Each year at about this time, the anticipation of the coming season hits in full force…the days start getting longer and the cheerful glow of spring sunshine provides a happy preview of summer.
Hands down, summer in Montana is one of the most magical times of year. It’s a season that seems made for adventure, with plenty of playtime and the opportunity to pack as much fun as possible into its long daylight hours. From exploring Glacier National Park to strolling through Missoula’s farmers markets, there are plenty of activities and attractions to help make the most of your vacation.
If breathtaking scenery is on your list, be sure to visit Glacier National Park. Known as the Crown of the Continent, the park is home to more than one million acres of glacial-carved peaks, high alpine meadows, striking rock faces and crystal clear rivers, as well as a trail system that boats 734 miles of maintained trails. It’s also home to historic lodges, red bus tours, boat tours and the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road which takes travelers through the heart of the park, cresting the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.
For an off-the-beaten-path adventure, make plans to visit an area known as the North Fork. Located in the northwest corner of Glacier National Park, the North Fork is known for its quiet surroundings, as well as opportunities for camping, day hikes and fishing at Bowman and Kintla lakes. Once there, be sure to visit the community of Polebridge and the famous Polebridge Mercantile, located just outside the park’s boundary. Other not-to-be-missed stops: Many Glacier and Two Medicine.
For more adventures, head to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, accessible from Fort Smith, Montana, south of Hardin on Highway 313. Hikers can choose from some 27 miles of trails that wind through the canyon (challenge: find which trail takes you to a ghost town) and up to scenic overlooks. The canyon is home to bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, black bears, hundreds of bird species and even wild horses.
Bighorn Canyon’s 70-mile-long lake and towering, 1,000-foot walls make for spectacular sightseeing by boat. You might also want to sink a line in pursuit of the lake’s huge walleye and other native fish species while you’re at it. In the crystal-clear tailwater below Yellowtail Dam, rainbow and brown trout in great abundance attract anglers from around the world.
Another not-to-be-missed locale is the Terry Badlands Wilderness Area near the little town of Terry, Montana, between Glendive and Miles City. Within a mile or two of I-94, you enter a landscape that looks and feels quite a lot like another planet, and the further you go, the more alien it seems. Established trails traverse the colorful, rugged terrain; the palette changes with the light and season, and rockhounds love the Terry area for its abundance of agate.
If you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping adventure in and around the park, try a guided rafting trip with Montana Raft Company, Glacier Raft Company, Great Northern Whitewater Raft & Resort, Wild River and Wilderness River Outfitters. Or if you prefer to stick to land, try a guided trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters or a guided hike with Glacier Guides.
Helping to ensure you keep cool during your visit to Western Montana are various rivers, lakes and streams that are practically begging to be floated, fished, paddled or simply admired. For sailing, launch your boat on Flathead Lake—the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. Or if you fancy fishing, cast your line on one of our notable rivers like the Blackfoot, Clark Fork, Bitterroot or Flathead.
For more outdoor adventure, soar high above the trees on zip lines at Whitefish Mountain Resort, paddle the Clark Fork River through downtown Missoula or ride through the 10 tunnels and seven steel trestles of the Hiawatha Trail. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the expansive Bitterroot Mountains.
Rounding out the region’s outdoor adventure and breathtaking scenery are charming small towns with cozy accommodations and lively downtowns. Stroll through farmers markets to pick up made in Montana goods, quench your thirst with a huckleberry milkshake, please your palette at local restaurants with farm to table entrees or unwind at one of the many local breweries.