Montana is a large state, known for its big skies, beautiful national parks and grizzly bears. The western portion of the state is dominated by the Rocky Mountains, which often remained snow-capped in the summer months. A playground for the outdoor enthusiast, western Montana is home to numerous fun and exciting places.
Perhaps western Montana's biggest attractions are the two national parks located there. Near the border of Canada, Glacier National Park (nps.gov/glac/index.htm) is filled with craggy mountains, waterfalls and alpine vistas. Drive the scenic, 50 mile Going-to-the-Sun Road which goes over the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass or relax and watch bull elk along St. Mary Lake. Although much of Yellowstone (nps.gov/yell/index.htm), the country's first national park, is located in Wyoming, the section that spills over into Montana is more wild, less visited and offers a good way to break away from the crowds.
Cities and Towns
Helena, the capital city of the state, is a bustling former frontier town where you can see 19th-century mansions and other remnants of America's frontier past. The historic Last Chance Gulch, located in downtown Helena, is a pedestrian mall lined with restaurants and shops. Also located in western Montana is Missoula, known as the "Garden City." This lively college town includes numerous museums and a historic downtown where you can see buildings from the early 20th century. Missoula also serves as a gateway to the Rockies and a base for those looking to explore the mountains nearby.
The Miracle of America Museum (miracleofamericamuseum.org) is located a few miles south of the town of Polson. It is a place of curios from America's past including old motorcycles, vintage winter toys and the stuffed body of the biggest buffalo ever to roam Montana in recorded history. Stop by Montana State University's Museum of the Rockies (museumoftherockies.org)to see archeological examples of ancient Montana. Marvel at dinosaur bones and Native American artifacts before watching a laser show at the Taylor Planetarium.
Western Montana is also dotted with charming small towns, each with its own special flare. The town of Bigfork is an upscale resort village where you can visit art galleries, shop at high-end boutiques and eat at gourmet restaurants. Golfers can play a few holes at the Eagle Bend Golf Course. Located near the Northern Rockies, the town of Whitefish gives you access to hundreds of nearby lakes. This small, quiet town is also home to two theatre companies, the Whitefish Theatre Company and Alpine Theatre Project, if you want to see a performance between your outdoor adventures.
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