Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Montana, Missoula is a hidden gem where urban lifestyle meets adventure. Completely surrounded by seven wilderness areas, this city is rich with culture and endless outdoor recreational activities. In no particular order, here are the 5 best things to do when visiting Missoula, MT.
#1 | FLOAT DOWN THE CLARK FORK RIVER
During the summer, floating down the Clark Fork River is one of the best ways to cool down and relax. Every day, hundreds of locals on tubes, paddleboards, and rafts pass through town enjoying the sunshine and clean air.
#2 | GRAB A DRINK AND PLAY SOME GAMES
GILD is a locally-owned brewpub that just so happens to have an awesome arcade in the basement. From pinball to board games, GILD has everything you need to start the night off right. Not to mention, they have some of the best-tasting beer and hard cider in town.
#3 | HIKE MOUNT SENTINEL
Going for a hike on Mount Sentinel is a favorite for people visiting Missoula, and for good reason. As you gain elevation, you are able to see the entire city and the vast valley that lies below. In the distance, you can see the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Snowbowl Ski Area (shown above).
#4 | SHRED SOME POWDER AT SNOWBOWL
If you happen to visit Missoula in the winter, be sure to check out Snowbowl Ski Area. Conveniently located only 12 miles from Missoula, Snowbowl offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the West.
#5 | TRY YOUR LUCK AT FLY FISHING
It wouldn’t be a trip to Missoula without a fishing excursion in the mix. Missoula is world-renowned for its trout fishing streams, with a variety of different species to hook into. There is an impressive number of outfitters to choose from, so take your pick and get out there!
I had the opportunity to work in Glacier National Park for the 2018 and 2019 summers and I’ve got to say, it is one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States. The park has gained significant attention over the past 10- 15 years. The yearly visitor count has almost doubled in that time, from averaging around 1.5 million visitors to 3 million+ the past 4 summers. The now heavily trafficked park can be stressful to navigate at times, as it’s realistically designed to host under a million guests each summer. My hope is this post may give future visitors a better idea of how to approach their trip to Glacier.
GO ON A HIKE
During the summer, the roads through Glacier can look as though it’s rush hour in New York, making driving a frustrating task. The best way to avoid the stress of driving? Get out and hike! Glacier offers over 700 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy family-friendly loops to epic multi-day backpacking trips that cover up to 30 miles.
Planning out which trails you would like to hit in advance is a good idea. Some trails, basically any trail near Logan’s Pass, can have full parking lots by 7 A.M in peak season. Unless you’re willing to get up and after it early, it’s a good idea to have a few back up plans. Utilizing the shuttle services (pandemic pending) in the park is a great way to get around and avoid fighting other visitors over a parking spot.
Here’s a shortlist of my favorite hikes…
Sperry Chalet to Lincoln Peak
Upper Two Medicine Lake trail
If you’re looking for a relaxing day, look no further than Polebridge. Polebridge is a small community located along the Northfork of the Flathead river located 22 miles south of the Canadian border. Tucked in the westernmost boundary of the park, Polebridge is in a more unknown part of the park, as it’s a 35-mile drive from West Glacier entrance that is primarily a dirt road. The “town” doesn’t accommodate much for lodging so it is a day trip for most. In fact, Polebridge doesn’t have many buildings at all as it holds two restaurants and one mercantile (be sure to get a huckleberry bear claw). Other than the food, there are a few small hiking loops, access to the Northfork, and fantastic views of the mountains that make up the Canadian-US border.
After spending time at the Mercantile and a meal at Northern Lights Saloon. Be sure to make the 6 mile drive up to Bowman Lake. The drive is quite bumpy, so make sure you have a vehicle cable of some potholes and loose gravel. The lake is the perfect spot to set up some chairs and lounge while taking the occasional dip in the beautiful lake.
GOING TO THE SUN ROAD
Completed in 1932, Going-to-the-Sun-Road has been one of the top attractions to Glacier National Park. Although I mentioned the stress of driving in Glacier, you still can’t miss out on Going-to-the-sun-Road. The 50-mile long mountain pass goes over the Continental Divide and spans the width of the park. It features breathtaking views around every turn with plenty of pull-offs that guests can use to stop and take photos or go on hikes. The highest part of the road, Logan’s Pass, sits over a mile high at 6,646 feet and can accumulate up to 80 feet of snow in the winter.
If you’re planning to make the trip before July and want to drive the road, be sure to check the road conditions on the National Park Service website. The snow on the road can take teams of snowplows over a month to clear out because of the mass quantities it receives in the winter. It is typically cleared by the second half of June, but some years it takes until early July.
There is no better way to see the park than from rafting down the glowing blue waters of the Middle of the Flathead River. These forks make up the western and southern boundaries of Glacier and can be used for world-class fly fishing, scenic floats, and up to class III and IV whitewater rafting. The town of West Glacier itself has four different raft companies that collectively take down thousands of visitors a day.
It’s the perfect way to beat the summer heat as the Flathead River typically remains under a cool 60 degrees. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, guests have the option to choose from numerous different float, some companies even offer up to 6-day trips where you are flown up into the nearby Great Bear Wilderness and float your way back into West Glacier. The multi-day trips aren’t for the faint of heart, but in my opinion, is the number one activity the park has to offer.
GO ON A HIKE!!!!
In my two summers of working in Glacier, I heard too many people complain about the busy roads throughout the park. There are 147 trails in the park, you’re guaranteed to find areas that have few to no other people. Get out and enjoy the fresh air! Be sure to bring bear spray, as the animals are WILD and should not be approached.
I hope this helps a few that may have had questions about the park or were on the fence about going!
Wintertime in Whitefish, Montana is one of the most beautiful seasons to enjoy the small ski town and all it has to offer. This town doesn’t slow down after a winter storm, it celebrates it! Are you thinking about exploring this hidden gem for a weekend getaway? This article will give you the perfect weekend itinerary for what to see and do while you’re here.
8:30 am – Breakfast at Buffalo Cafe
A local favorite, Buffalo Cafe offers amazing breakfast options to keep you energized for your full day ahead!
10:00 am – Ski on Big Mountain
A trip to Whitefish is never complete without a day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Endless slopes and an approachable mountain offers a day of fun for all level of skiers and snowboarders.
3:00 pm – Apres Ski at Hellroaring Saloon
After hittin’ the slopes, enjoy an apres-ski drink and nachos at Hellroaring Saloon, located next to the village on the mountain.
5:00 pm – Massage at the Spa at Whitefish Lake
You’re bound to be sore after a day on the mountain, so treat yourself to a massage at the beautiful Spa at Whitefish Lake!
7:00 pm – Dinner at Tupelo Grille
Be sure to book a table here, and be ready for one of the best meals in town. Featuring local cuisine influenced by cajun and southern flavors, the superb service completes a meal here.
8:30 am – Breakfast at Loula’s Cafe
Loula’s breakfasts include the standard fare as well as popular originals like Lemon Stuffed French toast with raspberry sauce or Eggs Benedict with white truffle oil.
9:45 am – Pick up a Packed Lunch from Montana Coffee Traders
Before you head off for the day, pick up a packed lunch from Montana Coffee Traders. They offer a variety of sandwiches and snacks that you can bring with you to the park which is helpful because most restaurants in West Glacier are closed in the winter!
10:00 am – Drive to Glacier National Park to snowshoe
The beautiful Glacier National Park is only a 30-minute drive away from Whitefish and offers miles of scenic snowshoeing trails. You can rent snowshoes from multiple places in town as well as outside of the park.
7:00 pm – Dinner at Abruzzo’s
Finish off your day with a delicious traditional Italian meal at Abruzzo’s. They offer extensive selection of shared plates, grilled steaks, fresh seafood, and a small but decadent dessert list, all prepared in-house and served alongside an Italian-focused cocktail program and an Italian-centric wine list.
If you went to school in the 80’s or 90’s you probably played the computer game The Oregon Trail. While on your exciting and fateful journey you learned about dysentery and getting run over by a wagon. Luckily, on this journey you have very little chance of those things happening. However, there is a high chance you will learn about our ancestors and have a bit of fun. So let’s get started…
We’re going to begin our journey west in Independence, Missouri. All of the historic trails—Oregon, Santa Fe, and California, started at or near Independence. This was a popular “jumping off” point where the pioneers
could stock their wagons before their arduous journey. Spend some time getting acquainted with the trail at the National Frontier Trails Museum. This museum researches, interprets, and preserves the history of the pioneers who traveled along the trials. After seeing the museum head to the Independence Courthouse Square, this was the official start of The Oregon Trail. Walk around the square and try and get a sense of what it was like to have all of your earthly possessions crammed into a wagon to set off on a dangerous journey across the continent.
Make your way west to Rock Creek Station which is near Fairbury, Nebraska. Rock Creek Station was a Pony Express station and road ranch that served the
pioneers along the trail. It is here where Wild Bill Hickok shot his first man. You can see reconstructed buildings, pioneer graves and trail ruts. While in the area you should definitely check out the wonderful Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, Nebraska.
Keep heading west to Kearney and The Great Platte River Road Archway, one of the coolest spots along the trail. The monument is a museum that honors the people who followed the historic trails and built America.
After visiting The Archway head to the south side of the interstate to visit Ft. Kearney. This was an important outpost along the trail, it allowed the pioneers to resupply and offered them a safe resting area in a sometimes harsh territory.
Continue on brave pioneer, you’re 15% finished with your journey!
We are next headed to the Scottsbluff area and there is A LOT to see here so make sure you have some snacks. This would also be a great area to make your home base for a few days. The first landmark you can see from a distance is Courthouse and Jail Rocks.
These are the first rock formations that the pioneers would have seen on their journey west. At one time there was also a Pony Express station located here.
Just a mere fifteen miles further west stands Chimney Rock.
One of the most awe inspiring and famous landmarks along the trail, Chimney Rock rises over 300 feet above the valley. Do you have some quarters in your pocket? If one is a Nebraska state quarter then you will see a wagon in front of this majestic landmark. While you’re here make sure to check out the pioneer cemetery.
After Chimney Rock head over to see the fabulous landmark Scotts Bluff National Monument. Scotts Bluff encompasses over 3,000 acres and towers 800 feet over the valley.
Visitors to the monument can walk in the footsteps of the pioneers of the Oregon Trail, drive to the top of the bluff via the Summit Road and stand in awe at the sight of the bluffs rising up from the prairie.
Before you leave Scotts Bluff pay your respects to an Oregon Trail pioneer, Rebecca Winters. Her grave lies on the eastern side of the town of Scottsbluff at the corner of South Beltline Highway and US Highway 26. Rebecca died in 1852 after contracting cholera, a friend chiseled her name on an iron wagon tire which still stands on her grave today.
Keep heading west, pioneer, to Ft. Laramie. You’ve made it to Wyoming! You’re a quarter of the way there! The fort was constructed in the 1830’s to support the fur trade and it soon became the largest and most important fort on the frontier. Travelers would stop here for several days to rest, mail letters home, and resupply. Today you can stroll the grounds and visit some of the many restored buildings and ruins.
Just down the road a bit from Ft Laramie is the town of Guernsey where you can see Register Cliff and the Guernsey Trail Ruts. Register Cliff contains the engravings of hundreds of trail pioneers in the soft sandstone. Register Cliff, along with Independence Rock and Names Hill, is one of three prominent “recording areas” in Wyoming.
The Guernsey Trail Ruts, or the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site, is an amazing section of preserved trail ruts. Decades of pioneers, wagons, and animals wore down the sandstone two to six feet. Take some time and walk in the ruts.
Next on our journey is the town of Casper, Wyoming. This would be an excellent place to rest for a couple of days. While you are here make sure to visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. This museum showcases the several different trails with artifacts and interactive displays.
Just a few miles away is Ft Caspar, this is a military post that was named for Caspar Collins who was killed during the Battle of Platte Bridge Station. Yes, Caspar really spelled his name that way.
Independence Rock, which lies about an hour southwest of Casper, is a large, rounded monolith that is known as the “register of the desert.” The rock was a major landmark for the pioneers, they needed to make it here by July 4th to ensure they made it across the Rocky Mountains. If you walk all the way around the rock you’ve walked about a mile. Also try and climb to top so you can see the many pioneer inscriptions.
Head west on Highway 287 and south on Highway 28 you’ll see some of the most gorgeous Wyoming landscapes, you’ll be traveling through what’s called South Pass. This is also the half way point of the journey west. Hopefully, you’ll get to witness the graceful antelopes bounce through the sage. Make sure to stop at some of the roadside pull offs where you experience both the past and present.
Next you’ll want to make your way over to Montpelier, Idaho and visit the National Oregon/California Trail Center. This is a living-history center, which sits directly on the site of the historic Clover Creek Encampment on the Oregon Trail. The center contains displays and artifacts and depicts the pioneers’ journey along the trail.
Fort Hall is just a short drive from Montpelier but it would have taken the pioneers several days to get there. The fort was originally used as a fur trading post but soon became a major resupply center for the pioneers. They had been traveling for weeks since a resupply and hundreds of thousands of immigrants made use of Fort Hall.
Keep cruising along, pioneer, we are almost there!
Just west on I84 is Three Island Crossing. This was a major point for the pioneers. It was here where they had to decide on whether or not to cross the dangerous Snake River. If you remember from the Oregon Trail game many pioneers never made it across.
The last stop on this Oregon Trail journey is the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. Yes, you made it to Oregon! This 500 acre site features original Oregon Trail ruts. The center also features dioramas, artifacts, and theater presentations.
Well, pioneers, you’ve made it to Oregon! Hopefully, no one drowned, died of dysentery, or got bit by any snakes. There are many more amazing places to see along the trail, hopefully you’ll be inspired to go on your own manifest destiny across the plains, prairies, and mountains of the west.