know Montana’s Flathead Lake is the most important freshwater lake west of the Mississippi? The 185 miles of shoreline are dotted with cute cities, orchards, state parks, and place of birth. We drove the complete circumference going counterclockwise, ranging from Huge Fork. This city was lovely, with a terrific little theater, artwork galleries, ice cream retailers, and bars the place you’ll be able to hitch up your horse. Driving down the east aspect of the lake, the slopes had been coated with fruit bushes. We stopped at Bowman Orchards, a century-old and fifth-generation household farm, with a specialty in Rainier and Lapin cherries. The entire household, from the youngsters to the grandparents, was at work wrapping up a terrific season. In the event you’re an RVer and a Harvest Host Member, each Bowman Orchards and East Shore Smokehouse (a enjoyable restaurant with a giant grassy discipline) will allow you to keep the night time in trade for getting a few of their goodies. Win, win!
Flathead’s Wild Horse Island & Camp Kapapa
Cruising up the westside of the lake, we had our eyes set on Flathead’s largest isle, Wild Horse. This 2,160-acre mountainous expanse is the place the Kootenai folks traditionally hid their horses from warring tribes and the place their equine ancestors nonetheless roam free. Solely accessible by boat, this state park referred to as for a kayak and climbing journey! We set off from the city of Dayton and after a scenic hour paddle, we reached Skeeko Bay and its intensive community of trails. We hiked up the mountain, holding an eye fixed out for his or her resident wild horses, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and relics from the early Twentieth-century settlers. We reached the height for panoramic views of the encompassing islands, mountains, and lake, then meandered our approach all the way down to Eagle Cove to complete out this implausible climbing loop. After a giant day of outside journey, we wished to deal with ourselves to an evening at Camp Kapapa, a model new glamping camp on the Flathead Reservation. This property has been in Keya Birdsbill’s household for generations and it was at all times her grandmother’s dream to share the land in its pure state and with its Kootenai traditions. This summer time Keya and her husband Louie opened Camp Kapapa (which implies “grandparent” within the Kootenai language) in her honor. Proper alongside the shore, they’ve teepees, a wall tent, deluxe tent websites, and a one-of-kind teepee cabin, every adorned with tribal motifs and views to the lake. We completely fell in love with this glamping camp; to see and skim extra about it, take a look at our Camp Kapapa Instagram gallery.
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: Respect Wildlife. Whether or not on Wild Horse Island or in Glacier Nationwide Park, Montana is chock filled with wildlife. As tempting as it’s to get shut for a superb picture, maintain your distance and don’t disturb them. Be notably aware of bears and comply with these security ideas.
The Northwest Hall: Eureka
Heading into the Northwest Hall in direction of the Canadian border, the wilderness will get wilder and the small cities get smaller. Steamboats and railways had been the one approach to get into the glacial and gold-rich hills of Tobacco River Valley till the early 1900s and it nonetheless feels simply as distant. For a glance into the previous, we went to Eureka’s Tobacco Valley Historic Village to discover its assortment of hand-hewn buildings, from outdated cabins to church buildings to schoolhouses. Although exploring the principle avenue of modern-day Eureka was an entire lot extra modern than we might have imagined, with cool boutiques, espresso retailers, movie show, and even a world-fusion, vegan-friendly cafe. Including to the surprising, Montana’s #1 golf course, The Wilderness Membership, is on this city!
Tobacco River & Campground Cleanup
Simply six miles west of Eureka within the Kootenai Nationwide Forest, there’s the unbelievable (and free!) Tobacco River Campground. We noticed a fire-ring proper alongside the water and rapidly arrange camp to benefit from the final moments of sundown, watch the ospreys fish, and cook dinner dinner over the hearth. (Watch our fireplace security TikTok). Within the morning, the wildlife watching continued like an episode out of the Discovery Channel. Gliding herons, dive-bombing eagles, wave-riding geese, and spawning Kokanee salmon had been all placing on a tremendous present. As we had been breaking down camp, we noticed two Forest Service volunteers making the rounds with their trash baggage so requested if we might be a part of their clean-up. They had been so grateful for the assistance, that they turned it right into a nature stroll, instructing us concerning the native edible berries, medicinal vegetation, invasive species, and animal tracks…then gifted us a home made jar of huckleberry jam!
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: Go away it Higher Than You Discovered It. Everytime you’re at a campsite or on the path, do your half to maintain it clear. We prefer to hike with a trash bag and pinchers so we by no means should assume twice about choosing issues up.
Libby & The Chainsaw Carving Championships
Taking the Koocanusa Scenic Byway alongside its namesake lake and into the Cupboard Mountains, we reached the spunky little metropolis of Libby. As a former asbestos mining city, it had a foul wrap for some time, however Libby is reinventing itself as an journey and cultural capital of the Northwest Hall. It usually hosts occasions just like the Riverfront Blues Competition, Libby Logger Days, The Irish Honest, and the unbelievable Kootenai Nation Worldwide Chainsaw Carving Championship. We had the good fortune of seeing the “Conflict of the Carvers” and watch twenty of the world’s finest, from Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Russia, Canada, USA, and extra, face-off. They get an eight-foot log and 4 days to show it right into a masterpiece, plus the added problem of every day 90-minute fast carves for the continuing public sale. Even in someday of strolling across the open-air workshops, we had been amazed at how a lot the art work developed. From sawing to chiseling, sanding, torching, and marking, these works had been rapidly refined to perfection. The night time earlier than the finals, the city went wild and we went with them. Alongside our new Montana buddy and former carver, Gary, we bar hopped from the Cupboard Mountain Brewery (aka The Residing Room of Libby) to the Mint, the place beers are nonetheless saved chilly in picket ice chests. The following day all of the masterworks had been lined up and auctioned off in a storm of bidders, driving costs upwards of $10,000. Watch the video above to see the sawdust fly and the nice occasions rip.
Kootenai Falls & Swinging Bridge
Seven miles west of Libby, when the cliffs alongside the freeway flip right into a rainbow of colours and the river rages, you’ve reached Kootenai Falls. This cascade is without doubt one of the largest free-flowing waterfalls within the northwest, however it’s not the peak or width that makes your jaw drop, it’s every thing else. 1.5 billion-year-old rocks create a staircase for these falls to swiftly and gracefully step down the Kootenai River, then swoop round islands and down a craggy slim canyon. We walked the quick nature path to the water and thought the primary lookout was the view of views, however new waterfalls and islands saved showing all the way in which to the principle cascade. No crowding onto a viewing platform, you’ll be able to stroll proper as much as the falls, sit on the edge and really feel the complete rush. Head downstream and also you’ll attain the swinging bridge for one final have a look at arguably one of many prettiest waterfalls within the States.
Ross Creek Cedars & Giving Again
On our final day in Western Montana, we obtained up early to discover Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Space. Apparently, we obtained there even earlier than the rangers, as a result of there was an enormous fallen tree blocking the street. Did we flip round? Heck no, Buddy comes packing with 102 horsepower, a hatchet, and twine! We knew you wouldn’t imagine our 1985 camper might haul 4,000+ kilos of timber, so Anne shot this video of Buddy’s glory second. We cleared the street for all and pressed on to the traditional grove of 1,000-year-old bushes. Strolling the mile-long loop, we craned our necks to lookup on the lush cover 175 toes above us. On our approach out we seen a field that mentioned that this grove is maintained by the Three Rivers Ranger District, with the assistance of customer donations. Having simply hiked, paddled, and camped in so many unbelievable public lands round Montana, we had been moved to slide in a $100 invoice.
#RecreateResponsibly Tip: Pitch In. It takes greater than authorities workers to maintain public lands thriving. Donate, volunteer, and advocate for the outside at any time when you’ll be able to.
The rugged great thing about Western Montana is what attracts thousands and thousands of individuals right here. We hope you go to, take an epic street journey, and develop into a steward for its wild locations.
An enormous thanks to Glacier Nation Montana for inviting us to share the #RecreateResponsibly message with vacationers and for sponsoring our Western Montana street journey. As a thanks to the area and to maintain up our “Bloggers Give Again” dedication, we’re donating $325 of our earnings to the next non-profits: Clark Fork Coalition, The Ross Creek Cedars, and RecreateResponsibly.org.