Known as Big Sky Country and the “Treasure State,” Montana features open land, majestic mountains and friendly people. Most visitors head to Montana to visit one or both of the state’s national parks—Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Glacier National Park, which encompasses a million acres, is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2010. The park features craggy peaks and their resident mountain goats, wildflowers and waterfalls. Glacier National Park and the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada form the world’s first International Peace Park. If there's one defining feature of this place, it’s the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 52-mile highway clings to the edge of the world as cars—and bikes—cross over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Those who want to brave the road are encouraged to inquire ahead of time because snow can often last well into June.
Yellowstone National Park is home to grizzlies, wolves, bison and bears, along with steaming geysers, waterfalls, crystalline lakes, valleys and hot springs. Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, opening over 135 years ago, as well as one of the largest at 2.2 million acres and 3,472 square miles. It has over 10,000 thermal features, including Old Faithful, which erupts almost every hour. Geographical highlights of Yellowstone include 290 waterfalls, 300-plus geysers, over 1,100 historic structures, 200-plus species of birds, 950 miles of hiking trails and more than 60 species of mammals.
Other reasons people are attracted to Montana include festivals that celebrate the state’s history and culture. The Western Rendezvous of Art, held during August, features painters, potters and sculptors on the historic streets of Helena. The Crow Fair and Rodeo, also held in August in Crow Agency, offers a glimpse into the heritage and history of Montana’s First Nations. The Crow Fair is one of the largest modern-day Native American encampments in the U.S. and is the largest gathering for the Apsaalooke Nation. In addition to the sacred powwow, there are daily parades and an all-Native American rodeo. What the Hay, scheduled for September in Utica, features hay bale. Libby Nordicfest, held in September in the town of Libby, celebrates all things Scandinavian.
Visitors also can trace Lewis & Clark’s voyage by canoe through the White Cliffs rising up from the Missouri River. Enthusiasts can take guided or self-guided trips on part or all of the 149-mile stretch of the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River. The area offers hiking, fly fishing and camping. For those interested in bird-watching, Montana boasts the largest population of trumpeter swans in the lower 48 states and also claims the spot where more golden eagles have been seen in a single day. At the Kootenai River it is possible to see up to 175 bald eagles on a single fall day.
Montana is home to a wide range of lodgings, including some historic lodges. For example, The Pollard in Red Lodge, built in 1893, is reputed for having served Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane and the Sundance Kid. The Fort Peck Hotel, a classic, wooden hotel built in the 1930s, helped house Army Corps of Engineer employees working on the nearby Fort Peck Dam. Basic hotel rooms still feature claw foot tubs. And the chef will cook up your fresh walleye if you happen to catch some from the nearby lake. Boulder Hot Springs Inn & Spa in Boulder is outfitted with 50 rocking chairs and overlooks the Elkhorn Mountains.