Townsend to Ovando

Townsend to Ovando

Townsend and Ovando are rarely thought of as destination towns, but that mentality is a disservice to travelers. Each of the small, rural communities in Southwest Montana offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Both of these communities offer great fishing opportunity and as you travel between the two, you will find yourself in the Capital City of Helena before continuing on toward Lincoln, Montana. You may find yourself in Townsend for a number of reasons, but likely you will be traveling from Bozeman or Ennis. This route gives visitors the chance to explore Canyon Ferry Lake, a number of our communities, and some of the region’s most pristine country. This is the perfect route for a couple of day trips and will help you make the most of your Montana vacation.

Day 1:

Townsend to Helena

  • Goosebay Handblown Glass
  • Canyon Ferry reservoir
  • Great Northern Town Center

As we start our tour in Townsend, there is no better place to start than at Goosebay Handblown Glass. The shop not only features stunning products for sale, but you can watch the products being made, watching as molten crystal is blown into its final form. If you have a few spare moments in Townsend, consider swinging through the Copy Cup drive through, stopping by the Mountie Moose Bakery for a donut, or taking a break at Bread and Butter cafe. As you continue down the road, get off the beaten path by following Highway 12 to the 284 junction. From there, head north to wrap along the backside of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. On your drive, consider stopping by the old Canton Church or at one of the campgrounds, marinas or fishing accesses. Once you reach Helena, the Great Northern Town Center is the perfect place to rest your feet, get a room for the night, and enjoy the Capital City.

Goosebay Handblown Glass

Take time to watch a craftsman at work when you stop in to watch the Gundersons and the beauty they create with handblown glass. Goose Bay Glass has a plethora of items, each individually crafted from sand and quartz at 2,000 degrees. Find that unique gift from their shelves in Townsend, Montana.

Canyon Ferry

When it comes to water recreation in Montana, Canyon Ferry nearly always makes the list. Recreational opportunities on the reservoir include boating, year-round fishing, camping, sightseeing, picnicking, hunting, waterskiing, and more! This is a great base camp, especially if you are planning to camp while traveling through the region.

Great Northern Town Center

The perfect place to meet with friends, the area is home to the carousel, the children’s science museum – ExplorationWorks!, a number of restaurants, the Cinemark Movie Theater and the Lewis & Clark interpretive Experience. Whether you are looking for a place to stay or play, the Great Northern is a great starting point.

Day 2:

Helena to Lincoln

  • Sculpture in the Wild
  • Helena National Forest Ranger Office
  • Hi-Country Trading Post

Today’s route will take you out of Helena and on toward Lincoln. Head to the north Helena Valley for a cup of coffee or pizza from Moose Junction before hitting the road. You’ll take route 279 over Flesher Pass to Lincoln on Highway 200. As you roll into town leave time to explore Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild. This unique sculpture park pays homage to the history of the Blackfoot Valley. Lincoln is considered a paradise for outdoorsmen with ample access for fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and more. Swing by the Ranger District office for more information about the area! As you head further west on Highway 200 you’ll find Hi-Country Trading post which makes some of the best beef jerky in the state. Lincoln is a charming community with a variety of shops and restaurants to explore.

Sculpture in the Wild

Built using local materials–both natural and industrial–the sculptures on this 26 acre plot of pine forest play with the environment, creating something new and unique, and yet somehow evoking the heritage of the Lincoln area–the beautiful natural surroundings, and the mining, logging, and ranching that have defined the region.

Helena National Forest Ranger Office, Lincoln

The Lincoln Ranger Station makes it onto the itinerary of visitors for many reasons. They have general forest information, visitor maps, permits, and firewood. Most notably however, visitors find themselves in awe of the taxidermy display of a male grizzly that weighed nearly 830 pounds and would have stood 8-feet tall.

Hi-Country Trading Post

Hi-Country Trading post is a retail store that features the Hi-Country Beef Jerky products as well as a collection of other foods, gifts, art, jewelry and more from across the state of Montana. In addition to the retail store this location is home to the starting line of the Race to the Sky and the Upper Blackfoot Valley Historical Society.

Day 3:


  • Dining in Ovando
  • Fishing Access
  • Brand Bar Museum

Ovando is a fisherman’s paradise! There is also plenty of untouched habitat perfect for birding and wildlife watching. Hit the water in the morning, and then make your way into town. You’ll find charming lodging, museums, and small retail shops in Ovando. The Brand Bar Museum is open year-round to visitors and the Blackfoot Commercial Co. is the perfect place to fuel up. Settled in the Blackfoot Valley the area gets a lot of traffic as people travel to the Seeley Swan. While Ovando may seem at the surface as a town to simply drive on through, you’ll miss out on a great meal, wonderful outdoor recreation, and a charming historic community.

Dining in Ovando, Montana

The small community of Ovando should not be overlooked as a great place to grab a bite to eat. Two standouts are Trixi’s Antler Saloon and the Stray Bullet. Trixi’s has a warm, friendly and inviting atmosphere and promises great food and drinks. The Stray Bullet is a mainstay that offers breakfast and lunch!

Fishing Access

Like much of Southwest Montana, Ovando is well known for some wonderful blue-ribbon fishing. In addition to the Blackfoot River, there are some wonderful mountain lakes in the area as well. Browns Lake and Upsata Lake both feature fishing access, boat launches, and campgrounds. These areas also serve as a great place for wildlife viewing.

Brand Bar Museum

Located in the center of Ovando sits the Brand Bar Museum. The museum features a collection of local memorabilia, homesteader stories and maps, and information reminiscent of Ovando’s past. The museum is open year round, if an attendant isn’t at the museum, a key can be found at the Blackfoot Inn.