Touring The Byway
19 Miles | 6 Days / 5 Nights | Gateway City: Great Falls, Montana
We recommend starting your journey in Great Falls to begin exploring the legend and the art of C. M. Russell. There are no less than four walking tours you can take to get to know the city: Historic Residential, River’s Edge History, Central Business District, and the Historic Railroad District. You can also take a Historic Trolley Tour past local landmarks. Great Falls is home to the C. M. Russell Museum, which houses the largest collection of Russell’s work. While in Great Falls, you can also visit the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and The History Museum, and call for an optional tour of the Gibson Mansion, built by the founder of Great Falls, with a very interesting story.
On Day Two, you’ll be off on the C.M. Russell Auto Tour Route starting in Belt, referred to as “Coal Banks” and the start of hardscrabble Charlie Russell Country. Sluice Boxes State Park preserves the remains of a several mile stretch of mines and mining camps. Hiking in the Sluice Boxes is limited to the low water season, generally mid-July through September, due to the fact that fording the river in high water conditions can be dangerous.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Voted Montana’s best museum, it holds the most complete collection of Charlie Russell’s art, plus his studio and the Russell home.
Just a short distance off the C. M. Russell Auto Tour route, this park preserves eight miles of Belt Creek Canyon with actual mining sites. The preserve on Belt Creek includes a railroad and historic cabins.
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center features exhibits on the explorers’ route through Giant Springs State Park. It also hosts North America’s most extensive display detailing the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Stand in awe of the museum’s 2-story diorama centerpiece.
The collections of the Western Heritage Center, located in the Richardson Romanesque Parmly Billings Library, tells the story of life in the Yellowstone River Valley through over 16,000 artifacts in collections including Yellowstone River Culture American Indian Tribal History, Native American Collection, Regional Western Art Collection, Harry Frahm Collection, Thomas Molesworth Collection, and the James Kenneth Ralston Collection. Exhibits include the Dude Ranch Lobby, Parading Through History, Montana’s Black Gold, Blackfoot Tipi Legends, The Real West: Farming, The Southsiders, Women Ranchers and more.
300 million years ago, the sea over Montana formed the Madison limestone layer with a five mile, 10 foot wide fracture that allowed molten magma to flow into, filling it with lamproite, host rock of the Yogo Sapphires. Coveted by the rich and famous, the sapphires are in the Smithsonian, Museum of Natural History in New York, and the British Royal Crown jewel collection. Sapphire Village is the only place in the world where Yogo Sapphires are mined.