The fourth largest state in the Union, whose name derives from the Spanish for “mountain” and with nicknames that include “Big Sky Country” we were looking forward to our stop in Montana. It had a hard act to follow, coming as it did after Yellowstone National Park, but we felt sure it had plenty to offer. When we saw actual real life cowboys for the first time in our lives not long after crossing into the State we were already impressed.
Our first stop was the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, a small college town that’s home to the Montana State University. The Museum of the Rockies houses the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the United States including the largest Tyrannosaurus skull ever unearthed. Not to mention Big Mike, the giant bronze T-Rex that adorns the front lawn of the museum. We only spent a couple of hours in Bozeman but it seemed a nice little town, and the museum is well worth a small detour if you’ve got a few hours to spare.
Our lodgings for the night in Montana were in Missoula, about a three hour drive from Bozeman and another college town, hosting the University of Montana. We were expecting spectacular vistas on the way through Montana but as we approached the town the views all around were obscured somewhat by heavy smoke (we worried at first that it was some sort of Stephen King-esque Mist). Forest fires nearby were rather spoiling our fun.
However, once we made it to Missoula we checked into our hotel, the lovely Blossom’s Bed and Breakfast, which is about a 15 minute walk from the centre of town, or at least to the bits of town that we visited! Our room was small and the bathroom was a short hop across the hall, but its very reasonably priced and you can help yourself to free drinks and chocolate from the fridge in the lounge.
We ambled into town through the quiet neighbourhood, though crossing the railway tracks did make us briefly wonder if we were passing into the bad part of town (we needn’t have worried!). We chose the Iron Horse Brewpub for our dinner stop, mainly for the exceptional selection of booze but the food was pretty tasty as well. Hannah opted for a classic black and blue (steak with blue cheese) and Josh the gyro burger, a disgraceful (but awesome) combination of beef, cheese and kebab meat. All washed down with cocktails and a couple of Imperial IPAs from Montana’s Flathead Lake Brewery.
We took a short and still smoky walk down Higgins Avenue just to take in the sights of Missoula but ultimately ended up at another pub opposite the Iron Horse – The Old Post. It’s a small and atmospheric place that you might miss if you weren’t careful, but it is another place with a great selection of tasty IPAs and other draught beers.
The next morning, after a great night’s sleep and a frankly indecently good breakfast prepared by Blossom herself we went for another short walk down to the riverside, stopping by Break Espresso for the caffeine boost we needed ahead of another long drive.
We’re almost certain to return to Montana one day, the wonders of Glacier National Park await in the far north of the state and that’s a destination in itself to rival the very best of America’s National Parks. But what we saw of this expansive state was pretty darn good anyway.
Rate the State
Good for: Mountains, cowboys, beer and dinosaurs.
Bad for: The seaside – this is the largest landlocked state in the US.