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Old 02-01-2013, 04:37 PM
 
Location: SW MO
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My wife and I are looking into a fact-finding trip to the areas from Billings over to Butte and from Butte up to Kalispell, to get a feel for the areas and small towns in those vicinities. We have a good opening in mid to late April, and another immediately following Memorial Day. In researching lodging and other costs for the trip, it has become apparent that prices take a dramatic jump at Memorial Day, so we are considering the mid to late April slot for our trip to save needless expense. What say you? Is the weather prohibitive at that time, or has winter (mostly) settled down? We are not afraid of cold, but do not want to be trying to travel in unfamiliar territory in a big winter storm. Frankly, we prefer to visit before the droves of tourists appear, and get a feel for the area without the herds stampeding around us. But we want to get there and back in one piece and with a minimum of trouble. I understand that the weather may be unpredictable at that time of year, especially at higher elevations, but would appreciate any advice y'all could give on the subject.
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Old 02-01-2013, 04:59 PM
 
Location: North Dakota
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Quote:
Originally Posted by countryboy73 View Post
My wife and I are looking into a fact-finding trip to the areas from Billings over to Butte and from Butte up to Kalispell, to get a feel for the areas and small towns in those vicinities. We have a good opening in mid to late April, and another immediately following Memorial Day. In researching lodging and other costs for the trip, it has become apparent that prices take a dramatic jump at Memorial Day, so we are considering the mid to late April slot for our trip to save needless expense. What say you? Is the weather prohibitive at that time, or has winter (mostly) settled down? We are not afraid of cold, but do not want to be trying to travel in unfamiliar territory in a big winter storm. Frankly, we prefer to visit before the droves of tourists appear, and get a feel for the area without the herds stampeding around us. But we want to get there and back in one piece and with a minimum of trouble. I understand that the weather may be unpredictable at that time of year, especially at higher elevations, but would appreciate any advice y'all could give on the subject.
You answered your own question in the last sentence. March and April are some of the most unpredictable times of the year in terms of weather. My birthday is in mid-April and some years I've worn shorts while other years I've worn a winter coat. Your best bet is to call 511 and see the weather conditions as you head toward the different towns.
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:19 PM
 
Location: SW MO
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Nice. I was afraid someone would say that. Since we are coming from southern Missouri, I am hoping to get some idea whether travel is advisable that time of year before I make the 1200+ mile drive out. If not, we can come later, immediately after Memorial Day, if necessary. I was simply hoping to avoid paying the summer tourist premium at hotels and such. For example, the rates at one hotel in April are $79/night, in May, $109/night. Quite the difference. Of course, we do hope to make a few scenic drives and squeeze in a hike or two while we are there, so maybe May/June is the better choice.
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:29 PM
 
Location: SW MO
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We intend to check out small towns and rural areas from the Sheridan area in Wyoming, to areas within commute(1 hour) distances of Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Kalispell , Missoula and Helena in Montana, and Couer D'Alene and Sandpoint in Idaho. Most of these places will obviously be in the major valleys, but one must travel from one to another over the passes, and while I will be prepared for winter travel, I do not relish the idea of driving unfamiliar roads in a blinding snowstorm.
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:29 PM
 
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You and WyoEagle are both correct in that April weather is extremely unpredictable here. It could be sunny, 60 degrees, the birds are singing, you're hiking, and you think you're in heaven. Or it could be snowing, 10 degrees, your spouse is crying, the car is stuck in the snow, and you think you're in hell.

If any of your planned scenic drives include high elevations then summer is a much better -- if not the only -- choice. For example, Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park is drop-dead gorgeous yet doesn't open until June or rarely even July.

I'd say give up a few pizzas or whatever between now and then and save up the money to pay a little extra every night during the peak tourist season. There will also be more stores, restaurants, and other attractions open.

Btw, I wouldn't worry about things being too crowded here. The only place I've seen "droves of tourists" are in Yellowstone National Park in the very middle of summer. Good luck!
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:54 PM
 
Location: Spots Wyoming
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Unpredictable as it is, if a bad snowstorm hits, the ground is usually warming and the snow will be gone in a couple days. At most, highways will be shut down for hours or over night. Small towns, cleaning up the mess, is anybodys guess.
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Old 02-01-2013, 07:17 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
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Living along the I-90 route for more than 40 years and often traveling the Black Hills region west to Billings, Yellowstone, etc., I can confidently state that we don't have large tourist crowds until mid-June, so if you come right away after Memorial Day, you'll be fine as far as crowds go. But yes, prices do take a jump at Memorial Day and stay high until Labor Day. Gas prices will also go up then.

But as others have said, April weather is unpredictable. The biggest blizzards I've seen have been in April. They come in howling and dump lots of wet snow, then are gone in a day or two and most of the snow is cleared from the roads a day after they've gone, and if not, it's melted within a week. That could still play havoc with your traveling plans, however, particularly with any hopes of hiking. Hiking trails in the mountains can remain under deep snow until June or even early July.

We also get glorious spring days in April. You just never know which it'll be until the storms are on track and a couple days out. I can tell you that I don't normally de-winterize our camper until Memorial Day at the earliest. When I had a pickup camper we'd sometimes start camping in early May (in the mountains), but that usually meant camping among the snow drifts.
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Old 02-01-2013, 07:51 PM
 
Location: SW MO
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Ok, so April if we want to see(maybe) what winter is like in Montana, June if we want nice weather(maybe). Mother nature could be a bit more capricious there than here, I see. Here, the old biddy just goes straight from sleet to sunburn(and might switch back and forth a few times before she makes up her mind for the season). For instance, it was 71 degrees here Monday, and it snowed(and stuck) Tuesday. the low was 4 degrees Tuesday night.

We might be stuck coming in April, regardless, as my wife just found out the first week of june is blacked out for vacations at her work, due to inventory. Or we could wait until later in June or July. We'll know in the next day or two if she can swing some time off first week of June or not. Then we'll see.


MontanaGyrl, the attractions and stores are not what we look for, but some good backcountry is. Sounds like the backcountry and the stores might be opening up about the same time, however!
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:26 AM
 
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The backcountry will be choked with snow in April. It is also the time of high avalanche danger with heavy wet spring snows settling on winter snowpack. The backcountry is usually accessible from July to midSeptember. The national forest service websites can give you info on all backcountry & wilderness areas.

Hotel rooms cost at least $115 year round with summer tourist or winter ski season rates at $40-50 higher.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:33 AM
 
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA
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Having lived in Helena for 14 years I can absolutely agree with those that have said the weather in April will be completely unpredictable.
I can remember July 4th 2001 where it was windy, partly cloudy and 56 F as a high.

I can also remember the summer of 2007 where Helena had a week of 95 F or above.

I loved it!!
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