Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Montana Majesty

“I would like to have seen Montana.”

The character Captain Borodin spoke those words as he lay dying of a gunshot wound in the classic action movie “The Hunt for Red October.”

I had always thought those were strange final words. Of all the things to regret, why Montana?

Then I beheld the glorious open spaces and towering mountains of the state myself, and the sentiment made perfect sense. You have to see the postcard-worthy scenery of Montana to believe it.

And even when I did see it, a quick glance wouldn’t do. I had to gaze continuously at any vista to convince myself that such flawless beauty exists.


Stopping in Spokane

A walk down a flower-lined trail began my tour in the charming town of Spokane, Washington. Spokane sits perched on the eastern edge of the state, with the Spokane River running through the heart of downtown.

The trail followed the river to the town’s Riverfront Park, which sits isolated and undisturbed on an island in the river. A sense of peace stole over me as I continued past the park’s carousel, food stands, live music and 1902 clock tower.

The next morning, my group departed Washington for the “center of the universe” in Wallace, Idaho. As a joke, the Wallace mayor declared the town the center of the universe in 2004. The mayor erected a plaque on one of the town’s manhole covers to make the proclamation official.

This humorous photo op seemed even funnier because the tiny town nestled in the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains feels cut off from the rest of the world.

“The town is on the National Historic Registry,” said Ted Winder, tour director for Western Leisure Tours. “You can walk a couple of blocks and see most of it. It’s a fun, colorful little town.”

I enjoyed wandering through the former silver mining town’s shops and standing at the supposed center of the universe.

Once in Montana, my group stopped at the historic St. Ignatius Mission in St. Ignatius. Because of the little church’s outside appearance, I would have passed by it without a second thought, but once inside, I looked up in awe at the murals covering the ceilings and walls.

Painted by a self-taught Jesuit priest, the brightly colored murals lit up the 1893 church, which is the second-oldest mission in the state.

Snow-capped mountains signaled my arrival at the West Glacier entrance of Glacier National Park near Whitefish, Montana. To fully soak up the initial views, I boarded a scenic float trip on the Flathead River with the Glacier Raft Company.

The three-hour ride floated past just enough waves to keep me on my toes with occasional paddling. However, most of the time I sat back, admired the pristine mountain views and breathed in the rejuvenating fresh air.


Bear! Where?

The yells of “bear” made me instantly jerk my head to the motorcoach window to spy a mama and two bear cubs a few feet from the window. I grabbed my camera, overjoyed with my luck at this close encounter.

The two cubs put on a show for us with playful tree-climbing practice. Though it seemed a pity to have to leave the entertaining family, the vistas ahead made me forget all about them.

Many Glacier Resort sits in a gorgeous spot next to the turquoise Swiftcurrent Lake, surrounded by mammoth peaks covered in snow. The Swiss chalet architecture of the 1915 hotel catches your eye and was intended to reinforce the idea of Glacier Country being America’s Switzerland. But the park’s landscape compares favorably to any mountain destination with no help.

The next morning, the park’s sightseeing boat cruise left from right outside the hotel, which allowed me to gaze at the fantastic view from different vantage points. As I stared and snapped pictures of every angle, the guide pointed out the surrounding glaciers, waterfalls and the Rocky Mountain peaks.

“The wall of rock on your right was formed by two glaciers on either side of it,” said Kara, our boat tour guide. “In the evening, when the sun sets, you can see spots of sun coming through where the glaciers wore holes in the rock.”

When I looked back at the end of the first boat cruise, the Many Glacier Resort looked like a dollhouse next to the colossal rocky peak next to it. A short, forested walk led to the second boat cruise on Lake Josephine. Equally impressive panoramas awaited on the second lake, including the dramatic sight of Grinnell Glacier situated above a thundering waterfall.

After returning to the hotel, I had the day before me to explore the area at my leisure. I hiked the Apikuni Falls Trail not far from the hotel, which led to mountainous landscapes, abundant wildflowers and a powerful waterfall that I could hear well before I could see it.

That evening, I dined in a Zen-like state while soaking in the hotel restaurant’s sunset view of the mountains.