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7-Day Glaciers to Geysers Museum Tour

Glacier Country

DAY 1: WHITEFISH/KALISPELL

Begin your park-to-park Montana arts and culture tour in the quintessential mountain town of Whitefish. Explore community and railroad history and artifacts at the Stumptown Historical Society and Whitefish Museum before embarking on a Whitefish Historical Walking Tour, learning about the history and buildings of downtown Whitefish.

From Whitefish, make your way to Kalispell for a tour of the architecturally exquisite Conrad Mansion Museum and gardens, home of Charles E. Conrad—Kalispell founder and pivotal figure in the settlement of the Northwest. Next stop, the Hockaday Museum of Art, which is housed in a historic Carnegie Library and holds the works of important and influential Montana artists as well as a Glacier National Park gallery dedicated to the painters, sculptors, photographers and writers, past and present whose work has been inspired by the Crown of the Continent.

At the Northwest Montana History Museum, set in Kalispell’s original Central School, explore engaging exhibits and one-of-a-kind artifacts that tell the story of the Flathead Valley, the Indigenous peoples of the land, the vanished town of Demersville, and pioneer Frank Bird Linderman.

Finally, take a Historic Walking Tour of downtown Kalispell, exploring the town’s railroad roots and historic architecture. Don’t miss downtown Kalispell’s boutiques, coffee shops and eateries.

Overnight in Kalispell at the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Western Montana arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

Glacier Country

DAY 2: FLATHEAD RESERVATION

Fuel up on continental breakfast at the hotel or grab a bite in downtown Kalispell before the hour-long drive to Polson, at the southern end of Flathead Lake. Make your way to the Polson Flathead Lake Museum, home of the Flathead Lake Monster, Nessie. Also learn about what life was like as an early homesteader in the region.

The one-of-a-kind Miracle of America Museum is an eclectic Montana gem, and your next stop. Pore over an astoundingly large collection of American history, drawing visitors from the world over. You’ll find vintage planes and helicopters, old farm equipment and frontier homes, an Area 51 exhibit, and lot—lots—more.

For a lesson in the rich history and culture of the Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenai tribes, visit The People’s Center in Pablo. Guided and audio tours are available and offer an idea of tribal life before and after European settlement.

In Charlo, across from the scenic Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge—the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana celebrates the history and culture of the Tribal Nations in the region with artifacts, historical photographs, traditional beadwork, weaponry, mounted wildlife and an American Indian camp. Take a stroll on the short nature trail for spectacular views.

End your day with a scenic drive to Missoula—Western Montana’s arts and culture hub. Stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown, with a rich history of its own as the former Missoula Mercantile.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Western Montana arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

Glacier Country

DAY 3: MISSOULA

Head to the heart of the downtown Missoula arts scene—the Missoula Art Museum. View diverse and thought-provoking work by local and international artists, as well as work relevant to the community, state and region in the Contemporary American Indian Art Collection.

Next, make your way to the University of Montana campus to visit the internationally renowned Montana Museum of Art & Culture, home to one of the oldest and most prominent fine art collections in the Rocky Mountain Northwest, including significant historic and contemporary artworks.

At the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, get a history lesson in Missoula’s beginnings on 32 walkable acres featuring more than 20 preserved structures. View one of the few remaining teepee burners, a wood waste burner named for its distinctive teepee shape, and learn about fort history, a WWII alien detention center, the exploits of the all African American 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, and Glacial Lake Missoula. Don’t forget to climb aboard the fully restored urban streetcar in the Trolley Barn. Also at Fort Missoula, visit the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History with in-depth war history spanning the Revolutionary War to today’s War on Terror.

For a fascinating look at the life of a wildland firefighter, visit the Smokejumper Visitor Center, a popular Missoula visitor attraction. A 45-minute tour takes you through the working smokejumper facility, including a reconstructed fire lookout tower.

Head toward the Museum of Mountain Flying—on the Missoula Airport grounds—for a captivating look at the history of flying in the northern Rockies. Witness vintage aircraft, memorabilia and artifacts, and learn about the pioneer aviators who put the Rocky Mountain West on the map.

Test your wildlife knowledge at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Visitor Center. The interactive displays allow you to hear an elk bugle, handle antlers, watch conservation films and view world-record elk mounts. There’s also a walking trail on the beautiful Grant Creek location grounds.

Grab dinner in downtown Missoula where you’ll find no shortage of breweries, distilleries and places to eat, no matter your taste. Overnight at Missoula’s Gibson Mansion Bed and Breakfast. Built in 1903, this lovingly restored Victorian mansion boasts period décor, gourmet breakfast service, a library, and a parlor complete with a cozy fireplace.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Western Montana arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

DAY 4: DRIVE DAY: STOP IN HISTORIC BUTTE OR CONTINUE ON TO THREE FORKS

Wake up in Missoula and grab a hearty breakfast before making your way from Glacier Country to Yellowstone Country. You’ll drive Interstate Highway 90 the entire 173 miles from Missoula to Three Forks, with a stop in the historic mining town of Butte, dubbed “The Richest Hill on Earth.”

Get a glimpse of Butte’s rich and colorful past with mining attractions at every turn, or visit Butte’s well-preserved, Victorian uptown business district and stately mansions, plus shops, museums and restaurants. You can even embark on a historic Butte Trolley Tour. Then, hit up a local brewery for good food and good craft beer before making your way to Three Forks.

Overnight in downtown Three Forks at the Sacajawea Hotel, a Historic Hotels of America destination and favorite lodging place of history buffs.

For more info about Missoula, Butte and Three Forks:

Yellowstone Country

DAY 5: THREE FORKS

Start your day in Three Forks at the Headwaters Heritage Museum and discover the history and culture of the area surrounding the Headwaters of the Missouri River, including American Indian art and artifacts, Lewis and Clark memorabilia, and artifacts related to fur trade, railroad, mining and agriculture. Don’t miss the museum’s barbed wire collection!

Trace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at the Missouri Headwaters State Park situated at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers—where they merge to form the Missouri River. This scenic park is a National Historic Landmark offering foot trails to points of interest and interpretive displays of the area's cultural and natural history.

At Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, experience incredible views of the Madison River Valley and witness a limestone cliff once used by American Indians as a buffalo jump site. Interpretive displays explain how buffalo were stampeded over the cliff for nearly 2,000 years, and used for food, and to make clothing and supplies. Buffalo bones still lie buried at the base of the cliff.

Head back to downtown Three Forks for another night at the Sacajawea Hotel and make sure to enjoy a cocktail on their expansive front porch.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Yellowstone Country arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

Yellowstone Country

DAY 6: LIVINGSTON

From Three Forks, drive through the idyllic town of Livingston and on to the Natural Bridge Falls Scenic & Picnic Area in the Custer Gallatin National Forest by way of Interstate Highway 90 and Big Timber. Less than three miles south of the scenic falls area you’ll find the Historic Main Boulder Ranger Station, which is likely the oldest facility in the U.S. Forest Service System, now restored into a house museum, including interpretive staff, depicting the living and working conditions at a once-remote ranger station.

Make your way back to Livingston via the West Boulder Backcountry Drive from McLeod. In Livingston you’ll find turn-of-the-century charm along the Yellowstone River. At the International Federation of Fly Fishing Museum learn about the culture and history of fly fishing and the environmental and public-policy issues affecting the sport. 

The historic Livingston Depot Museum is known as the “architectural anchor of downtown Livingston.” Serving as the Northern Pacific Railroad's original launching point for travel into Yellowstone National Park, the Depot’s museum is a perfect spot for railroad buffs. Permanent and rotating exhibits range from Rails Across the Rockies to Film in Montana.

Next stop, the Yellowstone Gateway Museum of Park County is a treasure trove of Yellowstone area American Indian history and culture, as well as exhibits on pioneer life, travel into the park, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery and the regions’ military history, plus a one-room schoolhouse and a blacksmith shop.

From there, visit Fort Parker, the first Crow Indian Agency and now an important historic site just east of Livingston. In fact, it is one of the first sites of the early reservation period of the Plains Tribes to be nationally recognized.

End your day with a stay The Murray Hotel, a downtown Livingston icon offering authentic western charm and modern amenities.

For more information about museum tours, seasons and hours of operation, and admission fees, contact each museum separately.

For more on Yellowstone Country arts and culture, and where to eat, drink and stay in the region:

Yellowstone Country

DAY 7: GARDINER

From Livingston, drive an hour south to Gardiner the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Begin the final day of your tour at the Jardine Ghost Town. Jardine is an old western mining town northeast of Gardiner that once supported a gold mine up until World War II. Explore remnants of the mine including old bunkers.

From there, visit the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center (passing the iconic Roosevelt Arch on the way) where more than 720,000 items display the cultural, geological and natural history of the world’s first national park. Learn about the park from pre-history to modern day.

Optional: If you’re venturing into the park, make your way back to the Roosevelt Arch and down to the Fort Yellowstone-Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District. Dozens of late 19th and early 20th century structures remain from when the U.S. Army administered the park.

Overnight at the Yellowstone Suites Bed & Breakfast or Park Hotel Yellowstone, both of which make excellent base camps for further park exploration.

Trip Tips

Always check road reports and weather conditions when traveling through Montana in the wintertime.

If you’re flying in:
Glacier Country Airports
Yellowstone Country Airports

If you’re renting a car:
Glacier Country Car Rentals
Yellowstone Country Car Rentals