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Montana Stops on the Way

Road to Glacier

From fantastic restaurants to lake kayaking, here’s how to make your drive to Glacier full of adventure.

The road from Missoula, Montana, to Glacier National Park is full of incredible towns and sights, not all of which are apparent if you never leave the road. To start, visit the Farmers Market in Missoula. Afterward, check out Missoula’s burgeoning art scene at Missoula Art Museum, Radius Gallery and Allez!.

In Moiese, you’ll find the Bison Range on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Management of this 18,500-acre conservation area was transferred to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in 2022. Roughly 350 bison live on the range, along with elk, bears, abundant birds and more. Three scenic drives let you get out and explore. The longer Red Sleep Mountain Drive takes you through the heart of the reserve while the West Loop and Prairie Drive are short excursions for those looking for a quick peek at the land. There’s also a nature trail.

Ninepipes Lodge in Montana
Ninepipes Lodge in Montana (Photo: Glacier Country Tourism)

Continue north on Hwy. 93 for another 30 minutes until you reach Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo where you can dine at 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 30 minutes up the road to Polson and play Polson Bay Golf Course, a public course with fairways adjacent to Flathead Lake. The largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, this gorgeous body of water has 13 recreation sites and multiple state parks. It’s the perfect place to enjoy Montana on the water, including by kayak.

Downtown Bigfork, Mont.
Downtown Bigfork, Mont. (Photo: by Andy Austin courtesy of Glacier Country Tourism)

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.

Paddling on Flathead Lake with rental kayaks.
Paddling on Flathead Lake with rental kayaks. (Photo: by Noah Couser courtesy Glacier Country Tourism)

Then head north away from the lake toward Glacier for a modern menu in a historic setting at Gunsight Saloon. This special spot is located in a historic building in downtown Columbia Falls with a Southern-inspired array of dishes including po’ boys and jambalaya. On Thursdays throughout the summer check out the Columbia Falls Community Market with live music, fresh produce and locally made goods. Stay at Roam Beyond for easy access to Glacier, in a cozy cabin on wheels. This fun glamping spot offers communal cooking, dining and lounge spaces and private “roaming cabins” with their own fire pits.

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