Western Montana is a land of rugged beauty and pristine wilderness. Snow-capped peaks meld into soft blue skies, wildlife is abundant, and Mother Nature reigns supreme.
Few places in this area are as highly regarded as Montana’s Glacier National Park. RVers, in particular, have a unique opportunity to experience its bounty.
With dozens of campgrounds and RV parks scattered throughout the region, finding a comfortable base camp from which to begin an exploration is easy. Deciding what to see and do, however, may pose a challenge.
Whether it’s cruising along the park’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, exploring miles of backcountry hiking trails, or venturing into the towns of Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Kalispell and Whitefish, Glacier National Park presents endless possibilities for launching a true Montana adventure.
Inside the park
Motorhomes less than 21 feet long are welcome to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. An engineering masterpiece, the 52-mile road scales the heights of the Continental Divide while providing postcard-perfect views.
Those who would rather leave the driving to someone else can hop aboard an antique red "jammer" bus. The restored, vintage 1930s buses with canvas roll-back tops provide a unique and memorable ride.
Off the road, the activities that await are unlimited. Don a life jacket and take a white-water rafting trip. Hang your hammock and get lost in the pages of the latest best seller. Or, position your camera for a never-ending supply of photo opportunities.
Consider boating, bicycling, wildlife viewing and horseback riding. Anglers will have no problem reeling in any number of fish species, including dolly vardon, grayling, cutthroat and rainbow trout.
For hikers, the park boasts a trail network of nearly 750 miles. Apgar and West Glacier villages, with their many shops and restaurants, offer yet another excursion.
Beyond Glacier National Park
Venture beyond the park’s perimeters and explore the rest of Glacier Country, Montana’s westernmost travel region. Southwest of the park, the Flathead Valley boasts more than 200 miles of wild and scenic rivers, a haven for fishing, kayaking and white-water rafting. And golfers can tee off on any one of nine championship golf courses.
Give your trip a cultural spin and visit Glacier Country’s two Indian reservations and the Travelers’ Rest in Lolo, a key stop for Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery. If you have kids in tow, or simply seek a different kind of thrill, check out the House of Mystery and the huckleberry and chocolate factories in Columbia Falls.
In Whitefish, take a walk 70 feet above the forest floor with Big Mountain’s Walk in the Treetops. Walk in the Treetops is a half-day guided tour on a suspended boardwalk through the forest canopy. It puts a whole new twist on "environmental education."
Many RVers love Glacier Country for the numerous scenic drives available. West of the park, the Kootenai-Tobacco region unrolls ribbons of asphalt ideal for motor coach touring. For instance, take State Route 56 south to State Route 200. On S.R. 200, you'll drive along Noxon Reservoir and through the small towns of Thompson Falls, Trout Creek and Plains, and along the back side of the National Bison Range. Be sure to stop at Ross Creek Cedar Grove where cedars — some hundreds of years old — reach 175 feet in height and span more than 8 feet in diameter.
S.R. 37 provides a scenic drive along Lake Koocanusa to the small towns of Libby and Troy. If you arrive in mid-September, attend the Libby Nordicfest. An authentic Scandinavian celebration, the festival features ethnic cuisine, the fjord horse show, crafts, music and a Scandinavian rock-throwing contest.
S.R. 35, another picturesque drive, runs along the east side of Flathead Lake and offers mountain views and glorious sunsets. Stop in Bigfork for dinner and a tour of the many galleries and shops.
Whether driving to a different locale each day or setting up camp and exploring one area extensively, touring Glacier National Park and the surrounding Glacier Country in an RV is the perfect way to experience Big Sky Country. With wide-open vistas and plenty of worthwhile "pit stops," Western Montana is one trip worth fueling up for.
More information about Glacier National Park and western Montana: http://glacier.visitmt.com, e-mail