2021 MONTANA
Unspoiled West

Road Scholar 22814


Only when you cast your gaze upon the wide open spaces and vast mountain landscapes of Montana can you begin to understand the tenacity and bravery it took to settle the Wild West. Travel from town to town through Big Sky Country to learn about the contributions of its inhabitants throughout history, from early settlers and native people to gold miners and ranchers. Compare the eerily quiet dirt roads of Montana’s old ghost mining towns to the bustling cowboy life on a cattle ranch. Travel along scenic rivers and byways through mountains, canyons and meadows to quaint western cities and the breathtaking Glacier National Park. Along the way, museum visits and local experts will help you learn about the storied past of the Old West.

* Explore Glacier National Park with a member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation as he illustrates Western and Native American culture through music, lyric poetry and spoken word.
* Journey back in time at gold mining ghost towns and see the site that set off Montana’s gold rush in 1863.
* Visit a historic cattle ranch to get a hands-on lesson on the life of a true cowboy and learn about the frontier cattle era.


Day 1, ~Aug 6 - Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Air as of 1/2017. It's a shorter flight than I expected, non-stop, and good departure time. Schedule the shuttle about 7:45.

United UA 3579IAH-Bozeman10:15 – 1P3:45


(D) Arrive and take the complimentary transfer to the hotel. Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, and up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes.

At the hotel, we will have a catered buffet. Then the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions, review the program theme, up-to-date daily schedule and any changes. This program will be led by both the Group Leader and an Instructor, who will lead the educational portion of the program. Time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in available activities on your own, or relaxing. Hotel: Best Western Gran Tree Inn.

NOTE: Remember to bring your own water bottle. Due to high elevations at all sites throughout the Montana tour, water will be available on the bus from which you may fill your water bottle. At high altitudes you are more susceptible to dehydration and altitude sickness. Carrying a water bottle with you and drinking plenty of water is important and a simple way to avoid these unpleasant and sometimes dangerous problems.

Day 2 - Montana Overview; Historic Round Barn; Ghost Towns, Dillon, MT
Activity note: Driving about 120 miles, approximately 2.5 hours throughout the day. Several walks up to two miles total on boardwalks and gravel roads in Ghost towns.

(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. At the hotel, our Instructor will present a snapshot of Montana's rich history and the contribution of the early settlers and native people and will take us on a journey through the best of Montana and help you understand the tenacity and bravery it took to settle the Wild West. Checking out of our hotel, we will depart Bozeman and begin our journey at the Historic Round Barn in Twin Bridged built in 1882 with stalls for 24 thoroughbreds. The builder, Noah Armstrong had two prominent horses: Lord Raglan took third place in the 1883 Kentucky Derby, and Spokane, born in the Round Barn, won the 1889 Kentucky Derby. Spokane’s record setting time for the 1 ½ mile Derby still stands as the race was shortened to 1 ¼ mile in 1896. The barn has been recently renovated into a beautiful venue for a variety of gatherings.

Sack lunches at the Round Barn includes sandwich, fruit, chips, cookie and water. We will continue on our transfer to the old ghost mining towns: Nevada and Virginia City. We will step in to the old West as we venture on to these historic ghost towns of 1863! We will view what history has left behind with hundreds of historic buildings complete with one of the largest Americana artifact sites in the United States. Step back in time into the most colorful pioneer mining camp. Discover the legendary and dramatic tales of the early days in this vicinity where rich placer diggings were discovered in in the spring of 1863 and the stampede of gold seekers and their parasites was on! Various "cities" blossomed forth as trading and amusement centers for free handed miners. Frozen in time, this ghost town is remarkably well preserved as it stood when the gold ran out; there was not enough wealth to remodel the Victoria era buildings and so they remain. Step back in time into the most colorful pioneer mining camp. Discover the legendary and dramatic tales of the early days in this vicinity where rich placer diggings were discovered in in the spring of 1863 and the stampede of gold seekers and their parasites was on! Various "cities" blossomed forth as trading and amusement centers for free handed miners. This very much alive gold mining ghost town is frozen in time and remarkably well preserved. When the gold ran out, there was still enough left so that homes and businesses were occupied, but there was not enough wealth to remodel the buildings. So it froze, and now represents the whole Victorian era. It is the true and original Old West, a gem held within an incredibly rich area of natural beauty, recreation and history.

At a local restaurant in the ghost town, we will order dinner off the menu. Then continue to experience the old West as we sit back in an historic Opera House. Appreciate an evening of live, authentic 19th Century Melodrama with Vaudeville Acts in the oldest continually operating Summer Theatre Company in the Northwest! At the end of the performance, we will arrive at the hotel for a late night check-in. Hotel: Comfort Inn.

Day 3 - Bannack State Park, Fishing, Fairmont Hot Springs
Hot breakfast at the hotel. Check out of our hotel and board the motorcoach. We will continue to discover the realities of the "Old West" as we walk the deserted streets of the best preserved of all Montana ghost towns. Visit Bannack State Park, a National Historic Landmark and site of the first gold discovered in Montana. We’ll have a choice to explore the ghost town and some of the more than 50 buildings that stand along the once bustling Main Street or join a local fishing expert to learn about local fishing and river ecology. Discovered on July 28, 1862, the town’s population rapidly expanded to more than 3,000 people in less than six months. As the Gold Rush came to an end, the population slowly declined with the last residents departing in the 1970s. A favorite local site, the log, brick, and frame structures will transport you back to the days of the Wild West.

In the State Park, we will have a boxed lunch picnic style including a sandwich, chips, cookie, fruit, and water. We will continue to see the best of Montana as we board our motor coach and travel the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. The Byway cuts through the heart of the Pioneer Mountains in Southwest Montana. Your instructor will lead us with commentary while traveling through forest, along the attractive Wise River, and many beautiful meadows scattered along the route. You will have excellent views of the higher peaks of the Pioneer Mountains. Afternoon check in at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.

At the hotel, we will have a buffet dinner. Evening at leisure to soak in the resort pools, or just kick back and relax. Hotel: Fairmont Hot Springs 2 nights

Day 4 - Butte Mine, Phillipsburg Mine Town
Activity note: Walking approximately 1 mile on paved walkways and underground in the mine. Extended periods of standing during the field trip and museum visit.

(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. We will ride to Butte, Montana and explore the town once known as the “Richest Hill on Earth.” While visiting the mine, we will have an opportunity to go down into the mine shaft with an expert as well as visit the mining history museum to learn about the significant impact of this one mine. The mile-high basin caught the attention of gold prospectors but instead found silver, iron, and copper. By the 1890s, the silver mines were producing millions of pounds of copper a year; more than 25% of the world’s copper supply at the electrical age was rapidly advancing. After a century of mining using block caving and a variety of other methods, large scars have been left, becoming the nations Superfund site. The huge Berkeley Pit Lake, the remains of the largest mine, became the centerpiece revealing years of limited technology and bad decisions.

Lunch at a local restaurant. Our ride continues along the Pintler Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Highway. Our instructor will offer commentary as we travel through both conifer-clad mountains and sage-covered hills following the Flint Creek on our way to Philipsburg, Montana. A charming 19th century mining town, it is home to beautiful restored buildings, valuable sapphire mines, and charming local antique stores. Dinner at a local restaurant enroute to the hotel, we will order off the menu. Return to the hotel for time at leisure.

Day 5 - To Missoula, National Historic Ranch
Activity note: Drive is about 110 miles, approximately 1.5 hours. Long periods of walking and standing at the ranch.

(BL) Breakfast at the hotel. We will check out of the hotel and ride to a historic ranch, which is still an operating cattle ranch. Discover and learn about the life of a true cowboy and the frontier cattle era. We will explore the historic ranch house, the climate controlled storage facility, and view some of the 35,000 rare and delicate items in the ranches collection. Experience first-hand how the open range helped shape American history through interactive, hands-on program simulating ranching activities. The open range cattle era was a time of trail drives and round-ups, so we will take a minute to sit down at the chuck wagon and hear what life was like living out on the open range for months at a time. We will have the opportunity to learn about the real cowboy and what his job entailed during the days of the open range, and about ironwork throughout history and the importance of the blacksmith to ranchers during the open range cattle era.

We’ll have a picnic on the ranch grounds. Back aboard the motorcoach, we will complete our transfer to Missoula, Montana’s largest city. Upon our arrival, check into the hotel. Dinner on our own. Hotel: Staybridge Suites Missoula

Day 6 - To Whitefish, Scenic River Float, Bigfork
Activity note: Drive is about 130 miles, approximately 2.5 hours. Float trip lasts for approximately 2 hours.

(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. Check out of the hotel and shuttle to our put-in site for our rafting trip. Meet our experts who will lead our scenic float trip where the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers meet to the east of Missoula. Our rafting leader will offer commentary as we experience unique views of Hellgate Canyon, The University of Montana, Brennan’s Wave, and downtown Missoula. This easy float offers a positive, safe, fun, river experience. Return to the motorcoach for our ride to Bigfork.

At a local restaurant in Bigfork, order lunch from the menu. We will spend some time enjoying the picturesque and charming Western town of Bigfork. In the beautiful mountains of northwestern Montana, the 2,900 foot high town of Bigfork rests on the shores of Flathead Lake and the outlet of Swan River. Walk through the town and browse the world class art galleries in this quaint Western setting that has previously been designated as a top small town art destination in the country. Our afternoon ends with the final portion of our transfer to Whitefish, located just outside of Glacier National Park.

At the hotel, we will have a buffet dinner. Evening at leisure to get settled in your room the heart of the spectacular northern Rocky Mountains and the gateway to Glacier National Park. Hotel: Kandahar Lodge 2 nights

Day 7 – Glacier National Park
Activity note: Drive approximately 4 hours with many stops throughout the day. Getting on/off the bus. Moderate walking approximately 2 miles on paved trails in elevation up to 6,650ft.

(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. We will board our motorcoach that will take us into Glacier National Park to meet our smaller bus for an interpretive field trip through Glacier National Park over Going-to-the-Sun Road in Blackfeet Country. We will meet our local expert, Jack Gladstone, known as “Montana’s Troubadour.” As an enrolled citizen of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, Jack will illustrate Western and Native American culture through a mosaic of music, lyric poetry, and spoken word. Jack will offer valuable insights of Glacier’s natural features and the cultural relevance (past and present) to this incredibly beautiful land known to the Blackfeet as “The Backbone of the World”. Jack will provide an all-encompassing history and experience surrounding the landscape of Glacier National Park’s inhabited areas: Park history; animal species; common plants and roots used for nutrition and medicine; and the Blackfoot spiritual and philosophical perspectives/stories of life in the Buffalo Days as well as modern times.

In the park, we will have a boxed lunch enjoyed picnic style featuring a sandwich, chips, cookie, fruit, and water. Continue our journey through Glacier National Park. At the hotel, we will have a catered buffet. Evening at leisure to enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful country.

Day 8 - East Glacier over Maria’s Pass – East Glacier, MT
Activity note: Drive 81 miles, approximately 2.5 hours throughout the day. Walking approximately 1 mile at elevations up to 5,250 feet.

(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. Check out of the hotel and begin our transfer to East Glacier with commentary by Jack Gladstone. Jack again joins us in our travels through the best of Montana, taking us across the cultural bridge revealing the positive influence of the Native perspective as we experience a spiritual, musical and mythological journey to East Glacier. Unlike the early travelers who arrived by automobile and had to load their cars on the Great Northern Railroad in East Glacier, and then ride the train over to the Belton Station in what is now known as West Glacier, we now have the advantage to travel on Montana US Highway Route 2 over the Marias Pass built in 1930. We will be immersed in this history as we travel.

Enroute, we will have sack lunches including a sandwich, chips, cookie, fruit, and water. The Montana adventure continues as Jack Gladstone interprets our way to East Glacier. Afternoon check in at lodgings. At the hotel, we will have a catered buffet.

This evening, enjoy a concert in our meeting room where recent winner of the Native American Music Award, Jack Gladstone will blend an enlightening narrative with his well-crafted songs. The concert will include selections from his career, which has spanned three decades. Hotel: Glacier Park Lodge

Day 9 - Blackfeet Museum, Free Time, Great Falls, MT
Activity note: Driving about 142 miles, approximately 2 hours throughout the day. Museum exploration includes periods of extended standing.

(BL) Breakfast at the hotel. Check out of the hotel and set out for a field trip to a Blackfeet museum in route to Great Falls. Founded in 1941 on land donated by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the museum is administered by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. From the Blackfeet Country website, “the museum exhibits the creative achievements of Native American artists and craftspeople of the United States. A permanent exhibit presents the rich diversity of historic arts of the tribal peoples of the Northern Plains, and two special exhibition galleries are devoted to changing presentations promoting the creative works of outstanding talented contemporary Native American artists and craftspeople.” Lunch at a restaurant close to the museum.

Aboard the motorcoach, we’ll complete our transfer to Great Falls, named after the Great Falls of the Missouri River. Here, in 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition met with one of their most challenging ordeals - the portage site. In order to bypass the 21-mile stretch of falls and rapids, canoes and all equipment and supplies had to be carried by hand or in makeshift conveyances overland for nearly 18 miles. Check into the hotel and enjoy free time. Here is the opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Dinner on our own. Hotel: Staybridge Suites Great Falls 2 nights

Day 10 – Lewis and Clark
(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. The best of Montana cannot be truly embraced without fully understanding the contributions of Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Corps of Discovery. Exploration with a docent at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, a 25,000 square-foot building managed by the USDA Forest Service, sets the stage for further discovery on your own. Under the leadership of these two brave men, the Corps of Discovery covered almost 8,000 miles from St. Louis, Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River. They journeyed westward across Montana from April 1805 to September of that year, returning eastward in 1806. President Thomas Jefferson engaged the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore and map the newly acquired 'Louisiana Purchase', to find a practical route across the western half of the continent and to establish an American presence in the territory. Secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area's plants, animal life and geography and to establish trade with local Native American tribes. The Lewis and Clark Expedition covered more miles within Montana than in any other state. Montana constantly beguiled them with what Lewis called “scenes of visionary enchantment.”

Lunch at a restaurant close to the museum. The afternoon will be spent visiting the CM Russell museum for a glimpse into the life of Charles Marion Russell, the internationally known artist and Montana's "Cowboy Artist." We’ll explore the museum followed by time to explore independently. Although his art was known all over the world by the 1900's Russell opted to spend his entire life after age 16 in Montana. His love of Montana and the life he observed and participated in there shaped his art and his personal philosophy for 46 years. His art is first and foremost that of a storyteller, and it was informed by his remarkable ability to capture in paint, bronze, ink, and wax the personalities and events of his time and place. He was the first “Western” artist to live the majority of his life in the West. For this reason, Charlie knew his subject matter intimately, setting the standard for many Western artists to follow.

Dinner at a local restaurant. Evening at leisure.

Day 11 - To Bozeman, Helena, Montana Historical Society
Activity note: Drive approximately 3 hours throughout the day. Getting on/off the motorcoach. Walking explorations include periods of extended standing.

(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. Check out of the hotel and traverse Montana's high plains southward along the Missouri River to Helena, the state's capital city, once known as the 'Queen City of the Rockies.' Explore the city via coach to see some historical landmarks, followed by an interlude at the Montana Historical Society Museum. An essential part of the best of Montana is The Montana Historical Society Museum, where history and land intersect and chronical the people of Montana. Lunch at a local restaurant in Helena. Continue to explore the state capital before heading out to our final destination, Bozeman. Dinner in downtown Bozeman. Evening at leisure. Hotel: Back to the Best Western for 2 more nights.

Day 12 - Museum of the Rockies, Restaurant Sustainability
(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. We will board bus for a short shuttle to the Museum of the Rockies. Here, we will enjoy the company of a museum docent learn about the museum’s many and diverse collections. Following our exploration, we will have time to explore on our own. The Museum of the Rockies was founded in 1957 and then officially incorporated in 1965. The museum began with extraordinary collection of Montana historical objects and has expanded into a world-class paleontology research facility with an expanded focus to include one of the most important dinosaur fossil collections in the world. Focusing on Paleontology, Native American History, and Montana History, with a number of rotating exhibits from around the world, the Museum of the Rockies is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a federal repository for fossils.

At a true, family owned Montana restaurant, we will have sandwiches, chips, and cookies plus soft drink, or water. At this family owned restaurant, we’ll learn about farming and milling in southwest Montana. The farms grow grain sustainably and mill it down the road from the restaurant, guaranteeing that their products are top quality, healthy, and farm fresh. These farms model agriculture operation of the Northern Great Plains, encompassing 15,000 acres of the most productive soil in Montana. Located near the headwaters of the Missouri River near the town of Three Forks and surrounded by the majestic Elkhorn Mountains. At 5,000 feet above sea level, it is also the highest elevation grain is grown in North America. The low rainfall, high elevation and cool nights on this Montana farm result in some of the highest quality grains in the world. Their facility includes grain cleaning, processing, flour milling and a full scale bakery that services a five state area. Their grains, cereal, and flour are sold nationwide.

Enjoy some free time in down town Bozeman or rest time at the hotel. At a restaurant that captures the spirit of the American West, enjoy a plated meal; soda available for purchase. At the restaurant, an associate will give a presentation on how the restaurant was created to share the love of Big Sky Country and to celebrate an American icon: the bison. The restaurant follows the “overarching framework of ‘Eat Great. Do Good,’” focusing on sustainability from the field to the plate and reducing their environmental footprint. Wrap up of the discoveries made while traveling in the Best of Montana!

Day 13 - Program Concludes
(B) Hotel Breakfast. Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m. Complimentary transfer to the airport. It's not a direct flight this time but the connecting time in Denver is safe.

United UA 5665Bozeman-Denver11:19-11:551:363:10
United UA 1874Denver-IAH3:05 – 6:24P2:197:05


Home by 8PM maybe.