Montana: Exploring Big Sky Country (Tentative dates) August 22-Sept. 1, 2023
featuring Yellowstone and Glacier National Park (Pricing available in August)
• Bozeman • Yellowstone • Old Faithful • Gardiner • Yellowstone Grand Canyon • Mammoth Hot Springs • Paradise Valley • Helena • Gates of the Mountains • Great Falls • Glacier National Park • Going-to-the-Sun Road • Whitefish • White Water Rafting • Flathead Lake • Kootenai Traditions • Missoula • Smokejumper Visitor’s Center
Step outside, take a deep breath in, and look towards the mountains – you’re in the big sky country of Montana now. Explore both the Northern and Southern Loops of Yellowstone National Park, and visit Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon, Mammoth Hot Springs, and more. Venture through Paradise Valley to Helena, the “Queen City of the Rockies.” Cruise on the Missouri River through the Gates of the Mountains, named by legendary explorers Lewis and Clark. Spend time in the mountain town of St. Mary Village before heading to Glacier National Park. Take an adventurous white water rafting trip or a calm, scenic float down the Flathead River. Meet a descendant of the last Kootenai chief, and learn about the importance of the land in native life. Get a glimpse into the heroic and dangerous life of a Smokejumper. A land of wilderness, adventure, and beauty, Montana is waiting for you.
Day 1 Bozeman, Montana – Tour Begins
Montana is wilderness, adventure, and beauty, and you’re about to see what makes it unique, as well as its crown jewels. Today, arrive in Bozeman, the jumping off point to explore the northern and southern loops of Yellowstone, America’s first national park. Get your camera ready and your boots laced tight, there’s a good chance you’re going to come across roaming bison, roaring geysers, and more. Tonight’s stay is at the Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman.
Day 2 Bozeman – Yellowstone Southern Loop – Gardiner
This morning, pass through Yellowstone’s western gate and venture into the Lower Loop, the road that encircles the entire lower half of the National Park. Your first stop will be at the Grand Prismatic Spring, where steaming azure-blue waters clash brilliantly with the bright orange of the clay earth surrounding it. You’ll quickly learn why this is one of the most photographed spots in the entire park – its unearthly beauty is something to behold.
The best spot to take it all in is at the overlook, and you’ll have enough time to take the 20-minute hike up if you choose. Afterwards, head to Old Faithful, the legendary geyser that you can “set your watch to.” Enjoy lunch on your own, walk the boardwalk trails surrounding Old Faithful, and check the time on the next eruption. After you’ve explored Old Faithful, pass by the massive and beautiful Lake Yellowstone. No drive through Yellowstone is that quiet, though – you’ll want to gaze out your window at the mountains, plains, cliffs, and forests. Bison, elk, bears, eagles, wolves, and antelope call this incredible slice of wilderness their home, and you might spot them at any time. Lodging tonight is at The Ridgeline Hotel At Yellowstone. (B, D)
Day 3 Gardiner – Yellowstone Northern Loop – Gardiner
Today, explore Yellowstone’s northern loop. Head to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone lookout, where you’ll find yourself standing over the massive, 20-mile-long canyon. Its craggy walls are streaked with brilliant whites, pinks, and oranges from the volcanic minerals contained in the rocks. The Yellowstone River roars along at the bottom over three different waterfalls. After taking in the majesty of the canyon, head to Mammoth Hot Springs. Here, bubbling pots of geothermal water trickle down the step-like rocks, creating incredible shapes and colors. Explore the boardwalks that wind through the steaming landscape before heading to your hotel in Gardiner, right outside Yellowstone’s north gate. Second night at The Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone. (B)
Mammoth Hot Springs
Day 4 Gardiner – Paradise Valley – Helena
This morning, head through the sweeping vistas of Montana’s Paradise Valley. In the distance, you’ll see the Absaroka Beartooth Mountains to the east, and the Gallatin Range of the Rocky Mountains to your west. You’ll arrive in the capital of Montana, Helena, a city with rich gold rush history and beautiful Victorian era architecture. These days, the “Queen City of the Rockies” is less known for gold and more known for its great local restaurants and microbreweries, as well as a stunning trail system in the surrounding landscape. For the next two nights, we stay at Doubletree by Hilton Helena Downtown. (B, D)
Day 5 Helena – Gates of the Mountains – Helena
Start your day today with a local guide showing you around the beautiful and welcoming mountain city of Helena. Delve into the history of the city’s south side and get a view of its gritty past. This was where the rough-and-tumble elements of Helena gathered, from bars filled with miners to the city’s persecuted immigrant population in Chinatown. Learn about these oft-ignored communities as you make your way through these areas. After exploring the city a bit, you’ll have time on your own to enjoy the charm of downtown Helena before heading to the Gates of the Mountains. Here, on the shores of the Missouri River, you’ll follow in the footsteps of the most renowned explorers in American history – Lewis and Clark. Climb aboard a boat and cruise these storied waters, follow the path Lewis and Clark took on their legendary journey across this vast wilderness, and take in the natural beauty. Meriwether Lewis himself named this stunning canyon the Gates of the Mountains, and you’ll discover just how it must have felt to come across this awe-inspiring sight. Tonight, return to downtown Helena Doubletree by Hilton for an evening at leisure. (B)
Day 6 Helena – Great Falls – St. Mary
Today, venture to Great Falls, where the mighty Missouri River thunders down from the Rocky Mountains, over five waterfalls to the great plains below. This was a massive obstacle for Lewis and Clark’s expedition in 1805. They had to carry their boats over land for a month to make it from the lower falls to the upper falls. You will not have to work that hard, because it’s your choice!
Visit the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center where you can learn about the trials of the legendary expedition, followed by hiking along the Missouri River -OR- explore the exhibits at the C.M. Russell Art Museum during a guided tour, where you’ll see the art of Charles Russell, a cowboy-turned-artist from the turn of the century, as well as his original home and log studio. Afterwards, continue to St. Mary, the eastern entryway to Glacier National Park. Lodging tonight is at Great Bear Lodge At St. Mary Village. (B, D)
Day 7 Glacier National Park – Going-to-the-Sun Road – Whitefish
Head into Glacier National Park to board one of the 1930’s vintage red buses and venture down one of the most breathtaking roads in North America, Going-to-the-Sun Road. Sit back and admire the views of the valley as your “jammer,” one of the experienced guides, drives you through this natural landscape. Relax and take in all the majestic sights, before heading to the town of Whitefish where forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains unfold in every direction. Stay overnight for 2 nights at The Firebrand Hotel. (B)
Day 8 Whitefish
This morning, enjoy some leisure time in the quaint, picturesque town of Whitefish. Always listed as one of America’s 25 prettiest towns, indulge yourself with time to stroll around, do some shopping, or just relax. Perhaps you’ll stop for lunch at one of the great restaurants found along Central Avenue or buy some Huckleberry jam from a local shop. A true favorite in Montana, huckleberries can be found in snacks, drinks, candy, and more. Your morning leads into an adventurous afternoon, because it’s your choice! Grab a paddle and get ready for a white-water rafting adventure -OR- take the calmer, scenic route on a float down the Flathead River. No matter which style river journey you choose, the awe-inspiring views of Glacier National Park await. Tonight, tell tales about your river escapades while sitting down for a mouth-watering barbeque dinner. This is our second night at The Firebrand Hotel. (B, D)
Day 9 Whitefish – Flathead Lake – Missoula
Depart Whitefish and drive south, journeying along the western edge of beautiful Flathead Lake. Carved by the ancient glaciers that give Glacier National Park its name, Flathead Lake stretches almost 200 square miles. Quaint, small towns dot the shores here, built with the beautiful backdrop of nature behind them. You might even spot some orchards, growing Flathead cherries. Encompassing most of the lake is the Flathead Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation. At one point, these tribes had territories that stretched out of Montana and into Idaho, British Columbia, and Wyoming. The Hellgate Treaty of 1855 set aside Flathead Lake for the tribes, reducing their lands to a fraction of what it once was. Tribal land was once again shrunk in 1904 by over half a million acres. Despite all of this, the Tribal way of life continues on to this day, passed down from elders to children though a rich oral and spiritual tradition. Get a glimpse into these traditions when you meet a descendant of the last Kootenai chief, and learn about the importance of the land in native life.
Afterwards, head to the final stay on your journey, the eclectic city of Missoula, where you can enjoy a relaxing evening at leisure. Tonight is the first of two nights at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown. (B)
Day 10 Missoula
Your day in Missoula starts off with a visit to the Smokejumper Visitor Center. Learn how and why these legendary firefighters do what they do – jump out of planes and parachute into dangerous wildfires. Missoula is home to the largest smokejumper base in the United States, and you’ll visit the ready room, smokejumper loft, the National Smokejumper Memorial, and a fire lookout tower originally built in 1930. Impact Moment: Later, spend time with horses during a visit to the River Pines Farm Horse Sanctuary, a non-profit dedicated to providing a forever home to horses in need. This evening, enjoy a memorable farewell dinner with your fellow travelers, where you can raise a glass and toast to a wildly fun Montana adventure. The second night at the Holiday Inn Missoula. (B, D)
Day 11 Missoula – Tour Ends
Say goodbye to Big Sky Country and its beautiful sights as you head home. (B)
Pricing will be available in August!