Travel Montana has released a new publication, the Montana Vacation Planner, which incorporates information from its predecessors -- the Montana Vacation Guide and Travel Planner -- into a new easy-to-read format. Visit www.visitmt.com or call tel. 800/847-4868 to order a copy.
Glacier National Park
The winter left Glacier National Park and vicinity with a heavy snow pack, meaning that the spring and early summer will be great for whitewater rafting and kayaking. Outfitters on both the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, which skirts the park's southern boundary, and the Lower Clark Fork River are gearing up for a big 2006 season.
Missoula and Vicinity
The six-story Hilton Garden Inn (3720 N. Reserve St., tel. 406/532-5300) at the new Missoula Conference Center welcomed its first guests in February. The 146-room property, which features complimentary high-speed Internet access, a heated indoor pool, and other amenities, is shaping up as one of the state's premiere conference hotels. Onsite, the Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern serves creative dishes like pretzel-crusted trout and homemade s'mores drizzled with a bourbon-caramel sauce.
Adventure Cycling (www.adv-cycling.org), the nationally recognized bicycling non-profit that calls Missoula home, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2006 with a birthday bash on June 30, complete with bike trivia, storytelling, movies, and an afternoon ride along the Clark Fork River. The week before the big event on Saturday June 24, a one-day charity ride called RATPOD (www.ratpod.org), begins and ends in Dillon in southwestern Montana and traverses 157 miles.
Butte and Anaconda
A new excursion train dubbed the Copper King Express (tel. 406/563-5458; www.copperkingexpress.com) begins running a regular schedule between Butte and Anaconda in spring 2006. Passengers board vintage cars (The Spirit of Butte and The Spirit of Anaconda) and ride the historic railway, which was the nation's first electrified railway a century ago but hasn't been used for nearly 50 years. Tickets are $25 adults, $17 for seniors and students.
Montana is hosting the second of two Lewis and Clark Signature Events in 2006. From July 22 to 25, the Clark on the Yellowstone Signature Event (www.clarkontheyellowstone.org) commemorates the 200th anniversary of Captain William Clark carving his name on Pompeys Pillar National Monument and the pillar's historic significance to Native Americans. The event culminates on July 25, 2006, which has been deemed a "National Day of Honor." Overlooking the Yellowstone River about 25 miles east of Billings, Pompeys Pillar is named for Sacagawea's young son, who Clark nicknamed "Pomp." Clark's inscription is the only physical evidence remaining of the trailblazing adventure of Lewis and Clark, and features a new interpretive center.
Yellowstone National Park
New fishing regulations are in effect in Yellowstone this year, aimed at improving protection of native species without marring the park's world-class angling opportunities. Anglers are now always required to use barbless hooks. The park is also now divided into two different management areas: In the Native Trout Conservation Area, all native species must be released, the non-native catch limit is five fish, and lake trout caught in Yellowstone Lake must be killed. In the Wild Trout Enhancement Area, native species as well as brown and rainbow are always catch-and-release; up to five brook or lake trout may be kept. Fishing permits remain available at all ranger stations, visitor centers, and Yellowstone General Stores; for those 16 and older, permits cost $15 for three days, $20 for seven days, and $35 for a season.
The Old Faithful Inn will be closed for much of the 2006 season, open only from June 26 to October 10 due to ongoing renovations.
The joint Lodging & Learning program offered by Xanterra and the Yellowstone Association Institute has a pair of spiffy new rides: The National Park Service's "New Yellow Buses." Modeled after the vintage White Motor Company model 706 vehicles used in the park from the 1930s through the 1950s, these new vehicles feature low-emission technology and large windows. To make reservations, call tel. 307/344-5566; detailed information is online at www.yellowstoneassociation.org.
Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park
In Grand Teton National Park, the 2006 season is the first year backpackers can make online reservations for backcountry camping (www.nps.gov/grte).
While the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram (www.jacksonhole.com) is still slated for decommissioning in September 2006, progress has been reported on a deal that will pave the way for the construction of a $20 million replacement for the 40-year-old icon. The 2006-07 ski season will likely see less access for skiers at the resort, but officials hope to build a new tram as soon as possible.
Over the winter of 2005-06, there has been a flurry of news on the Cody lodging landscape. The historic Pawnee Hotel has new owners who completely renovated the charming brick building as the Chamberlin Inn (1032 12th St., tel. 888/587-0202 or 307/587-0202; www.chamberlininn.com), a 24-room boutique hotel that opened in spring 2006. Also new for the 2006 summer season is Cody Cowboy Village (203 W. Yellowstone Hwy; tel. 307/587-7555; www.codycowboyvillage.net), featuring 40 new cabins adjacent to the Cody Nite Rodeo. Rates are set as $99 to $149 for a standard unit and $119 to $199 for a suite. Also slated to open in June, the Cody Legacy Inn & Suites (1801 Mountain View Rd.; tel. 307/587-6067; www.codylegacyinn.com) is touted as a new hotel with modern amenities and down-home Western flair.
New for 2006 at the Cody Stage (1110 Beck Ave.; tel. 307/587-7469), a nightly cowboy music revue is set to perform from May to September.
Located roughly 20 miles west of Cheyenne, the Bit-O-Wyo Ranch (470 Happy Jack Rd.; tel. 307/638-6924; www.bit-o-wyo.com) is offering bed-and-breakfast lodging, cowboy theatre and horseback rides beginning in June 2006.
The Cheyenne Depot Plaza in front of the beautifully restored Union Pacific depot is becoming entrenched as the city's front porch and living room. For the second year running, the plaza is home to Smoke-n-Spurs, a barbecue festival followed by a concert on July 4, and the Wyoming Brewer's Festival, a celebration of the state's beer-makers held June 16 and 17. The inaugural Depot Days, a railroad-themed festival, will be held at the plaza and other locations from June 9 to June 11.