I have been contemplating this road trip for quite some time and finally decided to sit down and figure it out. The goal is to visit amazing places in Montana while simultaneously drinking good beer. I stuck to western Montana to keep the driving times manageable, plus it is beautiful here and totally worth visiting. A caveat - I have not done this trip, so I don't have the logistics worked out. I am listing the high points and from there it is choose your own adventure. If anyone out there wants to do this trip and document it let me know! Don't forget to check out the Montana Brewer's Trail Map to help you find your way to good beer!
Here is the driving loop starting and finishing at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport:
This article is for all the newbie campers out there (and those who know better but who are just lazy). We support you experiencing and loving the outdoors, but you need to learn proper bathroom habits when there is no bathroom available. There is nothing worse than showing up to a dispersed camp site and realizing the last four groups of campers did not do their due diligence when relieving themselves.
Steps for pooping in the woods:
Seeing a bear in its native habitat can be an exhilarating experience – it can also be terrifying. Bears are prevalent throughout the mountains and forests of Montana including our highly visited National Parks. The chances of being injured by a bear in Yellowstone National Park are extremely low: 1 in 2.7 million. The risk of bear injury is about as high as being killed by a falling tree, being hit by lightning, or dying in an avalanche. While this risk is not high there are some very simple and easy practices you can adopt to stay safe while recreating in bear country.
Bears in Montana
There are two species of bears in Montana: black bears (Ursus americanus) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos), also known as brown bears. Both species of bears are omnivores and eat many different plants and animals. They also can get a taste for human food, garbage and pet foods which lead to many negative bear-human interactions.
The Magruder Road Corridor (MRC) is a 101-mile gravel road through wilderness spanning the Idaho-Montana border. The road travels between the Selway-Bitterrot Wilderness in the north and the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in the south. These two wilderness areas make up the largest block of land with no roads in the contiguous US. The actual road was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's. The MRC was created when the Central Idaho Wilderness Act was passed in 1980 creating the corridor through the two wilderness areas.
The MRC spans from Elk City, Idaho to Darby, Montana. Along the way there are numerous campgrounds, lookout towers and other waypoints. The real draw of traveling this road is the difficulty is high enough most people either can't drive it or won't want to. The road is one-lane most of the way with limited turn outs for passing. You need a high clearance vehicle with 4WD, a dirt- or mountain bike or OHV. The average speed is 12-15 miles per hour in a vehicle.
Fire season is here again. Rainy spring weather transitioned into beautiful summer days and then all of a sudden everything was crispy, smoky and the mountains disappeared behind a haze. Enjoying the outdoors during fire season can be tricky. Often the places you want to go are near a fire, or the air quality is bad enough medical professionals recommend people stay inside. However, Montana is a big place and there is usually somewhere you can go to escape the heat and smoke. Fire season is also the time when those enjoying the outdoors need to take extra precautions with fire safety.
Wildland Fires in Numbers
As of today for 2017, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, there have been 42,185 fires in the US covering 6,350,711 acres and we are just in August! Active wildfires are located in California (7 fires), Florida (1 fire), Idaho (3 fires), Montana (12 fires), Oregon (16 fires), Washington (5 fires), and Wyoming (1 fire). Of the 45 active fires only four are contained. 2016 had a total of 38,010 fires covering 3,954,866 acres. The costs of suppression in 2016 was almost $2 billion. I am assuming with the increase in fires during 2017 we will be way over the $2 billion mark by the end of the year. The cost is not just monetary; 2016 saw 15 wildland firefighter deaths. Keep these numbers in mind while camping this summer to keep yourself and others safe.
Planning your Trip
The first thing you should do when planning your camping trip during fire season is check to see if there are active fires in the area you want to travel including near roads or highways. InciWeb has lists of active fires by state, or you can see wildfires in map view on the US Wildfire Activity Web Map. If there is an active fire in the area you want to travel, change your plans. If you will be camping in public lands (National Parks, National Forests, BLM, State Parks, etc.) call the local agency office to find out if there are closures due to fires or fire restrictions and plan accordingly. Many times fire restrictions are simple including campfires restricted to designated fire rings and limited smoking, but sometimes camp stoves are restricted which could put a damper on any gourmet camp meals you had planned. If you do not follow these restrictions you could be fined or jailed so it is worth the effort to find out any relevant information.
Amy Bowser is the co-owner of Paradise Overland with her husband Jon. In their free time they explore anywhere they can get to with their Toyota and roof top tent.