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Beyond Yellowstone: An Epic Road Trip in 5 US States

Beyond Yellowstone: An Epic Road Trip in 5 US States

Glacier NP to Big Sky: 690 km

The rugged west of Montana lends itself to exploration, with more than 600 kilometers of trails, hot springs and ghost towns straddling the southern state line between Glacier National Park and the rim of Yellowstone National Park, making it worth any road trip.

Of course, the star here is Glacier NP. Some 26 slow-moving glaciers (the most of any park in the lower 48 states) dot its rocky terrain, along with some 1,000 kilometers of trails winding alpine lakes, craggy peaks and grizzly bears still calling the shots forest. From here, Interstate 15 is the quickest way into the Southwest, though a more scenic option is via Flathead Lake. Here you can take a boat to Mustang Island, which dates back to the days when the Salish-Kotenai used to keep their wild animals here to prevent them from being stolen. There are only a handful of horses now, but it’s a beautiful walk, with peaceful cottages.

In the Southwest, get a taste of what life used to be like. In Butte, you can drive the Vigilante Trail (, a scenic byway built in 1920 to draw tourists to an area known for its Old West ways and nearly impassable wagon trails. It now travels mostly down Route 287 to West Yellowstone, making stops at two ghost towns, Virginia City and Nevada City. As early as the 19th century, $10 million worth of gold was discovered in the area a year, but by 1875 its mining towns were mostly abandoned as the deposits dried up.

Take a detour to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, the largest limestone cave in the region, then stop in the laid-back town of Bozeman, an up-and-comer that blends hip brewery with old-town dignity. Plus, its Museum of the Rockies is an excellent primer on the region’s geological history.

In the distance is Big Sky Country, the horizon sliding across the prairie like poker chips across velvet, and then the pasture takes over. Before you head to Yellowstone National Park, stop at Lone Mountain Ranch, built in 1915. It offers a quiet respite between peaks and prairies, and riding into the Gallatin National Forest makes you feel like you’re on the trail.

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