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Trail To The Stars Wins National Honor

Montana’s Trail to the Stars, a project that guides visitors to sites where they can view the night skies without nearby light pollution, recently received a national award for collaboration at a gathering of tourism and outdoor recreation industry professionals.

Montana’s Trail to the Stars won the Excellence in Tourism Collaboration Award, presented on Sept. 26 at the 2023 National Extension Tourism Conference to Carla Hunsley, executive director of Montana’s Missouri River Country, and Brenda Maas, marketing director for Visit Southeast Montana.

“The dark skies of eastern Montana hold the stories of the cosmos and untold potential for our visitor economy,” Hunsley said. “It’s incredible to be part of the work to bring together the many people - lodging operators, land managers, local restaurants, shop owners and more - who make every stop on the trail an unforgettable experience for our visitors.”

The trail launched in 2022 as a collaboration between three of Montana’s tourism regions - Montana’s Missouri River Country, Visit Southeast Montana and Central Montana Tourism - as well as Montana State Parks, the Montana Department of Commerce and Montana-based marketing agency Windfall, Inc.

“This award recognizes our concerted effort to work together, creatively, to distribute visitation to rural areas while also celebrating what we’ve known for a long time - eastern Montana is full of amazing places to get an unparalleled view of the stars,” Maas said. “Our skies are truly big.”

Montana’s Trail to the Stars is part of a growing focus on astrotourism in Montana and around the world. The trail features more than 45 “dark sky” locations across eastern Montana that are ideal for stargazing, including Medicine Rocks State Park, which is a DarkSky International- designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

“Trail to the Stars is a great example of DMOs working together to drive collaboration and leverage efficiencies to create extraordinary experiences for visitors in our state,” said Jamey Petersen, director of the Office of Tourism at the Montana Department of Commerce. “Congratulations to all who worked to make Trail to the Stars a reality for our state.”

In April, Montana’s Trail to the Stars also won “Marketing Campaign of the Year” at the Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

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