Montana has the crown jewel that tops the northern border of the country: Glacier National Park. The eastern side of the park has the idyllic glaciers and icebergs and crystal blue waters you seek, but you should drive the length of the park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
There is never a shortage of cowboys and ranches in this state. Venture around and see the expansive countryside, farmers markets, old ghost towns, and, if you time it right, a hometown fair and rodeo that might feature a horse show like we saw with a dramatic and slightly confusing patriotic display.
The rivers are prime for floating and fishing in Montana, and if you want to experience it with a local, book a guided fly fishing tour. Just don’t be a catcher-and-keeper because we met many residents who prefer catch and release.
Forest rangers were flooded with calls of fires while we were in Montana. The skies were hazy from ongoing smoke, and one night a brief lightning storm struck nearby and started a forest fire. We watched emergency crews transfer water from the lake to the mountain.
There are several Native American reservations in Montana with trading posts and cultural events to explore plus tipis to rent. For campers, there are often affordable camping spots that aren’t marketed or publicized and you can find a secluded spot in an area where other campgrounds are completely booked or overcrowded. Our best finds weren’t located through Google but by wandering and talking to locals.