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Unique Montana Adventures

Unforgettable days spent exploring the Treasure State

Article by Susie Wall

Photography by Provided images and Cherie Neudich

Originally published in Billings City Lifestyle

Most Montanans have one thing in common: adventure. Whether it's taking over the reins of a generational ranch, being a transplant with a dream, or just blowing through like a tumbleweed, there is rich experience to be had in adventure. Explore these timeless options with family and friends this upcoming season!

Ride the Plains on the Charlie Russell Chew Choo

See the open prairies and rolling hills of central Montana through the eyes of early travelers while riding in comfort on a luxurious dinner train. The Charlie Russell Chew Choo takes you on a 56-mile round trip journey from Lewistown to Denton and back along an historic spur track built in 1912. During your three- and one-half-hour trip you’ll feast on a prime rib dinner while crossing historic train trestles and passing through the Sage Creek Tunnel. Watch out the window for prairie wildlife and stunning scenery while listening to live music. Masked train robbers may even make a thrilling appearance. Book your tickets early as the train runs only ten Saturdays June 11 through October 8. Boarding times range between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. depending on the season to ensure you’re chance to catch the perfect Montana sunset. Visit  MontanaDinnerTrain.com for more details and to purchase tickets.

Explore Island Life Montana-Style on Wild Horse Island State Park

Flathead Lake’s largest island sits off the western shore just past Big Arm Bay. The island is named for the small herd of wild horses that reside there but it is also home to bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and mule deer. Even bears make the occasional swim. Two-legged visitors can visit the island by boat. Keep in mind, there are limited landing sites and it will take you about an hour to paddle from the lakeshore to the island. For a hassle-free visit, book a seat on the shuttle provided by Big Arm Boat Rentals or opt for a personal charter through Wild Horse Island Boat Trips. Once on the island, you can hike, enjoy a picnic, and watch the wildlife. Visit FWP.MT.gov/Wild-Horse-Island for more information.

Witness the Art of the Forest at Sculpture in the Wild

Stunning works of art weave through the sun-dappled woods just north of Lincoln at Sculpture in the Wild. Since its inception in 2014, this outdoor art installation has invited world-renown sculptors to create unique pieces that pay homage to the Blackfoot Valley’s heritage focusing on industry, environment and culture. A dirt path leads visitors past more than 14 large-scale sculpture installations. Twigs swirl together in Tree Circus by Patrick Dougherty forming a hobbit-like house. Fifteen tons of newspapers compress to create Steven Siegel’s Hill and Valley. The park is free and open all year from dawn to dusk. Visit SculptureInTheWild.com for details.

Go Underground at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Get ready for a subterranean adventure with a visit to one of the largest known limestone caverns in the Northwest. A tour through Lewis and Clark Caverns gives you the chance to see massive stalactites, stalagmites, and other unique cave formations as you learn about the history and formation of the cavern from a knowledgeable guide. Those with small children or limited mobility can take the Paradise Tour to experience the Paradise Room, the largest and most decorated area of the cave. For those looking for a greater challenge, chose the Classic Tour to navigate the twists and turns of the caverns on a two-mile journey up and down 600 stairs. You must be on a tour to access the caverns and a small fee is charged based on age. The caverns are located 15 miles east of Whitehall. Tours run from late May to late September. The park also features a visitor center, hiking trails, food concessions, and a campground. To book a spot on a tour and for more information, visit FWP.MT.gov/StateParks/Lewis-and-Clark-Caverns.

Travel Back in Time

Many towns in Montana offer guided historical tours. Bozeman’s Extreme History Project,  AdventureThroughTime.org, leads you through historic neighborhoods and cemeteries, thrilling you with stories about the town’s seedy and creepy past. Unseen Missoula, MissoulaDowntown.com/Unseen-Missoula, brings you to hidden spots rarely seen by locals. Old Butte Historical Adventures, ButteTour.info, takes you to the dank cells of the old jail where Butte’s native son, Evel Knievel, scrawled his name in the stone wall after a raucous night on the town. One of the most unique tours in Montana is Havre Beneath the Streets, HavreBeneathTheStreets.com. In 1904 three men set fire to town after being thrown out of a bar. They took their revenge by setting a fire that destroyed 60 buildings. Instead of packing up, the industrious townsfolk made the decision to move commerce to the massive steam tunnels that ran below the sidewalks. The tour lets you explore this underground city where businesses like Boone’s Drug Store, Wright’s Dentist Office, and Sporting Eagle Saloon sit frozen in time.