I’m baaaaaack! And still riding that post-vacation high (and that caffeine high… 5:40 AM flights are no joke, people). I’m sad that my time in Montana has come to an end, but I’m happy to be back in my own bed and excited to share all of my amazing experiences with you! So let’s get right down to it…
In all honesty, I should preface this by saying that I was a little skeptical when I learned that my boyfriend’s family was planning a vacation to Montana. I mean, what is there to do in Montana (especially in the summertime)??? Welp, as it turns out, A LOT.
From hiking to sightseeing to exploring national parks, there was certainly no shortage of activities to fill our week-long vacation in Big Sky Country. In fact, I could have easily stayed for several more weeks and never gotten bored. And for someone whose attention span rivals that of a goldfish, that’s saying a lot.
So first, let’s start with a quick overview. Our time in Montana was split between two different rental properties – the first 4 nights of the vacation were spent in the heart of Big Sky, a beautiful ski resort town, while the last 4 were spent near Kalispell (about 6 hours NW of Big Sky). By staying in these two different locations, we were able to easily visit 3 different national parks during our trip (Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier), thereby maximizing our sightseeing abilities.
That being said, in order to recap our entire vacation, I would probably need to write several long, detailed posts (and once again, working with the attention span of a goldfish over here…). So in true BSN fashion, I present to you.. Best Bytes: Montana Edition. Enjoy!
- HIKING. If you go to Montana and you don’t hike, you’re doing something wrong. In my opinion, I found that hiking is the best way to take in the scenery and really get immersed in your surroundings (not to mention it helps you get those steps in to balance out all of those extra vacation treats!). Of all of the hikes that we did, my favorite was by far the hike to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park. The hike is about 11.5 miles round-trip (with an elevation change of approximately 2,000 feet) and leads you right up to Grinnell Glacier, which boasts some of the most breathtaking views. Bottom line: if you’re anywhere near Glacier National Park, promise me you’ll check this place out. You won’t regret it.
- Chair Lifts. If you’re looking for great views of Big Sky Country (and don’t happen to feel like hiking 10+ miles uphill), seek out a chair lift! We took one in Big Sky and one in Whitefish and each offered some pretty incredible views of the mountains (although our view in Whitefish was was somewhat limited due to hazy weather). Not to mention, many of these chair lifts have a restaurant at the top, allowing you to take in the views while simultaneously taking in some delicious food (basically my two favorite pastimes).
- Driving the Parks. If you’re visiting Montana during the summer months, chances are you’re planning on checking out at least one national park. And while there are plenty of great places to get out and walk, the only way you’re really going to be able to see all of the sights is by driving. Now, I’m not going to lie, driving through Yellowstone and Glacier National Park definitely makes for some pretty long days.. but trust me when I say it is so worth it. Just make sure you block off at least two days for each park in order to really get your money’s worth (and not get completely burnt out on day 1). Must-see’s in Yellowstone include Old Faithful (obviously), the Grand Canyon, and the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, while the highlights of Glacier National Park were tucked within basically every twist and turn along the Going to the Sun Road.
- Wildlife. Bison, and moose, and bighorn sheep.. Oh my! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). But in all seriousness, the amount of wildlife we saw over the course of a week was unreal. Elk, mountain goats, pronghorns, marmots.. you name it, we saw it (except for grizzlies – which I really can’t say I’m that upset about). The most memorable encounter with wildlife came when we were driving through Yellowstone and came across a huge herd of bison (I’m talking hundreds) on the side of the road, many of whom decided to cross the road only several yards away from our car. IN-SANE.
- Waterfalls on Waterfalls on Waterfalls. I’m may or may not have seen more waterfalls in the past week than I have in the past 25 years of my life.. and I’m not mad about it. Our scenic drives and hikes took us past a number of breathtaking waterfalls, which ranged anywhere from about 50-1,000+ feet. While the waterfalls were beautiful from afar, they were even more surreal up close and personal. Kind of felt like I belonged in TLC’s “Waterfalls” music video…
- Rivers and Lakes. Of course, Montana is known for its picturesque mountains, but did you know that this state is also home to some incredibly blue (and not to mention clean) rivers and lakes? In fact, Flathead Lake (located just south of Kalispell) is one of the cleanest lakes in the country! And although we never had a chance to actually go for a dip, it made for some pretty scenic drives. If I make it back to this area, you can bet I’ll be doing some kayaking or paddle boarding!
- Huckleberries! Have you ever had a huckleberry? Apparently they’re a big thing in Montana (both for bears and humans!). The huckleberry is similar to a large, dark blueberry, but tends to have a slightly tarter taste. From my experiences, I’d say they’re pretty darn delicious, although my opinion might be slightly skewed due to the fact that I only consumed them in the form of cheesecake and ice cream… Hey, when in
- Fresh, Local Cuisine. Being the foodie that I am, one of the highlights of vacation for me is always trying out the local cuisine (shocking, I know). And when it comes to local foods, it should come as no surprise that Montana is definitely known for it’s diverse selection of meats. Basically every single place we dined at had at least 2 unique types of burgers on the menu, whether it was bison, elk, yak, etc. And since I’m not a huge meat eater, I figured that this would mean slim pickings for me. But I must say, I was really impressed with the amount of vegetarian-friendly options available on many of the restaurants’ menus! And not only were they available, but they were delicious. So delicious, in fact, that my carnivorous boyfriend was even persuaded to forgo the meat in favor of a veggie burger! But never fear, he made sure to balance this choice out with some big ol’ slabs of 1″ thick bacon the next night (see below).Unfortunately, I totally dropped the ball when it came to photographing my eats this vacation. But in case you’re curious, a few of the highlights included the Veggie Burger from The Hob Nob on Higgins in Missoula; the Spinach, Arugula and Warm Chèvre Salad from Everett’s 8800 in Big Sky; and the Smoked Idaho Trout Caesar Salad from The Mural Room in Jackson Lake Lodge at Grand Teton National Park. Oh, and I can’t forget about the Hand-Made Fries (served Jenga-style!) from Hops Downtown Grill in Kalispell. Drooling.
- Local Brews. In addition to the local cuisine, we also made sure sample a number of different local brews (after all, you need something to wash all that good food down with, amiright?). Winner of the most unique beer goes to the Nitro Brew Scotch Ale from Lone Peak Brewery in Big Sky, while the most refreshing brew goes to the Sip and Go Naked Apricot Ale from the Tamarack Brewing Company. Yum.
Soo there you have it.. a not-so-formal guide to Montana. Had we stayed longer, we probably would have looked into doing some ziplines, kayaking, or white water rafting as well. There are just so. many. possibilities! Nevertheless, it was so nice to escape real life for a short while, explore a new place, and spend some quality time with my boyfriend and his family (PS- thanks again for letting me crash your family vacation!)
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to pop some NyQuil and take a nap.. because apparently returning to the real world also means coming down with a cold in the middle of summer…