This spring, Western Montana’s Glacier Country is the perfect place for a fresh perspective and a breath of fresh air. The snow is melting from the region’s hiking and biking trails, and the landscape is greening up with wildflowers, wildlife, rushing rapids and waterfalls. It’s our most undiscovered season, and is arguable one of the best times to visit.

The Missoula Valley spreads out below Mount Sentinel. Photo: Brian Christianson


Follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, where you’ll find the only archaeologically verified campsite of the Corps of Discovery Expedition. From birding and biking to history and hiking, this is one springtime activity the whole family will enjoy. Stop in at the visitor center and museum for a fascinating look at Lewis and Clark Expedition replicas, Salish culture, American Indian handcrafts, hands-on history displays for kids, and more.

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in Stevensville offers excellent birding and gorgeous views of the Bitterroot Mountains. A 30-minute drive south of Missoula and a few minutes from Stevensville, this 2,800-acre refuge is home to a variety of wildlife and birds, as well as an extensive trail system for nature walks. You can also drive Wildfowl Lane 3 miles through the southern half of the refuge. An added bonus this time of year: ducklings!

Hiking in the Bitterroot Mountains is another springtime favorite. Easily accessible from Stevensville, trek the Kootenai Creek Trail along a pristine creek made even more scenic by high water flows, thanks to springtime runoff. The trail is 19.4 miles out and back, but most people turn around after 2 miles or so. You can also set your sites on a waterfall—Sweathouse Falls is especially scenic in the springtime. Near Victor, this beautiful trail is 5.1 miles out and back. You’re likely to still see a little snow on these trails in the springtime, so plan ahead with proper footwear.

Bike the Bitterroot Trail, a flat, family-friendly paved path that parallels U.S. Highway 93 and connects the entire Bitterroot Valley from Lolo to Hamilton (though the trail actually begins in Missoula). This is a great way to tour the valley from end to end.

Pedal your way along the Bitterroot Mountains on the Bitterroot Trail.

Make it an overnight with a stay in an updated historic farmhouse at Teller Wildlife Refuge and enjoy the tranquil setting and pristine beauty of your surroundings.


Have you heard of our famously delicious Flathead cherries? Cherry orchards line Flathead Lake, and when the trees are in full bloom—early to mid-May—it’s an extra special time to circle the lake. We recommend a drive on State Highway 35 from Polson to Bigfork for the best orchard views.

At the base of the Mission Mountains in Moiese, the CSKT Bison Range offers breathtaking vistas and wildlife watching, including baby bison! Red Sleep Drive (the 19-mile-long one-way drive that winds through the range) opens Mother’s Day Weekend. Photo Op: Spring is the time to capture a photo of bison against the backdrop of the snowcapped Mission Mountains. Please note: If you are planning to visit the range, call 406-644-2211 at least one hour before you plan to arrive for up-to-date road and weather conditions. Also, please recreate responsibly by keeping a safe distance from all wildlife.

Keep an eye out for baby animals while touring the CSKT Bison Range. Photo: Chris Sawicki

Stay in Charlo at the Ninepipes Lodge, known for incredible views of the rugged Mission Mountains. The in-house Allentown Restaurant serves up a delicious experience with great food, a comfortable atmosphere and warm hospitality.


Bigfork is a bucket-list must. Located on the bay of Flathead Lake, this storybook village has fun shops and galleries, and easy access to hiking trails and water fun. Stroll the quaint downtown and check out multiple art galleries, like Bjorge Gallery, and the restaurants that call this charming town home. Try dinner and drinks at The Sitting Duck or Flathead Lake Brewing Company, both with great views of the lake. If you’re looking to land a fish, book a trip with Wild Trout Adventures.

Enjoy the late spring sun on The Sitting Duck’s lakeside deck. Photo: The Sitting Duck

Make it an overnight at Bridge Street Cottages—a serene river retreat—or spend a whole week immersed in the ways of the West at Flathead Lake Lodge, an all-inclusive dude ranch.

From Bigfork, drive south on State Highway 83 (around an hour and a half) to hike Morrell Falls. This 5.4-mile (round-trip) out-and-back trail offers jaw-dropping views of the Swan Mountains from Morrell Lake, and the falls are spectacular this time of year when they’re gushing. Again, plan ahead for the possibility of snow on the trail.


Rock Creek—a blue-ribbon trout stream—is Montana fly-fishing at its finest. Anglers flock here to reel in cutthroat, rainbow, bull and brown trout, as well as whitefish, though it’s famous for its salmon fly hatch at the end of May into June. Once spring runoff is over, usually by late May, fish the Blackfoot River, made famous by Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It.”

Watch kayakers and surfers play at Brennan’s Wave in Missoula. Photo: Andy Austin

Spend the night at Bearmouth Chalet and RV Park in Clinton, or stay in Missoula—Western Montana’s arts and culture hot spot—with the Clark Fork River flowing through the heart of downtown. In late May, hike Waterworks Hill to look for Montana’s state flower—the Bitterroot—and Missoula phlox flowers growing alongside the trail.  

Another favorite spring pastime in Western Montana is golf, and Missoula boasts seven courses. Pack your clubs and tee up just as the landscape begins to green up.

Overnight at The WrenResidence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown, the AC Hotel Missoula Downtown or Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown.


The park is open year-round, but spring is one of the quietest and loveliest times to visit this part of the Crown of the Continent region. There are plenty of opportunities to play in Glacier National Park this time of year.

Biking the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road tops the list. Bicyclists are drawn to this famously scenic road in the springtime as they’ve got early access before it opens to vehicular traffic. Rent an e-bike from Montana E-Bikes for a fun alternative to traditional pedaling. Biking Camas Road is also popular this time of year, and families are drawn to the Apgar Bike Path.

Biking along Lake McDonald Creek on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Photo: Andy Austin

You can also hike the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and many other places in the park. Stick to lower elevations and around the edges of the park, which are usually clear of snowpack by the end of April, but plan ahead for snow and mud. Popular spring hikes include the Apgar Lookout, Lake McDonald’s West Shore, Fish Creek Trail, Trail of the Cedars, Johns Lake Loop, McDonald Creek, Beaver Pond Loop from the historic ranger station, St. Mary-Virginia Falls and the Red Eagle trail. Please note: Vehicle reservations are required beginning May 24 for the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road and North Fork, and on July 1 for Many Glacier.


Just outside park boundaries is equally lovely this time of year. The world-famous Polebridge Mercantile opens in April, and their famous huckleberry bearclaw pastries are worth the drive. The North Fork area around the mercantile is also a peaceful and pretty place to explore in the springtime.

Buy a yummy treat at the Polebridge Mercantile. Photo: Chris Sawicki

For a springtime adrenaline rush, book a guided whitewater rafting adventure with Wild River Adventures. Runoff is raging in the springtime and these expert guides are ready to show you the rapids. 

In Kalispell, explore the historic downtown with shops, galleries and eateries galore, and dine on the patio at DeSoto Grill. For mesmerizing aerial views of nature’s most stunning landscapes on a scenic floatplane charter, contact Backcountry Flying Experience.

For a scoop of locally sourced, handcrafted Montana ice cream, make your way to Sweet Retreat Creamery in Columbia Falls.

Overnight outside the park at the modern, boutique hotel, Après Whitefish, and enjoy their thoughtfully curated aesthetic and community-centered feel.

Please note: We ask that all our visitors and residents Recreate Responsibly by being mindful of the following: know before you go; plan ahead; play it safe; leave no trace; tread lightly; and help build an inclusive outdoors.

April 22, 2024

Related: Bigfork, Biking, Bison Range, Bitterroot Valley, Blackfoot Corridor, Breweries, Charlo, Columbia Falls, Coram, Dining, Fishing, Flathead Corridor, Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park, Golfing, Hiking, Kalispell, Lolo, Missoula, Moiese, Outdoor Fun, Polebridge, Polson, Seeley-Swan Corridor, Spring Fun, Stay, Stevensville, Victor, Water Fun, Whitefish, Wildlife


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