So, what are you doing this summer?
You've already heard the question a million times. It's about time you had a good answer. That's why we're here.
There are exactly 111 days between when this issue hits newsstands and the beginning of fall, and we've found a way for you to fill every one of them. We've researched the region's most outstanding, outlandish and just-plain-odd offerings. There are ways to get the heck out of Dodge, as well as shut yourself in once the smoke arrives (and you know it will arrive). We'd like to think we've got something for everyone, from the hardcore adventurer to the more laid-back reveler. So, stop answering the question above with "Glacier, I guess" or "Camping, maybe?" and start reading up on how to make the most of Montana's summer season.
- cover photo by Erika Peterman
Break A Sweat
Live like an Ewok for a day. Whitefish Mountain Resort operates an Aerial Adventure Park on the lower part of the mountain, complete with tree platforms, suspension bridges, zip lines and trapezes. Stormtroopers not included. Check out skiwhitefish.com.
Bond with your best buddy during a tandem zip-line tour at Montana Snowbowl. The four separate lines soar up to 150 feet above the forest floor and last almost two hours. Course opens June 24 and reservations at montanasnowbowl.com are highly recommended.
Test your aim with a compound bow during a 1-hour, $28 archery course at Big Sky Resort. Or, if you're looking for a little more firepower, hop on the Ramcharger lift and shoot skeet at the top of Andesite Mountain for $88. Reservations required through bigskyresort.com.
Visit Hike Wild Montana, the new website from the Montana Wilderness Association, and discover some of the state's lesser-known trails. Need a recommendation on the area's best treks? Read the story in our explorer special section.
Escape the summer heat by reaching cooler air on a summit in the Bitterroot Mountains. St. Mary's Peak, Little St. Joe and Trapper Peak offer great high-elevation access for the day hiker.
- photo by Erika Peterman
Pump up your tires and grease those chains during the Montana Bicycle Celebration, July 15-17. The weekend-long event, which is expected to draw thousands from around the world, honors Missoula-based Adventure Cycling's 40th anniversary and features a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Missoula-to-Lolo section of the Bitterroot Trail, followed by a free group ride.
The Dirty Dash doesn't reach Missoula until after school starts, so get your fill of mud and mayhem at the third annual Montana Mucker on June 25 at Great Divide. Register at montanamucker.com.
Receive high-fives from your neighbors as you run (walk?) down Fourth Street during the last 5 miles of the Missoula Marathon. Registration for the event is still open at missoulamarathon.org.
Really break a sweat at Run Wild Missoula's annual Pengelly Dip on June 4. The half-marathon course takes runners up the M Trail, around Mount Sentinel and to the top of University Mountain before descending again—a total elevation gain of 2,700 feet. Find registration details at runwildmissoula.org.
Pedal to Marshall Mountain for the Missoula XC mountain bike race on June 18. The UCI Elite Women start at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Elite Men at 7. Find more race info—including details on the ongoing Wednesday night race league—at missoulaxc.org.
Top Choice: Check out some ladies
That’s what summer’s all about, amiright?
We’re talking about ladybugs, of course. Most folks don’t realize these little critters are peak baggers, too, and early summer is a great time to look for massive numbers of them on or near the summit of a craggy peak.
- cover photo by Erika Peterman
During late spring, ladybugs convene by the thousands to mate and hibernate in rocky scree. Scientists don’t exactly know why they make this trip, but it seems likely they pick this alpine hideout as a way to be safe from predators like birds and insects. Throughout the winter, the beetles remain in a dormant or semi-dormant state, insulated from the cold by a thick layer of snow. During especially warm days, they awaken to get busy before hiding once again under the angular rocks found on high summits. Come spring, ladybugs head to lower elevations to eat the aphids that terrorize our summer gardens.
Although they’re not on every scree-filled summit, ladybugs often return to the same places on successive years. We recommend checking out St. Joe Peak, Castle Crag and the top of the rock formations in Blodgett Canyon. (Robin Carleton)
Dive deep into Glacier National Park—literally—and check out the underground forest at the bottom of Lake McDonald. This easy scuba adventure is located near the Sprague Creek Campground and provides a much different vantage point of one of the park's more crowded spots.
Tame "Tumbleweed" and fight your way through "Fang," two of the class III rapids on the Alberton Gorge. Zoo Town Surfers (zootownsurfers.com) can help with guided trips.
- photo by Robin Carleton
- Alberton Gorge
The Clark Fork's not just for floating. July 17 marks the fourth annual SUP Cup, where competitors climb upon their stand-up paddleboards and race down the river in hopes of earning part of a $3,000 cash purse. Register at supcupmt.com.
Not really into racing on your paddleboard? No worries. Try your downward dog in the middle of the Clark Fork with Hot House Yoga's paddleboard yoga class. Classes start once the weather turns warmer, with the schedule posted at hothouseyogamissoula.com.
Leap into the Clark Fork or Bitterroot for a day swim, but for heaven's (or hell's) sake, don't do it from a dangerous cliff and especially not from a bridge. It's all fun and games until someone—either the jumper or the unsuspecting floater below—gets hurt.
Make like Iron Man at FlyBoard of Montana on Flathead Lake. This simple device allows you to hover 30 feet above the water or dart through the waves as if you were wearing Tony Stark's superhuman suit. $150 for 30 minutes. Book at flyboardofmontana.com.
Let it all hang out at Red Rocks Nude Beach, located on the Blackfoot between Ninemile Prairie and Whitaker Bridge. This unofficial but long-established spot—marked as the state's "only nude beach" in the Paddling Montana guidebook—is infinitely more chill than the often scantily clad shores of Johnsrud farther downriver.
Borrow a boat and hit the water. GetMyBoat.com, an international company that launched in 2013, is sort of like an aquatic Airbnb and includes many Montana options, from a kayak in Lolo ($50 a day) to a 51-foot sloop in Bigfork ($295 an hour).
Roll down to the Higgins Avenue bridge or Caras Park to watch the Best of the West river jam, a June 2 showcase for kayakers and inland surfers on Brennan's Wave.
Feel like a kid again at Splash! Montana Adult Night on June 29, when the water park shuts out the rugrats and lets the 18+ crowd have free rein of the slides, lap lanes and, mostly, the lazy river.
Grab a river-friendly container of craft beer at one of our local taprooms—such as a stainless steel growler, filled-to-order Crowler (32-ounce can) or lightweight and flexible bladder (think bigger Capri Sun pouch)and chill for an easy float along the Clark Fork from Sha-Ron to the rocky beach in front of the DoubleTree Hotel. Cap the day with a traditional pint on Finn & Porter's spacious deck overlooking your takeout.
Top Choice: Fish an alpine lake
High up in the Rattlesnake Wilderness, beyond the wide trails and throngs of dog walkers, there’s a series of picturesque alpine lakes just teeming with trout. McKinley, Worden, Carter, Sanders—any of these would be a prime spot to cast a fly rod for some Westslope cutthroat. The 5.3-mile Boulder Lake trail is particularly popular, topping out at the Boulder Point overlook at 7,100 feet. This being a federally designated wilderness area, motorized access is restricted and quiet solitude is in abundance.
It’s probably best, considering the distance, to turn a Rattlesnake Wilderness fishing trip into an overnight affair. Camping and campfires are allowed once you get past the national recreation area. Pitch a tent near your lake of choice, sink some beer in the shallows and get that fly on the water. Be sure to check the fishing regulations, and bring a lengthy leader for those mirror-smooth conditions. Rock Creek and the Blackfoot may make for a fun afternoon, but this sort of expedition is one you’ll be bragging about at the brewery for months to come. (Alex Sakariassen)