Best wild kingdom
What didn’t happen here: Vacation homes.
Why it’s a winner: There’s never been a bigger private conservation land purchase than the Montana Legacy Project, which is ensuring that one of the least spoiled places on the planet remains that way. When Plum Creek Timber Company decided to sell its 310,586 acres of land running southeast of Montana’s Glacier National Park, it was entirely possible the area would be purchased by developers as sites for ranchettes. But the Montana Legacy lands are havens for some of the rarest animals in North America. In fact, it’s believed this stretch of the Northern Rockies is one of the few places on Earth where no plant or animal species has gone extinct within the last two centuries. So, over roughly three years, two powerhouses—the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land—fought the battle to establish Montana Legacy, paying $490 million for the acreage. Money well spent.
Take a look: Hike to Holland Falls. From State 83, turn on Holland Lake Road and continue about 4 miles to the parking area. The 1.6-mile trail follows along Holland Lake, then climbs to the falls.