Author Topic: Montana next year? (travel musings)  (Read 636 times)

Brad Johnson

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Montana next year? (travel musings)
« on: May 14, 2024, 03:21:31 PM »
As we're prepping for this year's Colorado trip, SWMBO mentioned several times wanting to see Montana next year. Did a bit of basic recon over the weekend, mostly for basic travel time and location info. Centering on Flathead Lake/Kalispell as a jumping off point for area attractions.

Considering two basic approaches...

First is the Drive & Gawk method. According to Google Maps it's a solid 24 hr drive from here to Flathead. Much of which is through the Plains parts of Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming. While we're all about seeing new country, there's only so much Flat & Boring we can take. Moving the route over through Salt Lake City and Idaho Falls is much more scenic and only adds an hour. Comments from Those Who've Been There and Done That on route preference? My guess is we'd chop the drive up into at least three days, giving us time to take in a few attractions and do some sightseeing along the way.

Second is flying to Montana, renting a car, and exploring the heck out of one or two specific areas. Gives more time there, but also more costly. In addition to vehicle rental, flights into western Montana are hella expensive due to lack of larger airports and the need to change planes at least once and more likely twice en route. Are there places where we could do five days of Vehicle Tourist poking about without being severely limited on what can be seen?

Thanks,
Brad
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BobR

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2024, 04:01:26 PM »
Look at Columbia Falls as a base, there is also an airport there. Montana is big so I would guess you want the scenic western part and not the flat eastern part. There are lots of places to visit but if you want the main touristy things Columbia Falls would put you near Glacier and spitting distance to Flathead Lake. It is also close to Whitefish and Kalispell. Once I get home if you have things you want to do I could give suggestions. I lived in Browning for 4 years, you don't want to go there.

bob

AZRedhawk44

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2024, 04:07:18 PM »
I'm in the "the journey is the attraction" camp.

Make a big to-do about getting there.  Go through the high Colorado passes.  See Moab, or Arches, or Zion, or the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone, or whatever interests you that is reasonably within the bounds of a detour and worth the time.
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castle key

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2024, 04:22:34 PM »
As you don't seem to have an absolute plan for Montana, this would be the opportunity to sort of wing it.

Yes, the trip can be the thing!

Ramble around a bit. Have some must see/visit goals, but casual! Eat a Friday dinner at the local fire house fundraiser. Just roll with the hours.

Drive yourself. You'll get a flat tire, maybe need a doctor visit, get rerouted for weather, but go and do it.

The places in Montana you mentioned are incredible.
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RocketMan

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2024, 04:28:00 PM »
I'd bop over to I-25 in New Mexico and go north from there.  It's a very scenic drive, Rocky Mountains to the west and plains to the east.  Once you get up into Wyoming the mountains surround you a little more.  Then head west on I-80 into Utah.  Gorgeous country in Utah.  Then north on I-15 out of Salt Lake.  Through part of eastern Idaho and up into Montana.
Save for the part into Montana, I have made that trip three times over the years into or out of Texas to Oregon.  It's well worth it.
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Brad Johnson

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2024, 04:35:28 PM »
Journey is the Destination is our usual travel style. Our preference is to wander around and see new places and things, not go somewhere for a specific place/event/thing. Chopping up the drive and making it an active part of the trip is par for the course for us.

RocketMan, we've been up I-25 plenty of times. It's great right in front of the Rockies but once you get past Cheyenne you're back in the semi-flatlands until well into Montana. I'm leaning more to an Albuqurque/Farmington/Moab/SLC route. It's new country with lots of things to stop and see along the way. SWBMO has expressed several times she'd like to see Mesa Verde. This would be a perfect fit.

Brad
It's all about the pancakes, people.
"And he thought cops wouldn't chase... a STOLEN DONUT TRUCK???? That would be like Willie Nelson ignoring a pickup full of weed."
-HankB

Brad Johnson

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2024, 04:42:17 PM »
BobR, thanks for the heads up on Columbia Falls. Flights into FCA aren't quite as spendy as I'd been seeing. Still not cheap due to multiple connections, but at least semi-tolerable if we decided to go that route.

Brad
It's all about the pancakes, people.
"And he thought cops wouldn't chase... a STOLEN DONUT TRUCK???? That would be like Willie Nelson ignoring a pickup full of weed."
-HankB

K Frame

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2024, 04:56:53 PM »
Go to Idaho and piss off Ben in person!

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MechAg94

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2024, 04:57:36 PM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMfumtWOsWU

You could see if you can see the Sage Wall.  But it is on private land and I am not sure how you could set up a visit.  The video mentioned a website to sign up at the end.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2024, 05:36:43 PM by MechAg94 »
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K Frame

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2024, 04:59:42 PM »
On my first and only trip west in 1993 I drove I-25 from Denver to Raton, New Mexico.

Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe the scenery and vistas.
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Brad Johnson

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2024, 05:01:01 PM »
Go to Idaho and piss off Ben in person!

Heck with Ben. I just want to meet Steve and Barney.

Brad
It's all about the pancakes, people.
"And he thought cops wouldn't chase... a STOLEN DONUT TRUCK???? That would be like Willie Nelson ignoring a pickup full of weed."
-HankB

RocketMan

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2024, 05:03:53 PM »
I'm leaning more to an Albuqurque/Farmington/Moab/SLC route.

Brad

Never been that way, but I've heard it is very pretty country.  Enjoy the trip.  Pictures or it didn't happen!
If there really was intelligent life on other planets, we'd be sending them foreign aid.

Conservatives see George Orwell's "1984" as a cautionary tale.  Progressives view it as a "how to" manual.

My wife often says to me, "You are evil and must be destroyed." She may be right.

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2024, 05:05:44 PM »
Heck with Ben. I just want to meet Steve and Barney.

Brad

And that's why you'd piss him off... you'd give all of your attention to the ones who truly matter... :rofl:
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dogmush

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2024, 05:11:30 PM »
I drove from LA to Idaho Falls a couple years back, and that drive north through Utah was beautiful. Would recommend.

I was on a short timeline, but there looked to be plenty to do along the way as well.

AZRedhawk44

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2024, 06:11:11 PM »
On my first and only trip west in 1993 I drove I-25 from Denver to Raton, New Mexico.

Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe the scenery and vistas.

US-64 across the northern border of New Mexico is unreal.  Loved just about every mile, from Four Corners to Taos to Raton.

Coming West with the intent to go North, I'd suggest that, headed into Page, AZ.  Horshoe Bend on the Colorado River, Antelope Canyon.  Both great sights.  Also check out Lake Powell, before it's too late.  There's talk of decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam.  Then there's every square inch of Utah to go through and be delighted by.  Whatever route you take will be awesome.

Then there's Idaho.  Maybe eat some potato chips or something as a snack to hold you over until Montana. :P  Or go through western Wyoming, it's much prettier than southern Idaho.
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Ben

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2024, 06:45:37 PM »
Heck with Ben. I just want to meet Steve and Barney.

Brad

That the general consensus.  =D

I'm confused on your timeframe. Are you taking three days up, five days in the Kalispell AO, and three days back? If you want to post an image of your proposed route, I could give you detour/alternate route suggestions. Otherwise, guessing where you might be going if you did the Utah/Idaho route:

Would you be entering Utah on 191 or 70? Either way, Moab and Green River are really cool. Outside of Moab is where we spread Monkeyleg's ashes. If your vehicle is not offroad capable, there's lots of rentals in Moab if you wanted to try a trail. Otherwise lots of "regular car" roads around Moab and the National Parks. Honestly, unless you really want to see it, Salt Lake City is just a big ginormous crowded city these days. I might suggest diverting through Heber City/Park City/Wanship/Coalville. Then hitting 15 again in Ogden, divert to Logan, then hit Idaho through Preston (Napoleon Dynamite! Rex Quan Do is still there).

From there you could hit 15 again in Pocatello and go through Idaho Falls, or, stick with me here - screw Idaho Falls and take 89 through Star Valley Ranch/Alpine/Swan Valley, then Rexburg up through Island Park, which is awesome and a gateway to West Yellowstone. Then hit Helena (super cool city) and then Flathead/ Kalispell as your base to Glacier. "Going to the Sun" Road, while crowded in Summer, is absolutely worth it.

For the way back, if you really want to see some pretty scenery and have the time, return on 93 through Idaho, hitting Salmon/Challis/Mackay, turn at Arco (don't forget to check out the sub and the atomics) through Idaho Falls and then whichever way you want to go to get home (I know nothing about Colorado).

The above sounds like a lot, but as point of reference, I once did Flathead/Going to the Sun/Helena in one not overly strenuous day.

If you take the East Idaho route, let me know ahead of time. I'd be up for dropping Steve at the dog hotel and spending a couple of days fishing the Henry's Fork (Island Park area) and could meet up with you for lunch or dinner somewhere in the vicinity between Idaho Falls and Wyoming.
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Tuco

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2024, 06:47:06 PM »
I don't have a map in front of me to see the Tx to Mt connection, but going from memory:

The hill country in NE Utah transitions very nicely into SE Idaho and SW Wyoming. Around Kemmerer WY it can be pretty flat and boring for a few hours if you don't see any wild horses or dinosaurs, but north by northeast you can swing up into the scenic Wind River Valley, pass duBois, go over the hump, and get into Teton country and up into Yellowstone without getting any Jackson on you.

Yellowstone is, despite the crowds, worth it if you've never been.  If you have been, its a scenic shortcut into West Yellowstone MT, and then either north towards Ennis / Twin Bridges

Edit: From Twin Bridges theres a gravek road over a low range to Wise River. Then up the Bighole to Wisdom, over the Divide again at Nez Perce and down the Bitteroot Valley towards Missoula.  Alternately, from Twin Bridges, up to Anaconda, over the Skalkaho Pass and down the river to Missoula and north to Flathead.

Or go out of West Yellowstone down the beautiful Gallatin Valley past Big Sky and into Bozeman.

Edit: or 20 minutes west to Ben at Island Park. If you go to Island Park ID check Upper Mesa Falls.

Alternatively, run out of West Yellowstone through the park's north entry at Gardiner and see why they call it Paradise Valley.
Both Livingston (at the foot of Paradise Valley) and Bozeman are on I-90, and ultimately I-90 is where you'll end up no matter how you travel
« Last Edit: May 14, 2024, 08:59:35 PM by Tuco »
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Hawkmoon

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2024, 11:46:00 PM »
Glacier National Park

Yellowstone

Beartooth Highway
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BobR

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2024, 01:05:31 AM »
A good start would be figuring out what your top 3-5 things would be and then trying to tie them all together.

Yellowstone is nice, takes a day or two to do properly. It is nearly a 400 mile drive from Yellowstone to Columbia Falls. A nice day trip from Columbia Falls is leave Columbia Falls and truck over to West Glacier and hit the Going to the Sun Road (usually open in July) to St Mary at the other end. Then take 89 through Browning (remember, don't stop  ??? ) and pick up Highway 2 going back west and do a quick stop at East Glacier to gawk at the lodge and have a huckleberry margarita. As you are headed back take a few minutes to stop at  Goat Lick and possibly see the mountain goats on the cliff face licking up the minerals. Then just head back to Columbia Falls, possibly stopping in Hungry Horse to eat. That route will also put you on the top of Marias Pass, the continental divide.

bob


Brad Johnson

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Re: Montana next year? (travel musings)
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2024, 11:31:16 AM »
I'm confused on your timeframe. Are you taking three days up, five days in the Kalispell AO, and three days back?

Our usual schedule is to leave early on a Thursday morning and arrive back home the following Friday. How that nine day block pans out is what I'm trying to lay groundwork for. For our Colorado trips we front-load travel with a full 12 hrs driving the first day, a day in the middle changing locations to slightly closer to home, then a leisurely drive back the last day. Including all the side trips and general sightseeing, it's usually around 2500 miles all told. If we do the Montana thing as a a drive, that's 3100 miles just there and back. 50 hours in the saddle, or just over six solid 8-hr days of driving not including side trips and sightseeing. We like driving around and seeing things, but six-plus days doing nothing but driving would be a lot even for us. It also means packing up every morning and unpacking every evening, a pain any way you look at it. Then there's fuel. Figure $600-$700 in gas alone, depending on average fuel economy, though in that respect there's some savings in food as we tend to eat sammiches from the cooler.

Not a big deal for now. Being a full year away, we have plenty of time to ponder and plan. Sure do appreciate all the input!

Brad
It's all about the pancakes, people.
"And he thought cops wouldn't chase... a STOLEN DONUT TRUCK???? That would be like Willie Nelson ignoring a pickup full of weed."
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