Great Falls to Kalispell: Driving Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front
In a state with as many highways, byways and scenic drives as Montana, there are lots of ways to get to Kalispell. One of the most stunning drives takes you along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, complete with gorgeous views of mountains, plains and charming small towns from Great Falls to Kalispell on this stunning 224-mile-long drive.
While there a few routes you can take from Great Falls to Kalispell, one of the prettiest is via U.S. Highway 89 as it curves along the Rocky Mountains. From Great Falls, take I-15 north to the small town of Vaughn where you’ll meet U.S. Highway 89. Stay on Highway 89 and continue through Sun River, Fairfield (the malting barley capital of the world) and Choteau.
Once you arrive in Choteau, you’ll officially be on the Montana Dinosaur Trail. Make a stop at the Old Trail Museum, grab some ice cream and snap a picture with the oversized dinosaur sculptures before continuing north to Bynum and the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center. While Bynum is one of the smallest towns in the state, it packs a big punch in the form of a life-size model of the Seismosaurus, the very first baby dinosaur found in North America. Time your trip right and have lunch at Buffalo Joe’s in Dupuyer. A local favorite, they serve up oversized portions of prime rib, burgers and sandwiches in an atmosphere that is straight out of the Old West.
After filling your tummy, continue north through the Blackfeet Nation and its tribal headquarters of Browning. From here, you will travel east on U.S. Highway 2 along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park.
*Travel advisory: Currently, the Blackfeet Nation, its businesses and attractions (like the Museum of the Plains Indians, Glacier Park Lodge and others) are not open to travelers. In addition, the eastern entrances into Glacier National Park will remain closed for the duration of the season. You can drive through the reservation on the way to your destination, but cannot stop, stay or explore. You may stop for gas in reservation communities; keep in mind that face coverings/masks and gloves are required.
From Browning, continue on U.S. Highway 2 toward East Glacier Park and the southern boundary of the Crown of the Continent. As you travel along Highway 2, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and snow-capped mountains. Be sure to stop at the Goat Lick Overlook – located between East Glacier Park and West Glacier – for a short walk and a chance to see mountain goats licking the mineral-rich cliffs above the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
After soaking up Montana’s wildlife in their natural habitat, keep driving west on U.S. Highway 2. Consider making a stop at the historic Izaak Walton Inn in Essex for a drink, a bite to eat or to simply see this beautiful lodge and piece of railroad history perfectly nestled between the Great Bear Wilderness and Glacier National Park.
The last segment of your trip will take you through West Glacier and Columbia Falls. In West Glacier, you can access Glacier National Park and the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the park’s west entrance. You can also enjoy a beverage on the deck of the Belton Chalet, take a guided rafting, fishing or hiking trip or set out on a horseback trail ride. While in West Glacier, be sure to pop into the park and take in the view of Lake McDonald from Apgar Village. You can also cruise up the road while keeping your eyes open for the wildlife that call the Crown of the Continent home. From West Glacier, it’s a scenic 30-minute drive through Badrock Canyon and along the Flathead River before you end your road trip in Kalispell, Montana.
Note: Some businesses may have varying operating hours and policies due to COVID-19.