Montana, the Big Sky State, is home to some of the most beautiful photography spots in the world. Many of these underrated views are within an hour drive from Montana’s second largest city, Missoula. Here are a few of my favorite Missoula spots:
Mount Sentinel “M” Trail
This is probably the most iconic of Missoula views. The trailhead for the widely popular “M” Trail is right on campus, and a 30-minute hike will give you some of the best views possible of the valley.
2. Mount Jumbo
The Mount Jumbo hike is a bit longer than the “M” Trail, but certainly worth it for a lesser known lookout of the city.
3. Blue Mountain Recreation Area
Blue Mountain is a great area for a morning dog walk or a round of frisbee golf. This beautiful area is just a 10-minute drive from the city and has some amazing views of the South Hills.
4. Pattee Canyon
The Pattee Canyon road goes from the southeast corner of Missoula all the way to Bonner, Montana. Just be careful on the roads in winter.
5. “Top of the World”
“Top of the World” is the easiest of these spots to access. Simply drive all the way up Whitaker Drive and loop back down on Spanish Peaks Drive. Make sure to check out this view before the area is completely covered in real estate developments.
For most of my life now I have played team sports that have required road trips in some shape or form. Since the start my collegiate career way back in 2010 for TCU’s Lacrosse team I’ve learned that long road trips are inevitable. Over the years as a player and now as a coach for Griz Lacrosse, I thought I would share some tips and tricks on how to make a team road trip easier.
Pack The Night Before
Personally, packing is not the most exciting part of a trip. Coaches demand that we be ready to go at a certain time (usually before the sun comes up). I have found that packing the night before prevents me from forgetting anything in those early morning hours when I am not thinking clearly. In addition, line your bags up at the door so you can have a smooth exit out of your apartment or dorm.
Carry Both Card and Cash
To get to a game you will have to travel though the middle of nowhere. And in the middle of nowhere often times you will find technological conveniences are nonexistent. It is crucial to have cash and not just a card on a road trip in case the store where you are trying to buy snacks is still stuck in the ‘50s. Being hungry on the bus is miserable.
Portable Chargers are Worth Their Weight in Gold
Missoula to Portland on a bus is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours depending on external factors. So even if you charge all your electronics the night before, you will run out of battery life on a haul like that. For $25 to $50 you can get a good quality portable charger that will keep your electronics charged and you blissfully entertained while the hours go by.
Bring Food and Drinks on The Bus
One of the reasons I pack and line up all my stuff the night before is to save time in the morning. With that extra time, I always run and grab food and coffee to bring on the bus. Doing this will save you money over the length of the trip, since prices in food vary from location to location. Additionally, you don’t always know when and where the team will stop for food, having your own will prevent any unforeseen problems.
Bring a Pillow is Key
This one is a little self-explanatory. Not all buses or cars have comfortable seats or headrests. In my case, the Griz Lacrosse team bus has some hard armrests. I always bring a pillow on bus trips. It not only makes the ride more comfortable, but I avoid dealing with hotel pillows that I am not used to.
Thailand is a very popular tourist country for young travelers. Koh Phi Phi, specifically, because you can enjoy the Phi Phi Islands with white sandy beaches and clear blue water. The only way to get to these islands is by ferry or boat. This popular destination spot has diving and snorkeling that get great reviews from travelers. Also, the Phi Phi Island have made a few movie appearances, like The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. An interesting fact about the Phi Phi Islands is that Phi Phi Leh is free of human inhabitants and Phi Phi Don is without roads. This is a destination to relax and enjoy the views for a couple days. While Koh Phi Phi may be the more expensive option in Thailand, it is still inexpensive to visit compared to other countries.
Avg daily price for traveling in Koh Phi Phi: $66 Avg price of food: $11 (per day) Avg price for a hotel: $73 (per couple)
Food: $3 to $28 (depending on style of food) Beer: $2.30
LAX to Phuket City: $582 *depending on departing airport
Ferry to island: $12 to $18 (one way)
Deep Sea Fishing: $85 Rock Climbing on cliff: $31 (Tonsai Tower) Learn to cook Thai Food: $16 Sunset Kayaking
Arenal Area, Costa Rica
Being one of Costa Rica’s most
popular destination spots, Arenal Area offers a beautiful hiking area, a lake, and
the very popular La Fortuna waterfall sitting at the base of a volcano. A few
things to see while visiting Arenal is the Arenal National Park where you can
see wild life, hike trails, and see a great view of the sunset. The hot springs
are also another necessary stop to make in Costa Rica. These natural hot tubs
are located at the base of the volcano that you can take a dip in after a long
hike. If you want to take a closer look at the crater of the volcano you can
take a tour via the hanging bridges. Arenal Area is different than most
traveling spots, but it offers attractions that other places can’t.
LAX to San Jose: $450 *depending on departing airport
Hostel: $10 to $15 (shared room) Budget Hotel: $50 to $70 (private bathroom, A/C, hot water) Mid-Range Hotel: $100 to $200 (A/C, hot water, TV, Wi-fi, complimentary breakfast)
Public Bus: $4 La Fortuna Bus: $2 Taxi:$5 Bike Rentals: $6 (half day) Easy to get around on foot
Lunch: $8 to $12 Beer/ Cocktails: $2 to $3
Hanging Bridges Tour: $23 National Park: $9 Zip Lining: $50 to $85 Rafting Tour: $70 to $130 Kayak Tour: $50 to $75
Traveling to Europe is perceived to be costly, but Albania is an exception to this rule. Albania is a much more affordable place to live than other areas in Europe, which benefits young travelers in there 20’s in getting to experience a little bit of Europe. One of the top attractions in Albania is the castle in the city of Shkoder. An interesting attraction for tourists is a rotating bar in Tirana called The Sky Tower Bar. You can enjoy a nice cold beer while slowly spinning 360 degrees getting to see Tirana at all angles and watching the sunset. If you are interested in learning about the history of Albania, you can visit an abandoned bunker museum in Tirana. Another attraction that other destination spots don’t offer is wild camping on the Albania’s beaches. The Albania Riveria is a major attraction to Europe by young travelers because of the reputation it has with being a music location hosting music festival like Turtle Fest. Also, nightclubs, like Havana Beach Club draw people in their young age across Europe.
Hotel: $47 Airbnb options
Food: starting @ $5.50 Beer: $2 Coffee: $1.30
JFK to Tirana: $500 *depending on departing airport
Havana being the capital city of
Cuba has always been a popular tourist destination with vintage cars and
colorful Spanish colonial architecture; however, it wasn’t always that Americans
could go visit Cuba. In December 2014, the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba
was restored, but not without a few traveling restrictions. In order to book a
solo travel experience to Cuba it needs to be for educational purposes. This is
where you meet Cuban citizens in normal daily life setting, like school and
community centers. One of the adventures you can take part in is riding in a
vintage convertible for an hour cruising up and down the avenues of Havana. Something
that is a must see in Cuba is the El Malecon, a five-mile-long boulevard that
stretches along the water, with Havana Bay on one side and Old Havana, Vedado,
and Central Havana on the other. At night, many Cubans come to watch the sunset
with their loved ones, drink and laugh.
Avg daily price for traveling in Havana: $18 Avg food price: $5.39 (per person) Avg price for hotel: $17 (per couple) Avg drink price: $2 (cocktails) $1 (beer)
Private Taxi: $2.50 to $7 (within city) Shared Taxi: $0.50 Viazul Bus: $4 to $5 (reliable schedule and A/C) City Bus: $0.04 Scooter: $25 (per day)
Miami to Cuba: $275 *depending on departing airport
Museum of the Revolution: $8 Vintage Car Ride: $15 to $25 (30 min) Horseback Riding: $115 (3 hour trip depending on city) Scuba Diving: $40 (including equipment)
Bali is a place that only requires
a traveler to walk outside to enjoy themselves. This city, also known as, the Island
of the Gods, is meant for exploring. Surrounded by beautiful seas and golden-brown
beaches, Bali is a surfer’s dream, which you can do in Kuta Beach, the most
famous beach in Bali. Don’t know how to surf? Across the sand bar you can sign
up for surf lessons. The Island of Gods also offers other attractions like the
Ulun Danu Temple. This building is one of the quietest and most serene places
on the island. The Bali Treetop Adventure Park is ready for an afternoon of
adrenaline, but also is great for families and children as young as 4 years
old. Other attractions tourists can’t miss out on are the caves, museums and
parks that Bali offer.
Avg daily price for traveling in Bali: $63 Avg price for food: $19 (per day) Avg price for a hotel: $74 (per couple)
LAX to Denpasar: $850 *depending on departing airport
Motorbike: $20 to $30 (per week; need international license)
Scuba Diving: $100 (per day for 2 dives; includes lunch, transportation, and equipment) Massages: $10 (per hour)
Being raised in Seattle, Washington I did not get many opportunities to drive in the snow growing up. When it did snow, usually only 1-2 inches, everything shut down and people just simply stayed home – no need to drive! With the current snow storm hitting the Seattle area, I though I would share the valuable lesson I learned in 2015.
After high school I decided to go to college in Montana, and as most people know it snows quite a bit in Montana. My first year of college, I decided to drive back to Seattle for Thanksgiving with a few of my friends. It had just begun snowing the day before and I had a 4-wheel drive car so I figured everything should be OK.
I began my drive down I-90 West with a car full of gals, the snow was light and everything was going fine… well, for about 50 miles at least.
Coming around a slight curve at about 60 MPH (the Montana speed limit is 80 MPH) I felt my back tires starting to slide and just like that I had lost all control. My car spun around 3 or 4 times before slamming into a ditch and screeching to a stop. Shock. That’s all I felt. Silence. No one had said a word the whole time we were spinning and crashing. Immediately we all got out of the car to make sure everyone was OK and to examine the damage.
The airbags had deployed, I had a broken front axle, completely messed up front and back bumpers, two popped tires and two bent rims. But most importantly, no one was hurt. Luckily, my friends are much better at handling bad situations than I am because that is when it all set it. I could have killed myself and all my friends. Why? Because I was inexperienced. I didn’t know to slow down. I didn’t know to be on the lookout for black ice – what ended by causing the accident. I just didn’t know.
Driving when there is snow and ice on the road is unlike any other driving condition. Yes, you might have 4-wheel drive but that does not mean you have 4-wheel stop. The ice has a mind of its own and once you begin to slide it can be very hard to stop.
This winter, I beg of you to go slow in the snow. If you are an experienced snow driver, slow down. If you have never driven in the snow before, slow down. Even if the roads seem fine, slow down. It could save your life.
Just 3 hours away from Missoula, Montana sits one of the most pristine and beautiful national parks in the west: Glacier National Park. Planning a weekend trip to GNP in the fall season can be a challenge with the park’s fast-changing mountain weather and wildfire conditions.
Although these can be tricky problems to work around, a visit to GNP during these unpopular times provides an experience unlike any other with minimal traffic, trails to yourself, access to abundant wildlife, and beautiful fall colors. Next time you are planning a trip to Glacier, consider a September or early October visit – you will not be disappointed! If you happen to find yourself in GNP during fall season, here are a few of the must-visit destinations:
Morning Coffee @ Many Glacier Lodge
Kick off the early morning after a night of camping at Many Glacier Lake Lodge. Grab a coffee at the lakeside coffeeshop run by world travelers and sit beside a roaring fire overlooking the lake.
Grinnell Glacier Hike
One of the most rewarding hikes on the east side of the park is Grinnell Glacier. This 7.5 mile out-and-back hike stretches along side bright blue glacial lakes and rocky cliffsides marked burnt orange mountain ash trees and alpine meadows. The trail climbs to a perched valley where you will find Upper Grinnell Lake, where the smallest remaining glacier sits in the park: Gem Glacier. The backdrop of Upper Grinnell Lake is called ‘the Garden Wall’ and is part of the continental divide.
Located in prime bear habitat, it is common to see grizzly bears on the distant hillsides of this 10-mile hike. This moderately difficult hike to the lake includes small crossings over footbridges through alpine meadows. A family of moose inhabit the area surrounding IceBurg Lake and can be seen resting in the shade. If you are brave enough, go for a swim in the glacial waters!
Drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road @ Sunset
During peak season, The Going-To-The-Sun road leading to Logan Pass on both the West and East sides of the park is often the most crowded and trafficked road in the park. However, during fall evenings, the road is completely empty – meaning you can pull over, take photos, and view wildlife on your own time! Bring your binoculars to spot birds of prey, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and bear along the way.
Huckleberry Milkshakes @ Two Sisters Café
Treat yourself after a long weekend of hiking and sightseeing with a Montana famous huckleberry milkshake from Two Sisters Café in Babb, MT. This quirky and colorful restaurant makes a perfect pit stop on the way out of the park!