It’s been a crazy few months, but we’re finally back! No we didn’t get lost in the woods or eaten by a bear (although we did see one!), things have just been crazy busy since we last posted. But, we’re finally back and full of awesome stories, pictures, and a few tips from our trip to Montana. Let’s just start by say that Montana was absolutely amazing.
We started off the trip by flying into Billings, stocking up on snacks and drinks at Costco (Kirkland trail mix and peanut butter pretzels were a life safer), and making our way to the Beartooth Highway. We made a pit stop at Red Lodge Ales right before the start of the Beartooth Highway to grab lunch and a great craft beer (we loved their sandwiches and Bent Nail IPA). While the Beartooth highway is only 68 miles long, the drive took us about 3.5 hours with photo stops and was full some of the most breathtaking views we’ve ever seen.
We entered Yellowstone through it’s Northeast Entrance and slowly made our way through the Lamar Valley, with lots of stops to grab pictures of bison and other wild life, to the Canyon Lodge where we had reserved one of their Western Cabins. After a quick meal at the Canyon Lodge dining room, we were ready to call it a night so we could be up bright and early for our 6am Picture Perfect Photo Safari.
Never has waking up before the crack of dawn been so worth it. We started off the day by enjoying an amazing view of the stars over Lake Yellowstone and then met up with our group. Our tour guide was fantastic and not only took us to some great locations, but also gave us tips to get the most amazing pictures from both our cameras and iPhones. Our sunrise pictures are some of the best pictures we’ve ever taken and we were able to use his tips along with a suggestion of where to go to get great sunrise pictures the next morning!
After the tour, we had just enough time to check the West Thumb geyser basin before heading back to get changed before our Old West Dinner Cookout with Horse Ride. The chuckwagon dinner and horse back ride was a perfect way to end our first and only full day in Yellowstone. We had a great time talking with our guides, enjoying some delicious steak and cowboy coffee, and taking in the amazing views. After dinner, we had just enough energy to stop and get some great pictures of the sunset before heading back to our cabin.
As seemed to be the theme of our vacation so far, we once again woke up well before dawn (i.e. 4am) so we could pack up and drive about an hour (which seemed to be the time it took to get everywhere in Yellowstone) to the Black Sand Basin to get some pictures of the sunrise over the thermal pools. After getting a few awesome shots, we made our way over to Old Faithful so we could catch the famous eruption before all the crowds came. Getting their early was definitely worth it. We were able to catch choose where exactly we wanted to sit for first eruption after sunrise before a decent crowd arrived. We stopped by the Old Faithful Inn to grab breakfast and warm up a bit before setting out to see some of the geysers and thermal pools within walking distance. After a few hours of checking out the geysers, Fairy Falls, and prismatic pools, we were more than ready to hit the road once again. While we had originally planned to check out Mammouth Springs, we decided we’d rather hit the road a bit earlier and drive through Big Sky on the Way to Bozeman.
We were super exhausted by the time we reached Bozeman, but somehow managed to motivate ourselves to grab dinner at Montana Ale Works. Dinner was delicious and the beer selection was fantastic. Once again we called it an early night so we could be up early and grab some breakfast and coffee before hitting the road once again. We made our way to Lewis & Clark Caverns to take a tour of the caves, before heading up to Missoula where we met up with some friends who took us on tour of some local distilleries and breweries
Finally on Sunday, we were able to sleep in a bit and eat a relaxing breakfast at the hotel, before driving a few hours north to Kalispell. We took a quick trip to the western entrance of Glacier National Park to pick up our park pass and get the lay of the land. We ended the day with some delicious barbecue at The Desoto Grill Unfortunately, by the time we bought tickets for our Red Bus Tour of Going the Sun Road, there were only tickets available from the Eastern side of the park, which you guessed it meant a crazy early wake up call on Monday. While the 3 hour drive to get there was a bit rough, the tour more than made up for it. We had an amazing tour guide, perfect weather, and even saw a black bear!
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t quite cooperate the rest of our time in Glacier. While we did get in 5ish mile hikes to Avalanche Lake and the waterfalls around St. Mary’s, both ended in a bit of rain. We were hoping to check out the Highline Trail and/or Hidden Lake, but unfortunately that day both were socked in, and hiking in bear country on the side of the mountain without being able to see more than a foot in front of you seemed like a bad idea. We of course made the most of our time, by checking out some great breweries, a distillery, taking a tour Montana Coffee Traders Roastery, driving over an hour into the wilderness to Polebridge for delicious huckleberry bear claws, and exploring the town of Whitefish. We also had some great meals thanks to my co-worker who acted as our evening tour guide and showed us some of the best spots for dinner (and of course beers).
After driving well over 1,000 miles and seeing some of the prettiest places in the country, it was unfortunately time to head home. While we packed more than most into our 10 days in Montana, we discovered there is so much more we want to see so we’ll definitely be going back sooner rather than later to hike more trails, and check out even more of Big Sky Country. Keep an eye out for a few more #SoireetakesaHike posts where we’ll be sharing some of favorite parts of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and some things we wish we had known before going! And don’t worry, I promise you wont have to wait 8 months for the next post!