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Missouri River Country, Montana EPIC Family Vacation Planning Guide

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Some of our favorite family vacations have been to places here in the US. One area we have shared before and want to see is Montana. The more that I research and plan a trip there, the more excited I get. Today I am sharing an epic planning guide for exploring the Missouri River Country region with kids in this sponsored post with Visit Montana.

Milk River

When I think about what we want to do in Montana, I go straight to exploring the great outdoors. But then I start to dig in deeper to all there is to do in Missouri River Country and I realize that what I thought of first, was just the beginning of what there is to see and do!

There are so many educational adventures to be had to learn about dinosaurs and visit a variety of museums! We will for sure want to take scenic drives to see parks and wilderness areas, and also to experience tribal culture and traditions. Of course, no visit to the area is complete without Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs in Saco, which is the only hot springs in the region. They have family-friendly lodging there too!

Ash and Pete are most excited about all the outdoor activities. They are really looking forward to hiking, wildlife viewing, canoeing/kayaking, and so much more. Emmy wants the first thing we do to be dinosaur digs, while Maddie and I want to stargaze every single night!

When we are planning our trips, we take all of the things we each want to do and we create a master list with them all in their order of importance. Then once we have our travel dates in hand, we pull from this list to fill the days. This is a great way to make sure that everyone on the trip gets to experience their favorite things and to make sure that our trip is well rounded.

As far as logistics go, we plan to fly in and then road trip throughout the area. At this point, we are thinking we will want to spend at least five days, if not more, to see as much on our list as possible. However, I think it could also make a great long weekend getaway if you were to slim down your list.

This is our list of must-do family activities in Missouri River Country, Montana:

Peck’s Rex, Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum

Museums filled with adventure and learning!

Did you know that North America’s first identifiable dinosaur remains were found in Montana? Yep, it is true! There is no better place to learn about dinosaurs than here. Pete and Emmy are really looking forward to seeing real bones and even taking part in a dig to find more. The digs are available during the summer months, so don’t forget to take that into consideration when planning.

Phillips County Museum, Great Plains Dinosaur Museum

The Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station displays rare fossils: fish, invertebrates, plants, and a variety of dinosaur species such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Sauropod, Raptor, and Hadrosaurs. That is why it will be one of the stops we’ll make sure to take.

Dinosaur Exhibit

The Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum is another place we’re planning on visiting! When you enter the building, you’re greeted by a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex named “Peck’s Rex,” modeled after a skeleton found just outside of Fort Peck in 1997. Not only do they have dinosaurs, but they also have the two largest aquariums in Montana! We love fish and animals, so this will be a great chance to see some of the local fish from Fort Peck Lake and the Missouri River up close.

Water Fun and Fishing

Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs

While searching for oil in the 1920’s, Montana’s only hot springs in the northern tier was found. Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs is steeped in history, and is a great place to learn and enjoy some relaxation. The water currently comes from an artesian well that is 3,200 ft. deep. The temperature is 108 degrees Fahrenheit and flows at a rate of approximately 900 gallons per minute. This water contains many beneficial and essential minerals. In addition to the swimming, there is also a campground and cabins to stay in.

Fort Peck Lake, Missouri River Country

We also want to do some fishing!

Ever since she went fishing for the first time last year, Em has asked to do it again and again. We are all about catch and release, and also about just sitting by the water and enjoying some time in the fresh air. Fort Peck Lake is where it is at for all of that with more than 1,520 miles of shoreline (longer than the California coast!) It is the largest body of water in Montana, and is home to more than 50 different kinds of fish. In all of my research, this seems to be the locals’ favorite stop, and we all know local recommendations are worth their weight in gold!

Wildlife Sightings

There is no way that we are going to skip one of my favorite things…seeing wildlife in their natural habitats. Montana is home to a vast amount of animals and Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is the place to see many of them. It was established in 1936 as a migratory bird refuge and is now home to waterfowl, shorebirds, birds of prey, grassland songbirds, beaver, red foxes, muskrat, coyote, white-tailed deer, and pronghorn antelope. The main source of water for this area is the Milk River via a system of canals.

We also want to visit the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. This is the second largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states with about 1.1 million acres! The really cool thing about this area is that it is truly wild country. It is remote, rugged and filled with spectacular sights. There are canyons (some of which are a thousand feet deep,) buttes, hills, coulees, and river bottoms. The wildlife won’t disappoint either, with harbor elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, deer and prairie dog towns. More than 200 species of birds and 40 species of mammals have been identified on this refuge.

We plan to take slow walks and hikes, and I know there will be a ton of opportunities to do so.

Fort Union Rendezvous

Walking in the steps of historical figures is something everyone in our family loves to do, so exploring where Lewis and Clark went is high on our list too.

In April of 1805, Lewis and Clark noted that the site where the Yellowstone River flows into the Missouri River would be excellent for a trading post and that is where Fort Union was built in 1829; where it quickly became the top fur trading post on the upper river. The fort has been reconstructed, and the once-elegant Bourgeois House is now a Visitor Center.

Although Lewis and Clark were early visitors to Missouri River Country, the Assiniboine people already called it home along with members of the Sioux nation. Their cultural heritage continues to be celebrated today through events such as powwows. Annual powwows are held on the Fort Peck reservation, where traditional dance, song and tribal ceremonies can be experienced. We hope to be able to visit the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Culture Center and Museum in Poplar to see the many exhibits of their people’s arts and crafts.

Red Bottom Powwow, Fort Peck Indian Reservation
Photo credit: Emily Heide

The final thing on our list is to go stargazing, and with plenty of open space and clear skies, Missouri River Country is the perfect place to do it. We aren’t planning anything formal for this. Instead, we are going to make sure that we take time each night to look up and take in the stars above. Montana is one of the most beautiful places on the planet to see bright stars in the night sky!

Learn more about planning a Missouri River Country, Montana EPIC Family Vacation here.

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.


  • I love Dinosaurs till date. The place looks like fun. I hope you guys enjoyed. And by the way lovely picture.

  • This seems like a worthwhile itinerary! I haven’t thought of visiting but this list does give me ideas of what to do if ever I make it there. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow! What a nice place to visit especially the dinosaur thing. Love the vintage ambiance of the place. Looking forward to visit this amazing place in the near future.

  • Montana looks like an amazing place to head to especially with the family. I would totally love to head to the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Culture Center and Museum while I know my kids would love the Dinasour Museum.

  • This is such a nice place to visit and I am sure that kids would love this place most especially my daughters she really loves Dinosaur! I am hoping to be there someday!

  • Montana is such a gorgeous state. I think a lot of people forget that you don’t need a beach for an epic vacation. States like Montana are absolutely full of natural beauty and tons of things to see and do.

  • Loved the place, amazing view and nature scent everywhere. This brings back the good old days of the western age.

  • My kids would freak to go to that dinosaur museum. We are always looking for Dino places to visit. We also love being outdoors.

  • Awesome pictures! The things we discover by reading blog posts. I would like to take the family there.

  • Oh wow! I’d love to visit the hot springs and some of the museums. Seeing real dinosaur remains would definitely be cool.

  • Your photography is awesome. This looks like a great place to visit as a family or even just as a couple. I am always intrigued by dinosaurs and history.

  • Wow! What a wonderful trip! It is amazing the little treasures that we can find right here in the US. I have been to MO, but I have only explored the casinos…lol. Your photos are absolutely amazing.

  • Your photos are awesome! Missouri looks incredible. I would love to visit the hot springs, it looks like the best time.

  • My family and I would SO enjoy a visit to Montana! Whenever I think of this state, I totally think of hiking and fishing (which we love), but loved learning about all the museums and other fun offerings!

  • Sounds like an awesome place! I would definitely learn about dinosaurs by day and relax in the hot spring by night.

  • Wow, that pool is stunning!! I would love to visit this area with my family too!

  • Who goes out on a trip without planning? Most of us really plan ahead of time, for me it will take me a month or more than that before going to a place. Budget and a lot of things needed to be prepared. This is a wonderful place to visit!

  • What a beautiful place to visit. I would love to take in the museum and those stars. What a gorgeous night sky.

  • I had a brief visit to Montana about 25 years ago to see a friend. I didn’t get to see many official sights but I did see warm and winter weather in the same day near a mountain.

  • Looks like an amazing place for a visit. Makes me wish I could go there now. These photos are so beautiful.

  • My husband is into fishing and I never would have thought about Montana. I’ll have to give it a second look and see what we can do there!

  • My sister in law lives in Montana. We have been thinking of things that we wanted to do if we were ever to do a road trip out to see her.

  • What a wonderful roundup on things to do with kids in Montana. We’ve visited this beautiful state multiple times and has seen some of the places you mention, can’t wait to go back and see this other possibilities in your post.

  • Montana is so lovely! I’ve only ever been there once long ago. I’d love to head back. You make it sound so fab!

  • Those are some cool places to visit with family. That museum looks really awesome and very attractive for kids.

  • This is a great list for anyone who wanted to travel to Missouri River Country. I traveled to the states last winter to California and has a great time. This list works well for my next travel to the States.

  • wow what a breathtaking place to visit and explore, I love the photography, thank you for sharing this helpful list that can help with travelling to Missouri River Country

  • Love all the pictures, Missouri is so beautiful. I would love to visit Missouri and see the hot springs, I am glad you had an amazing time with family.

  • Awesome photos, the first place I would go is Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs it sounds wonderful! For the grandchildren though we’d have to hit Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Culture Center and Museum and they would love the dinosaur museums. I’d love to check out any parts of Montana representing the 1700s or 1800s also.

  • Montana was not on my radar, but after reading this post it for sure will be. We also love to fly in, rent a car and road trip throughout a new state. Those views are breathtaking.

  • Montana is such a wonderful place to visit. I would love to go here one day with the whole family.

  • My kind of adventure. So relaxing. Definitely a nice place to go for the entire family.

  • So much fun! You found some great family destinations. We love exploring museums and going on hikes. That night sky photo is just gorgeous!

  • Love the pictures! They show the beautiful landscapes in Montana and all the great activities available for families. It sounds like you had a great time stargazing.

  • I love Montana. We have another trip planned next month and I’m adding Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs to our itinerary. Thanks!

  • I’ve heard many wonderful things about Montanna. Your post proved that it. I hope to visit there someday.. Looks like you had an amazing time.

  • What a beautiful vacation looks like you all had so much fun!

  • I love Dinosaur! So I can imagine how amazing it must be to not only spend a great time in such a beautiful place but also get an opportunity to visit the Museum 🙂

  • This sounds like such a blast to do with your family! I would love to take my family and do something like this with them! Thanks for sharing.

  • I loved reading your post, as I live in Havre, MT and my husband and I have spent countless hours fishing on the Milk River, Missouri River and Ft. Peck. We spent 7 days on the C.M. Russell Wildlife refuge paddlefishing this spring and my husband hunts elk down there as well in the Missouri Breaks. The elk viewing area “Slippery Ann” is unreal and I go to take photos every year. The dinosaur museum is definitely a hit for little ones (and adults as well) and the hotsprings is such a relaxing and beautiful place. So fun to see your list of musts that are part of our everyday!

    • Hi Andi!

      What a place to call home!!! We are finally going to see (a small piece) of Montana on Tuesday! We are so excited. It looks like this trip won’t take us to everywhere on our list, but that just means we have to go back! 🙂 Are there other things you would add to our list for our next visit?

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