Regional Guide

Glacier National Park and Northwest Montana
St. Mary's Lake, Glacier National Park
St. Mary's Lake, Glacier National Park

In sharp contrast to the wide-open plains of eastern Montana, the state's northwest region is dominated by the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. With three national forests and one national park to preserve the land, this beautiful country has remained wild and pristine. It takes a little more time and effort to reach this neck of the woods, but you'll appreciate the solitude and scenic beauty when you get there.

Named for the slow-moving ice that carved this region, Glacier National Park is the centerpiece of northwest Montana; its pristine beauty draws people back year after year. Tour the park from end to end on the famous high-country highway, Going-to-the-Sun Road, and keep an eye out for Glacier's marquee wildlife. The park is home to wolves, mountain lions, mountain goats, and one of North America's densest concentrations of grizzly bears.

Set in the far northwest corner of Montana, Kootenai National Forest offers both rugged mountains and lush woodlands. Tackle 8,000-foot peaks in Cabinet Mountain and the cliffs, spires, and canyons at Bull Lake and Marten Creek. Or wander among thick pine, fir, and spruce, the product of a moist Pacific maritime climate found in few other areas of Montana.

Surround yourself with wilderness in Flathead National Forest. Bordered by Glacier National Park and three other national forests, Flathead offers one million acres of designated wilderness—no motorized vehicles allowed. Whether you scale snowcapped peaks, roam through alpine meadows, or kick back beside high-country lakes, the only sounds you'll hear will be Flathead fauna (250 different species in all).

Retrace the steps of two intrepid explorers in Lewis and Clark National Forest. As Meriwether Lewis and William Clark headed west along the Missouri River, the Great Plains gave way to foothills, mountain ranges, and finally the Rockies and the Continental Divide. The chunk of forest that lies within the northwest corner of Montana preserves this rugged, high-country terrain—including one section of the Continental Divide Trail. This epic thru-hike follows the spine of the Rocky Mountains for 3,100 miles, from New Mexico to Canada, and passes through Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park as well.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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