It’s hard for travelers heading west along US-2 to believe that, despite having covered over 1,000 miles of undulating Great Plains, they have yet to reach the mountains. It isn’t until Cut Bank (pop. 2,820) that the see-forever glaciation looks like it might be waning. You crest a hill and suddenly there they are: the rugged Rocky Mountains. Popularly known as the coldest city in the United States, as measured at the local U.S. Weather Service monitoring station, Cut Bank is a friendly and pretty enough place, bisected neatly by US-2 and the railroad tracks.

Downtown, on US-2, the Big Sky Café (13 W. Main St., 406/873-4010) is great for rubbing shoulders with the locals at breakfast or lunch. At the east end of town, Cut Bank’s iconic 27-foot-tall penguin stands next to the Glacier Gateway Inn and Plaza (1130 E. St., 406/873-5544 or 800/851-5541, $63-80), the town’s nicest motel.