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Montana Birding and Nature Trail
Discover the Nature of Montana...

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes the Montana Trail so Special? Birding AND Nature

In Montana, birds are the hooks and all of nature is the quarry. Bald eagles soar over free-flowing rivers that are home to moose, beaver, cutthroat and bull trout, and a plethora of butterflies and dragonflies. Golden eagles grace the prairie skies above prairie dog towns, pronghorn, jackrabbits, and wildflowers. White-throated swifts dart above canyons that are home to bighorn sheep and mountain goats. In many ways, birds serve as emissaries to help people appreciate the wealth of diversity in nature.

How does the Trail Create Itineraries for travel?

The Montana Birding and Nature Trail is a network of nature tourism routes that form thematic itineraries for visitors and residents. The statewide system features a common website and a golden eagle logo to identify sites as part of the overall trail. All local routes (or trails) feature carefully selected birding and nature viewing sites linked by roads. In this era of global warming, we are also committed to find ways to reduce our impacts from driving site to site.  Please see our Climate-friendly travel page.

Will the Trail take me beyond roads?

While roads connect the sites into a “trail,” every site offers opportunities to be outdoors experiencing the elements. Many sites weave in culture and history as well. The Bitterroot Birding and Nature Trail features a float on the Bitterroot River, a hike to St. Mary’s peak, ski trails at Chief Joseph Pass, a public and private wildlife refuge, an urban park, and Traveler’s Rest State Park, an important Lewis and Clark campsite. 

Why is the Trail good for the economy and for conservation?

The beauty of the Montana Birding and Nature Trail is its ability to capture Montana’s best economic asset—nature. By showcasing the habitats important to birds and other wildlife, the Trail encourages and leads to the conservation of the full range of natural land conditions. The Trail lies lightly on the land, requiring little more than brochures, a website, and locator signs. The low impact character of the Trail also makes it easy to change routes and sites to reflect the dynamic nature of our landscape. To create local trails takes communities working together in tandem with statewide efforts to build a consistent network. 

What does it mean to “Discover the Nature of Montana?”

Every trail reveals an aspect of the statewide theme of “Discover the Nature of Montana.” For example, the Bitterroot Birding and Nature Trail theme is “Discovering the Nature of Lewis and Clark.” The Missoula Valley Birding and Nature Trail theme is “Discover the Nature of Glacial Lake Missoula.” The Northeast Birding Trail reveals the natural wonders of our rare prairie grasslands. Eventually, Montana will have a web of thematic birding and nature routes that link with each other, and across state and International borders. 

Will the Trail take nature viewers to far-flung places?

Visitors who follow sections of the Trail will find more than fabulous birding and wildlife viewing sites on public and private lands. They will depart from the beaten paths to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks to discover the wonder of “the spaces in between” and communities like Darby, Seeley, Libby, Westby and Glasgow.   

How are new routes added?

Montanans shape the trail under the guidance of the statewide steering committee and the detailed handbook on adding a route  (clickable link on handbook that takes you to Add a Route). Communities and stakeholders nominate and help select sites.  They continue to be involved, maintaining and enhancing sites and marketing the Trail. 

What are the tangible products of the Trail?

This website offers the most up to date information . You can print off sites and trails directly. Eventually, all trails will feature full-color  brochures and maps like the Bitterroot Birding and Nature Trail.  We will also have highway signs bearing the golden eagle logo that direct visitors to sites. 

Why Birding Trails anyway?

From Texas to Oregon, and from Florida to Minnesota, birding trails are a response to a rapid growth in birdwatching and wildlife viewing. Trails are flourishing because they link sites logically as itineraries to fit today’s nature travelers. Birding trails are growing rapidly, with more than 35 trails either complete or in development. 

Texas formed the first birding trail in 1996, the result of a partnership of public officials and private individuals who recognized that by making Texas birder-friendly, they could attract more nature tourists and dollars to rural parts of the state. They identified the conservation value, and predicted that local and state officials would be likely to protect habitats if they saw the economic tie to birders. The Great Coastal Birding Trail connects some 300 sites along the Gulf Coast via a birding brochure/map and signs on the ground. The lion’s share of funding came from federal highway enhancement funds. 

Florida, Georgia and Virginia quickly followed suit. Every year more trails come on board with accompanying brochures, maps, and websites.  The Montana Birding and Nature Trail eventually will link to those in surrounding states as well as to the north in Canada.