Seeing the worlds first National Park is an experience to be remembered no matter your age. I remember seeing it for the first time right after the fire, my wife saw it just before the fire. The summer of 2021 is a great time to see this park and it’s venerable geysers, mud pots and wildlife. Then circle through the park is open and it doesn’t seem that Mother Nature has slowed down on the number of wonders she has in store. Entering early, especially for the show that Old Faithful puts on is prudent for crowds, but also is a great way to see wildlife.
In 2021 the park is very busy. Lots of families are enjoying time outside and time together. We stayed at the West Yellowstone Mountainside KOA. For spots here it is important to book early. We lucked into one late due to a cancellation, but I wouldn’t rely on that.
We entered early with a lunch and drinks packed and circled the park stopping at most sites and taking a jaunt down to Teton National Park, came back and finished the circle. This took about 12 hours total.
We were exhausted at the end of the day, but it was great to see so much. It is possible to take a large RV or trailer through the park, but we chose not to go that route. One our next leg of the journey we went around the park for time and convenience.
This is a must see park and one that can easily be paired with Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore, but with a good days drive in between. The natural wonders of Yellowstone never fail to amaze!
When you are looking for a great town to regroup from your far flung Montana adventure, make repairs and resupply, it’s hard to beat Missoula. This mountain city has whatever you may need. There is an REI for your camping supplies and their bike repair shop is awesome! They fixed two bikes in short order, so go visit Jeff and Bob! Groceries and gas are plentiful and there are two options for RV parts, supplies and repairs. We chose Rangitsch Brothers , big selection of parts and knowledgeable folks to help. While there are many options, we stayed at the Missoula KOA. It is a nice KOA with standard amenities.
One thing we wanted to do in Montana was go whitewater rafting. We chose Adventure Missoula and Jess was an awesome guide. We even had Claire join us who was great fun in leading the rowing at the front of the boat! We did the half day float, which was perfect for the first time rafting. We chose to float the swimmers rapid, but old onto the boat! It is tough to swim the current so hold on tight!
When we finished with the rafting we rode the Missoula Carousel and had lunch at Doc’s sandwich shop.
If you are visiting Missoula because of the “A River Runs Through It” I highly recommend that you read the book first. The story line is really all over this part of Montana with Missoula playing only a partial role. If you feel like living on the edge, you can go up to Lolo Hot Springs and get yourself into hot water!!
About nine miles South of the Canadian border is a beautiful area, Lincoln County Montana. Eureka, MT is surrounded by miles of mountains, lakes, unbelievable beauty and incredibly nice folks. Another bonus for me is that while cell service is good in town, it is non-existent outside of Eureka. This caused me to let people know that I would be unavailable for a few days and truly plug in to nature, family and friends.
Eureka is a town of just over 1,000 people, but surrounded by smaller communities. When my father in law was a minister there in the 80s there were three lumber mills driving the local economy. Due to various reasons those operations are all gone now. It is replaced with tourism and retirees enjoying their golden years in one of the planets most beautiful places.
The Trego Pub & General Store is a great place to get great food and cold drinks…including an incredible view. Families are welcome and if you need some basic supplies, they have you covered. I ordered the burger of the day and a latte stout, all of the sandwiches were great.
We stayed at the Dickey Lake campground. You can reserve spots on Recreation.gov, we got there early and there was a spot left to boon-dock our 24 foot camper. With our canoe and a paddle board in tow we loved our time there on the water and in the woods.
There are many cool things in the area, oand many spectacular drives. One that was mentioned was the drive through Libby, MT. High mountains coupled with a few stops along the way made this a favorite with the locals.
Ultimately I found that the parks are fine, but the rest of Montana has so many incredible things and people that you will miss so much if you just cruise the parks. Find a spot in Montana that isn’t Glacier and unplug. One of the things that makes me feel the most alive is when I have lost track of everything that isn’t happening right here, right now. The country is running out of those places, so go see Lincoln County, MT while unplugged is still a part of the nature of things.
Glacier’s policies for 2021 are somewhat like trying to decipher ancient Sumerian hieroglyphics. You need a pass specific to Glacier for $35–check. Then you need a ticket to go in Going to the Sun Road. This you quickly realize is the highlight of Glacier, so you spend hours on Recreation.gov trying to gain this epic experience for your family. You get all set and you click it at 0800 on the specific date only to have the system tell you that too many people are trying and after two or three attempts that they are sold out. This incites despair and a loathing of the system. Now, in reality the pass is only necessary between 0600-1700 MST. So, if you get through the gates before 0600—you are Golden. After 1700, no issue. The real kick in the pants after you go through this experience with hours spent online, endless frustration, is that the dream of the incredible drive topped with communing with the goats…the summit is closed anyway. The East is open to Jackson Glacier and the West to Avalanche. No mountain goats this trip! So, skip the wait for the golden ticket and plan your visit up both sides of the road outside of the ticketed times. Realize that there are some great hikes and things to do, but the summit is closed. Many Glacier is great and the St Mary’s entrance provided much more to do that did the West Glacier entrance.
For the Goats we found Goat Lick lookout, which provided some distant goat observations.
What was cool: Many Glacier is beautiful. We took Swan Mountain Outfitters trail ride from Many Glacier and it was great. Cracker Flats was our destination, beautiful and the guides alerts awesome. The hike to St. Mary Falls was great and we took the John’s Lake Loop in West Glacier.
We happened upon the Izaak Walton Inn. This place is super cool! We took a picnic lunch to eat on the way and then had drinks and pie. Their Huckleberry pie is incredible. A culinary delight from someone who was not too excited about the Montana obsession with the fruit. The Huckleberry cobbler was good, but the pie was incredible.
The St. Mary KOA was nice with a corner spot and the West Glacier RV park, while pricey, was very convenient to the West Glacier entrance. If I were booking a hotel I would stay at the Izaak Walton as most entrances are pretty accessible from their location.
While this may not be the best year to visit Glacier, we still had fun, great hikes and beautiful views. In my next entry I’ll give some options that the good folks of Eureka, MT know about that may be better use of your vacation time. Stay tuned!
Two solid days of driving don’t always sound like fun, but sometimes getting there is important to making sure you have time. Once the two days and 1500 miles are behind us, Montana greets us with open arms! (Canada not so much)…still closed…don’t go to the border and ask.
Every summer we work to make sure we go on a trip with the kids and this one is no different. Except that with all the leave from a 2020 that seriously restricted travel. So 18 days in the American West. Glacier, Eureka and Missoula Montana to start out!
We plan for months before the trip to make sure that we have it all in order and then when it happens, much is unexpected…all part of the fun. Get out there this summer, this is the only summer of 2021, we will be bet be here again!