Not far from our home in Bozeman we often find ourselves in Glacier National Park. Okay, so when I say not far it’s around six hours away, but when you live in Montana that’s not too bad of a drive. To this day the drive up into the northern climbs of our state remain one of my all-time favorites and every time we head up I’m reminded why. Glacier is our special place.
The first time we headed up to Glacier, we didn’t really know what to expect out of the drive. Luckily we were just as amazed with the sights along the way as we were with the destination itself.
This is a landscape of diversity, where crop land stands in contrast to snowcapped peaks. As we serpentine our way up to Helena and then through infinitesimally small towns like Ovando and others that aren’t on any map, you see the horizon met with mountains that offer you a taste of what’s to come.
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Turning north on Highway 83 you start to feel the land change, you’re met with the staggering views of the Mission Mountains to the west and the crystalline lakes that find themselves contained between mountain ranges. The land gives up the broad open range of the prairie and becomes dense evergreen forest. It’s this diversity that makes the drive so unique and one we keep repeating.
Montana being as big as it is offers a treat for the return trip as well. If we don’t feel like returning on the same path there are other options as well. We especially like coming down through the cherrie orchards on the east side of Flathead Lake. The sleepy hamlets that line the shore ply their goods on the side of the winding road that takes into Polson. It’s slow going but well worth your time should you find yourself near Montana’s largest lake.
Instead of taking the interstate up to Missoula and then on to Polson we take a more scenic route that takes longer but, in my humble opinion, offers superb views and almost uninhabited lands. This is cattle country and the “small” ranches often number in the thousands of acres with the cows outnumbering people many times over. When you’re here you’re reminded of the vast expanse of space and how it must have been generations ago; honestly, not much has changed in the last 100 or so years in some of these parts of the state.
Lucia is our constant road trip companion and loves to get in the truck and head out on the road, she also loves the pitstops as well. Lu (as we call her) is such a mild mannered dog, she’s content to lay around camp while we’re setting up or cooking. All she wants is for her pack (me and Jim) to be within eyeshot.
Lu is a mix of many breeds, there’s not one that truly stands out. Our closest assumption is a mix of border collie/husky/German shepherd/ and to be honest probably some Coyote too. She was a feral dog who lived on her own for the first couple years of her life, when they found her she was pregnant, malnourished and scared.
We travel all over with Lu in tow now, without so much as a second thought she’ll fly up into the truck and we’re off. Recently we did an 8,000 mile trip around the lower 48, she swam in oceans, climbed on sand dunes, hiked to alpine lakes, tried caviar, we always laugh about how it must be much different than she thought it would turn out. Not bad for a rescue dog from South Dakota.
As is common in other national parks, dogs aren’t allowed on the trials but we make sure to find good spots to romp around in the campground and in national forests when we get outside of the park. In order to make sure that she’s comfortable while we’re out exploring we stock the back of the truck with her favorites: a great bed, maybe a rawhide, and lots of food and water. Glacier, being so far north, really doesn’t get all that hot so she stays super comfortable.
Glacier is surrounded by tons of national forest land and this gives us a prime opportunity to get off the beaten path a little and do some more exploring where Lucia can join us. The sheer size of Montana and the public lands in particular are amazing, you really could spend you’re whole life just finding out the little nooks and crannies of them all and still not have enough time.
Well there it is, my wholehearted recommendation for not just getting to Glacier National Park but taking in all that the journey has to offer. No matter where you are if you slow down and peel back the layers just a bit then you’ll often be surprised with what you find just underneath the surface.
Bio: Living in Montana with her boyfriend Jim and their pooch Lucia, Meredith spends her time writing, hiking, skiing, backpacking and anything else that gets her outside. Meredith writes about all things pets at her blog Moberrypets.com where she covers everything from frogs to dogs and all the pets in between.
That part of Montana truly is a majestic part of the world. I didn’t even know about the National Bison Range in St. Ignatius until this past summer. Another great, easy little day trip. I’ve written about a few other off the beaten path places in Montana on my blog, including my little home town of Trout Creek, home of the annual Huckleberry Festival every August. Montana is an outdoor lovers dream!