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Montana. Just the name conjures up images of soaring mountains, stunning valleys, crystal-clear lakes and miles and miles and miles of wide open space under a big blue sky. Cattle graze on the range and wildlife roams freely over the land. The beauty of Montana is found at every turn…and the best way to see it – to experience it – is on a Montana Road Trip.
Planning a Montana Road Trip
Planning a trip to Montana is not an easy task – there is so much to see and do! However, using our Montana trip planner will help organize your ultimate road trip.
We created an epic road trip in Montana that is concentrated in the northwest region of the state – undeniably, the most picturesque part of Montana. In our Montana trip plan, we include the best Montana destinations from quaint towns to Glacier National Park to scenic byways and hidden gems.
Montana Travel Planner
Whether you are visiting Montana for the first time or are returning to travel Montana’s scenic landscapes again, keeping track of your trip plans is essential. While we are sharing our top travel tips for the best places to visit in Montana on a road trip, you will need to organize the details of your accommodation reservations and planned activities.
We recommend using a travel planner – like our Trip Planning Printables! to get (and stay) organized for your vacation to Montana.
Montana Road Trip Destinations
On our ultimate road trip for Montana, each day offers a new experience. Driving through Montana is an adventure in itself, but we are highlighting what to see and do in the absolute best places in Montana to visit.
When we were planning what to see in Montana, we used fellow traveler reviews and local recommendations to complete our Montana trip itinerary. These Montana bucket list destinations are all within close proximity, making it possible to organize an efficient Montana sightseeing trip.
Planning a Trip to Montana: Destinations to Visit
We feel the Montana destinations included in our plan are the best places to see on a trip to Montana.
The cities and sights included in our detailed Montana Road Trip Itinerary are:
- Flathead Lake and National Bison Range
- Kootenai Falls
- Glacier National Park
- Hungry Horse Reservoir
- Swan-Seeley Valley
Montana State Road Map: Our Road Trip Destinations
Getting around Montana is much easier if you have an idea of where you are going ahead of time. Use this link to Google Maps to view all the destinations and sights on our Ultimate Montana Road Trip.
Road Trips in Montana: How To Plan Your Vacation
There are two ways to plan Montana road trips: On-the-move adventures where you check into new accommodations every couple of days OR take Montana day trips and stay in one place for all (or most) of your visit. You can plan your Montana vacation itinerary either way – and we’ll show you how!
Montana Road Trips: Multiple Day Trips
On our visit to Montana, we opted to base ourselves in one place and take multiple day trips in Montana. However, we did a lot of backtracking.
Fortunately, we had an entire month in Montana, which allowed plenty of time to explore and enjoy the state’s breathtaking scenery.
On-the-Move Montana Trip
We understand, however, that most travelers who plan a trip to Montana will have about a week to explore the state. Therefore, based off our experiences, we designed an ultimate road trip for 10 days in Montana that is on the move.
In our trip outline, we suggest moving to new accommodations just about every other day.
The benefit of this style of travel is that you won’t have to backtrack on your road trip through Montana. The downside, however, is that you will need to check into different Montana accommodations – and pack and unpack – every couple of days.
Which Way for the Best Montana Road Trips?
Even though we recommend staying in different destinations in our Montana travel planner, our Montana road trip plan can also work by staying in just one place and making daily road trips.
How you decide to plan your best Montana trip itinerary will depend on your style of travel. There is no right or wrong way to plan your Montana trip – it’s up to you!
If you do opt to base yourself in one place, we recommend staying in Columbia Falls at Cedar Creek Falls Lodge. Not only is it a convenient location to get to our featured Montana destinations, but there are also plenty of stores and restaurants in town, making it an ideal base.
Tours of Montana
Do you want to travel Montana scenic roads without driving? Rather than planning all the details of a multiple day Montana road trip and then getting behind the wheel, let a professional show you the best of the state – including a couple of days in Glacier NP! Get the details here!
10-DAY MONTANA ROAD TRIP
Exploring Montana by car is one of the best road trips in the US West! With intriguing towns, incredible attractions and a heaping dose of nature, Montana road trippers can experience a lot in a short amount of time.
Each day of our Montana road trip is filled with exciting sights and activities. Throughout our Montana itinerary, we include pertinent information, like where to stay, what to see and tips for drinking and dining. We also provide links to detailed Montana travel information. Additionally, for each day, we include a link to a Montana map marked with the recommended route and must-see sights.
Buckle in because this is a huge adventure of the absolute best things to do in Montana. Our Montana road trip planner includes everything you need to prepare for your amazing vacation.
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Montana road trip blog post so that you can access it while planning your trip to Montana!
DAY 1 of Your Montana Road Trip: KALISPELL – 2 NIGHTS
Kick off Day 1 of your Montana road trip itinerary in Kalispell. After arriving, getting settled in and picking up a few essentials, set off on foot to explore Kalispell.
Getting To Montana
The best way to get to Montana is by plane – and the airport in Kalispell is the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). The airport is serviced year-round by major US and regional carriers. Kalispell is connected by non-stop flights to several large US cities – like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Chicago.
In our Montana road trip itinerary, we circle back to Kalispell, so you can search for roundtrip tickets. It is also possible to fly out (or into) Missoula, which might be a cheaper option. We use Skyscanner and these tips to find the best flight schedules and fares!
Car Rental for Montana Road Trip
To ensure you have the best Montana road trip, you will need the right rental car. We foolishly reserved an economy car for our Montana trip – and were luckily upgraded to a mid-size SUV. In the Subaru Forester, we sat higher off the road, which meant we had a better vantage point for scenery and Montana wildlife watching. Additionally – and perhaps more importantly – is that the SUV handled the Montana roads quite a bit better than a economy car would have. We started our search on Expedia for the best car for a perfect road trip.
Pro Tip: While renting a car in Montana (or anywhere, for that matter) it is ideal to have your own car rental insurance. Many insurance policies will cover rental cars (so check to see if yours does), but the Chase Sapphire Preferred travel credit card offers primary insurance for auto rental damage.
Road Trip Supplies
Kalispell is a hub of commercial activity – which is one reason why it’s a great beginning point for your Montana adventure. Before you start your discovery of the city, take an hour or so to pick up a few everyday travel necessities. Kalispell’s shopping district – which includes stores like Walmart, Target and Cabela’s – lies just north of the old town.
Some of the things we recommend buying once in Montana (that you likely won’t be able to fit in your luggage) are a small cooler to keep drinks and picnic lunches cold and foldable outdoor chairs to use at scenic spots. Additionally, you can pick up snacks for your road trip – like granola bars, trail mix and fresh fruit – at one of the grocery stores (such as Albertsons or Smith’s).
Bear spray is another thing you
should must have for your Montana road trip – especially if you plan on doing any hikes. While not permitted on flights (even in checked luggage), but you can get bear spray at the Kalispell airport on arrival. The Glacier Outfitter store sells ‘last year’s model’ for a discounted price. Another way to get bear spray (maybe even for free) is to ask if anyone left some behind at your car rental counter – this is how we obtained one for our Montana trip.
Kalispell Accommodations – 2 nights
With two nights in Kalispell, you will want to stay centrally located in the heart of the historic Old Town – and the Grand Hotel is the perfect place! The Grand Hotel was the first luxury hotel in Kalispell when it opened in 1912 – and it retains a rich sense of history to this day.
What To See in Kalispell
After getting supplied and settled in, it’s time to start your Montana vacation and step out to discover Kalispell!
The city is easily navigated on foot and we recommend starting your exploration on Main Street, where there are shops and restaurants galore.
Find all of our tips for what to see, do and eat in our detailed guide, Things To Do in Kalispell.
MONTANA DAY 1 MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions from FCA to Kalispell.
DAY 2 of Your Road Trip Montana: FLATHEAD LAKE and BISON RANGE – DAY TRIP
On the second day of your road trip through Montana, set off on a full day adventure to one of the region’s signature landmarks: Flathead Lake – the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.
Flathead Lake, Montana Road Trip
Flathead Lake is a large, natural freshwater lake filled with transparent teal-blue water and waves that lap the shoreline. Flathead Lake sits just 10 miles southeast of Kalispell – but it has 160 miles of shoreline, which can all be explored on a one-day trip.
The serene landscapes, lakeside towns and Montana state parks are top attractions year-round – but in the summertime, Flathead Lake is all about cherry season. Visitors are invited to stop at the roadside stands to pick up a box of fresh-picked Montana cherries. Summer is also the best time to partake in water activities at Flathead Lake.
Flathead Lake, however, is not the day’s only destination – as a handful of intriguing Montana sites to visit lie just to the south, which we think are well worth the detour!
West Side of Flathead Lake
The best way to explore Flathead Lake from Kalispell is to start by driving south along the western shore on Highway 93. During the drive, consider making stops in Somers, Lakeside, Big Arm and Polson to appreciate the views, take a boat out on the water or go for a swim.
Pro Tip: Be aware that the south end of the lake is on the Flathead Indian Reservation and tribal recreation permits are required for some activities.
South of Flathead Lake
At Polson, stay on Highway 93 and continue your road trip in Montana south to explore a few top Montana attractions in this area.
National Bison Range
Established in 1908 when the population of wild bison in America had dwindled to less than 100, the National Bison Range is a refuge for bison and other area wildlife. The herd of bison at the range is 300 strong – deer, antelope and birds also make the range their home. There are three roads through the park that allow visitors the opportunity to spot Montana wildlife.
During our trip to the National Bison Range, we were fortunate to see an abundance of animals from our car. In addition to bison, we witnessed a small group of grazing antelope and several deer. There is a fee to enter, but the America The Beautiful Pass is accepted (which is also the pass we used to enter Glacier National Park).
Garden of 1,000 Buddhas
An unusual sight in the middle of Montana, the Garden Land of 1,000 Buddhas is both peculiar and beautiful. The 10-acre garden is designed as a Dharma Wheel, the central symbol of Buddhism, and is highlighted by hundreds of Buddha statues.
It was out of pure curiosity that we decided to visit the garden – and, we have to admit, it certainly is one of the unique Montana road trip attractions. The peaceful garden is non-denominational and welcomes visitors of every faith and background. Entrance to the garden is free.
Windmill Village Bakery Donuts
Known all over Montana for their famous donuts, Windmill Village Bakery turns out a variety of sweet treats using locally sourced products. We desperately wanted to try their renowned confections, but unfortunately the shop was closed on the day of our trip. If you stop here, please let us know how incredibly delicious their donuts are!
St. Ignatius Mission Church
A landmark in Montana, the St. Ignatius Church dates to the 1890s and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside the brick church are 58 paintings, which were created in the early 1900s by Brother Joseph Carignanao, the mission cook. Two of his artworks are dedicated to Native Americans. Admission to the church is free; donations accepted.
Miracle of America Museum
Founded in 1981, the Miracle of America Museum is a collection of thousands of American artifacts housed in multiple buildings – and is one of the popular Montana road trip ideas. The museum displays everything from classic cars to American kitsch. There is a $10 entrance fee to enter the museum.
East Side of Flathead Lake
Take Highway 93 north back to Polson and hop on Highway 35 to begin the drive along the eastern side of Flathead Lake. Stop for cherries and other fresh fruit at one of the orchard’s roadside stands and continue north to Bigfork. The lakeside community boasts a cute downtown where the streets are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops.
For dinner, The Raven comes highly recommended for the phenomenal lake views. However, our preferred drinking and dining establishment is the Flathead Lake Brewing Company Pub House, which offers outdoor seating, lake views, tasty brews (try the Citrus Smash IPA) and a great pub fare menu.
DAY 2 MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions from Kalispell to Flathead Lake sights.
DAY 3 of Your Montana Road Trip Planner: WHITEFISH – 2 NIGHTS
The town of Whitefish is a must-see on Montana road trips – and it’s the next destination on Day 3 of your Montana trip itinerary.
Drive From Kalispell to Whitefish
Whitefish is just 15 miles north of Kalispell – and with such a short jaunt north – you can relax in Kalispell over coffee and breakfast. You could even linger longer and browse any Kalispell shops or parks you may have missed on the first day of your Montana Road Trip.
Whitefish Accommodations – 2 Nights
Thriving as a tourist destination, Whitefish has numerous places to stay. Like in Kalispell, we recommend staying near the town center – and Firebrand Hotel is an ideal option. The 4-star hotel is styled as a posh mountain resort and features an open-air rooftop with hot tub.
Pro Tip: Because of the close proximity of Kalispell and Whitefish, road trippers can choose to stay in one town for 4 nights, rather than changing locations after two nights. This option will add a little extra driving onto your Montana day trips, but not a significant amount when comparing the relatively short distances to the true size of Montana!
What To See in Whitefish
Whitefish is a picture-perfect western town that can easily be explored within a few hours. Spend time popping into the boutique shops that feature Montana-made products and then head for the hills – or rather, Big Mountain. The Whitefish Mountain Resort offers ample outdoor activities to choose from year round. Alternatively, spend the rest of the day on the water at Whitefish Lake.
Find details for what to see and do – in town and on the mountain – in our complete article, Things To Do in Whitefish!
DAY 3 MONTANA MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions from Kalispell to Whitefish.
DAY 4 of Your Montana Road Trip Itinerary: KOOTENAI FALLS – DAY TRIP
On Day 4, spend the day driving to one of the best Montana road trip attractions: Kootenai Falls.
Day Trip from Whitefish
This scenic Montana waterfall road trip heads north from Whitefish toward the Canadian border and the town of Eureka before meeting up with Lake Koocanusa. Following the shoreline south to Libby Dam, the drive then turns west to the stunning waterfalls and swinging bridge at Kootenai Falls.
The small town of Eureka sits in Tobacco Valley just 9 miles south of the Canadian border. In Eureka, history buffs will want to stop by the Historical Village Museum, nature lovers can stretch their legs on the riverside path and foodies might like to sink their teeth into the famous Eureka or Huckleberry Burger at the Front Porch Grill House.
Pro Tip: Stop in the fun Eureka breweries – the H.A. Brewing Company or Koocanusa Brewery – and grab something to enjoy when you get back to Whitefish!
Lake Koocanusa and the Scenic Byway
Created when the Kootenai River was dammed in 1972, the 90-mile-long Lake Koocanusa spans the US-Canada border. The lake, which is nestled in a gorgeous gorge, is used for recreational purposes, like boating, fishing and camping. However, we enjoyed stopping at numerous scenic spots for stunning views via the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway.
Following the eastern shoreline to the south, Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway (Highway 37) traverses 67 miles of astounding beauty. Make a stop at the Libby Dam (there are free bathrooms and an informational visitors’ center), then continue the drive west to Kootenai Falls. While stopping along the scenic byway, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife – especially American Bald Eagles!
Fun Fact: The lake got its name in a contest; the winner used the first three letters of Kootenai River (KOO), the first three letters of Canada (CAN) and the abbreviation of the United States (USA) to create the name, Koocanusa!
Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge
Ranking as one of the largest waterfalls in the United States by flow rate, Kootenai Falls is a spectacular sight of tumbling and cascading water – and a popular destination for Montana road trips. The series of waterfalls flow down river for nearly one mile, with the longest single fall being 30 feet. A sacred site to the Kootenai Tribe, the falls mark the center of their world and a place to communicate with the spirits.
The Kootenai Swinging Bridge straddles the lower end of the falls, offering superb 360-degree views…but only to visitors who are brave enough to cross it!
Parking for Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge is located on Montana Highway 2; visitors then make a short trek on a well-worn path. The trail to the right goes to the main falls, while the one to the left ends at the Swinging Bridge.
Highway 2 to Whitefish
Rather than retracing your steps, we recommend taking Highway 2 back to Whitefish. Although there are not specific sights to see along this stretch of highway, the route passes by lush forested lands, gorgeous lakes and through classic American farmland…and it is simply magnificent.
Consider staying on Highway 2 past Kalispell to visit Sacred Waters Brewing Company for excellent craft beer in a casual setting before returning to Whitefish.
MONTANA DAY 4 MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions for sights along the route to Kootenai Falls.
DAY 5 of Your Ultimate Montana Road Trip: GLACIER NP WEST – 4 NIGHTS
On Day 5 of your Montana trip, make the drive to Glacier National Park – the absolute highlight of any trip to Montana.
Drive From Whitefish to Glacier National Park
Make the drive from Whitefish to Glacier National Park (about 45 minutes to the West Glacier Entrance). Nicknamed the ‘Crown of the Continent,’ features rising mountain peaks, glacier-carved lakes, abundant wildlife and more than 700 miles of hiking trails. Without a doubt, it is the absolute best place in Montana to visit!
Glacier Accommodations – 4 Nights
Visitors have a variety of choices when it comes to places to stay in Glacier NP – from budget stays to pricey abodes and rugged cabins to posh homes. While staying inside Glacier National Park is an attractive prospect, the lodges, cabins, motor inns and campgrounds are fully booked far in advance (often more than a year!). No worries if you don’t score a reservation, there are ample lodging options just outside the park in West Glacier and nearby towns.
On our Montana trip, we stayed in a private Airbnb house in Martin City – a town which is perfectly located between West Glacier and Columbia Falls (where there are restaurants and grocery stores). With four nights in one location, we highly recommend staying in a house, apartment or cabin that is equipped with a kitchen, so that you can prepare a few meals at home.
Pro Tip: Travelers who would rather be on the move than settle into one place for four nights can opt to spend two nights in West Glacier and two nights in East Glacier. In addition to using Airbnb, you can also search Booking.com to find hotels and hostels near Glacier NP. Before making any reservations, however, be sure to read our tips for Booking the Best Hotels at the Best Prices.
Glacier National Park
Home to two mountain ranges, 130 lakes, hundreds of animal species and thousands of different plants, the 1-million-acre Glacier National Park delivers big on nature. All of the best Montana road trips include a stop at GNP.
Hikers will delight at the opportunity to trek to hidden Montana waterfalls and lakes – and all visitors can enjoy panoramic views and scenic overlooks along the spectacular Going To The Sun Road.
What To Do at Glacier NP
After getting checked in to your accommodations, embark on your Glacier National Park road trip. Drive to Avalanche Lake and make the 5-mile roundtrip hike up to the picture-perfect spot surrounded by towering mountains dotted with waterfalls.
Then, end your first day at Glacier National Park watching sunset at Lake McDonald – and consider dining at Russell’s Fireside Dining Room at the Lake McDonald Lodge.
Find specific details on what to see and do in Glacier NP – and National Park Service entry fee information – in our 3-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary.
DAY 5 MAP OF MONTANA
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions to West Glacier and into GNP.
DAY 6 of Your Road Trip to Montana: GLACIER NP EAST – DAY TRIP
On Day 6, continue your Montana road trip to Glacier National Park East – but plan to get an early start because it is going to be a long day!
Full Day Trip Exploring East Glacier NP
Start by driving through Glacier National Park on Going To The Sun Road from the West Entrance all the way to St. Mary.
East Glacier NP
Spend the day in East Glacier – both at Many Glacier and Two Medicine. At Many Glacier, take in the views at Swiftcurrent Lake and then complete one of the most beautiful hikes in Glacier NP around the lake. Later in the afternoon, at Two Medicine, hop aboard a historic vessel for a boat ride and history lesson on the region and the people who live there.
Rather than returning to your accommodations in West Glacier on Going To The Sun Road, use Highway 2, another Glacier National Park scenic drive that marks the southern boundary.
Read specific details about hiking in our article, The Best Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park!
DAY 6 ROAD TRIP MONTANA MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions for exploring Glacier NP.
DAY 7 of Your Road Trip Through Montana: GLACIER NP NORTH – DAY TRIP
Some of the best Montana road trips are on unpaved roads, which is what you will negotiate on Day 7 as you head into the northern section of Glacier National Park.
The route north into the far reaches of GNP is via Camas Road to North Fork Road, which will get you as far as Polebridge. Make a stop at the Polebridge Mercantile for one of the best desserts in the state: Huckleberry Bear Claw. (Consider picking up more than one and save it for breakfast the next day…trust us, you won’t regret it!)
Today’s Montana road trip destination is Bowman Lake – and the only way to get there is by dirt road. Past the Mercantile in Polebridge, re-enter Glacier NP and take the curving, bumpy road up to Bowman Lake. Have a picnic packed for the day (or grab something from The Merc) and spend the entire day lakeside, savoring the awe-inspiring vista, taking hikes and perhaps kayaking or other watersports.
Once back in West Glacier, consider taking a short hike up to Rocky Point or spend the last bit of sunlight on the shoreline of Lake McDonald at Apgar Village.
MONTANA ROAD TRIP DAY 7 MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions to Polebridge and Bowman.
DAY 8 of the Best Montana Road Trip: HUNGRY HORSE RESERVOIR – DAY TRIP
After three full days in Glacier National Park, on the 8th day of your MT road trip, escape the crowds and head for Hungry Horse Reservoir.
Explore Hungry Horse in a Day
Part of the Flathead National Forest, the 34-mile-long Hungry Horse Reservoir is serene and rugged – and it is located just 15 miles south of West Glacier. Settled in a deep ravine, 25 mountain peaks rise around the 170 miles of Hungry Horse shoreline. The scenery is stunning, which is why we rate it as one of the top Montana things to do.
Hungry Horse Dam
The South Fork Flathead River was dammed in 1953, creating Hungry Horse Reservoir. Standing at a height of 564 feet, the Hungry Horse Dam ranks as one of the largest dams in the United States. Visitors can join a guided tour and learn more about the Hungry Horse Dam at the visitors’ center.
What To Do at Hungry Horse Reservoir
Top activities at the reservoir are boating, fishing, camping and wildlife watching. There are no services or towns located on the water (only campsites). The road is paved for first 11 miles on the west side of the lake (past the dam)…the rest of the circumference road is gravel. That said, it is possible to drive around the entire Hungry Horse Reservoir, which takes at least 4 hours (but likely longer with stops).
When we visited, after exploring the dam, we drove along the paved portion of the reservoir, relished the quiet surroundings and admired the marvelous landscapes. Travelers interested in fishing at Hungry Horse Reservoir can rent gear and obtain a license from one of the area shops. We also saw several people cycling – and renting a bike would be an exciting way to navigate the unpaved road!
Fun Fact: Hungry Horse got its name in early 1901 when, during the cold winter, two horses strayed off into the wilderness. The pair was found a month later stuck in the snow and nearly starved to death. The horses were rescued and nursed back to health…and a town, mountain, lake and dam all got the name Hungry Horse.
DAY 8 MAP OF HUNGRY HORSE
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions for Hungry Horse Reservoir.
DAY 9 of Your Montana Trip: MISSOULA via SWAN-SEELEY VALLEY – 1 NIGHT
On Day 9, embark on one of the best scenic drives in Montana through the Swan-Seeley Valley on your way to the hip town of Missoula.
Swan-Seeley Scenic Drive
Highway 83 is a 90-mile north-south route that follows the valley between the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range. Surrounded by Montana wilderness, the road curves past dozens of lakes – the two largest being Swan Lake and Seeley Lake.
At about the halfway point, there is a popular hike to Holland Lake Falls. When the road ends in Clearwater (marked by the giant cow at the gas station), Highway 200 West takes travelers directly into Missoula, which ranks as one of the best places to go in Montana.
However, road trippers interested in history might want to add a stop at the nearby Garnet Ghost Town to their Montana vacation itinerary.
Missoula Accommodations – 1 Night
With just one night in Missoula, it is imperative to stay centrally located – and The Residence Inn by Marriot is right in the heart of town. The location is the hotel’s best feature, but fellow guests rave about the cleanliness and modern room designs.
What To See in Missoula
After dropping your bags in your room, you won’t have to go far to start your exploration of Missoula. Right away, you will probably notice the distinctly different vibe in Missoula, which feels trendier and contemporary compared to other Montana destinations. That said, the city’s history is palpable and there are plenty of interesting places to discover (including amazing ice cream and fun stores!).
Find all the details for what to see and do in our Missoula, Montana travel article, Things To Do in Missoula.
DAY 9 GLACIER TO MISSOULA MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions to Missoula via the Swan-Seely Scenic Drive.
DAY 10 of Your Montana Road Trip: MISSOULA to HOT SPRINGS to KALISPELL
Day 10 marks the last day of your Western Montana road trip – which means you will likely need to make your way back to the Kalispell Airport to catch your flight home. The good news is, there is still some adventure to be had on the final leg of your road trip in Montana!
Morning in Missoula and Back to Kelispell
Before leaving Missoula, go on a brisk walk on the Clark Fork riverside path and then indulge in breakfast at one of the city’s hot spots (like Catalyst Café or the Old Post). Start the drive to Kalispell on Highway 93 – and consider stopping at the Buddha Garden if you missed it or any of the other sights on Day 2. However, rather than continuing north on 93 up to Flathead Lake, take a detour to Highway 28 (via 200 W) to Hot Springs.
The route on Highway 28 may not be touted as a scenic highway, but it certainly has its charm. The road winds through mostly rural landscapes, passing through a few knock-about towns along the way. We heard that Big Horn Sheep are often spotted from the road, but we didn’t see any on this day of our Montana road trip.
Hot Springs, Montana
For a truly authentic Montana experience, stop in the tiny (and a bit quirky) town of Hot Springs. This is a town that doesn’t dress up for visitors but welcomes them with open arms. Really embrace the spirit of the town by soaking in the hot springs pools at the historic Symes Hotel (that dates to the Depression Era of the 1930s). If you have time, pop into one of the dive bars (the Barber Shop Beer Parlor even serves local Montana craft beer).
When you leave Hot Springs, continue driving north on 28 to Elmo, where it will hook up with 93 – and enjoy the last picturesque views over Flathead Lake as you complete your drive to the Kalispell Airport.
DAY 10 MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for driving directions from Missoula to Kalispell via Hot Springs.
Additional Montana Road Trip Ideas
Above, we outlined our ultimate road trip planner for Montana. However, we have more Montana road trip ideas to share. When planning your trip, keep in mind that the best road trips in Montana should lead to the places of most interest to you.
Same Montana Route…With Just a Few Tweaks
Visitors who find it more convenient to fly into Missoula, rather than Kalispell, can still use our outlined Montana itinerary – just shift all the days to start and end in Missoula, rather than Kalispell.
Additionally, rather than working in a clockwise direction, this entire trip plan for Montana can be reversed into a counterclockwise direction (by starting in Kalispell, going to Missoula, then Glacier NP, and so on).
Shorter 5-Day Road Trip Montana
Travelers with less than a week can still design a fantastic road trip in Western Montana!
If we were limited to just 5 days in Montana, we would spend 2 nights in Whitefish (with one day spent traveling to Kootenai Falls) and 3 days in Glacier National Park.
Another way to devise a Montana 5-Day Itinerary would be to spend 2 nights in Missoula (taking a day trip to Flathead on the second day) and 3 days at Glacier NP.
Visitors content with only spending 1 day in Glacier National Park could spend 2 nights in Whitefish (with a day trip to Kootenai Falls), 1 night in Glacier and 2 nights in Missoula.
Montana Road Trip 7 Days
Figuring out how to plan a trip to Montana for 7 days? While you won’t be able to fit everything from our 10-Day Road Trip Montana into your itinerary, you can still plan your best trip to Montana that won’t disappoint.
For an ideal Montana 7-day road trip, we recommend spending the first 2 nights in Whitefish (and spending most of one day exploring Kootenai Falls), then head to Glacier NP for 3 days of hiking and end your trip with 2 days in Missoula.
Of course, this is just our preference of how to plan a 7 day Montana itinerary. We suggest using our highlighted Montana road trip attractions to determine how best to plan your road trip in Montana.
Other Montana Destinations
On our road trip, we feature top Western Montana destinations – but there are several other places to see in The Treasure State. With more time, visitors could easily add other cities in Montana to their trip plan.
For example, after Missoula, travelers can drive east on I-90 to Butte, a historic Montana mining town. From there, I-15 will take visitors north to the capital of Helena – and north from there to Great Falls.
Alternatively, rather than heading north from Butte, visitors can continue east to Bozeman, which is the home of Montana State University, and then continue on from there to Billings, which has a handful of sights and numerous Montana craft breweries.
Road Trip To Montana: Multi-State Road Trips
Whether you are starting a road trip in Montana or planning a road trip to Montana from another state, we are highlighting a few of the most popular routes for the best trips to Montana.
Road Trip Montana & Wyoming
Planning a Montana-Wyoming Road Trip is a perfect way to see some of the great American landscapes – and some of the USA’s best national parks. Although Wyoming is another massive state, the top attractions are located in the northwest corner near the Montana state line.
Yellowstone National Park (a portion of which is located in Montana) is a must when planning a Montana-Wyoming road trip. Geysers are the top sights to see at the park – and Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring are two of the best.
Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole are two other top destinations in Wyoming to include in a Northwest US road trip.
Road Trip South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming
Adding South Dakota to a Montana and Wyoming road trip is a fantastic way to check off a few more iconic American sights. Two top attractions – Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Badlands National Park – are located in Western South Dakota not far from the Wyoming border. Nearby Sturgis, SD is another popular destination (especially for motorcycle enthusiasts) that can easily be added to this road trip.
Denver, Colorado to Montana Road Trip via Wyoming
Travelers with ample time can create an epic Colorado, Wyoming, Montana Road Trip. Spend a few days in Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park, then travel north to Wyoming – aiming for the northwest corner to see Grand Teton and Yellowstone. From Yellowstone, drive north on Highway 191 through Big Sky to Bozeman – and then continue west on I-90 to Missoula.
Road Trip: Chicago to Montana
There are several routes travelers can take to get from Chicago to Montana. An epic road trip would be through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and finally driving to Montana. That said, to really be able to appreciate it and make interesting detours, we would recommend at least 2-3 weeks.
Another unique way to get between the two destinations is via the Empire Builder Amtrak Train Line.
Seattle to Montana Road Trip
On a Washington to Montana road trip, travelers can start the trip in Seattle. After spending a few days in Seattle, cross the state of Washington via I-90 to Spokane, then traverse the Idaho Panhandle (stopping in Coeur d’Alene) to Montana. Road trippers can pick up our Montana road trip itinerary from either Missoula or Kalispell.
Pro Tip: We recommend the same route if making a Portland, Oregon to Montana Road Trip (or vice versa, on a Montana to Oregon Road Trip). Along the north-south route on I-5 between Portland and Seattle, consider making stops in Tacoma, Olympia and Vancouver.
Road Trip to Montana from California
To create the Ultimate Road Trip from California to Montana, we’d begin with a classic American West Coast Road Trip on a California Coastal Drive from LA to SF. Next, continue north on an Oregon Coastal Drive to Portland, then hop in I-5 to Seattle and head east to Montana from Washington.
Road Trip Montana: Top Travel Tips
We have covered a ton of information in this article – but we have a few more tips to ensure you have the absolute best road trips in Montana!
Best Time To Go To Montana
We don’t necessarily think there is a bad time to go to Montana. That said, when taking a road trip to Montana, we think it is best to go when the roads are in the best condition for driving – which means summer or fall.
There are pros and cons for Montana trips each season. The summer brings crowds…but it also brings warm enough weather to enjoy swimming in the lakes. If you visit Montana in summer, the state’s best produce – like cherries and huckleberries – are in season, too.
On the other hand, taking road trips in Montana in autumn offers fewer crowds, crisp temperatures (which we think are best for hiking) and the beauty of changing leaves.
Determine which is the best time to visit Montana for your road trip based on your desired activities.
Montana Road Map
Although we provide online maps above for each day of adventures, we highly recommend purchasing a State of Montana road map. Use the Montana road trip map to outline your trip plan before setting off on your trip.
We had a Montana travel map in our car – and found it to be absolutely invaluable as there is little to no cell service in many areas. Buy your Montana map before your trip!
Montana Road Conditions
We also recommend checking current road conditions in Montana before beginning your road trip. Road work and fires can cause closures that require long detours. Check the official transportation website for a current State of Montana road condition map.
In our itinerary, we outline the best places to visit in Montana – and a specific place to stay in each destination. You may have noticed that we recommend staying in hotels in city destinations and at an Airbnb while visiting Glacier NP.
Although we generally prefer staying in Airbnb vacation rentals, we think hotel stays are better for city destinations on fast-moving trips to Montana, like the one we outlined. And, guests who prefer hotels (and would rather not use Airbnb) have a choice of hotels in and around GNP, too.
All that said, hotels and Airbnb accommodations are not the only options for places to stay in Montana. Camping trips and RV travels are other excellent ways to explore the state.
Although we do not have any specific recommendations for where to stay on a Montana Camping Trip or information on specific RV parks around the state, we can certainly attest to the fact that there are several options.
Checklist for Planning a Road Trip in Montana
You are going to Montana! Use our Montana trip planner checklist to make sure you are ready for your adventure.
#1 Map out your Montana Route
Buy a Montana Road Trip Map (or Atlas!) before your trip. Decide which Montana road trip attractions to include in your itinerary and use a Montana travel planner – like our Printable Planner – to stay on top of all the details.
#2 Book Accommodations for your Montana Travel Itinerary
Decide where to stay during your Road Trip to Montana Itinerary. Use the recommendations from our Scenic Trip Montana Drive or start your search on Booking.com. The earlier you book places to stay, the better – as the best value hotels get snapped up far in advance.
#3 Buy Plane Tickets
#4 Reserve a Rental Car
#5 Read our other Montana Travel Blog Posts
We share heaps of advice that will help you plan a perfect Montana trip! Use our travel guides for sightseeing in Kalispell, what to do in Whitefish, going to Glacier NP and spending a day in Missoula.
#6 Gather Essentials for Montana Scenic Road Trips
As you begin planning your trip to Montana, start gathering the essentials. For example, you will definitely want to upgrade to a real camera. On our Montana road trip, we used a Canon DSLR with a Zoom Lens. While planning our Montana vacation itinerary, however, we forgot about Binoculars, and we were crushed that we didn’t have a pair for our trip.
#7 Pack Your Bags for Montana
#8 You’re off to Montana!
Enjoy your road trip through Montana! Make all the stops, take all the pictures and enjoy the drive under the big blue Montana sky!
We Want To Know: Is there anything you would add to our Montana Road Trip Guide? Give us your best tips and advice for Montana scenic drives in the comments below!
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