Headed to Glacier National Park from Yellowstone National Park or Seattle? The stretch of road from Missoula, Mont., to Glacier National Park is filled with absolutely stunning landscapes, great restaurants and other cultural stops. Don’t miss out on the some of the best of Montana along the way. Plan on stopping at these 13 incredible attractions along the way to Glacier.
1. Missoula’s Galleries and Art Museum
Check out Missoula’s burgeoning art scene at Missoula Art Museum, Radius Gallery and Allez!. You’ll experience Montana’s vibrant art scene at the Missoula Art Museum, known as MAM. With free admission you can wander through a variety of exhibits, including a rotating one always dedicated to American Indian art. Don’t miss the outdoor Art Park. The museum is located at 335 N. Pattee St.
For a complete itinerary of what to do in Missoula, check out our top 8 things to do in Missoula.
2. Hike the M and Watch Kayakers in Missoula
Hike the .75-mile M trail, which takes you on 10-plus switchbacks 620 feet above the valley floor. Go a mile farther to reach the top of Mt. Sentinel for a spectacular view. The trailhead is easily accessible on the University of Montana campus.
Afterward, head to Brennan’s Wave, a human-made wave on the Clark Fork River, that is the perfect place to watch kayakers, surfers and stand-up paddleboarders in downtown Missoula. It’s just off of the Riverfront Trail alongside Caras Park. Feeling adventurous? Head to Zoo Town Surfers to take a kayak lesson.
3. A Carousel for Missoula
This beautiful 38-horse carousel is a beacon of community in Missoula. The brainchild of cabinetmaker Chuck Kaparich, the whole community, including school children collecting one million pennies, came together to build it. Head to 101 Carousel Dr. in the summer months between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to ride it.
4. KettleHouse Amphitheater
Built in 2017, this 4,000-person amphitheater along the Blackfoot River is Montana’s version of the Hollywood Bowl and Colorado’s Red Rocks. Located just outside of Missoula, this new music venue is in Bonner, Mont. In downtown Missoula, visit The Wilma, a historic music venue.
5. Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
Just under a 30-minute drive from Missoula, you’ll find the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee on the Flathead Reservation, which is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Tibetan Buddhist lama Gochan Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche is behind the vision for this peaceful spot designed to bring about positive change to those who visit. It’s open to the public in summer months from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
6. Windmill Village Bakery
Locals say this bakery in Ravalli has the world’s best doughnuts. Visit the funky but adorable German-style building to see for yourself. They also make pies, turnovers, muffins and more with local produce and farm fresh eggs. Find it at 26715 US-93 in Ravalli, Mont., between Missoula and Flathead Lake near the Hwy. 200 junction.
7. National Bison Range
Learn about bison in Montana and see these majestic creatures on this 18,000-plus acre refuge. Located in the center of the Flathead Indian Reservation, ancestors of today’s herd were saved as orphaned calves by the Qlispé people. It’s along Hwy. 212 in Moiese, Mont. Stay in your car unless you’re on a designated trail.
8. Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo, Mont.
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is a birder’s dream come true. More than 200 species can be seen at this wildlife refuge on the shores of Ninepipe Reservoir including nesting great blue herons and short-eared owls. It’s located along Hwy. 93 between Missoula and Kalispell near Charlo.
Afterward, stop at Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo where you can dine at the Allentown Restaurant on the property. Along with serving great breakfasts, lunches and dinners, this lovely restaurant with huge windows gives you mesmerizing views of Mount Harding and the Mission Mountains. In a separate, rustic building, you’ll find Great Gray Gifts, a charming store that sells everything from Montana-made jewelry, wild huckleberry jam and leather messenger bags to water bottles and sweatshirts.
If you’re an avid golfer, drive 15 minutes up the road to Ronan and play Mission Mountain Golf Course, a public course boasting views of the Mission Mountains.
9. Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. With 13 recreation sites and multiple state parks, it’s the perfect place to enjoy Montana on the water. Explore Wild Horse Island State Park, a true Montana experience. It’s home to tons of wildlife — including wild horses.
10. Explore Bigfork
One of the cutest towns along the lake is Bigfork. As you stroll Bigfork’s charming and walkable downtown, stop in its galleries like ARTfusion, which represents contemporary paintings and ceramics by Montana artists. Then get a cinnamon roll at Pocketstone Café.
For an outdoor activity, rent a kayak at Base Camp Bigfork and head to Wayfarers State Park on the northeast shore of Flathead Lake. Afterward, drive to Flathead Lake Brewing Co. Pubhouse, which offers fantastic views of Flathead Lake and locally made beers like Two Rivers Pale Ale and Rising Sun Espresso Porter.
11. Downtown Kalispell
Filled with locally owned shops, restaurants, galleries and more, Kalispell, Mont., will give you a taste of Western heritage at Glacier National Park’s front door. Stroll Main Street south of Hwy. 2.
You’ll find an exceptional, classic steakhouse dinner at The Mercantile Steak and KM Bar. This special spot is located in a historic building in downtown Kalispell with Tiffany-style lamps, stained glass windows, a marble bar and a copper-tinned ceiling. Make reservations in advance if you can — it’s a popular spot among locals and tourists.
While in Kalispell, stop in at the Hockaday Museum. You’ll discover the stories of Glacier National Park through the artists and authors and vintage maps. It’s located at 302 2nd Ave. E. in Kalispell, Mont.
12. The Whiskey Barn
Glacier water never tasted as good as it does in Glacier Distilling’s small-batch whiskey. Stop at this tasting room to sample this locally made drink and other spirits. Just 7 miles from the West Entrance of Glacier National Park, it’s on 10237 Hwy. 2 E. in Coram, Mont.
13. Two Sisters Cafe
The huckleberry pie here keeps locals coming back. It’s located in Babb, Mont., on the Blackfeet Reservation just past Glacier National Park’s East Entrance.
For more information
Western Montana’s Glacier Country