Montana Northwest
National Bison Range - Once millions of bison roamed the grasslands, but by 1900, there were fewer than 1,000. To preserve the American bison (more commonly called "buffalo"), President Teddy Roosevelt set aside thousands of acres of land, and the National Bison Range was established in 1908.
Take a self-guided drive through acres of grasslands, populated with big shaggy bison, elk and antelope. When we did the drive, what was truly impressive was not the quantity of bison (we didn't see huge herds), but the unique opportunity to see bison in its natural habitat. Allow about 1 ½ hours for the loop, the scenery is spectacular.
Before driving the loop, stop at the Visitor Center to check out the large stuffed bison, and information about habitats and wildlife of the Bison Range.
By Mission Creek, there's a large picnic area (bring a picnic), and nature trail around the pond and along Mission Creek. Along the stream, look for deer, ducks and cottontail rabbits.
Kalispell - Every August, the Northwest Montana Fair has a rodeo competition (and children's sheep and steer riding), pony rides, 4-H exhibits, carnival rides, and fireworks.
Flathead Lake -
Boating - Flathead Lake is a large lake, about two hundred square miles, and it's the place to go boating. At Polson, Somers or Bigfork, rent canoes, kayaks, pontoon boats, motor boats. Go for cruises on the lake at sunset,or out to Wild Horse Island (there are wild horses and bighorn sheep on the island).
Polson - A charming rustic town that feels like the Old West. Stop into the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum where you can see Calamity Jane's saddle, a pioneer kitchen and school, trading post, chuck wagon and stagecoach. Museum is open daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day, located on Main St.
U-pick orchards and farmers markets - On the east side of Flathead Lake are orchards and roadside stands with fresh fruits in season, such as raspberries, huckleberries or the local specialty, Flathead cherries in July and August. Bigfork has a farmers market, Wed. and Saturdays in the summer.
Whitefish - Whitefish is a gateway to Glacier National Park, with an old-fashioned train depot for the Amtrak train. Tip: We rode the Empire Builder train for our trip to Glacier National Park, and stayed in Whitefish. It was easy and convenient to drive to the park every day, the town has lots of restaurants, and swimming at Whitefish Lake (Whitefish City Beach).
At Big Mountain Resort, there are free horse-drawn wagon rides, horseback rides, ride the gondola to the top of Big Mountain for panoramic views, alpine zip lines and slide, and a canopy walk high up in the trees.
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