Step Outside - Montana WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 Step Outside - Montana 144 144 Fri, 03 Dec 2021 16:28:48 -0600 7 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Montana Only in a few places is fall more gorgeous than it is under the Big Sky. The trees cloak themselves in their stunning fall coats, fat trout are running, and people gather to celebrate autumn. When the calendar flips to October, these are some of our favorite fall activities in Montana.

In the fall—October through November—big brown trout spawn in the Madison River. And just before the spawn, they are super aggressive, defending territory and consuming sufficient food to fuel their upstream run. For fly anglers, big streamers are the way to get one of these monsters on the end of the line. Need some help finding the honey holes? Madison River Fishing Company and Gallatin River Guides can both put you on the fish.

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As winter creeps onto the higher elevations in Glacier National Park, the park’s aspens and larch burst into their full autumn glory. Grab a kayak and paddle out onto Bowman Lake to take advantage of a vista that includes sky-blue water, snow covered peaks and golden fall foliage. Glacier Park Boat Company offers rentals in the park.

Field of Screams, on the outskirts of Victor, is a terrifying trek through a creepy corn field. As you wend your way among the stalks, you’ll be greeted and frightened by all manner of ghouls, ghosts and haunts. Each turn you take will fill you with dread until all you can think about is whether you’ll make it to the end. Sounds fun, eh?

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All Montana residents are welcome to participate in the Montana Cup, a cross-country team event that changes locations each year. Runners compete on behalf of one of seven towns (whichever they live closest to)—Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell or Missoula—and run a course that ranges from five to eight kilometers. The races take place near the end of October.

The Hyalite Recreation Area, a part of the Custer Gallatin National Forest, becomes a stunning palette of autumn colors in the fall. Hike the Hyalite Canyon trail, along Hyalite Creek. You’ll see towering peaks cloaked in red, gold and orange as you make your way through the canyon to the stunning 80-foot Palisade Falls. As you hike, though, remember that you’re in grizzly country. Bear spray and a couple of hiking buddies are always a good idea.

Walk into 20 acres of six-foot-tall corn and try to find your way out. Or don’t. Let your feet and your mind wander as you stroll at your own pace among the stalks. Every year, the folks at Apple Stem Corn Maze (and Pumpkin Patch) carve their 20 acres into a new design, so it’s different every time you come back.

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For over three decades, Swan Mountain Outfitters has been bringing locals and visitors on memorable hunting trips. Mule deer, whitetail, elk—you name it. Check the Swan Mountain Outfitters website for rates and dates and get booking! 

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10 Best Archery Outfitters in Montana With all the game and hunting opportunities under the Big Sky, from elk to deer to bear, it’s important for bowhunters—as well as target archers—to have access to quality bows, arrows, and equipment. Fortunately there are plenty of fine businesses in Montana to help out with that. These are our favorites.

Archers in the state capitol will find bows, arrows, tips, strings, gloves, and any other archery gear they need at Buffalo Jump Archery. Find excellent products from brands like Black Gold, Spot Hogg, Trophy Taker, and much more. 

Big Sky Archery in based in Bozeman but also has a pro shop in Belgrade. They carry many brands, including compound and traditional archery equipment. The service bows, arrows and most gear, and also sell used bow hunting equipment. A full-service shop, Big Sky Archery also has several ranges on location.

In love with this beautiful beast

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With more than 20 years of combined experence, Straight 6 Archery offers some of the best customer service to archers in the Missoula area. A full-service shop, they offer bow sales, repair, replacement, and accessories, including arrows and tips, as well as releases, targets, and sights. 

In addition to bow and equipment sales, Extreme Performance Archery can also teach you how to use it. They have an indoor range and offer classes to all levels of archers. Extreme Performance also services all makes and models, including long bows and crossbows.

If you haven't shot the new centergy series from @primearcheryg5 YOU NEED TO!

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In Billings, Superior Archery is the place archers go for gear. They sell many other top archery brands. You’ll find bows and all the accessories you’ll need to get out into the field or onto one of their ranges. Once you find the right bow, they will work with you to make sure it’s the right fit for your needs. 

Shootin' zombies 🎯 #datenight #diamondarchery

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In a new Kalispell location, Flaming Arrow Archery sells bows and arrows, as well as other archery needs and accessories. In addition, they also offer archery lessons and coaching for all levels of archers, pre-stretched string replacement, and peep adjustment. 

Rocky Mountain Archery in Butte carries a full line of archery products for both hunters and target archers, as well as several range options.They also host leagues throughout the year and offer Technohunt, which allows you to virtually travel the world and hunting in any of several exotic locales.

Wills 1st night shooting with his new bow. not to shabby..

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Howard Hill Archery makes handcrafted long bows, arrows, and other archery gear. In addition to the models they keep in stock, they also sell limited edition bows or can build a custom bow that will fit you perfectly. With more than 40 years of bow-crafting experience, Howard Hill Archery is sure to make a bow that you’ll cherish.

Bitterroot Valley Archery prides themselves on the exceptional customer service they offer to bowhunters in western Montana. They sell bows, custom bowstrings, and also offer an onsite range where you can try out your new bow or hone your hunting skill with 3D targets.

So ready for days like this in the Bitterroot 🙌

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HR Archery, located in Havre, is an awesome shop that carries a wide selection of bows, arrows, sights, strings, and other gear. In addition to sales, HR also offers service and repair for your bow or arrows. 

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10 Best Bait and Tackle Shops in Montana Whether it’s drifting the Yellowstone with a fly rod or tossing a worm into Flathead Lake from the shore, folks in Montana love to fish. But in order to fish, you’ve got to have the right equipment. And that’s where the local bait shop comes into play. These are our favorite bait and tackle shops in Montana. 

Fly anglers who need gear in south-central Montana need look no further than Stillwater Anglers. They are a full-service fly outfitter. They carry rods, reels, pre-tied flies, as well as things you may need to tie your own. Stillwater Anglers also offers guide services and fly fishing lessons.

Robert’s Bait & Tackle is a go-to for anglers in the Great Falls area. Folks love the customer service and are impressed with the depth of the product selection in this locally-owned shop. So, if you need to know how to get on the fish in the Missouri River, stop by Robert’s.

Folks in the Billings area who are hoping to chase trout on the fly can find the gear and tackle that they need at East Rosebud Fly & Tackle. Whether you need clothes, reels, flies, or the equipment and supplies to tie your own, you will find it at East Rosebud.

If you’re looking to fish or ice fish in the Flathead Region, you’ll need some gear and some local knowledge. And Pete’s Tackle Shop in Kalispell is the place to get it. They’re stocked to the gills all the lures, live bait, gear, and supplies you’ll need to get out on the water—whether it’s liquid or solid.

Fresh from #petestackle new crank baits

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If you’re heading into the Bob Marshal Wilderness with your fly rod, or wading the North Fork of the Blackfoot River, you’re going to want to stop by Blackfoot Angler and Supplies in Ovando. For more than 15 years, they’ve been putting anglers on the fish.

Zimmer Tackle & Bait has been a favorite among northwest Montana anglers—whether they’re heading to Pablo Lake, the Flathead River, or Flathead Lake—for years. Conveniently located in Pablo, stop in for advice on how to hook anything from perch to lake trout.

For more than 30 years, the Madison River Fishing Company has been supplying fly anglers around the world with gear, tackle, clothing. But they’re more than just a catalog and online retailer—they are a legit fly and tackle shop on the Madison River in Ennis. Grab your waders and stop on by.

Anglers hitting the water in Gallatin County can find all the supplies, gear, and bait that they’ll need at Rich’s Tackle in Three Forks. They’ve been supplying specialized tackle, flies, and lures, as well as live bait, to trout and walleye fishermen and women for more than a decade.

Located on Montana’s only blue-ribbon trout stream that’s west of the Continental Divide, Rock Creek Fisherman’s Mercantile is the area’s premier fly shop. Whether you stop by for tackle, free casting and fly tying lessons, or a cup of hot coffee and the latest fishing report, you’ll be glad you did.

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Pryor Creek Bait Company, as you may guess, sells live bait. But they also carry all the fishing gear you may need, from standard rods and reels to ice fishing equipment and nets. They even sell logo gear, in case you’re looking for a t-shirt or coffee mug. 

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5 State Park Campsites in the West When looking for a campsite in the western United States, it is easy to default to campgrounds in the national parks or national forests—especially if you’re not from the state that you’re planning to visit. But the better-known campgrounds get a much higher volume of visitors, which means you may not get a reservation or, perhaps worse, get stuck in bad site in a packed-to-the-gills campground. One way to avoid such issues is to do some research about state parks in the area. Many are quite close to better-known national parks but don’t attract nearly the same number of visitors. From California's redwood forests to Utah's sweeping canyons, here are just a few of our favorite state park campsites in the West.  

Located midway between Capital Reef and Canyonlands National Parks, Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park offers much of the same type of desert-hoodoo landscape formations, as well as incredible canyoning opportunities, as its neighbors. The campground is not particularly secluded or tree-lined, but it is an excellent gateway to all that the park has to offer. 

Campsite 12 is a tent-only site that is set back a little away from RVs and other campers. The site includes your own shaded picnic table and a brilliant, uninterrupted view of the rock formations that Goblin Valley is known for. Not feeling like setting up and taking down your own shelter? Grab one of the yurts available for rent in the park.

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If you’ve ever been to Hawaii—or planned a trip to Hawaii—you know lodging is not cheap. A great way to avoid exorbitant lodging costs in the Aloha State is to camp. Many of the state’s parks offer excellent camping options and facilities. Those visiting the Garden Isle of Kauai will appreciate the picturesque beauty of Koke’e State Park.

Perched 4,000 feet above the lush vegetation of the Kalalau Valley, with sweeping views out to the Pacific, Koke’e offers several tent camping opportunities in campsites that have been minimally developed. In addition, several cabins are available for rental in the park if you’re hoping for a break from tent camping.

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Lake Cascade State Park in west-central Idaho comprises 86 miles of shoreline along the edge of the eponymous lake. The park is tucked into the region’s wooded mountains near the Payette National Forest. Popular with anglers, Lake Cascade is known as a prime spot for trout and salmon fishing. The surrounding area offers miles of trails for hiking, cycling and birding. The park’s 41 square miles of surface water are ideal for paddling or boating.

Dispersed primitive camping is available at several locations throughout the park. But if you’d like a few more amenities (restrooms, for example), the Blue Heron Campground is tent-only and located on a peninsula that juts out into the lack. Site G is a lakefront site that is set back an away from the other sites, so you have your own little slice of heaven.

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Big Basin Redwoods State Park is just west of—and a world away from—the Bay Area megalopolis in California. It is the state’s first and oldest state park. The park’s main feature, as the name implies, is the ancient, coast redwood trees marching up and down the slopes. Blooms Creek Campground in the park affords the opportunity to sleep among these beautiful giants, which are up to 1,800 years old.

Site 153 is a hike-in site that is away from the main campground but close to a water source. It connects to the Blooms Creek Trail, which in turn, connects to many of the other trails in the park.

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Oregon’s Ainsworth State Park lies within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and encompasses spectacular natural features like Horsetail Falls and 620-ft. Multnomah Falls. There are many hiking trails in the park, itself, that take advantage of the fantastic beauty of the Gorge. The park also connects to several trails that lead to other points of interest like the majestic St. Peter’s Dome, which rises 2,000 feet over the river.

The campground at Ainsworth offers six walk-in tent sites that are set back and away from the main campground and connect to trails that allow you to avoid walking through the main part of the camping area. Any one of the sites puts you in the midst of all that the park has to offer but provides the illusion of a secluded site away from civilization.

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5 Warm-Weather Fishing Destinations to Escape the Cold When winter drops its icy fingers across the fisheries of the United States, making the water hard in some places or the air just too darn cold in others, many anglers find themselves dreaming of warmer weather. The good news is, you don’t have to wait. If dropping a line through a little hole in the ice isn’t your idea of fun, head south! There are plenty of places where you can enjoy both tight lines and warm weather, all winter long. Here are a handful of warm-weather fishing destinations where you can go to escape the cold.

Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, is the self-proclaimed “Sportfishing Capital of the World”—and you know, it just may be. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida Bay on the other, Islamorada is exceptionally well positioned to offer a tremendous variety of fishing opportunities, including inshore, offshore, reef fishing, and flats fishing. So, whether you’re targeting tarpon, trolling for tuna, or stalking snook, you’ll find a fishery in close proximity to the island. 

The Hadley House Resort, located right on Islamorada, is one of the best lodging values on the key. Hit Florida Bay for some “backcountry” fishing (inshore and flats) with Pirate for Hire Charters, or head offshore on one of Dirty Boat Charters’ trips.

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Venice, Louisiana, is another U.S. fishing Mecca with its own title—alternately known as the Redfish or Fishing “Capital of the World”—that derives from its unique location, which places it at the center of a variety of fisheries: Inshore, offshore, bottom fishing, and even freshwater bass fishing. You could catch a bull redfish and trophy largemouth in the morning and bring home yellowfin tuna steaks for dinner in the afternoon.

Stay at Nicole’s Fishing Bed and Breakfast, which partners with several local houseboats to provide accommodation for visiting anglers. To hunt trophy-size inshore species like bull redfish, tarpon or speckled trout, hook up with Reel Tite Fishing Guide Service. Voodoo Fishing Charters will put you on the offshore species, like yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi.

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The Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island) is yet-another destination that draws sport anglers from all over the world. Kailua-Kona’s large charter fleet is testament to the large numbers of marlin, tuna, and mahi mahi that make their home in the warm Hawaiian waters. Shore anglers can get in one some of the Big Island’s massive ulua (giant trevally) action—if you can get a local to tell you where to go.

Camelot Kona Fishing Charters is a skilled and respected charter outfit that has been putting people on fish for more than four decades. The Royal Kona Resort, on the bay in Kailua-Kona, is just minutes from the marina and is a great place to stay and relax after a long day on the water. 

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Largemouth anglers have it tough in the winter time, especially in the more-northern latitudes of the United States. Well, here’s some good news to soothe your winter bassin’ blues: One of the Lone Star State’s best largemouth fisheries is located deep in South Texas, along the Mexican border. On Falcon International Reservoir, more commonly called Falcon Lake, the day time air temperatures during the winter months average in the 70s and 80s. You won’t even need a jacket.

Falcon Lake is an impoundment of the Rio Grande, just southeast of Laredo. The 83,000-acre lake is a renowned largemouth bass and catfish fishery. Five and six-pound bucketmouths are not uncommon. If you’re looking for a different kind of challenge, Falcon Lake also supports a decent alligator gar population. The lake does straddle the border, so if you intend to fish in Mexican waters, you will need a Mexico fishing license. If you don’t bring your own, you can rent a boat from Falcon Lake Marina. Lakefront Lodge offers a variety of accommodations, from RV sites to motel rooms and rental cabins.

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St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is another sunny island destination you can reach without a passport. And the flight is definitely worth it! More than 20 IGFA world records have been set by angler’s fishing out of the Virgin Islands, including the women’s all-tackle record for blue marlin, which was set by a 1,073-pound monster billfish. The islands’ location on the edge of the Puerto Rico Trench and in close proximity to the Gulf Stream make the USVI the perfect launching point for hunting big pelagic species, ranging from massive marlin to trophy tuna.

Consider Point Pleasant Resort, not far from Red Hook, for lodging. Double Header Sportfishing will get you out to the fish.

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7 Impressive ATV Destinations in the West The American West is characterized by rocky mountain vistas, dense forests, and sweeping valleys. If you're a thrill-seeker, there's no better way to get a taste of what the West has to offer than on top of an ATV. From Montana's mountainous trail systems to Nevada's wide-open flats, experience the West from a new perspective. Here are a few of our favorite ATVing destinations in the region. 

Off-road enthusiasts can enjoy Greater Yellowstone from the seats of their ATVs by heading to the Lionhead OHV Trails in the Custer Gallatin National Forest of extreme southwestern Montana. The trail system tracks the Continental Divide at the Montana/Idaho border, and treats riders to spectacular Rocky Mountain vistas, deep forests, Hebgen Lake panoramas, and awesome wildlife viewing opportunities. Camping is available in the National Forest, on Hebgen Lake (permits required). The Kirkwood Resort and Marina is located on the lake, directly across from the trail system. So, when you’re not riding, you can get in some boating and/or fishing.

Nobody disputes the dramatic beauty of the basin-and-range topography of the Grand Teton area. And a fantastic way to explore all that western Wyoming has to offer is to take your ATV into the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The forest has dozens of off-road-friendly roads, trails and areas that make up a network consisting of hundreds of rideable miles through and across some of the country’s most stunning scenery. Be sure to hit the 5.1-mile Seven Lakes ATV Trail in the Pinedale Ranger District. You can camp with a permit in the National Forest, but several lodging options, like the Lakeside Lodge in Pinedale, are also available in the area.

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In Idaho, ATV riders can’t do much better than the Canfield Mountain Trail System near Coeur d’Alene. The trails criss-cross a beautiful, forested mountainsides in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest and often afford panoramic vistas out across Hayden Lake. While many of the trails in the system are designated singletrack for off-highway motorcycle and bicycle use, several miles of prime trail are open to ATVs. The nearby 4th of July ATV Trailhead will connect you to several additional miles of dedicated off-road trails. Camping is available in the forest, with a permit, and the Honeysuckle Campground is situated near both the Canfield Mountain Trail System and the 4th of July ATV Trailhead. The Bennett Bay Inn on Lake Coeur d’Alene is also located close to both trail systems.

In western Nevada, along the Sierra Nevada Mountains that mark its border with California, and scattered across the rest of the state, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest offers hundreds of miles of relatively-uncrowded trails for ATV enthusiasts. The vast majority of the trails lie in the Ely Ranger District, surrounding the town of Ely, in east-central Nevada. Camping is available by permit in the national forest. The Stargazer Inn is another lodging option in the area that’s also attractive for its proximity to Great Basin National Park.

Northern California’s Humbug OHV Recreation Area is located in the Happy Camp/Oak Knoll Ranger Districts of the Klamath National Forest. The OHV area offers 14 miles of trails, five acres of open riding terrain, and even a youth riding area—all among the pine forests and mountain vistas of Klamath. What’s more, there are nearly 700 miles of ATV-friendly roads winding through the same ranger districts in which Humbug is located. So, you are by no means limited to the 14 miles of trail in the OHV area. Limited camping is available at Humbug, but many more camping options are located throughout the forest. The Klamath Motor Lodge in Yreka, is another nearby lodging option.

An awesome ATV destination in Oregon is the East Fort Rock OHV Trail System in the Deschutes National Forest. The 318 miles of trails are spread out across 110,000 wooded acres that overlook the volcanic vistas of the Cascade Mountain Range. The terrain is hilly and forested, punctuated by open flats and distant buttes. Camping is available at any of the OHV staging areas and at several locations within the national forest, itself. A nearby alternative is the Cascade Lodge in Bend.

The Walker Valley ORV Area, north of Seattle, offers 36 miles of off-road trails in a gorgeous Washington DNR-managed, working forest. More than 26 miles of the trails are designated for ATV use. You can camp at the main trailhead or at nearby Mount Pilchuck State Park. The Tulip Inn, in Mt. Vernon, is only a few miles up the road from the Walker Valley ORV Area.

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10 Best Apres Ski Activities in Montana Western Montana is a popular ski and snowboarding destination for folks from all over—and for good reason. The Rocky Mountains offer tremendous downhill conditions in ski spots that may not be as crowded as busier resorts in more heavily populated states. No matter where you ski under the Big Sky, you’ll certainly want to take advantage of some of the state’s top apres locations. These are our favorite apres ski spots and activities in Montana.

As one of the state’s—and one of the nation’s—biggest ski areas, Big Sky Resort, as you probably imagined, has a lot of awesome apres activities to offer. But our favorite—and we’re not alone—is Scissorbills Saloon. A vibrant, convivial scene pairs with awesome drinks, specials and plenty of live entertainment to make it a favorite among Big Sky shredders.

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Sometimes a little perspective is a good thing. After a day on the slopes at Big Sky, head a little way out of the resort to Lone Mountain Ranch. There, you’ll find the Saloon, the ranch’s renowned drinking establishment, which offers exceptional food, stiff drinks, a roaring fire and huge views of the mountain you just shredded.

Whitefish Mountain Resort is northwest Montana’s premier ski destination, and like any big resort, you’ll find plenty of options for a great afternoon/evening of apres ski fun. But if you’re looking for the classic German ski lodge feel you only find in western ski lodges, the Bierstube is the place you want to be.

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After dashing down the slopes at Bridger Bowl Ski Area, head a few minutes into town for your apres activities. Your best bet is the Haufbrau House, an exuberant bar that’s as well known for its live music as it is for its drinks. You’re sure to find plenty of other downhill enthusiasts at this popular hometown bar after a day at Bridger.

Red Lodge Mountain is a ski area in the Custer Gallatin National Forest—you can see into Yellowstone National Park from the top of the lift—and close to the town of Red Lodge. But for apres activities, there’s no reason to leave the mountain. Head over to Bierstube for live music, camaraderie, and tasty drinks—grab your buddies and spring for the famous shotski. 

Showdown Montana—in the state’s central region—is the oldest ski area under the Big Sky. Although, you can always head into nearby Belt for later-evening shenanigans, start your apres festivities at the resort’s Hole-in-the-Wall Saloon, where you’ll find belly-warming fare, cold drinks and live music—all in a warm, friendly atmosphere.

The Last Run Inn is so well known for its food and drink, that people come to the Montana Snowbowl without skis or boards—they come for pizza and Bloody Marys. With a pedigree like that, you can imagine that hungry and thirsty skiers and boarders make their way in flocks to this Last Run—after they’ve made their own on the slopes.

If you’ve been shredding the Montana/Idaho border at Lost Trail Powder Mountain, you’ll need to unwind. Head over to Darby, about 30 miles north, and you’ll find the “smallest brewery in Montana." Finish off your day of barreling down the slopes with a pint of craft beer and lively conversation. Bandit Brewing isn’t a stranger to live musical performances, so get ready to jam out. This beer is about as local as you can get.

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After a day of bombing down Blacktail Mountain’s runs, Muley’s Pub and Restaurant is the go-to apres ski destination for folks skiing in the Northwest Montana region. A warm fire welcomes downhill enthusiasts into the pub, while a solid menu and a full bar keep them happy as they warm up.

There can’t be enough praise for Philipsburg Brewing Company, which opened in 2012. Not only does the tasty beer accumulate awards like nobody’s business, but their atmosphere is on a whole other level. Located in a historic bank building that dates back to 1888; this prominent spot hosts weekly events as well as live music every Friday and Saturday night. It would be a shame not to check out this brewery while traversing the snow in the area.

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10 Best Ski Destinations for Families in Montana With plenty of mountains, like that little range known as the Rockies, and plenty of powder, Montana is an awesome place for families of all ability levels to get out and enjoy the slopes. These are our favorite ski destinations for families in the state! 

The biggest ski resort in Montana—and one of the largest in the country—Big Sky Resort boasts almost 6,000 skiable acres and more than 4,300 feet of vertical, including tram-accessible Lone Peak at 11,166 feet of elevation. Thirty-four chair and surface lifts service thee runs. The resort has many lodging options of all levels. They have frequent activities and events for kids, and if you book you lodging through their central reservation system, children 10 and under ski free while they stay at the resort.

Discovery Ski Area is an awesome place for families to spend a winter weekend. Along with a number of beginner and intermediate runs, Discovery also has moguls, groomed trails, powder bowls, and some of the steepest terrain in the area that’s served by a lift.

Whitefish Mountain Resort, just west of Glacier National Park, has been a popular ski destination for more than 60 years. Despite its 3,000 skiable acres and the 300 annual inches of snow it receives, Whitefish is uncrowded and known for its lack of lift lines. There are multiple dining and lodging options, as well as plenty of fun activities for the whole family at the Mountain Village.

Bridger Bowl is Bozeman’s backyard ski area. The resort has been operating on a sustainable, nonprofit model for more than half a century. It has a dedicated area for beginners, 500 acres of terrain, and plenty of slope for experienced skiers and board riders. Nearby Bozeman offers plenty of lodging, dining, and entertainment options for the family.

Red Lodge Mountain is home to more than 70 runs that are spread between two mountains. Skiers of all levels are sure to find plenty of runs to keep them happy all day long. Red Lodge also offers rentals and lessons, as well as a retail shop and several dining options. The town of Red Lodge is only six miles away.

Folks in the central part of the state have been skiing Showdown Montana for more than 80 years, making it the oldest ski area under in the state. Showdown has dozens of runs for skiers of all levels spread across 640 acres and 1,400 vertical feet, as well as a terrain park and kid park. 

Great Divide bills itself as the state’s “sunniest ski area.” This southwest Montana resort has more than 100 trails spread across three mountains and valleys, making for wide, open bowls. It’s 1,600 acres is also home to six terrain parks for all levels of skiers and board riders.

Families looking to spend a day in a gorgeous national forest setting will love hitting the slopes at Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. Blacktail boasts more than 1,000 skiable acres, including a terrain park, with runs for skiers and riders of all abilities. The top of the mountain offers views across Flathead Lake and east to Glacier National Park.

Montana Snowbowl is Missoula’s hometown ski spot. It’s got plenty of nice, long runs, some with nearly half a mile of continuous vertical drop. But there are also plenty of slopes for less-experienced skiers and riders. The Snowbowl also offers lessons and kids programs through its snow sports school.

Lost Trail Powder Mountain rides the shoulders of the beautiful Bitterroot Mountain Range, affording skiers panoramic views across both Montana and Idaho. Families will enjoy more than 60 trails spread over 1,800 acres and two mountains. More than 1,800 vertical feet and 325 inches of annual snowfall ensure plenty of downhill fun for everyone.

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10 Best Ski and Snowboard Stores in Montana Whether you’re heading to Whitefish, Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, or the backcountry, you know you can’t go without the right gear. From boots and bibs to goggles and gloves, the ski and snowboard shops of Montana are prepared to outfit you with all of the highest quality gear. These are our favorites in the state! 

Gull Ski and Snowboard has been serving the Missoula ski community in some capacity—originally as a manufacturer—for more than 75 years. Now a full-service ski and snowboard shop, Gull Ski has hall the gear and apparel you’ll need to hit the slopes in western Montana.

Choosing his first ski to start the quiver. #gullski #littleripper #praiseullr #winteriscoming

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Recently named one of the country’s best ski shops, Grizzly Outfitters sells and rents skis and snowboards, as well as boots and bindings, in the Big Sky Resort area. They also do ski and board tuning and repair, and offer customer boot fitting so that you keep your feet firmly on the slopes.

Since 1999, Tamarack Ski & Lake Shop has been outfitting folks for the slopes in the Flathead valley. In addition to equipment sales and rentals—which they deliver, by the way—Tamarack will also adjust bindings, as well as tune, wax, and repair your skis or snowboard.

The Ski Station is a full-line, full-service ski and snowboard shop with locations in Billings and at Red Lodge Mountain. They carry all the top brands of boards and skis, as well as apparel and lif tickets. If you need rentals for the day, or even for the season, the Ski Station can hook you up.

If you’re thinking of hitting the Showdown Ski Area, you can find everything you need for the slopes at Skier’s Edge Ski & Board Shop in Great Falls. Pick up skis, a snowboard, boots, bindings, or the ski apparel you need. They also have a full-service shop on site if you need your gear tuned.

Lone Mountain Sports opened in 1973 and was the first ski shop at the Big Sky Resort. At the base of the mountain—and accessible by chairlift—Lone Mountain is a dedicated alpine shop. They offer sales, service, rentals, boot fitting, and repairs. 

Sportsman & Ski Haus is Northwest Montana’s go-to ski and snowboard shop. With locations in Kalispell and Whitefish, you’re never far from the gear and apparel you’ll need to hit the slopes—or the trails. They carry alpine, Telemark, and cross-country skis, as well as a wide selection of snowboards. 

Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, or split boarding, in western Montana, LB Snow can set you up with the gear you need. In addition to sales, they also offer a full range of ski and snowboard services, including repair, tuning, waxing, and edge work.

Stumptown Snowboards is hard to beat. The shop has been family owned and operated since 1992, making it one of the oldest in Whitefish. If you aren't quite prepared to purchase a board or pair of skis, they offer rentals. Their services also run the gamut, including waxing, sharpening, tuning, base welding, and more. 

Sometimes when you need skis, it’s best to go directly to the source. And in Bozeman, you can. Caravan Skis launched in 2011 and is Southwest Montana’s backyard ski manufacturer. Their innovative designs are driven by and tested on the local slopes. 

A few fresh pairs of shaliens ready to play 👽 #going2xtremes #caravanskis #shalienabduction

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Best Winter Weekend Getaway in Glacier National Park Those seeking a true winter getaway—limited facilities and wireless service, e.g.—under the Big Sky need look no further than Glacier National Park. This jewel of a park is renowned for its rugged splendor and untouched wilderness. With abundant winter recreation opportunities, it’s the perfect place for a winter weekend getaway in Montana.

St. Mary Campground, on Glacier’s eastern edge, is open year-round to primitive and vehicle camping. Campers should be aware that there is no water available in the campground during winter months and plan accordingly. While winter camping is free, park entrance fees still apply. Backcountry winter camping is also allowed with a free backcountry permit.

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At the south end of Lake McDonald, you will find plenty of snowshoeing opportunities—with gorgeous views of the mountains on the far side of the lake. If the ice is thick enough, head out on to the lake, itself, or enjoy the winter quietude among the trees on the shoreline. Free, ranger-guided snowshoe walks take place on weekends throughout the winter, leaving from the Apgar Visitor Center. Snowshoe rentals are available.

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While snowmobiling is not allowed in the boundaries of Glacier National Park, the greater Glacier area abounds with opportunities, including groomed and ungroomed trail systems. Flathead National Forest, which is contiguous to the park, is home to the Canyon Creek Groomed Snowmobile Trail System. The system contains more than 100 miles of trails that afford gorgeous views of Glacier’s mountains and valleys. If you don’t have your own sled, Swan Mountain Snowmobiling offers rentals, as well as guided snowmobile trips.

Just west of Glacier National Park, you’ll find Whitefish Mountain Resort, which is one of Montana’s largest. With more than 3,000 skiable acres, including plenty of backcountry opportunities, there’s a lot to love about Whitefish: 105 marked trails; four terrain parks; a skier/boardcross course; 333 inches of snow every year; and more than 2,300 feet of vertical. The resort’s longest run is over three miles. Hit up the hot tub after that one!

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The lakes in Glacier National Park are open to fishing all year long, including ice fishing. While the ice fishing experience in Glacier is more rustic—no power augers, no motorized vehicles on the lake—the opportunity to pull lake trout, brook trout, and whitefish up through the ice makes it worthwhile. Lakes that are west of the Continental Divide, such as Lake McDonald, offer some of the park’s best fishing.

The Red Eagle Lake Trail, in eastern Glacier, skirts the edge of St. Mary Lake, following an old fire road through rolling knolls. Gorgeous views across the lake to the mountains will sustain you as you schuss to the payoff for your hard work: A blufftop vista overlooking Red Eagle Lake. The round trip is eight miles. 

Hunting is strictly prohibited within Glacier National Park, but the contiguous Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, south and west of the park, is a designated state Hunting District for deer, elk and other game. Check the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website for the most up-to-date seasons and regulations before you go.

One of the best opportunities for winter fat biking in the Glacier area is just outside the park, near Whitefish. The Whitefish Trail is comprised of 42 trail miles with several trailheads designed for year-round use. Lion Mountain Trailhead is the perfect place to get started on your pedaling adventure. If you don’t want to lug your own ride on the trip, Glacier Cyclery can set you up with a rental.

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Montana is ranch country, so you know the steak is going to be good. Just outside Glacier’s western boundary, you’ll find Jagz Restaurant, a fantastic steakhouse that’s open during the winter season. They offer everything from an eight-ounce sirloin to a porterhouse that weighs in at almost a pound and a half—and plenty of options in between. Dig in!

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Best Places to Fish in the Rocky Mountains This Fall Any time is a good time to be outdoors in the Rockies, but considering the fall scenery as the big visual attraction, autumn might be the best time of all for trout anglers. The biggest brown trout of the season start getting frisky and aggressive as their spawning run in regional rivers approaches.

Hot Spots To Fish: Rock Creek, which empties into the Clark Fork River southeast of Missoula, Mt., has become a prime destination for brown trout in recent years. The creek has tons of 16- or 18-inch fish and is known more for numbers than size. Contact John Herzer at Blackfoot River Outfitters (406-542-7411,, or Blue Damsel Lodge, (406-825-3077,, for information about guide services or information regarding accommodations.

Find the best fishing spots near you:

If you’re more interested in going after a behemoth of a brown trout, contact Joe Gilsnyder at Trout Stalkers on the Madison in Ennis, Mt.. Joe and his crew of guides know of some fishing holes off the beaten path that harbor bigger fish (406-682-5150).

Tackle You’ll Need: Wherever you wind up fishing, tackle Rocky Mountain browns with a 9 1/2-foot, 6-weight rod such as an Orvis Helios 3. A 5-weight will work if you’re an experienced caster, but a 6-weight handles big streamers better.

Find the best bait and tackle shops near you: 

Quick Tip: If you make a quartering cast upstream with a Wooly Bugger or similar pattern, let it dead-drift downstream until the current catches it and sweeps it up in the water column. Sometimes the darting motion, as the fly is caught in the current, will trigger a reaction strike from a following brownie.


Best Patterns: Fall browns will take nymphs and small dries such as the Blue-Winged Olive, but more likely the bigger fish will go after Size 2 Sparkle Minnows, Wooly Buggers, Clouser Minnows, Zonkers and Bighorn Specials fished on short leaders with no tippets.

If you’re fishing from a drift boat with a guide, regular weight-forward floating line will suffice. If you’re wading, a sinking-tip line probably is a better choice, depending on depth.

Photograph Courtesy of Montana Office of Tourism Is it the brown trout fishing, or the scenery, that draws anglers to the Rocky Mountain states in autumn? Either answer fits. Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Outdoor Festivals in Montana Western Montana is defined by the Rocky Mountains, while Eastern Montana’s sweeping plains and grasslands let everyone know why it’s known as the Big Sky State. And there’s no better way to enjoy all the nature under that Big Sky than to celebrate it with a crowd of other like-minded folks. These are our favorite outdoor festivals in Montana.

At the end of each June, the Gallatin River Task Force celebrates the sport of fly fishing as well as conservation of its namesake river with the Gallatin River Fly Fishing Festival. Learn about the species that inhabit the Gallatin and what can be done to preserve their habitat—as well as ways to catch them. Fly fishing and tying clinics, as well as seminars and contests take place over the three festival days. A big thanks to Gallatin River Guides, Lone Mountain Ranch, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, and Wildwood Nursery for chipping in their efforts to make this event possible.

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Every September, the Flathead DragonFlies host the Montana Dragon Boat Festival on the relatively-flat waters of Flathead Lake in the northwest corner of the state. In addition to several races, including kids’ events, there are also shoreside parties and performances, as well as other fun events like paddle board boxing. The folks at Glacier Bank, Kalispell Regional Healthcare, Fun Beverage and Toyota make the event possible.

Bikes, Brews and Blues Festivals happens during September, encompassing Memorial and Centennial Parks in Helena. In addition to music and craft brews, festival goers will also enjoy shuttles to Helena’s award-winning singletrack and camping. This awesome festival partners with Prickly Pear Land Trust and Helena Parks & Recreation.

The Flathead Valley is a natural stopping—or end—point for many of the bird species that migrate across Montana every year. And that’s why Montana Audubon hosts the Wings Across the Big Sky Bird Festival in Kalispell every June. Tours, field trips, speakers and even a silent auction will be on hand. Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Society, Montana Land Reliance, Abbot Valley Homestead, and American Prairie Reserve help make the festival happen.

During the weekend closest to July’s full moon, folks head up to Continental Divide at Powder Mountain for the Lost Trail Fest for three days of live music, hiking, mountain biking and camping. There will also be a live art show, morning yoga, and a 300-foot slip ‘n slide at this family-friendly event.

Adrenaline-fueled paddlers wait all year long for June—and the Gallatin Whitewater Festival—to roll around. The festival brings an entire day of kayak and raft races, as well as a raffle, prizes and awards, All brought to you by the likes of Aerie Backcountry Medicine, the Mountain Project, Northern Lights Trading, and Werner Paddles .

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Every August, aficionados of all things Celtic descend upon the Daly Mansion in Hamilton for the Bitterroot Celtic Games and Gathering. In addition to food, music and dancing, there are side-by-side whisky tastings—Scotch versus Irish—as well as tug-o-war, skillet tosses, herding demonstrations and classic Highland athletic competitions. Without Framers State Bank, and Bitterroot College are a huge part of this event. 

Trail and mountain runners flock to Big Sky in late August/early September for the challenging Rut Mountain Running Festival, otherwise known as “The Rut.” This event is able to “run” thanks to the North Face, Big Sky Resort, Sapphire Physical Therapy, and Bozeman Running Company.

Montana is—at least partially—defined by two major waterways: The Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. And the two explorers most associated with the Missouri River, the longest in the country, are Lewis and Clark. The annual Lewis and Clark Festival in Great Falls celebrates their legacy and heritage, as well as the river they explored. Music, food, historical reenactments and demonstrations, as well as tours that follow in the explorers’ footsteps mark the days of the festival. Spectators can thank Cherry Creek Media, STARadio, the Portage Route Chapter , and many more sponsors for bringing this festival to life!

Late August brings mountain bikers to the Lost Trail section of Powder Mountain Resort for some awesome singtrack action in the Bitterroot Mountains and National Forest. Live music, shuttles to and from the trails, camping, food and, of course, beverages will make sure the weekend is awesome. The event is made possible by the Lost Trail Sli Patrol, Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists, and Ravalli County Search and Rescue.

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A beginner’s guide: Ice fishing Vin T. Sparano, as excerpted from Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia: Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Boating, Wilderness Survival, First Aid



Ice fishing differs greatly from open-water fishing, and it is a demanding sport. It requires an understanding of and an ability to cope with winter weather, knowledge of the cold-weather habits of the fish, and the use of an unusual assortment of gear, most of it unique to ice fishing.

There are two basic ice-fishing methods: tip-up fishing and jigging. In general, tip-ups are usually used on larger fish—pike, pickerel, walleyes, trout, and such—that prefer bait and require the angler to play the waiting game. Jigging is usually preferred for smaller fish that tend to school up—bluegills, perch, crappies, and the like. But these are merely generalizations, not hard-and-fast rules. For example, jigging (sometimes called chugging) is often quite productive on big lake trout and salmon in the Great Lakes. 

Also called tilts, these come in various styles, but they all perform two basic functions: they hold a baited line leading from a revolving-type reel spool, and they signal the bite of a fish. The most common type of tip-up consists of three strips of wood, each about 18 inches long. Two are cross pieces that form an X as they span the hole. The third piece is an upright; at its bottom end is attached a simple line-holding spool, while the upper end holds the signaling device. The signal is usually a piece of very flexible spring steel with a red (some anglers prefer black) flag on the end. After the hook is baited and lowered to the desired depth, the steel arm is “cocked”—bent over and down and hooked onto a “trigger.” When a fish strikes, an arm on the revolving spool releases the steel arm and it flies erect.

In this type of tip-up, the reel is positioned underwater. In other variations, the reel is positioned above the ice. Each type has its advantages. The above-the-ice reel can be more sensitively adjusted for light-biting fish, but the line tends to freeze on the reel once it gets wet. The underwater reel largely eliminates the problem of freezing, but the fisherman must remove the tip-up from the hole before he can grab the line.

Baits for tip-up fishing are usually live. In general, it pays to match the size of the bait to the size of the fish you’re after. Baits range from tiny maggots (often called mousies) and grubs for panfish, to worms and small minnows for walleyes, and up to 6-inch baitfish for pike. 

As done by ice fishermen, jigging is simply a method of imparting an up-and-down movement to a lure or bait. Jigging can be—and is—done with any sort of line-holding rod or stick. 

Some jigging rods—more appropriately called sticks—are simply pieces of wood 18 inches or so long, with U-shaped notches in each end. The line—10-pound-test monofilament is very popular—is wound lengthwise onto the stick around the U-shaped notches and is paid out as needed. There are other types of jigging sticks of varying designs, and many ice anglers use standard spinning or spincast rods or the butt half of a fly rod. 

Rods made specially for ice jigging are simple affairs consisting of a fiberglass tip section that is 2 or 3 feet long seated in a short butt. The butt may have a simple revolving-spool reel or merely a pair of heavy-wire projections around which the line is wound. The tip section may have two to four guides, including the tip guide. The shortness of such a rod lets the user fish up close to the hole and have better control over the lure or bait at the end of his line. 

There are many and varied jigging lures and baits, but flashiness is built into most of them. Others produce best when “sweetened” with bait. Two popular jigging lures are: an ungainly looking critter with a heavy body shaped and painted to resemble a baitfish, a hook at each end and a treble hook in the middle of its underside, and a line-tie ring in the middle of its upper surface; and a long, slim, three- or four-sided, silvery model with a treble hook at one end and a line-tie ring at the other. 

Jigging methods vary with the fisherman and with the fish being sought. However, a productive way to fish many jigging lures, especially flashier types, is to twitch the lure slightly and then jerk it suddenly upward with a quick upward movement of the arm. The proper interval between jerks is learned with experience. 

Popular jigging baits include a single perch eye (either impaled on a small hook or used to sweeten a tiny hair or rubber-bodied ice fly), worms, grubs, maggots, insect larvae, minnows, and cut bait (pieces of skin or flesh that are cut from the tail or body of such fish as smelt and perch). 

Jiggers tend to move around more than tip-up fishermen, boring holes in different areas until they find a productive spot. 

Like most other forms of fishing, ice angling requires some auxiliary equipment. Most ice anglers prefer to keep such gear to a minimum, for they have to haul it with them wherever they go on the ice. 

If you’re going to fish through holes in the ice, you need something to make those holes. The ice auger is a popular tool for this job. Augers come in different designs. One has a long handle with a U-shaped bend at the top, and a rounded cutting blade at the bottom. The handle is turned much like that of a manual drill, and the blade cuts a round hole through the ice. Another type looks like a giant ice drill with sharp, widely spaced threads. It is used in the same way. Gasoline-powered ice drills are also available. 

Then there’s the ice spud or chisel. This is a heavy metal handle with a large, chisel-type blade at the bottom. The spud’s weight helps the angler punch down through the ice, but the user must shape the hole once he has broken through. 

An indispensable item of accessory gear is the ice skimmer, a ladle-type device that is used to keep the hole clear of ice chips and chunks and to skim ice. A heavy sinker will serve the same purpose. 

Many ice anglers like to use an attached spring clip. It is attached to the fishing line and used to determine the water depth—an important factor because in winter most game fish are found on or near the bottom. 

Winter is the time of year when ice fishermen venture out onto frozen waters. Most will have fun, but a few will get into trouble because they don’t know how to make sure that the ice is safe. The first rule is never take chances. There are two periods when accidents are likely to happen: early in the season when slush ice doesn’t freeze uniformly and late in the season when ice melts at an uneven rate. It takes prolonged periods of freezing to make ice safe. Here are some rules to remember: 

Be cautious of heavy snowfalls while ice is forming. Snow acts as an insulator. The result is a layer of slush and snow on top of treacherous ice. 

Clear, solid river ice is 15 percent weaker than clear lake ice. 

River ice is thinner midstream than near the banks. 

River mouths are dangerous because currents create pockets of unsafe ice. 

When walking with friends, stay 10 yards apart. 

Lakes that have a lot of springs will have weak spots of ice. 





About the author:

Vin T. Sparano is the author of Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia as well as three other guides for Rizzoli

He has been an outdoor editor and writer for more than fifty years. He is editor emeritus of Outdoor Life, and has written and edited more than fifteen books about the outdoors. In 2013, he was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

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