Missula, Montana, is the second largest city in the state and one of the most beautiful metropolitan areas in the United States. The University of Montana provides academic and cultural standards for this western Montana city. Unfortunately, Missoula lost the Amtrak service in 1979, and the only low-cost airline to the city flies directly to the southwest.
For UM students and other residents of the Missoula area, using a combination of Amtrak and bus is the cheapest way to travel to other parts of the country. Here are 5 tips/warnings to help you effectively travel the Missoula by land.
One: If you’re going west to Missoula, ignore Amtrak’s White Fish train connection recommendations. Amtrak’s itinerary for Empire Builder, which runs between Chicago and Seattle/Portland, indicates that there is a connection service available between Whitefish, MT and Missoula. Rimrock Stages, part of the Trailways system, provides services. Unfortunately, Rimrock’s schedule does not work well with Amtrak’s western timetable.
The only bus departing from White Fish departs at 11:35 am and arrives at Missoula in about three and a half hours. It works fine when a train from Washington state or Idaho arrives at Whitefish at 7:26 am. It is not convenient when coming from the east and the train arrives at Whitefish at 9:16 PM. The next day you need to get the hotel before taking the bus home.
2: If you are coming from Missoula, you should not connect to Whitefish Amtrak. The only Rimrock bus from Missoula departs at 8 am and arrives at Whitefish around 11:25 am. You may have missed the Eastbound Empire Builder train during the day. The train going west will leave Whitefish in about 10 hours.
3: The best way to connect to Amtrak from Missoula is to use Washington’s Spokane. The Greyhound line has a convenient schedule that fits well with Amtrak. Part of the beauty of the connection through Spokane is that the train arrives and departs in both directions in the early morning. Therefore, the train to Missoula arrives at Spokane by 2 am. You can arrive at Missoula at 10:30 AM by 5:05 AM Greyhound bus. From Missoula, the 9:10 AM bus arrives at Spokane at 12:35 AM. The fastest train leaves Spokane at 1:15 AM.
4: Spokane connection is easy because Greyhound uses Spokane train station as warehouse. It is very convenient as the connection is made in the middle of the night.
Five: Empire Builder is all reserved trains. Whether you are experiencing Amtrak’s advanced coach service with seating meal service and large pillows or super liner sleeping facilities, you need to make a reservation in advance. By purchasing tickets in advance for Amtrak and Greyhound services, you can receive discounted pre-purchase rates or special rates for students and seniors.