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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

August 2011 - Montana

In this issue:

Welcome to the August issue of USATourist News Magazine. This month we're visiting the fourth largest state in the United States, Montana. As you can see from the photos, this area has some spectacular scenery. Montana is surrounded by Canada to the north, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south and Idaho to the west. The eastern side of the state offers pretty farmland while the Rocky Mountains run through the western side of the state and is the reason for much of the state's natural beauty.

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake, named after a Native Tribe, is the largest freshwater lake in the Western contiguous states. The crystal blue-green waters are a giant playground for water sport enthusiasts.
© Beth Blair

Like most mountain regions, Montana has many year-round draws. The summers call people to partake in outdoor highlights particularly fishing, boating, hiking and camping. While the winter months attract ski and snowboarding buffs looking for good snow and trails as well as other adventurous-types who partake in cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and dog sledding.

Play Big

Big Sky, in south-west Montana, boasts being Home to the Biggest Skiing in America and for good reason. The Big Sky Ski Resort and Moonlight Basin consists of 5,500 acres - the largest ski area guests can access with one ticket in the United States. Over the summer months you can take advantage of the Basecamp to Yellowstone. Located in the village, Basecamp can help plan activites like ziplining, high ropes course, bungee trampoline, golf, biking, hiking and more. This area could fill an entire News Magazine on its own, but in the meantime visit the Big Sky website to learn more about this popular resort.

Yellowstone

While Yellowstone National Park is primarily found in the state of Wyoming, the park also stretches into neighboring states Idaho and Montana. West Yellowstone, Montana is small town with access to Yellowstone's west entrance and the closest route to Old Faithful and Yellowstone's geyser areas. As for activities, winter months provide a very different experience than the warm summer months. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and snowmobiling are the prevalent winter sports found in the Yellowstone area. A fun new way to see the local land is taking a Snowcoach ride. These big, warm forms of transportation allow guests to spy wildlife, take in scenic vistas and snap photographs.

Avalanche Gorge

Avalanche Gorge is one of the spectacular sights you'll find on the Trails of the Cedars Nature Trail.
© Beth Blair

Going to the Sun

About 540 miles north is another top natural attraction - Glacier National Park. The only road, a winding two-lane, is called the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Built in the 1930's, it crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass and is 53 miles (85 km) long. The road is closed during the winter months. Opening day depends upon road conditions.

The great thing about a region like this is the accommodations run the gamut from budget-friendly camping to upscale lodges and ranches and everything in between. During our drive through Glacier National Park we passed several campgrounds. I can't imagine waking up to anything more beautiful than the looming mountains and crystal-clear lakes of Glacier National Park. If you're not the camping type, there are plenty of cabins, hotels and lodges to choose from in the park or you may opt for nearby towns including Essex, East Glacier, West Glacier, Babb or the larger towns Kalispell and Whitefish.

If you're a big hiker the sky's the limit in this park - you can get more information from the National Park Service website. But even if you're not a serious hiker the Trail of the Cedars is an easy and scenic walk. It begins across from the Avalanche Campground Ranger Station and is even wheelchair accessible. If you'd like something a little more challenging, try the Avalanche Lake Trail, a 2 1/10-mile (3km) hike to the foot of Avalanche Lake. The trailhead is about 5 and 1/2 miles (9km) north of Lake McDonald Lodge and within walking distance of the Avalanche Creek Campground.

Tip: Apgar, on the southern end of Lake McDonald, is the largest campground in the park. But even if you're not camping, the view from Apgar Village is worth the stop. The mountains reflecting off lake is stunning!

Red Bus Tour

Sit back and enjoy the ride with a Red Bus Tour. A ride on one of these historic busses is a great way to learn about the popular attractions in the park.
© Beth Blair

What are those funny looking red cars?

Dating back to the 1930's, White Motor Company created the red-with-black trim, 17 passenger Red Busses that are a popular sight throughout Glacier. I don't have first-hand experience, but these topless cars have a great reputation with the tourists. For one thing, you don't have to drive yourself. But more importantly, the guides are well-versed on the area and recall interesting facts and point out details that would otherwise be missed by first-time visitors. If you don't plan to drive or spend the night in the park, consider taking a Red Bus Tour - they look fun!

Getting there

When my family visited western Montana this summer we decided to skip the airfare and drive. The trip took three days since we live in Minnesota, but we stopped at roadside attractions along the way in North Dakota. It made for some long days, but was worth it financially. If you're traveling from the northwest, the drive should be rather easy. As for anyone else, flying into the region is convenient.

Glacier Park International has direct flights all over the country; however, you can also price-compare flights between several airports. Missoula International Airport (Montana) is about 2.5 hours away (114 miles/183 km). Spokane International Airport (Washington) is approximately 4.5 hours (242 miles/389 km).

Flathead Lake Lodge

During my family's recent venture to Montana we stayed at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork which is about 45 minutes from Glacier National Park. This family run business started back in the 1940's and has since welcomed guests as infamous as gangster Bugsy Siegel and his girlfriend Virginia Hill to US President George Bush Sr. and First Lady Barbara. Today, the lodge runs as efficiently as ever, offering an all-inclusive Sunday to Sunday experience, though some activities do cost extra and guests must supply their own alcoholic beverages.

If you're traveling with children you won't be disappointed in the endless activities to keep them busy. Expect the traditional lake activities, such as canoeing, kayaking and sailing, S'mores by a campfire combined with ranch activities such as horseback trail rides and a children's rodeo make a perfect day. If you simply feel like relaxing, the heated pool overlooks Flathead Lake.

Thank you for reading this month's USATourist News Magazine. Please follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook. We love to stay in touch with our readers!

Contest

Don't forget to enter the News Magazine contest. The winner will recieve 2 certificates for a fun and tasty tour from City Food Tours in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! To enter, simply fill out the contest entry form.

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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair


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