Glacier National Park + Flathead Lake + Seeley-Swan + Blackfoot River + Bitterroot Valley + St. Regis-Paradise + Tour 200 + Lake Koocanusa
Tour the Crown of the Continent by way of one of the most scenic rides in America. Pick up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a National Historic Landmark and engineering marvel, in St. Mary and ride 50 miles of stunning scenery. Crest the Continental Divide at Logan Pass where you’ll often spot mountain goats, and pass the Weeping Wall, multiple cascading waterfalls, Avalanche Creek + Trail of the Cedars, McDonald Falls + Lake McDonald and the Apgar Visitor Center + West Glacier. Plan on at least three hours to cross the park. From West Glacier, make your way to Columbia Falls via U.S. Highway 2 west. Right outside the park, Columbia Falls offers amazing views plus local beer and cozy lodging. See what’s on tap at Backslope Brewing, and overnight at Reclusive Moose Cabins, North Forty Resort or Cedar Creek Lodge.
For general park information, visit:
For more information on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, including opening and closing dates, visit:
For Columbia Falls area info, visit:
From Columbia Falls, make your way down the west side of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—on U.S. Highway 93 to Polson. Pick up MT-35 heading north up the east side of the lake—with lunch options including East Shore Smoke House, Finley Point Grille and Mrs. Wonderful’s Café—to Bigfork, Western Montana’s quintessential storybook village in the northeast corner of the lake. Spend the day riding the entirety of the lake, exploring points along way. There are numerous recreation and fishing access sites along the lake’s 185 miles of shoreline and multiple state park units within Flathead Lake State Park including Big Arm State Park, West Shore State Park, Wayfarers State Park and the lake’s largest island, Wild Horse Island State Park—a day-use state park only accessible by boat that is home to wild horses (hence the name), bighorn sheep, coyotes and deer. From mid to late summer fruit stands dot the roadside, offering Montana’s famous Flathead cherries. Overnight options in Bigfork include Marina Cay Resort and Mountain Lake Lodge. Stop by Whistling Andy Distillery for whiskey made from glacial waters or Flathead Lake Brewing Co. for locally crafted beer and a noteworthy food menu.
For Flathead Lake information, visit:
For Bigfork area info, visit:
From Bigfork, take State Highway 209 west to State Highway 83 south to pick up the Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive, passing through Swan Lake and Seeley Lake. The Seeley-Swan is a premier Glacier Country recreation destination and the mountainous and lush forested landscape is breathtaking. In the charming little resort town of Seeley Lake you’ll find great restaurants and locally owned shops. At the junction of MT-83 and State Highway 200, head west toward Missoula on the Blackfoot River Route. Made famous by Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It,” the beautiful Blackfoot River runs along this scenic corridor offering plenty of picturesque vistas. This is one of the most popular stretches of the Blackfoot to fish and float. Optional side trip: Head east on MT-200 first for Old West charm in Ovando, and then backtrack west to Missoula, adding an additional 27 miles to your trip. Missoula is Montana’s cultural hub located at the convergence of three rivers and seven wilderness areas. Lodging and dining options abound here, and the entertainment and nightlife are some of Montana’s finest. Find local vibes and good beer at KettleHouse Brewing Company in Bonner (just east of Missoula), and penty to eat at the The Top Hat in Missoula. Overnight at the C’mon Inn or Gibson Mansion Bed and Breakfast, or choose from multiple hotels. Area attractions include Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
For Missoula area info, visit:
Wake up in Missoula and set out south on US-93 for a day in “The Root.” Flanked by the rolling Sapphire Mountains and the jagged Bitterroot Range, this scenic valley boasts western charm along the banks of the winding Bitterroot River, where fishing access sites abound. You’ll find multiple breweries, cideries, coffeehouses, dining and local shopping in the vibrant communities that line the valley: Lolo, Florence, Stevensville, Victor, Corvallis, Hamilton, Darby, Conner, Sula. Head as far down the valley as you’d like, and on your return trip back to Missoula, pick up the Eastside Highway (State Highway 269) in Hamilton before connecting back up with US-93 in Stevensville. Taking the Eastside Highway north adds a little bit of a backroad adventure (it’s fully paved, though) to your day. At this point, you can either head back for a second overnight in Missoula or—if you’re up for a bit of a windy 30-mile ride on State Highway 12—spend the night in Lolo at Lolo Hot Springs featuring a full bar, restaurant and casino. Bitterroot attractions include the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, Historic St. Mary’s Mission, the Daly Mansion—original home of copper king Marcus Daly—Kootenai Canyon and Fort Owen State Park.
Begin the last—and longest in terms of mileage—day by taking Western Montana’s I-90 corridor 71 miles from Missoula to the must-stop St. Regis Travel Center (don’t miss the trout aquarium). The road to Paradise on State Highway 135 is a short and scenic 24 miles and passes by Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort. From Paradise, take MT-200 67 miles up through the charming communities of Thompson Falls (visit the dam), Trout Creek (famous for huckleberries) and Noxon (ride over the historic Noxon Bridge). Grab some homestyle cooking for lunch at Minnie’s Montana Café in Thompson Falls. Optional: If you hit the road early and want to end your trip with a long day on the bike, keep going. From Noxon, take Bull Lake Road (State Highway 56/the first leg of Montana’s Highway to Heaven Motorcycle Loop) 36 miles to the US-2 junction, just south of Troy. Just after you get on US-2, make sure to stop at the Kootenai Falls Suspension Bridge, and then follow US-2 12 miles to Libby, where you’ll pick up the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway—State Highway 37—for 69 miles. Top off your trip with some rest and relaxation in Eureka. The quaint little town in the lush Tobacco Valley offers a charming main street and small-town hospitality. Visit the Tobacco Valley Historical Village as well as the local brewery. Overnight options include Indian Springs Ranch and The Wilderness Club.
For more information, visit:
It can get a little (or a lot) chilly at high elevations, even in the summer. Dress accordingly and always check the weather before you ride, especially in the spring and fall when the weather can change at the drop of a hat
Plan your route in terms of where to fuel up, and note that cell service can be spotty (or nonexistent) at times.