The wide open skies and stunning mountain backdrops throughout the West are beautiful, but the views below the ground — the ones right underneath your feet — can be even more breathtaking.

Too bad explorers Merriweather Lewis and William Clark and guide Sacagawea completely missed one of Montana’s most amazing sights.

That’s right. Despite its name, Lewis and Clark never actually visited the amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations within Lewis and Clark State Park Caverns. In fact, they only camped nearby.

Take a detour off I-90, grab your sneakers, and start exploring. 

Here’s how to avoid making the same mistake Lewis and Clark did. 

Have a game plan
The caves within Montana’s first state park are only open for a limited time between May 1 and September 30 and for special candlelight tours during the December holiday season. Like the many adventurers before you, outline a plan of attack before you get there, do some light research on basic underground rock formations, and dress in layers (it can get chilly down there). Afterwards, check out some of the canoeing and hiking options the park has to offer above ground, too.  

Opt for the tour
While the park’s campgrounds and cabins are open all year round, the perfect family day includes one of the guided tours. As you learn about the geology and the history of the caverns, the two-hour adventure takes you through a two-mile stretch of stunning rock formations both above and below ground. 

Play “I Spy”
Seems odd, but establishing rules for a simple “I Spy” game while you’re on the cavern tour will help ensure you don’t miss any of the remarkable views while you’re underground. Some things to look for are: the bats that make the cave their home and the Beaver Slide you can really slide down on the tour.