700 miles of dinos and drive-ins on Montana’s longest amazing road
If you want a road trip this year to really experience what Montana was like, 75 MILLION YEARS AGO, grab your map app and head out on the Treasure State's longest highway.
MT-200 is not only the longest road by mileage, a true Red Bull and jerky snack challenge at 706 miles, but it's also arguably the most diverse way to transverse the state.
MT 200 starts in the lower elevations of Heron, Montana, in the Lower Clark Fork Valley where the signs indicate you're following the Road to the Buffalo, where countless generations of Inland Northwest tribes traveled annually to hunt bison east of the Divide. Winding past landmarks like Noxon Reservoir and the deep canyon between Thompson Falls and Plains, Highway 200 has already delivered the Montana goods for any traveler. Especially if you stop for a meal at Minnie's Montana Cafe, or enjoyed the river view with a bacon cheeseburger and Triple Berry Crisp at Big Eddy's.
But don't slow down. You're just getting started.
Winding east through Paradise and Plains along the Flathead River is one of those "bucket list" drives every Montanan should make, marveling at the deep canyons and blue-green water. If you don't make the side trip to the Bison Range, you'll soon merge with all the other I-90 traffic through the Missoula Valley. But don't give up. There's way more to see,
The heart of Western Montana
If you're a new arrival or want to impress your visitors, MT 200 from Bonner to Great Falls is sure to deliver. Share Norman Maclean's quotes as you drive up the Blackfoot, stretching your legs for a snack or meal in Ovando. Stock up on the aforementioned jerky at the Hi Country gift shop and stretch your legs at the Lincoln Art Park.
Then get ready for the unbelievable contrast as you top Rogers Pass and burst out onto the plains along the Rocky Mountain Front. This is where the "roller coaster ride" begins on 200 and won't stop for several hundred miles, as the road climbs and dips across the "Charlie Russell" landscape.
One of the best things about MT 200 is the vision of what cross-Montana travel was like before the four-lane invasion. West of Great Falls, and for many, many miles east, you'll see the abandoned gas stations, restaurants and other business time is erasing. Great photo ops.
In fact, it's the small towns and the vastness of the highway east of Great Falls that make it the drive of a lifetime. Look for the route of the "Jawbone Railroad" outside Lewistown. Gas up and drive around to see what rural life was, and still is, in Winnett. Plow forward across the rolling plains and huge ranch and farmland before stopping in Jordan.
Jordan is a great place to impress the kids with stories of how everything they see used to be part of a huge inland plain and ocean and home to every dinosaur they've seen on Jurassic Park (except the fake ones). Stop at the Garfield County Museum, and then follow The Montana Dinosaur Trail, with possible side trips to the Frontier Gateway Museum or Makoshika State Park.
Or, just stop along the road anywhere between Jordan, Circle, and Glendive and listen to the wind, imagining what Montana travel used to be, and still can be.