If you’re planning a visit to Big Sky State this summer, we’ve got eight destinations to make your trip a memorable one.
Glacier National Park
A renowned million acre wilderness prized for spectacular scenery and a mecca for hardcore hiking and backcountry camping. Gawp at the views from the Going to the Sun Road, a spectacular 50 mile scenic highway which bisects the width of the park. You’ll climb to 6,646 feet at its highest point, Logan Pass, which passes the Continental Divide. Observe how the dramatic terrain changes from glacial valley lakes, to cedar forest and then to alpine tundra at its highest point. Numerous stopping points along the route let you score memorable Instagram pics.
15 miles from Glacier is the resort town of Whitefish where amidst an array of coffee shops and excellent restaurants, you can rent a bike and explore miles of well-maintained trails. Hike the popular ‘Danny On’ trail up Big Mountain, and have a go at SUP or kayaking on Whitefish City Beach. After all that exertion, relax by the riverside with an ice cream from legendary Sweet Peaks.
The mountain resort of Missoula is a vibrant visitor hub and lies midway between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. At Blackfoot River (backdrop for the movie A River Runs Through It) you can enjoy white water and scenic rafting, tranquil boating and fishing. The beautiful surrounding valley is home to elk, grizzly bears, woodpeckers and osprey. Visit the free to enter Smokejumper Visitor Center and learn about the firefighters who throw themselves from planes to tackle forest fires. If water based thrills are your thing, head for Splash Montana waterpark where you’ll find three-storey high slides, inflatable obstacle courses and a 50m Olympic size pool.
The Beartooth Highway
Touted as the most beautiful road in the U.S. this 68 mile stretch of scenic highway weaves between the Beartooth and Absaroka mountain ranges. As you traverse the highest road in the northern Rockies, you climb to a dizzying 10,947 feet. On the way you pass glacial lakes and waterfalls, dense forest and 20 rugged peaks each reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation.
Red Rock Lakes National Refuge
Birding enthusiasts should head to the Red Rock Lakes National Refuge in Montana’s southwest corner. Close to the Idaho border and dramatically framed by the Centennial Mountains, a diverse high altitude landscape of wetlands, forest, grassy plains and barren scrub is home to abundant birdlife. Here you can spot the formerly endangered Trumpeter Swan, plus white pelicans, egrets and ibis. Moose, bears, otters and wolves all roam the 32,000 acre remote terrain.
Yellowstone National Park
In 1872 Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. West Yellowstone is Montana’s nearest entry point into the park, and from here a short hop takes you over the Wyoming border and to Old Faithful. The iconic geyser erupts around 20 times each day, and each dramatic venting lasts between 90 seconds and five minutes. Don’t miss the chance to witness gallons of steaming thermal water violently eject 100 feet into the air. For more tranquil pursuits, hike past the distinctive cones of Monument Geyser Basin, go fishing for rainbow and brown trout on the Madison River, or enjoy a refreshing dip in Firehole Falls swimming hole.
Big Sky on Horseback
South of Bozeman in the shelter of the rocky Gallatin canyon lies the laid back resort town of Big Sky. Channel your inner cowboy, saddle up and head out into the backcountry on a guided horseback trip. Choose from half day to multi-day hacks through miles of national forest, scenic meadow and open trail. You’ll find excursions to suit all skill levels, including beginner.
Bathe in Thermal Springs
For a spot of me-time, head to one of Montana’s hot spring resorts, and soak in naturally occurring thermal waters. At Livingston’s historic Chico Hot Spring Resort and Spa you can indulge in a mud wrap or therapeutic massage, and relax at 103 degrees in two naturally heated outdoor pools. Open till 11pm each day, the pools are a wonderful venue for stargazing. If you prefer your hot springs without the resort trimmings, head to Boiling River. This natural hot spring lies within the Montana area of Yellowstone National Park. The heated water combines with the cool Gardiner River to create perfect bathing conditions.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com