After a long winter of frigid temperatures and white-washed landscape, there’s nothing like the onset of spring in Montana. As the snow finally melts, trees fill with blossoms and the land comes back to life. While spring weather can be a bit unpredictable (60 degrees Monday, light snowfall on Tuesday), there are still plenty of things to get excited about.
1. Cycle Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park
Motorized travel is limited here in the winter, so spring is the perfect time to plan a visit to this national park. If four-wheelers aren’t your thing, why not take a scenic bike ride? Going-to-the-Sun Road is a famous mountain road that takes visitors through the heart of Glacier National Park, connecting St. Mary and West Glacier.
Expect breathtaking views of mountain peaks, valleys, wildflowers, wildlife, and waterfalls. There are several viewpoints along the road, all perfect for picnics and photo ops. Plus, since cars aren’t permitted on this road until summer, it’s truly the best time to take a bike ride.
2. Birdwatching at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge
About thirty minutes south of Missoula is the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is an impressive 2,800 acres and is home to a large variety of birds and other wildlife.
The many animals that call this place home become more active in spring, which makes it the perfect time to go birdwatching. Several accessible trails provide unforgettable views of the Bitterroot Mountains.
If walking isn’t your thing, there is also the option to take a slow drive through the refuge and take in several of the ponds, all centers of migration. These ponds are the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron, which will nest in the conifers next to the ponds come spring.
3. Inner peace at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
If springtime has you seeking a bit of inner peace, look no further than the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Jocko Valley, north of Missoula.
This public park, part of the Ewam Buddhist Institute, is located on the lands of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation and was based on a prophetic vision Sang-ngag Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist, had when he was a child.
The botanical garden and Buddhist center are also worth checking out, so visiting this place could easily take an entire day — especially if you want to take in all one thousand Buddhas! If you want an extra special experience, plan your visit to coincide with the first full moon of May, or Vesak (Buddha Day).
4. Exploring the Lewis and Clark Caverns
Proud to be Montana’s first state park, the Lewis and Clark Caverns is the best way to take in Montana’s one-of-a-kind geology. Take a tour of the most impressive limestone cave in the northwest. It takes about two hours to complete this hiking tour. Enjoy taking in the magnificent columns, stalagmites, stalactites, and helicities, all of which are electrically lit for optimal viewing.
The best part? The caverns stay at fifty degrees year-round, regardless of what the weather is like outside. Guided tours start May 1st, but this park is open year-round.
5. Picnicking at Tizer Botanic Gardens and Arboretum
Montana’s only fully certified botanical garden, the Tizer Botanic Gardens and Arboretum is a wonderful way to appreciate springtime in Montana. There are thousands of trees, shrubs, and plants from around the world.
Located in Jefferson City, the backdrop of the Elkhorn Mountains only adds to the beauty of the plants blooming in the spring sunshine. There’s also a gnome and fairy garden which kids love to visit.
There are several themed gardens, including a secret garden with a creek, and a Buddha garden. Pack a lunch and enjoy it at any one of these gardens, surrounded by lush spring blooms.
6. Yellowstone National Park
It wouldn’t be spring in Montana without a visit to Yellowstone National Park. Spring is one of the best times to visit the park, thanks to fewer visitors and milder weather.
Take a bike ride from West Yellowstone to the Mammoth Hot Springs, or wait until late April to catch a glimpse of Old Faithful. If you want to observe some of Montana’s wildlife, Lamar Valley is the best place to see a range of animals, including wolves and bears.
Yellowstone National Park is also a great place to see a magnificent display of wildflowers. The flowers bloom in a rainbow of colors and are best appreciated in the meadows. You can also catch a glimpse of the rare Yellowstone sand verbena on the shores of Yellowstone Lake.
If picking just one of these sounds too hard, plan a springtime road trip to take in all of the wonderful sights spring in Montana has to offer!