Well, the first day of spring has come and gone. The mountains are still thick with snow, but things are slowly starting to melt, and maybe, just maybe, you are starting to get some spring fever. You want to be out and about but it’s not quite time for camping/hiking/fishing. We have just the thing. Road trips. Road trips are a great Montana tradition, I can’t explain it, but there is something really wonderful about being able to hop in a car and just drive. And Montana, with its vast spaces and quality roads, seems absolutely made for it.
The key of a good road trip is, of course, exploring. Sure, the trips on this list all say they take around 3 hours, but you want to give yourself a lot more time than that. You want to give yourself time to stop and poke around the small towns along the way. To get a burger at one of Southwest Montana’s classic small town bars. To pull over at all of the view points and take in the breathtaking scenery. And you want to take long enough that when you get to your destination you can head straight to the nearest brewery and have a pint.
One of my favorite trips is the Northern Tour, that takes you from Helena to Augusta and then down along the Sun River. The winding road between Helena and Wolf Creek is one of my favorite in the state, and there are few things more striking than the Rocky Mountain Front on the way up to Augusta.
One of the least well known road trips, the Eastern Tour takes you around Canyon Ferry Lake, giving you the chance to check out the glass blowing in Townsend, pass by the Canton Church, and then, best of all, stop for a burger at the bar in York.
For me, the classic road tripping route is the Western Tour, maybe because it follows Highway 1 from Anaconda to Philipsburg, running alongside Georgetown Lake and Flint Creek, before bring you down I-90 through Deer Lodge–perfect for stopping and stretching your legs at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch.
Of course, all Southwest Montana road trips are steeped in history, but if you really want the full effect, then you need to follow the Vigilante Trail, from West Yellowstone, through Ennis, and up to Butte via Virginia City.
Wherever the road takes you in Southwest Montana, we are glad to see you!