This itinerary features the charming towns of Butte, Missoula, Arlee, Charlo, Polson and Kalispell. It pairs well with groups traveling from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park and includes unique destinations and hidden gems that many groups miss while driving park to park. Highlights of the itinerary include the historic town of Butte, American Indian history and culture experiences, iconic sightseeing of the Mission Mountains and Flathead Lake, plus western experiences. There's so much to do and see between the parks—your groups are sure to love this off-the-beaten-path itinerary.
Begin in Butte, a historic mining town with a rich history. Overnight in Butte the night before, or drive from West Yellowstone after breakfast to arrive by noon. Take a tour at the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church. The information provided about Greek Orthodox history and religion is interesting for people of all backgrounds, plus the church is beautiful and is a favorite stop among groups. Afterward, make your way to The Copper King Mansion, home of William Andrews Clark—a former Montana senator and one of the world's wealthiest men in the 1900s. For dinner, plan a meal at Metals Sports Bar & Grill. Located in the historic Metals Banc Building, the infrastructure of the original bank vault and marble teller counters can still be found in the restaurant. An evening tour option is the Spooks & Spirits Tour, where you can visit Butte's haunted locations while the guide tells ghost stories. Overnight at the Comfort Inn.
Wake up and hop aboard a Historic Trolley Tour. Learn about Butte's colorful history while making stops at the World Museum of Mining, the Berkeley Pit and The Granite Mountain Speculator Mine Memorial. For lunch visit Sparky's Garage, which has great food in a fun, Americana garage motif atmosphere.
Depart Butte and make your way to Missoula, with the option to check into the hotel before continuing to Lolo, Montana. This small town has two stops that are worth the short drive. Visit Travelers' Rest State Park, the only archeologically verified campsite of Lewis and Clark, and the Holt Heritage Museum, a private museum collection of cowboy and American Indian memorabilia. For dinner, you have two great options, either opt for cocktails at Lolo Distillery before dinner at the Lolo Creek Steakhouse, or craft beer and Americana food at Lolo Peak Brewery & Grill. Overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn, on North Reserve in Missoula.
Missoula is Western Montana's art and culture hub, with a vibrant downtown and thriving museum scene. You can easily add another full day in Missoula with these unique stops. The Smokejumper Visitor Center, National Museum of Forest Service History (opening in 2025), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Missoula Art Museum, UnSeen Missoula guided walking tours, and downtown walk/shop time are a few of many things to do.
However, for this itinerary we are going to depart after breakfast for Arlee. An optional shopping stop is Big Sky Sasquatch, which is an excellent place to pick up Montana souvenirs and huckleberry milkshakes. Also in Arlee, visit the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. The location and architecture of the garden was born out of a prophetic vision that Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche had as a child, and it's easy to find your Zen as you stroll through the literal 1,000 Buddha statues, botanical garden and Buddhist center.
Make your way to Charlo to visit the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana History. The museum captures the history and culture of the Flathead Indian Reservation and early Montana with artifacts, historical photographs, beadwork, guns, bows and arrows, and a diorama room filled with mounted wildlife and an American Indian camp. The museum is a true hidden-gem, and groups who stop appreciate learning about this piece of Montana history. Outside, if it's warm, walk the short nature trail with spectacular views of the Mission Mountains—you can even request a biologist walk with your group if you plan it ahead of time. When you're done, don't miss Great Gray Gifts right next door, a boutique with Montana-made goods. Then walk next door to Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant for lunch, which offers spectacular views of the Mission Mountains.
After lunch, make the short drive to Polson. Polson is located on the shores of the largest natural freshwater lake in the West—Flathead Lake—which is surrounded by the Mission, Salish, Swan and Whitefish mountains. Stunning scenery, local flair and small-town vibes with a walkable shoppable downtown, are a few of the reasons to stop. Visit the eclectic Miracle of America Museum, which houses a collection of over 340,000+ curiosities. For dinner, go to Finley Point Grill, where exceptional food and outstanding service make an unforgettable meal. Overnight at the Red Lion Inn Polson, which has stunning views of Flathead Lake.
In the morning, depart Polson and make your way to Elmo for a stop at Camp Kapapa and the Water Peoples Tour. Owners Keya Birdsbill, descendant of a chief, shares American Indian history with Flathead and American Indian stories. Afterward, depart for Kalispell, with two optional tour activities along the way, Far West Boat Tours and Purple Mountain Lavender in Lakeside.
Once in Kalispell, make a lunch stop at the Dusty Star Saloon, known for their delicious barbecue, large portions, house-made sauces and friendly service. After lunch, schedule a docent-guided tour at the Conrad Mansion Museum. Home of Kalispell's founder, with almost all original furnishings, the 26-room house is an example of luxury pioneer living at its finest. Add some free time into your schedule for your group to walk and explore Kalispell's quaint downtown, including shopping at the Western Outdoor store, Montana's largest western retail store.
After checking in to your hotel for a little down time, visit Montana Horse Works. They offer inside and/or outside horsemanship education programs, trail rides, intro to cattle drives (in the barn arena), grooming experiences and more. Make it your evening event by adding an on-site catered dinner by Desoto Grill. Overnight at the Hampton Inn Kalispell.
Spend day 5 and beyond exploring Glacier National Park. For more information on what to do in Glacier National Park, check out our One Day in Glacier National Park itinerary.
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