Dry heat, packed snow, rolling hills or mountains with hidden lakes: no matter where you belong, you can always find adventure, solace, and buried beauty within the borders of Montana. Montana is a place often forgotten by our American brethren and usually confused with Texas to those on foreign soils, but for those of us lucky enough to live in this Big Sky state we know that just in our backyard we can find heart stopping beauty and blood curdling danger. Now to those of you who do not know Montana by name, it probably sounds like a great place to sit back, relax, and have a stage 3 heart attack. Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. The inhabitants of our humble home itch to throw a pack on their back and disappear into the woods for a few dark nights, or we rush home from our 9-5 jobs to send a mountain bike (and ourselves) flying down steep grades at inconceivably high speeds. We try to keep the wonder of our state a secret so friendly waves and caring eye contact won’t float away in crowds, but I must share with some of you outsiders the beauty that we harbor here. So if you’ve never visited our beautiful state, here are a few place you must see in your lifetime.
1. Flathead Lake
For those of us who call Montana home, Flathead Lake is as familiar as the sunset, but for anyone visiting, you must spend a night on the gentle shores of our little ocean. Flathead Lake lies cozily between two mountain ranges in the southwest corner of the state. Great, prehistoric sturgeon sink 165 feet below the lake’s surface where they feed on snails, insect larvae, and fish eggs. Although the true wonder of the lake lies at night on the edge of a long dock. I implore you, on a clear night when the stars are out, take a barefooted stroll to the edge of a floating dock. Suddenly, it will feeling like you’ve walked off the edge of the planet and meandered straight into space. The waves gushing around you mimic the glittering stars above and after a moment you won’t a believe you’re still on earth.
2. Glacier National Park
Here you will find glacier carved peaks and valleys that run through Montana’s Rocky Mountains. Scores of wildlife roam the more that 700 miles of hiking trails and 1583 square miles of wilderness that make up the park. Visitors drive the scenic Going-To-The-Sun highway to find lakes, trails, mountains, and animals. Endless adventure waits for you here.
3. Whitfish, MT
What would Montana be without a ski town? Whitefish, Montana is located in Flathead County and marks the entrance to Glacier National Park. If you like to bike, horseback ride, back pack, ski, ice climb, snowboard, cross country ski, snowshoe, relax on a lakeside beach, or just enjoy the fall colors, Whitefish has a day of exciting discovery waiting for you. Don’t forget our Montana winters as Whitefish Ski Resort is home to world-class skiing in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Don’t miss the Great Northern Brewing Company either! Nothing beats ending a day of adventure like a signature Montana Huckleberry brew. Other pubs in Whitefish sport Montana grown barley and organic ingredients to create a unique Montana experience.
4. Revenue Flats
A scape for the daring and innovative minds. The Tobacco Root Mountains provide an incredible backdrop for an evening of outdoor debauchery. Sink your toes into the sandy desert around you and get ready to take off for a ride of your life. Great, granite rocks jut vertically from the earth and, of course, are littered with climbers. Pitch a tent and watch the sun vanish from the sky just and the moon shows his first shadow. No visit is complete without climbing into the fishbowl: a natural amphitheater with walls of granite and a sandy velvet floor. This beautiful place is often crawling with college students from the university located in Bozeman, Montana. Students laboriously heave heavy musical instruments, amps, and generators into the natural concert hall for a night of music, dancing, and fun.
5. East Fork Hyalite Trailhead
A single trail head of the many in Hyalite Canyon, this 11.5 mile hike just scratches the surface of the beauty around Bozeman, Montana. Engelmann spruce, sub-alpine firs, and mixes of lodge-pole pine tower over a winding trail scattered with creeks and waterfalls. The packed trail leads to Emerald Lake and then one mile further you will find yourself cradled in an alpine basin right on the edge of Heather Lake. Both seem like a fairy-tale. One lake rests in the meadows while the other is surrounded by pine trees and thick undergrowth. Prints from deer, elk, mountain lions, and bears can be found at lakeside, so be careful! If you’re camping over night, you might just see a pair of eyes staring straight into your headlamp.
For those of us who call Montana home we know there’s no other place worthy of comparison. We try to keep our charm hidden from the busy world of trade and office buildings; but for those of you who have never feasted your eyes upon our state, please, take some time away from your stressful job and just relax in our plethora of mountains. You don’t have to be an extreme athlete to feel at home here, though many athletes do. Here, in the Big Sky State, you just have to be human to fit in, you just have to be you.