Montana Road Trip

Montana Road Trip

Edmonton Playgrounds shares tips on a Montana Road Trip with Kids.
Pictured is Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park from the start of our Montana Road Trip. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.

We kicked off Summer 2024 by taking our kids on a Montana Road Trip! It was a great adventure, and as I shared some of our Montana adventure on the Edmonton Playgrounds Instagram account, several followers asked me if I would post a trip recap to help with their Montana Road Trip planning.

This post is by no means an exhaustive guide to Montana with Kids… it’s more of a random collection of information from our experience – but hopefully you will find a nugget or two that will help with your Montana trip planning!

Glacier National Park was one of the highlights of our Montana Road Trip
We made so many stops on Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park on our Montana Road Trip! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Glacier National Park
  • We stayed in Calgary the night before heading to Montana to cut down travel time to the border. From Calgary to the Carway border crossing is only about 2.5 hours, and we arrived at the border crossing around 11am. The long line surprised us, and we waiting 1.5 hours to cross the border.
  • After crossing, we stopped in St. Mary to grab lunch. This may have been the priciest meal of our trip – over $80 US for 4 sandwiches and drinks! Gas was also higher here than anywhere else we stopped in Montana. Luckily we didn’t need to fill up too!
  • At St. Mary we drove in to Glacier National Park to start our journey on “Going to the Sun” road. You do not need to book a driving pass if you are entering from the St. Mary (East) side, but if you wish to drive Going to the Sun road from the West side (West Glacier) you do need to book a park pass in advance. (rules as of 2024) There are length limits to be mindful of for vehicles travelling this road.
  • You will need a Glacier National Park visitor pass or an America the Beautiful National Park pass to enter Glacier. You can purchase that at the entry gates, or purchase in advance, as we did.
Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail was a favourite stop in Glacier National Park!
Giant Cedars Boardwalk was a favourite stop in Glacier National Park. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • Going to the Sun road was epic, and we made so many stops along the way! I read some blogs to try to preplan some of the stops we wanted to make, but often we just pulled over at spots that we thought looked pretty! (I found THIS BLOG particularly helpful!) Our favourite stops were at St. Mary Lake and the Trail of the Cedars boardwalk.
  • The road is about 50 miles long and it’s recommended to budget 2-3 hours for the drive. We spent about 6 hours doing the drive because of all the stops we made.
  • Our visit happened in late June, just 6 days after Going to the Sun road opened to vehicle traffic for the year. There was still a ton of snow at Logan Pass Visitor Centre!
  • We exited at West Glacier, which is the cutest little tourist spot! It’s also home to the Huckleberry Hut and other stores and cafes that serve huckleberry everything!
West Glacier was a favourite stop on our Montana Road Trip
West Glacier is a cute stop to stop for ice cream, huckleberry anything and photos! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Kalispell
  • We spent the night in Kalispell, about 45 minutes south of West Glacier. We didn’t spend any time exploring Kalispell and found the hotel prices to be astronomical! The one night here cost more than the combined two nights in Calgary on our way down!
  • We stayed at Homewood Suites by Hilton. Our stay was not hosted. We found the hotel to be spacious and clean, with a nice pool, fitness room and courtyard. The courtyard had cornhole, giant connect four and a few other yard games. Breakfast was included in our stay. The price for the night we stayed was comparable to virtually everything I could find in Kalispell for that night, but do compare prices, as I’ve noticed there is a variation based on when you are staying.
Dragon Hollow Playground in Missoula Montana has a cool dragon theme!
Dragon Hollow Playground was our must-visit stop in Missoula, Montana. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Missoula
  • We stopped in Missoula to get groceries and to play at Dragon Hollow Playground. The playground is in the heart of the city, near the river, and paid parking was the only option we could find for our quick stop. Dragon Hollow is connected to A Carousel for Missoula, which is a beautiful addition to this stop!
This unique play area at Stodden Park in Butte Montana pays homage to the town's mining history.
Stodden Park in Butte, Montana is one of the most epic playgrounds we’ve ever seen! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Butte
  • Our Butte stop was at one of the most epic playgrounds we’ve ever encountered! Stodden Park pays homage to Butte’s mining history with a giant mining truck, mining elevators and a climbing mountain with a giant M on it! (We’ve seen these M’s all over Montana!) Stodden’s massive playground also includes a Branch Out climbing tree, a cable track zipline, and a playground elevator!
  • Stodden Park is home to a huge sports complex with baseball fields and tennis courts. There is also a building with a carousel inside (we didn’t explore that.) and an outdoor pool with waterslides!
Big Sky was our home base for our Montana Road Trip.
Big Sky Mountain Village with Lone Peak mountain in the background. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Big Sky
  • Our home base for our week in Montana was the resort community of Big Sky. There is a town located just off highway 191 and a resort village up the mountain. We booked a condo for the week via the time share re-sale site Red Week. Our stay was not hosted. I was very impressed with Red Week and would use the site again to book another vacation.
  • The Big Sky resort is home to skiing in the winter and chairlift mountain biking in the summer. There are sightseeing lifts as well, and construction on a new glass-floor gondola is underway to expand access to the Lone Peak mountain in Summer and Winter. Anticipated opening is 2025.
Bungee Trampoline in Big Sky Montana
Bungee Trampoline in Big Sky! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • Big Sky resort offers some shops and restaurants, as well as outdoor activities including mini golf, a cool “Montana Marble Run”, auto-belay rock climbing, bungee trampoline and more! There is also mountain ziplining! The girls tried bungee trampoline and loved it!
Ousel Falls was a great stop on our Montana Road Trip
Ousel Falls in Big Sky. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • We brought our own mountain bikes and toured some cross-country trails that we found in the area. We were able to ride “Gallatin’s Dream” and “Lodge Loop” right from our condo, but had to ride the highway first to access the trails. One day we took “Huff’s Trek” and the “Mountains to Meadow” connector and rode down to the townsite. There is a free bus service that takes passengers back up the mountain and we attempted to access it, but the online schedules aren’t great and we didn’t realize that only select buses can accommodate bikes. We also rode a trail out to Ousel Falls, which was beautiful! I recommend hiking rather than biking to the falls, however. Ousel Falls is listed as both a biking and hiking trail, but it was so packed with people that we often had to walk our bikes. We did connect to a great blue mountain bike trail called Ralph’s Pass, which we enjoyed a lot more!
The Earthscape Play playground in Big Sky Montana
The new playground under construction in Big Sky Community Park. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • The town of Big Sky is home to a couple of good playgrounds. One was under construction during our visit, but it’s going to be incredible! Earthscape Play is building the beautiful new playground in Big Sky Community Park. I also wanted to explore a playground in Kircher Park, but the trail down to the playground was closed due to soil erosion.
Chairlift mountain biking in Big Sky Montana
Chairlift-assisted downhill mountain biking in Big Sky. Can’t beat the views! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • On our final day in Big Sky we decided to splurge and take the girls for some chairlift downhill mountain biking. We rented bikes for this to give all of us the best experience possible. It was an absolute blast, and I have to shout out the team at Big Sky resort, from the bike rental staff to the lift operators, for being so awesome and helpful!
An epic ride in Bozeman Montana
The Painted Hills mountain bike trail in Bozeman. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Bozeman
  • Bozeman is a beautiful city to visit! It’s an absolute clinic on how to preserve an historic area. The downtown is full of businesses, shops and restaurants with old fashioned and classic facades.
  • A mountain bike trail called “Painted Hills” drew us out to Bozeman. It was my favourite bike trail of the entire trip! We encountered a number of other cyclists on the trail, as well as some runners and hikers, but it never felt overly busy. The Painted Hills trail has a parking lot, and the trail is also part of the Main Street to Mountains community trail system.
The Bozeman Sculpture Park was a cool place to explore!
Checking out the Bozeman Sculpture Park. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • We strolled near the Bozeman Public Library and checked out the cool Bozeman Sculpture Park.
Bozeman Montana Story Mill Park seemingly goes forever!
Story Mill Park playground in Bozeman. An all-time great playground! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • Story Mill Park was the another highlight of our visit to Bozeman. It’s a massive community playground that offers a cool painted roadway for bikes, a toddler park designed like a grain elevator, another elevator-style climber for big kids, a massive climbing structure in the shape of an Osprey, the coolest old slide built into a hill, and Norm’s Boulder, a huge memorial climbing rock. There are bathrooms, benches, picnic tables and picnic shelters.
  • Our visit to Bozeman happened to be on the Fourth of July and we ended the day with the town’s massive fireworks display! WOW! 10/10, highly recommend.
Grand Prismatic was my favourite thing in Yellowstone National Park!
A view of Grand Prismatic from the overlook. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
  • Of course, the majority of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, but our home-base of Big Sky was just an hour from the West Gate, so we took advantage of the proximity and visited America’s oldest National Park!
  • We read that the busiest times to access the park are between 9am and 3pm, so we arrived at 8am – but there was already a lineup of cars heading in to the west entrance! The line did move rather quickly, and we were in the park before we knew it. You will need a Yellowstone National Park pass or an America The Beautiful National Park pass to access. This can be purchased at the park gates, or in advance, online.
  • Expect crowds and difficulty in finding parking spots. Yellowstone is a prime tourist spot! The girls made a list of all 50 states and tried to see how many different license plates they could spot in the park!
Old Faithful is a must-visit on a trip to Yellowstone!
You can’t visit Yellowstone without stopping at Old Faithful! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
  • Our favourite stops in Yellowstone were Grand Prismatic (it’s much more impressive from the Grand Prismatic overlook hike than it is from the boardwalk, but both were worthwhile stops), Old Faithful (and the tour of all the geysers in that area of the park) and the Fountain Paint Pot trail (the bubbling mud is so cool!) We pretty much hit the typical tourist high points. You could spend weeks in Yellowstone and still be exploring!)
Planning the next trip

There are many more things I’d love to do in Montana! My list includes Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Exploration Works in Helena and the Children’s Museum of Montana in Great Falls.

If you have a favourite hidden gem, hiking or biking trail, or tourist attraction in Montana, please use my Contact page to share it with me! I’d love to add more to my list of future stops in Montana!

We found more than 10 things kids love in Saskatoon!

Looking for ideas for road trips from Edmonton with kids? We LOVED our visit to Saskatoon! Learn more about this family-friendly city HERE!

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