Visiting Montana on Your Next Road Trip
Craggy granite peaks, shimmering waterways, vast forests and abundant wildlife make Montana’s “”Big Sky Country”” the classic vacation destination for folks who want to experience the biggest and best of the great outdoors. Many Montana campgrounds and Montana RV campground resorts offer packages including a total big country experience, so call ahead to find out.
Near the northwest Montana town of West Glacier is a 1,000,000-acre expanse of Rocky Mountains, frosty lakes, cedar forests, alpine meadows and waterfalls. Glacier National Park is an intensely rugged land sculpted by ancient rivers of ice. The 50 glaciers that inspired the park’s name are vast accumulations of ice and snow that continually advance through the mountains, even today reshaping the countryside as they progress through time and space. Glacier National Park is a designated Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. Together with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, it’s officially titled Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. One essential park experience is the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 52-mile east to west auto route that winds past lakeshores, wildflower fields and the Continental Divide. (RVers should note that vehicle size restrictions apply on portions of this thoroughfare.) For travelers who prefer open-air tours, Glacier serves up more than 700 miles of trails for horses, bikes, and hikers; streams for fishing; and excellent locations for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Also found in the northwest near Moiese, the National Bison Range is a federal wildlife refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A large variety of habitats are represented in this preserve, including wetlands, forests, streams and the predominant grassy Palouse Prairie. Part of the resident bison population freely roams the refuge while other bison are kept in enclosures where visitors can observe them closely. Bison bulls tip the scales at 2,000 pounds and they have shaggy brown bodies with heavy fur capes, big muscle humps on their backs, massive, woolly heads and thick horns. Females are half as large with smaller humps, smoother coats and thinner horns. When viewing bison, caution should always be exercised, especially with bulls or any cows accompanied by calves. The good news for avid wildlife watchers is that, in addition to the American bison herd that varies from 350 to 400 animals, the Bison Range shelters a number of other mammal species including coyotes, red fox, elk and black bears, plus birds such as hawks and meadowlarks. There are lots of great Montana campgrounds and Montana RV camping resorts around these parts, many of which are open year round.
In “”Big Sky Country’s”” north central region, among gold rush towns and wilderness areas, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is located 19 miles west of Three Forks. Montana’s original and most popular state park highlights Mother Nature’s geologic prowess – the stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, and columns of one of the region’s most celebrated limestone cave systems. Rangers at Lewis and Clark guide visitors through seasonal, two-mile-long adventures “”down under”” where they talk about the history, geology and ecology of the park’s caverns. Up above ground by the light of day, the park entertains guests with hiking trails, a fishing stream, picnic areas and an inviting natural neighbor – the Jefferson River.
Located in south central Montana, northwest Wyoming and east Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first, and oldest, national park. This highly acclaimed International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site contains tangible evidence of one of the earth’s major active volcanoes. The familiar landmark Old Faithful and the park’s 10,000 other geysers and hot springs are the fascinating cornerstones of the Yellowstone adventure. And there’s so much more to see and do all year long. Canyons, cliffs, mountains, valleys, lakes, waterfalls and wildflowers decorate Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres. Antelope, trumpeter swans, elk, otters and eagles also share the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.
Fort Peck Lake Reservoir and Recreation Area is located on northeast Montana’s Missouri River near the town of Fort Peck. Boaters and anglers can’t lose at Fort Peck Lake, the state’s principal waterway. It’s a 134-mile-long lake with a maximum depth of 220 feet and 1,600 scenic miles of shoreline. As a swimming hole that accommodates 50 species of fish, Fort Peck Lake delivers crowd-pleasing catches like walleye, Chinook salmon, northern pike and smallmouth bass. And here’s another nice recreational bonus – Fort Peck’s reservoir is surrounded by the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, a 1,000,000-acre haven that’s made to order for hiking, fishing and hunting.