When I was a teenager, I went on a road trip with my family. For part of it, we drove through the (extremely huge) state of Montana. All I remember from that part of the trip was that it snowed in June (whaaa?!!), we saw lightning storms that were miles ahead of us, and that it was an extremely long and boring state. The lightning was cool, but otherwise, I was not impressed.
We recently went on a road trip from Seattle to Iowa and during our visit to Montana, we actually took the time to SEE Big Sky Country. And it was incredible.
My favorite parts were on the west side of the state which I will be highlighting. We pretty much booked it through the eastern part of the state. It’s extremely flat, as far as the eye can see. But I can guarantee you they are not lacking in bars and casinos, no matter how tiny the town.
Glacier National Park
It is all wilderness though, so you must be prepared. There are warnings all over the place about bears. At night, you have to stow ALL FOOD ITEMS in your car. Also, be smart-bring bear mace, and don’t go near them!
Bug spray is also a must, and of course all of the other essentials you might need for hiking or camping-whatever that may mean for you. If there is anything I learned from our first camping experiences with the kiddos, “needs” and “extras” for camping vary for everyone.
West Entrance of Glacier
Since we were traveling from the west side, we stayed the night at a campsite just inside the west entrance of the park. My biggest regret is that we only stayed one night.
Before you enter the park, there is a town called Apgar Village. They have lodging, restaurants, gift shops, and all you would need for camping and fishing. If we had more time, we would have perused the town a bit more, but as it was, we were on a tight schedule.
The west side has a very similar feel to Washington parks. The trees are tall and piney, the temperature was always comfortable and mild. Never humid or cold.
Everybody was super friendly, which was good because the campsites were a bit packed into each other.
This was our first camping experience with our kids, and we had no idea what to expect! My daughter took to it immediately. She loved exploring the forest and sitting by the fire. Our little guy was a bit more tentative, but in the end, he enjoyed himself (even though he and I ended up sleeping in the car.)
As I said, I wish we stayed longer so we could have enjoyed the trails and the lakes, which there were many. When we left our first campsite, we stopped at Lake McDonald for a picnic and some swimming. My little guy refused to take his swim trunks and life jacket off for the rest of the day.
I would be doing the park a disservice if I didn’t mention at least a few times how beautiful it was. You’re set in between mountains, trees, lakes, and that sky! Incredible.
This is the road that goes directly through Glacier National Park. It’s about 50 miles long, but takes upwards of 2 hours because the speed limit is about 25 the whole time.
To date, riding on that road (I was in the front passenger seat), was the most terrifying experience of my life. You are driving on the side of a mountain, thousands of feet up. There is a small barrier between you and the drop off, but that didn’t stop my hands from sweating the entire way. Honestly, even writing about it is getting my heart rate up and putting my stomach in knots. My fears aside, I’m glad we went, and we will be taking the kids back when they’re older.
So, yes, terrifying, especially if you have reservations about heights. But so very worth it.
About 32 miles in (going east), you can make a stop at Logan Pass. It has a visitor center, gift shop, and most importantly, a restroom. I didn’t want to stop because it was pretty packed and I was ready to be done with the heights, but it was a worthwhile stop, for sure. We were able to stretch our legs, and the kiddos got in some much needed running around time. And they were amazed to have snow to play in while it was hot outside! (Notice the life jacket that I mentioned earlier? Ha!)
East Entrance of Glacier
We spent one night camping at the east entrance of the park. The trees were much different than the west side. They were significantly shorter, leafier trees as apposed to the fir trees. It was quite a bit windier on the east side as well, maybe because the trees were too short to block the wind?… But it was still gorgeous in its own way with more rolling hills and Montana’s signature wild flower fields.
We liked this particular campsite because of the privacy. The much shorter and leafier trees created a better barrier between sites, but that’s about it. Instead of feeling like we were camping, we felt like we were in a trailer park. There were power lines everywhere and without a forest, there was not a “foresty” feel.
The Sweet Palace
We stopped at the Sweet Palace in Phillipsburg, MT on our way home. It’s a candy store filled with every single type of hard candy you can imagine. And for us chocolate lovers, the center of the store was where they made their specialty chocolates. They also had house made fudge. But, to be honest, I don’t think the kids even noticed the chocolate. haha!
When we stopped, we were on our last day of a 17 day road trip with two kiddos that had done a PHENOMENAL job. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting out of them for all that time on the road, but I was thoroughly impressed. So it was fun to be able to tell the kiddos to help themselves and go nuts at the candy store for being so well behaved.
It was such a fun stop, we’ll likely have to stop there every single time we go to Montana from now on.
We made another stop while in Montana that turned out to be a bit disappointing. You can read about my review of the Montana Vortex here.
Have you ever had a chance to visit Montana? What is your favorite place to go?