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Pushing Boundaries: Our Austin Lehman Montana Family Adventure

Last Updated on April 1, 2016 by Jody Halsted

Sunrise over Lake Yellowstone
If a view like this, coupled with clean mountain air, doesn’t restore you- nothing will.

I love sharing our travel stories.  If I can change the way a single family travels- or even thinks about travel- then I’m happy.  And, most often, I am all about the do-it-yourself trip.  Part of the fun is planning your adventure, especially if your children are old enough to add their input and ideas.  But even a type-a, organizational, planning-obsessed travel geek like me can have their opinions changed.

Earlier this month my family took our first guided trip.  The Montana Family Adventure with Austin Lehman Adventures took us through Big Sky, Yellowstone and Paradise Valley.  The trip was both challenging and pampering, exhilarating and relaxing, painful and restorative.  It pushed us beyond our self imposed limits and sent us home with visible changes.  And it changed my thoughts of escorted tours.

Artist's Point- the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
At Artist’s Point- the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It’s so perfect, it almost looks photoshopped!

Since we’ve returned home I’ve been raving about our trip to anyone who asks about our vacation.  And I rarely rave about anything.  But to put my finger on just what made our trip so special?  That’s tough, because it was like everything aligned perfectly and made a trip so memorable, so magical…

Challenging and Pampering

The first day, battling mild altitude sickness, I wasn’t sure we had made a wise decision.  And each day after that, whether we were hiking up a mountain or cycling against strong headwinds, we were presented with a challenge. 

I can say that, honestly, had we been vacationing on our own, we never would have pushed ourselves so hard.  But then we never would have played in snow in Beehive Basin, seen the Grand Prismatic from above or waded in icy cold mountain streams just below waterfalls.  Each day brought a challenge that pushed us to our limits- and even brought our girls to tears a couple of times.

The Grand Prismatic in Yellowstone National Park
90% of park visitors don’t climb the incredibly steep hill to see this view.

But the challenges did something else…  Our girls learned just how strong they really are, and that rewards lie simply in finishing what you set out to do. They were proud of what they accomplished- and we were proud of them for not giving up.

The Dusty Trail
Very dirty, and a bit beat up, after scaling the rough terrain to view the Grand Prismatic

While our guides may have pushed us, they also spoiled us.  We never knew what was in the huge packs they carried.  Iced coffee on the mountain side. Brownies by Old Faithful.  Parfaits in the park.  They were full of surprises; we never knew what might appear – or when.

Mountain Top Iced Coffee
Served at 9000 feet. We never knew what our guides would surprise us with…

Exhilarating and Relaxing

I can honestly say that Doug and I would never have taken the girls white water rafting.  And we likely wouldn’t have hiked miles into the forest in an area where bears had been active just a day before.  And it’s quite possible that we would have given in to the girls’ protests of “It’s too hard” and “I want to go back” before reaching our destinations.  Each experience brought its own excitement, whether the rush of adrenaline as rapids of the Yellowstone River slapped you in the face or the awe of beauty that few see.

White Water Rafting on Yellowstone River
That’s Brenna at the back, right. Two rows behind me. I have never been so terrified for my child- nor so proud of her!

With as exciting as each day was, our evenings were completely relaxing.  Because everything was handled for us by our guides, we didn’t have to worry about hotel check in, dinner reservations, or even getting our luggage to our rooms.  Our every need was seen to.  Our guides even toted a camera along to get those candid photos that we normally miss (and they gave them to us after the trip!) And the trip ended with the ultimate in relaxation: two nights at the Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa.  Our final night was a treat for both the kids and the adults: a pizza pool party for them and an adults only 5 star dinner for us.

Relaxing at Chico Hot Springs
Soothing sore muscles in the hot spring fed pool at Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa.

Painful and Restorative

Five days of activity brought pains.  Sore feet from hiking, sore rears from biking, sore hands from gripping fallen trees to keep yourself from sliding down a hillside….  This wasn’t a sit-on-th-beach-with-a-frozen-drink vacation.  But I can tell you that this vacation did something for my family that hadn’t happened before.  It made us strong, as a unit.  It made us see what we were capable of.  And it made us enjoy being together.  This vacation created memories that will last a lifetime.  And, while that is what you strive for with vacations, rarely do you achieve it as completely as we did during this trip.

A girl and her horse
possibly my favorite photo from our trip. Caelan and “her” horse, Be Careful. This is what you want to feel after a vacation…

We so completely enjoyed our Austin Lehman Adventure this summer that we are planning to take another one next year – probably the Wyoming Family Adventure in Yellowstone and the Tetons.  Want to join us?

If you’re thinking about a guided tour, or adventure vacation,  I highly recommend Austin Lehman Adventures.  From the first inquiry, to trip follow up, the staff at Austin Lehman work hard to make sure your trip is perfect. 

Disclosure:  I won a trip for 2 with ALA last year.  I paid full price for the girls to join us on this trip.  I was not required to write about my trip, or share our adventure in any way. 


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  1. Sounds like an amazing way to vacation. Those sites you saw were amazing- loved the Grand Prismatic! Wow! I did find myself thinking that I’d want to “train” for the vacation though. 🙂 What a great way to explore Montana!

    1.  @travelermom @Austinlehman sends a trip packet- and in it are some tips to get you ready for an active vacation.  I’ll actually be talking more about that in the coming weeks. 

  2. That’s an inspiration! I think growing as a family is one of the very best reasons to travel and it’s good for your kids to see you push yourself. I love that your girls learned that hard work brings great rewards – what a lovely life lesson!

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