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Epic Trips Await in Montana

A truly epic trip is in store for groups in Montana’s Big Sky Country. 

With Glacier National Park to the north and Yellowstone in the south, western Montana will immerse wander lusters in wild, wondrous spaces. Traveling between the two parks showcases the best parts of Glacier Country and southwest Montana. You’ll see glaciers and geysers, plus plenty of fascinating towns with activities, history and culture. And who knows? You may even see some of your favorite scenes from Hollywood. 

For your next wild adventure to western Montana, consider any of these great stops. Or better yet, try them all. 

Glacier National Park

Some of the most stunning scenery on God’s green earth is in Glacier National Park. 

Waterfalls cascade from breathtaking heights. River rocks and glacier stones bejewel the bottom of turquoise lakes and rivers. Wildlife outnumbers two-legged creatures 10,000 to one in this alpine region, and pristine landscapes transport visitors to a place out of a fantasy movie. 

“The best way to view the park is from a historic open-top red bus,” said Aerionna Skrutvold, Glacier Country Tourism’s group sales associate. 

Some of the otherworldly drives are impassable by motorcoach, so take advantage of the Going-To-The-Sun guided tours in one of the iconic buses. Tours are available from the Native American perspective, too. For groups larger than 18, plan to split into two vehicles.

Groups can also see the grandeur from the waters. Take a guided whitewater rafting tour or book a calmer, more scenic trip. 

“Check out the Glacier National Park boat company cruises,” Skrutvold added. “They are on old historic, beautiful boats.” 

Other options in the park? Pack food and let your group explore. Hear from a ranger. In the winter, rent ATVs or fat-tire bikes.

And while we hope you don’t need to use either, make sure your group packs both bug and bear spray. 

Whitefish

Whitefish is a bustling little ski town on the outskirts of Glacier National Park, built around a shared love of the wild. Locals know this magical place as the recreation capital of Montana.

The CVB calls itself “Explore Whitefish,” a nod to the treasures in and around town just begging to be explored. Incredible views, memorable restaurants and plenty of recreational activities await everyone and every physical skill level in Whitefish.

While in town, swim or sunbathe at Whitefish City Beach with views of the ponderosa pines and the ski resort. Take in the galleries, shops, theater performances and live music lining Central Avenue. 

Mere minutes away in the Flathead National Forest is the resort.

“Whitefish Mountain Resort is good for a drop-off where group members can do activities on their own,” Skrutvold said. 

“In the summer, hike to the top [of Whitefish Mountain]. Go huckleberry picking, try zip lining, ropes courses, slides — it’s great for the active crowd,” she said. 

Want a more serene option? “Take the lift for a scenic ride and enjoy the restaurant at the top ,” Skrutvold added, mentioning the Summit House Restaurant and Bar. The top-of-the-world views are incredible, but be sure to wear layers even in the summer — the winds have brushed over glaciers and are ice cold year-round. The mountain is also home to great downhill and cross-country mountain biking. 

In the snowy months, skiers and snowboarders will find fantastic powder in Whitefish Mountain Resort’s more than 3,000 acres of untouched terrain. 

Kalispell

If your group wants small-town charm and incredible access to Montana’s outdoors without sacrificing urban comfort, head to Kalispell. The town just 20 miles south of Glacier National Park has a population of 24,000 and plenty of dining and entertainment options. 

“Visitors come back because there’s always a new way to experience the area,” said Dawn Jackson, group sales manager for Discover Kalispell, the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau. 

Here are a few options destined for the to-do list. Head to the Conrad Mansion, where a docent-led tour is a favorite among groups. The restored 1800s home enjoys reincarnation as a museum illustrating 19th-century life. The Northwest History Museum is a great group option, too. Purple Mountain Lavender, a farm overlooking Flathead Lake, is a surprising fan favorite. 

“It’s absolutely beautiful. You take the tour, then do a project involving lavender,” said Skrutvold, explaining the sachets and oil projects. “Men think ‘ho-hum, a lavender farm,’ but they’re always the ones most interested in it.” 

Saddle up at Artemis Acres in the Salish Mountains and finish with an exceedingly group-friendly chuckwagon dinner of steak, salmon or chicken with all the Western fixings — a quintessential Montana experience. (Plus, the horses join the guests!) Groups with a larger budget can schedule a private rodeo.

“Downtown Kalispell is home to great made-in-Montana shops,” Jackson added. “Downtown also has plenty of places to sip local craft beverages, Western stores and more, while soaking up the historic buildings and public art.” 

Flathead Lake Area

Numerous small towns dot the Flathead Valley with interesting stops for travelers. 

In Lolo, the Travelers Rest State Park and the Holt Heritage Museum come highly recommended.

If your group is looking for a quick rest and leg stretch, stop in Charlo at the Ninepipes Museum of Early History. Or in Polson, visit the Miracle of America Museum. 

“You could spend all day at the Miracle of America Museum,” Skrutvold said. “It’s hilarious and fascinating at the same time.” 

Afterward, take a Water People Tour with Camp Kapapa in Elmo. Extend the Water People experience by getting out on Flathead Lake — the fourth largest freshwater lake in the U.S. — while in Elmo. Flathead Lake offers both regular tours and private charters. 

Missoula

Missoula is a great destination in and of itself and an ideal midway point between Glacier and Yellowstone. Group-friendly highlights include downtown, the Historic Museum at Fort Missoula and the Smokejumper Center.

“Missoula is a fantastic little town,” said Lucy Beighle of Glacier Country Tourism. ”We have paths that meander next to the river, a beautiful carousel, farmers markets and Downtown Tonight on Thursday evenings, where groups can pick food trucks from everywhere. Downtown Missoula is fabulous for any age. Drop people off with a list of things to do, for a huge crowd pleaser. Multi-generational activities are in this area, like museums and surf waves.” 

Plus, fans of Kevin Costner’s TV series “Yellowstone” will find four bucket-list attractions in Missoula. Let your group members explore on their own while diehard fans seek out the Community Medical Center, Ruby’s Cafe (where your group members can get a bite to eat starting at 2 p.m.), downtown Railroad and Woody streets, and the Missoula County Courthouse.

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula offers groups an immersive history experience. Walk the grounds of the restored 1877 Fort to see a quartermaster’s storehouse, the officer’s quarters, a root cellar, a schoolhouse, an 1863 church, the 1910 Drummond Depot, the Engine No. 7 and much more. Group planners should set up tours online or call ahead.

Missoula also boasts a Smokejumper Visitor Center, a fascinating place for visitors to explore. 

“Smoke jumpers are young-ish people who jump out of planes to fight forest fires,” Beighle said. “Missoula has a big center that groups can tour. See parachutes be mended, and watch smoke jumpers take off.” 

Butte

Feel like taking a walk on the wild side? As you get closer to Yellowstone, stop at Butte to explore — among many other fascinating stops — the Hell Roarin’ Gulch. 

Butte’s World Museum of Mining and its gulch make for a great group stop. The Hell Roarin’ Gulch is a restored and sometimes re-created mining townscape. The World Museum of Mining showcases why Butte is in the Treasure State in the first place: its gritty role in deep shaft mining. After taking the underground mine tour, explore the elevator crates, saloons and other faithful mining-town recreations. A trolley tour will tell everything about the characters, famous folks, miners and scoundrels who lived and worked in Butte.

All that rough history will give you an appetite. Did you know the pork chop sandwich was invented in Butte to feed hungry miners? For lunch, grab a local favorite like a Wop Chop or a pasty (pronounced “pass-tee”) at group-friendly restaurants like Christina’s Cosina or Montana’s Rib and Chop. 

After lunch, take a bus trip up to Our Lady of the Rockies, a stunning statue sitting astride the Continental Divide. If you’ve seen the fourth largest statue in the U.S., just imagine Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer towering over the Brazilian metropolis. Summer visitors can take a tour up to the 90-foot monument of Mother Mary. Groups wishing for special group arrangements like stop-on guides and off-season tours can reach out to the CVB. 

West Yellowstone

All the fresh air you could want is waiting for you at the final stop on the tip-to-tip journey through western Montana: West Yellowstone, the last town before you get to the irreplaceable Yellowstone National Park. 

Learn about wolves at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, step back into time when stagecoaches delivered mail at the West Yellowstone Historic Museum and, of course, plan your trip to the nation’s first national park. Old Faithful and many other geysers are just a short drive away.

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