Montana -Big Sky Country- has always been one of my favorite places in the world. If you fly into the city of Bozeman, and head southwest for about an hour, passing the Madison River, and Norris Hot Springs, you will reach Madison Valley. Just before the town of Ennis, you follow a long, winding dirt road through rolling pastures sprinkled with ranches and cabins, cattle grazing in fields interspersed with meandering creeks, deer & antelope jaunting through open spaces, and head up toward the magnificent Tobacco Root Mountains which lie in the northern Rocky Mountains. There, against an impressive backdrop of the majestic white-capped mountains, whose glacier peaks glisten year round, amongst Pine & Fir trees, and babbling brooks filled with “fat, happy trout” (as my mom use to say), lies the Zabel outfit, the ranch of my late grandfather, western artist Larry Zabel.
I have been visiting my grandfather in Montana every summer since I can remember. And although my favorite memories are of fishing with my grandpa at his ranch, loving on his pet Buffalo, and going on nature walks with him in the mountains behind his property, I continue to fall in love with this beautiful land every time I return. It is one of the last places you can go to have a true experience of the real wild west, to see for yourself why cowboys love the land so much and experience the mesmerizing beauty of miles of unspoiled, pristine land. Montana is very cold in the winter so I recommend visiting between May and September. Take the family, rent a cabin in the Madison Valley, pack your funky clothes and be ready to enjoy the great outdoors like you’ve never experienced them before!
Ted’s Montana Grill -Located on historic Main St in Bozeman, Ted Turner’s dream of creating an authentic American dining experience came to fruition with this impressive restaurant that offers a fantastic array of fresh produce and meats including their famous Bison Burger.
Blackbird Kitchen -Also located on Main St in Bozeman, offering a decadent selection of authentic Italian dishes, great wines, and delicious olive oils.
Yesterday’s Soda Fountain -My grandpa’s favorite breakfast spot in the town of Ennis.
Stacey’s Bar and Steakhouse -Located near Bozeman next the Gallatin Inn, good food & my whole family seems to like the drinks their, especially my little brothers & cousins who usually come crawling home in the early morning hours after line dancing the night away!
Bear Claw Bar & Grill -Funky hillbilly decor makes you feel like you’re in an old western movie, drinks are strong & there’s a dining room in the back with surprisingly good food. Located just outside of Ennis.
Montana Trails Gallery -Owned my Uncle Steve Zabel, this beautiful gallery located on Main St in Bozeman, is the place to enjoy a variety of western art, including landscape, wildlife, figurative, & still life works with a range of styles from impressionist to traditional American in both painting & sculpture.
Fishing -Grab a pole and go! Just about any river you see will be filled with trout!
Yellowstone National Park -Located in Wyoming, just 70 miles south of Ennis, known for its wildlife & geothermal features including the famous Old Faithful geyser
Virginia City -This legendary mining town will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You must go Gold & Garnet mining & see the Brewery Follies or Virginia City Players
Get Wet -If you’re in Montana in the warm summer months be sure to float the Madison River! Also Ennis Lake is a perfect place to go out on a boat to fish or wakeboard. And the Norris Hot Springs is open year round & is a fun place with live music, food and drinks!
Hiking -There are many great places to hike in Montana but my aunt Becca and I enjoy hiking the M just outside of Bozeman.
Ski & Sbowboard – Big Sky Resort offers the “biggest skiing in America” with sensation of endless terrain under an expansive big sky
Rent a house -If you have the money I recommend renting a house in the Madison Valley. There is a big grocery store near Ennis so buy groceries & go fish for your dinner!
El Western -Rent a cute mountainside or creek side cabin near Ennis
Gallatin Gateway Inn -Established 1927, located just outside Bozeman, this historic building, which was once a railroad station, provides quaint, affordable lodging with a nice fireplace lounge, the Porter House Restaurant which is very good, & located right next to Stacey’s bar in case you need to stumble home!
Holding up my big catch! Trout dinner – yum! Have you been to Montana? Please share your experience in the comments section below!