Two-Day Road Trips Across Big Sky Country
The allure of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks doesn’t end at their gates. The grand landscapes, flora and fauna, and rich histories that define these places extend outward, across Montana's vibrant small towns and colorful communities. In celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary, savvy travelers will hit the highways, scenic byways and country roads that link together the world’s first national park and the Crown of the Continent. Here are four two-day road trips that explore the lesser-traveled spaces between Montana’s best-known places.
Ten years before Congress established Yellowstone as a National Park, prospectors struck gold in southwest Montana, triggering one of the largest migrations West in American history. Today, these boom-to-bust pioneer towns come alive every fall during haunted ghost walks and living history tours. Linking them together are Big Sky Country’s scenic byways – roads that traverse mountain valleys turned golden and amber by the crisp autumn air.
Intrepid travelers have long since visited Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks in the winter, when a blanket of snow transforms the quiet landscape into a snowy sanctuary. Just outside the parks lie two different powder havens – Montana’s premier ski resorts – Big Sky and Whitefish. And hidden in between are Big Sky Country’s under-the-radar, mom-and-pop ski areas offering up deep days on the cheap. For uncrowded slopes, lift tickets under $50 and skiing like it used to be, take a trip along Montana’s Powder Highways.
Nicknamed the National Park Highway, U.S. 89 links together seven of the West’s most iconic national parks and 15 other national monuments and attractions. Lush with greenery, springtime travelers can follow U.S. 89 as it winds north from Paradise Valley to the Rocky Mountain Front, encountering a myriad of legendary characters – from Calamity Jane and The Corps of Discovery to swimming mermaids and dinosaur skeletons – along the way.
King's Hill Scenic Byway
Sluice Boxes State Park
Giant Springs State Park
Sip 'N Dip Mermaid Bar and Tiki Lounge
First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
Old Trail Museum
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center
Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village
Much more than truck stops and fast-food joints, the most popular pit stops between Montana’s National Parks are its lively small towns. These vibrant communities are host to eclectic festivals and offbeat events throughout the summer. Cheer on bronc riders in the Livingston rodeo grandstands, watch daredevils perform hair-raising stunts at Butte’s Evel Knievel Days, and sip a cold pint along the Clark Fork River at Missoula’s Brewfest. These are Montana’s detour-worthy adventures along the most popular route between the parks.
Roundup Rodeo & Yellowstone Boat Float in Livingston
Gallatin Whitewater Festival, Sweet Pea Festival, & Downtown Art Walks in Bozeman
Rockin' The Rivers Music Festival in Three Forks
Montana Folk Festival & Evel Knievel Days in Butte
Garden City Brewfest, River City Roots Fest & Montana Book Festival in Missoula
Whitewater Festival & Crown Guitar Festival and Workshop in Bigfork
Montana Dragon Boat Festival in Lakeside
Festival Amadeus in Whitefish
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