With more than 6 million acres of public land, northwest Montana might be America’s largest outdoor destination. More than 1,000 secluded mountain lakes with crystal-clear waters provide peaceful isolation for anglers. On Flathead Lake you can sail and water-ski. Thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails lace the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys and climb Big Mountain and the Mission Mountains region. In winter the land settles under a blanket of snow and the water under sheets of ice, creating a winter-sports paradise, particularly for skiers.The region’s rivers, streams, lakes, and mountains attract outdoor adventurers, but once here, they discover playhouses, art galleries, craft breweries, and summer festivals and rodeos. In winter visitors seek out northwest Montana’s six ski areas and scores of cross-country ski trails. But some of the best times to visit are the shoulder seasons, particularly in September, when there are fewer crowds and gorgeous days.
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Things You Can't Miss
Missoula’s urban center features Out to Lunch and Downtown ToNight, performing arts festivals with food and music at riverside Caras Park.
John and Lisa Merrill/Corbis
Just four miles north of I-90, Rattlesnake National Recreation Area is treasured by local hikers, mountain-bikers, horseback riders and nature lovers.
Earl Walker / Alamy
The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula re-creates a 19th-century town in exhibits including a schoolhouse, a fire tower and a restored streetcar.
John Elk III / Alamy
Think fly-fishing is too hard? Local outfitters will teach you to cast for rainbows or cutthroats in some of the most pristine water in North America.
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