Making Memories in Montana- Planning Guide for Epic Family Vacations

Blackfoot River

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Are you all in a countdown to summer like we are? I have a list of potential vacation destinations and seeing the great USA is at the top of our list! As I started researching, Montana who sponsored this post, kept jumping out at me. I shared this with the rest of the family and we put together our ultimate planning guide for an epic family vacation to Montana.

In this guide, we have something for everyone. Outdoor adventure for Pete, history, amusement and ghost towns for Maddie, hikes and water sports for Ash, fun in the water and dinosaurs for Emmy and road trips, museums and wildlife for me!

And that is just scraping the surface of how family-friendly Montana is. Whether it’s a long trip like we’ve planned here, or just a long weekend, these ideas will give you inspiration to plan your next family trip.

Here is more of what we want to do when we visit Montana.

Bighorn sheep, Glacier National Park
  1. Road trip through the state.

I'd love to fly in to Missoula in the northwest and then spend 10 days making our way across the state. There are so many little towns along the way and one area we are especially excited to see is Missoula! There we will be able to adventure north to Glacier National Park and enjoy the sights from canyons, rivers, and mountain tops! Glacier National Park is also home to mountain goats and bighorn sheep, so I plan to get my wildlife fix there!

I know Pete will be super excited to go Whitewater Rafting on the Blackfoot, Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers with guides. There are even flatwater tours that cater to little ones so Emmy won't be left out.

We will also want to spend at least one day at Flathead Lake. It is 200 square miles where you can go sailing and paddleboarding. Since it is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, it's also perfect for swimming.

Dinosaur skeleton
  1. Go back in time.

We love learning about the history of the places we visit, and the Great Falls area is perfect for that. Not only are there relaxing springs and rivers and 60 miles of trails, but also a lot of fun frontier history to learn. On our way to Great Falls from Glacier, we plan to stop in Bynum to view the world’s longest dinosaur at Two Medicine Dinosaur Center. Then, we plan to stop at historic Old Fort Benton to see a frontier marketplace filled with robes, beads, and cloth that once filled this original trading post. There are also numerous museums around the town, including Homestead Village, with restored homes and businesses moved from abandoned homestead-era towns. I can't wait to see this!

In Great Falls, we want to explore the Corps of Discovery at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and make time for water fun. Emmy will love spending a few hours at Electric City Water Park. She can surf on the Flow Rider, float the Lazy River, ride the Power Tower slides, swim and play in the Mitchell pool or take in the state's largest children's water play structure.

Stagecoach, team and drivers
  1. Have a wild time and see some ghosts!

I'm not sure we will really see ghosts, but we do plan to look! The Butte area is known for their ghost towns and a Wild West good time! You can even find cowboy cookouts and tours that go deep here. There are few places in the West that can convey the same sense of historical depth as Butte. The grand buildings of the downtown area are a marker of the bustling commerce of yesteryear. “The Richest Hill on Earth” still offers experiences worthy of the name and the whole family will enjoy an underground tour of the mines that made Butte what it is today. It doesn't get much cooler than a helmet with a built-in light, right? Everybody gets to wear one on tours that venture into the Orphan Girl Mine (part of the World Museum of Mining).

I think we would all have a great time in Bannack State Park panning for gold near the site of the state’s first major discovery (in 1862). The town—Montana’s first territorial capital—now has no residents, but we can still take a guided tour of the 60 abandoned log and frame structures. We might even get a taste of early 1900’s life behind bars with a visit to the Old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge where we can go behind the 24-foot-high sandstone walls to see stark maximum-security cells and a courtyard where convicts exercised. Yikes but fun!

Palisades Fall, Hyalite Reservoir, near Bozeman, Yellowstone Country
  1. Lots and lots of hiking.

This one will come as no surprise, I'm sure. Pete, Ash, and Emmy live for a good hiking trail. Maddie and I are more of the spa-going crowd, but even we are excited to hit these trails. At the top of our hiking lists is Palisade Falls south of Bozeman. This is an uber kid-friendly hike that is only a half-mile long to see these beautiful falls! We are also looking forward to seeing wildflowers (and a few salamanders) at Grotto Falls, reached after an easy 1.3-mile path. At the nearby Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Whitehall, you can slide down a natural tunnel, so that is on our list too.

Actually, we have a few other things we plan to do while we are in the Bozeman area, including swimming in hot pools heated by Mother Nature at Bozeman Hot Springs, Norris Hot Springs, or Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa. Speaking of spa time, maybe we will stay a day and enjoy some treatments? No visit to the Bozeman area is complete without ziplining and of course, spending some time taking in the beauty of Yellowstone National Park. We are all excited to see Yellowstone. That sounds like a dream come true!

  1. Stopping at museums.

Montana speaks my love language when it comes to museums. Thankfully, I'm in a family of museum lovers so we always add these to our list of activities. Montana has them sprinkled throughout the state, but one that caught my eye is in Billings called Wise Wonders Children’s Museum. I'm excited for the exhibits and stations which engage curious, creative, and scientific minds in a playful learning environment.

While we are in the Billings area, we are also looking forward to being able to see horses and dinosaurs in one spot! We have a family pact to always look for opportunities to ride together and Billings has both riding trails and dinosaur fossils to discover and learn about! As Emmy would say, “it can't get better than that”. The Southeast Montana area is also home to beautiful rolling plains, prairies, and badlands that intersect to form some of the Lower 48's vastest stretches of pristine landscape. Sign me up for ALL of that!

We plan to visit all of these stops during our long family trip, but if you only have a few days, you’ll find lots of adventures by choosing any one of these five ideas. Another great tool to get you excited and help you plan your family vacation to Montana is this great video:

Learn more about Montana and plan your own perfect vacation here.

the authorHeather
Heather Delaney Reese is a Lifestyle and Family Travel Writer currently on the road with her family 150 days a year, sharing exceptional family memory making moments and life's everyday fun times. She is a big proponent of encouraging others to join her journey and become a professional blogger so that they too can make money at home and spend more time with their families.


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