While Montana has a reputation for being a winter wonderland with frigid temperatures and an almost unbearable amount of snow, most people are not aware that normally Western Montana actually has surprisingly mild or moderate winter conditions. The western part of the state of Montana is sparsely populated and covered with an awesome amount of forestland and natural areas. Whether visiting Montana to take advantage of the popular hunting and fishing opportunities that are there or just to enjoy mother nature in a way that many other states cannot provide, one visit to the area is usually all it takes to turn someone into a frequent visitor to Western Montana.
1. Flathead Lake
Located less than ten miles south of Kalispell, Flathead Lake is not only one of the largest lakes in the United States, it is quite possible one of the most beautiful too. The lake is approximately sixteen miles wide and thirty miles long, with over 190 square miles of surface to explore. Much of the shoreline is accessible by visitors to the area too with plenty of parks and natural areas having been set aside by various government departments. Each side of the lake has a highway running along it, so circumnavigating it is also a popular day trip for locals and vacationers alike. There are plenty of accommodations right on the shores of Flathead Lake, and along with boating and waterskiing, fishing is a very popular activity in the area. Flathead Lake is simply one of the more gorgeous places a traveler can go to in Western Montana.
2. Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center
A great specialty museum available to visitors to Western Montana is the Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center located in Missoula. The museum houses information on the history of forest firefighting, and more specifically the history of smokejumpers, the brave firefighters that don’t think twice about parachuting into an area under attack by a forest fire. Smokejumpers have a long history in the Missoula area and are well known and well respected around the world. This is one of the more unique museums that can be found any where.
3. Fairmont Hot Springs
For relaxation in the mountains, few things can compare with a visit to the Fairmont Hot Springs in Fairmont, Montana. Located just off I-90 near Anaconda, Montana, the Fairmont Hot Springs are a popular resort that has as its biggest features an indoor and outdoor pool, a waterslide, and large mineral soaking tub. A visit to the Fairmont Hot Springs is just the amount of rustic pampering that many people seek from the great outdoors.
4. Wild Horse Island
The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department manages Wild Horse Island which is located in the middle of Flathead Lake. The island is only accessible by boat and historically was used by the local Native Americans as a safe place to pasture their horses. There are a number of great chances to view wildlife on the island including waterfowl, bald eagles, bighorn sheep and deer. The park is open for day use and is a great opportunity to see one of the more secluded natural areas in Western Montana.
5. Fort Missoula Museum
Anyone wanting a good look at what life in the 1800s in Western Montana was like should venture out to historic Fort Missoula Museum. The museum is home to a rotation of historical exhibits devoted to the local area, and focusing particularly on the early military presence in the area. For a great hands-on feel for what that time was truly like, travelers can visit a recreated historic town from that time period. A visit to this historic fort is a great way to spend part of a day in Western Montana, for locals and vacationers alike.
Western Montana has proven time and time again to be a great destination for anyone to spend their vacation at whether they are an individual, a couple or a family. The western part of the state of Montana offers an incredible amount of outdoor recreation possibilities from hunting, fishing, river rafting, boating, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, backpacking, kayaking and both water and snow skiing. From the natural beauty of Flathead Lake to the unique lifestyle found in the Kalispell, Missoula and the other communities in the area, a visit to Western Montana is sometimes the perfect thing for anyone looking to get away from a more civilized way of life for a little while.