Touring The Byway
37 Miles | 6 Days / 5 Nights | Gateway City: Kalispell, Montana
We recommend starting your journey in Kalispell where you can take a walking tour of the downtown Historic District and visit the Conrad Mansion Museum, and the Northwest Montana History Museum, while staying at the Kalispell Grand Hotel. On Day Two, you’ll be off to Libby, where you can visit the Heritage Museum and tour the Libby Dam Visitor Center before taking the Quartz-Loon Scenic Drive. After paralleling the Kootenai River, you’ll turn north on 508 and continue north until you turn left on Forest Road 471, which is Seventeen Mile Creek Road, that takes you past Loon Lake. From there, you take Quartz Creek Road for a short distance to Quartz Mountain Road, which follows Quartz Creek south. That road takes you back to Libby and a stay at the Venture Inn.
On Day Three, you’ll be on your way to Troy, where you can visit the City of Troy Museum and Visitor Center and grab a bite of lunch before you travel the Yaak River Scenic Byway up to Yaak. Plan to stay in Eureka at the Homestead Cabin Resort before visiting the Tobacco Valley Historical Village and taking the Eureka Riverwalk.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Glacier National Park is a stunningly beautiful, ice-carved terrain of serrated ridges, jutting peaks, dramatic hanging valleys, 50 glaciers, more than 200 lakes and waterfalls, and some 1.2 million acres of forest. Some call it the Crown of the Continent and few know that it backs up to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park across the Canadian border. In frontier days, visitors to the remote mountain valleys were likely to be horse-mounted hunters seeking hides and heads as trophies. Today’s visitors are photographers, hikers, birders and scenic drive lovers. The Park is big, wild, majestic, awesome and spectacular – and when their open mouths begin working again, visitors seeing it for the first time say something profound, like “wow.” A portion have returned with their work, urban tastes and expectations, and settled in, working to sustain and save working ranches, clear streams, and free ranging wildlife from the intrusions of modern life.
Sweeping vistas, magnificent views, peaceful serenity! When you travel the Yaak River Scenic Byway, you’ve reached one of the truly Last Best Places – the Wilds of far Northwest Montana. It’s home to the rugged, remote landscape encompassed by the Kootenai National Forest, in an area that was a high barren plain when an uplifting mountain range along the Pacific Coast caused the sea to flow into the plains. As the mountain eroded, billions of tons of shells and skeletons of sea creatures that eventually turned to limestone were buried in the icy water. 60 or 70 million years ago, forces began gradually uplifting the Rocky Mountains, which were two miles higher than they currently are. In fact, the oldest rocks on earth are exposed in the Siyeh Formation at the top of northwest Montana’s mountains.
Get ready for the drive of a lifetime! One of the most scenic 50 miles in the world, this is a truly inspiring journey. Shining, glaciated peaks, plunging valleys, and turquoise blue lakes were carved by ice and slow-moving glaciers that still quietly creep across a vast wilderness. Piercing the landscape through the heart of Glacier National Park, it crosses the Continental Divide over Logan Pass at 6,646 feet. The 52-mile drive, was literally carved out of the precipitous mountainside for 12 miles of its length, where the cliffs drop hundreds of feet from the roadside. You’ll pass through lush forests of spruce, lodgepole pine, cedar, hemlock and subalpine fir. Turnouts allow you to relish vistas of glacier-sculpted mountains and glimpse wildlife. The Garden Wall features amazing waterfalls, especially in late spring when the snow is melting. A long section of rock wall adjacent to the road covered by running water, called the Weeping Wall, is one of the more unusual.
Kalispell was platted by Charles Conrad when he realized the railroad was going to come through. Named the Salish word for “flat land” or prairie above the lake, Kalispell became a division point for the railroad between St. Paul, MN and Seattle. Soon after “the iron horse snorted through” the remaining buildings from a neighboring town gone bust were moved to Kalispell on log rollers. The first brewery was established in 1894, and today local craft breweries produce more than 40 varieties of ales and lagers made with Montana-grown malts, hand-picked local hops, huckleberries, and Flathead cherries.
Situated in an enormous valley that stretches 60 miles, Whitefish was not developed by outside investors. Instead, over 50 years ago, residents created a vision for a memorable city, pooling their money and decisions to create the Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish Lake Golf Club, and the town of Whitefish. Locals are welcoming, freely swapping stories at the local galleries, coffeehouses and saloons. With its covered sidewalk main street, cultural arts center, historic depot museum, and public library, this quaint, picturesque western town offers a change from the fast-paced hustle.