Category Archives: Summer

Bike the Route of the Hiawatha in Western Montana

The crown jewel of America’s Rails to Trails is right here in Glacier Country—just one more reason why Western Montana is the perfect place for an adventure on two wheels. The Route of the Hiawatha bike trail is part of the Olympian Hiawatha route and is noted as one of the most breathtaking scenic stretches of railroad in the country. USA Today called it a Rails to Trails “Top Ten Pick.” Biking this beauty is one way to experience an authentic, family-friendly adventure in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

The Route of the Hiawatha offers spectacular views of the Bitterroots. Photo: Andy Austin

ABOUT THE TRAIL

The Route of the Hiawatha offers a scenic, easy ride through 10 tunnels and over seven high trestles, crossing the beautiful Bitterroot Mountains between Montana and Idaho. The Taft Tunnel at St. Paul Pass is a highlight of the route, burrowing under the crest of the Bitterroots. You’ll find an interpretive sign—one of 47 along the entire route—midway through the 1.66-mile tunnel, showing the Montana/Idaho line. There’s also a waterfall at the West Portal of the tunnel—a great spot to commemorate your adventure with a photo.

This Rails to Trails adventure allows you to coast downhill and ride the shuttle back. Photo: Andy Austin

GETTING HERE

Lookout Pass Ski Area operates the Route of the Hiawatha. Located adjacent to Interstate Highway 90 on the Montana/Idaho state line at Exit 0, the ski area is just 30 miles west from the St. Regis Travel Center. If you haven’t already bought tickets online, Lookout Pass is where you can purchase trail and shuttle passes and pick up rental bikes and helmets, bike racks and tagalongs/Burley trailers. It’s important to note that Lookout Pass is not where the trailheads are located; riders will need to drive from Lookout Pass to one of the trailheads. If you already have your gear, you can skip Lookout Pass and purchase a ticket at the trailhead or online.

Most folks start at the top of the trail—Taft Tunnel’s East Portal—and take the shuttle back up from the Pearson Trailhead. This is the most-popular option and is great for kids because it offers an easy, gradual downhill ride. If you can ride a bike, you can pedal this trail, as there’s no uphill required. To get there, park at and access the trail off I-90 at Exit 5. After exiting I-90, follow the signs for 2 miles to the trailhead. From the East Portal you’ll enter the Taft Tunnel and then continue the 15-mile ride on a slight downgrade to the Pearson Trailhead. For those who want to bypass the Taft Tunnel, the bike trail can be accessed south of the tunnel at the Roland Trailhead. For advanced riders who’re ready for a 30-mile round-trip adventure, it’s best to start at the bottom of the trail—at the Pearson Trailhead—so your ride back is all downhill. Parking is available at all trailheads. Please note, passes are not available for purchase at the Pearson Trailhead.

Riders will cross seven high trestles over the course of the 15 mile ride. Photo: Andy Austin

SHUTTLES

Shuttle buses run between the Pearson and Roland trailheads only; they do not shuttle riders from Pearson back to the Taft Trailhead or to/from Lookout Pass Ski Area. Shuttle seating is first-come, first-served once you reach the Pearson Trailhead, and shuttle buses fill up quickly. Trip Tip: Start your Hiawatha ride early to avoid afternoon shuttle wait times.

The Route of the Hiawatha is one unforgettable bike ride. Photo: Andy Austin

RIDING SEASON

The Route of the Hiawatha—including the trail, trailheads and facilities—is open daily 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. from late May through late September. Shuttle buses operate every day the trail is open. Group rates and season passes are also available. For a unique spin on this bucket-list bike ride, experience one of the Full Moon Night Rides on the Route of the Hiawatha. Reservations are required for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. See more Route of the Hiawatha events here.

Lights are required for the pitch black Taft Tunnel. Photo: Andy Austin

WHAT TO PACK

Bring your own headlamps/lights and helmets, which are required for biking the trail.  Both are also available to rent at Lookout Pass Ski Area. Make sure to carry snacks, drinks and extra clothing on the ride. Even though it’s summer, the Taft Tunnel runs 47 degrees year-round, so layers are encouraged.

Bicycle across a backdrop of endless green. Photo: Andy Austin

LODGING, DINING AND ATTRACTIONS IN THE AREA

For an overnight adventure, there are multiple lodging options in Western Montana. Relax after your ride with a mineral soak at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort in Paradise, Montana, just about an hour’s drive from the trail. And don’t miss the famous 50,000 Silver Dollar in Haugan, a unique family-friendly stop offering a restaurant, gift shop, motel, gas and a convenience store.

Food is available at both the Taft and Pearson trailheads on most days. You’ll find items like sandwiches, bottled water, soft drinks and Gatorade. You can purchase a picnic lunch at Lookout Pass Ski Area, too. Also at the Taft Trailhead, you’ll find the perfect souvenir, like Route of the Hiawatha T-shirts, sweatshirts, backpacks, magnets and more.

Western Montana Fruitful Summers + Farmers Markets

One of many things that makes Montana special is that we have four seasons, and each season is beautiful and unique in its own right. Springtime brings blooming wildflowers and sets the stage for the harvest of summer’s distinctly Montana fruits—Flathead cherries, Dixon melons, and wild huckleberries are our favorite flavors of a Glacier Country summer. Whether you attend a festival, pick your own fruit, or stop by a local farmers market, you’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic, and tasty, Western Montana experience.

Cherry trees line the shore of Flathead Lake. Photo: Donnie Sexton

FLATHEAD CHERRIES

Some of the world’s best cherries grow right here in Montana’s Flathead Valley. The Flathead Valley offers ideal growing conditions for cherries, with warm days and cool evenings that extend the growing season, deepening the cherries in color for a sweeter taste. When driving along Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—you’ll pass many cherry orchards. Pop-up fruit stands line the main roads, and it’s easy to pull over and purchase a bag of cherries. The harvest begins in late July, so plan a trip to a u-pick orchard—a fun activity for the whole family that lets you pick out the ripest and best-looking cherries. Hockaday Orchards on the west side of the lake is open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily beginning late July, Getmans’ Orchard & Vineyard on the east side requires you to call ahead before stopping by. You’re likely to see other u-pick orchards with signs out welcoming you, so don’t hesitate to stop—you’ll be greeted by warm western hospitality.

You can never get enough of Flathead cherries!

Festival: The annual Polson Main Street Flathead Cherry Festival puts on a family-friendly, mouthwatering good time that’s not to be missed. See, eat and splurge on Flathead cherries, cherry-infused treats, local artwork and handcrafted goods. Test your grit in a cherry pit-spitting contest or cherry pie eating contest. On Main Street in Polson, July 20 – 21, 2019.

Delicious Flathead cherries are a staple fruit in Western Montana.

HUCKLEBERRIES

Huckleberries are a small, dark purple, sweet berry that grow in Western Montana. This beloved berry is a real Montana prize. While visiting, you’re sure to see it infused into everything from honey and vodka to huckleberry pie topped with huckleberry ice cream. Treat yourself to this Montana taste and you’ll understand why this berry is unrivaled. While sampling the fare is sure to delight, you can also pick wild huckleberries, which grow well on slopes between 3,500 and 7,200 feet, with minimal tree coverage. However, a good huckleberry picking spot is like a good fishing hole; some secrets are best discovered on your own. Bears love huckleberries as much as we do, so it’s always a good idea to pick huckleberries in groups and carry bear spray.

These small berries pack a flavorful punch. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Festival: The Trout Creek Huckleberry Festival, located in Trout Creek, is celebrating its 40th year in 2019. More than 100 arts and crafts vendors will be selling their wares, and events include a parade, huckleberry pancake breakfast, 5k fun run, auction, horseshoe tournament, huckleberry dessert contest and much more. Food vendors offer a range of huckleberries in a variety of desserts to cap off your day. At the Trout Creek Park, August 9 – 11, 2019.

When it comes to huckleberries, the flavor combinations are endless and sure to delight. Photo: Donnie Sexton

FARMERS MARKETS

Our very popular outdoor community markets are a big part of Western Montana’s charm, and they provide the perfect opportunity to explore our lively small towns. Imagine strolling through a farmers market on a warm summer morning, coffee carts and baked goods in abundance, fresh produce, locally sourced food, and locally-made arts and crafts like pottery, paintings, jewelry, woodcarvings and more for sale. You’re likely to find our beloved huckleberries and Flathead cherries for sale here, too. Glacier Country’s market scene boast gatherings big and small, each one truly unique. Head to a farmers market for a quintessentially Western Montana experience, and take the time to talk with locals—these vendors are some of the friendliest folks around.

Farmers markets are a treasure trove full of vegetables, baked and canned goods, flowers and more.

Pro-Tip: Look for the Dixon Melon truck. The best melons in Montana are a market favorite from this vendor, serving up honeydews, crenshaws and cantaloupes right from the truck.

Savor the flavor of a delicious Dixon melon. Photo: Destination Missoula

GLACIER COUNTRY 2019 FARMERS MARKETS:

Tuesdays: Darby, Missoula, Whitefish

Wednesdays: Bigfork, Arlee, Cut Bank, Trout Creek

Thursdays: Alberton, Columbia Falls, Libby, Eureka (second Thursday of the month)

Fridays: Plains, Polson, West Glacier

Saturdays: Troy, Florence, Hamilton, Kalispell, Missoula, Noxon, Stevensville, Superior

Sundays: Florence, Seeley Lake

For the Love of the Forest: Celebrating Montana’s Heritage

There are 154 national forests in the United States, and Montana is home to 12 of them. Five of those cover ground in Glacier Country—Lolo, Bitterroot, Flathead, Kootenai and part of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests—and claim more than 8 million acres of national forestland comprised of some of the most pristine terrain in America. Dramatic mountain peaks and soft rolling foothills; lush and diverse woodlands; sparkling lakes and rivers; and remote wilderness areas make up these beloved forestlands, all a vital part of Montana’s prized landscape. And thanks to the help of the U.S. Forest Service, and their efforts and partnerships with local organizations to conserve the land, we plan to keep it that way.

You can explore the rich history of our forests and the U.S. Forest Service’s legacy at various events and attractions throughout Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

EVENTS

Darby Logger Days thrills onlookers with competitions in axe throwing, pole climbing and cross cut sawing.

A few of our charming small towns celebrate forest heritage with lively timber-sports events. The beautiful Bitterroot Valley creates a happy ruckus with Darby Logger Days in July, celebrating the skill and bravery of those who work in the time-honored tradition of logging with logging competitions and live music, plus plenty of family fun for your little lumberjacks. Missoula joins in on the festivities with Forestry Days at Fort Missoula every April with everything from logging competitions to antique sawmill and horse logging demonstrations. The community of Libby showcases its forest stewardship heritage every June at Libby Logger Days, with educational exhibits, displays and demonstrations reflecting the rich history of forest management over the last two centuries.

ATTRACTIONS

Big Pine
The largest known ponderosa pine tree in Montana and third-largest in the United States stands tall near Alberton, less than 5 miles off Interstate 90 at one end of the Big Pine Campground. Make sure to pay a visit to this almost 400-year-old giant.

How would you like to spend the night in a fire lookout? Photo: Brian Savage

Forest Service Fire Lookout + Cabin Rentals
One of Western Montana’s best-kept secrets is that our Forest Service cabins and fire lookout towers can be rented. Cabins range from mountaintop lookouts to historic log cabins alongside blue-ribbon trout streams. These rustic accommodations offer a fun and affordable Western Montana adventure.

Haugan Savenac Historic U.S. Forest Service Nursery
Overnight at this former forest service nursery, offering a visitor center as well as a bunkhouse, cookhouse and cottage available for rent in Haugan, 90 miles west of Missoula in the scenic Clark Fork Valley. Walk the interpretive trail, and explore displays, artifacts and memorials. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Climb to the top of a historic fire tower lookout. Photo: Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
Explore Missoula County history at Fort Missoula, where you’ll find a teepee burner—once plentiful in the Missoula Valley and used by sawmills to burn waste from milling operations. Also on display, the Forestry Area Sawmill, representing the portable sawmills once used throughout the region; Miller Creek Guard Station, once used to house “fire watchers” posted throughout the region after the devastating fires of 1910 destroyed 3 million acres of Western Montana forestland; and the Sliderock Lookout, a tower used in the 1930s to spot fires in Montana’s vast landscape, similar to those still used today.

The Jack Saloon
Don’t miss “The Best Bar in America,” located on Graves Creek between Lolo and Lolo Hot Springs. The Jack—built from rough-hewn cedar logs by a local lumberjack legend—provides an authentic glimpse of Montana logging history. Enjoy the bar and grill, live music, cabin rentals and RV parking, and, most importantly, the history—loggers have etched and burned their names and sentiments into the wooden bar and timber walls for decades.

Tour the Smokejumper Visitor Center to see these real-life heroes at work. Photo: MOTBD

Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center
One of the most popular visitor attractions in Missoula is a working smokejumper facility that educates folks on firefighting procedures, smokejumper history and fire-related information with murals, videos, a reconstructed lookout tower and exhibits of men and women fighting wildfire throughout history. Learn about jump gear, parachutes, cargo, training and aircraft. Tours last about 45 minutes. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Through the winter, tours are available by appointment.

Watching a demonstration at the pack corral. Photo: National Museum of Forest Service History

National Museum of Forest Service History
Learn about early efforts to protect America’s forests, and discover heroes in conservation like Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot—the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service—the evolution of America’s alpine ski areas, and the smokejumper/WWII paratrooper connection. The visitor center is a restored ranger cabin housing exhibits and a gift shop. On the museum grounds, walk the interpretive Forest Discovery Trail through a “Champion Grove,” trees that share the DNA of similar groves around the nation and planted in honor of champions of the cause, and explore the pack corral and knot-tying station as well an L-4 Fire Lookout Tower replica. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Ninemile Remount Depot and Historic Ranger Station
This Frenchtown Visitor Center offers a self-guided tour of the history of the place that provided experienced packer animals and firefighters and their animals to fight fires and help with backcountry work projects. Enjoy Cape Cod architecture, a pasture and a mountain landscape. Located on the Ninemile Ranger District campground near Frenchtown. In 1930 the Forest Service secured a lease of the Ninemile Property to set up a central depot to supply pack stock, to serve as a training base for packers and to standardize packing practices in the forests.

Seeley Lake Ranger District + Gus the Tree
Stop by this local visitor center and don’t miss the world’s largest larch tree. Near the western shore of Seeley Lake, a mile-long nature trail winds through the Gerard Grove to a 1,000-year-old western larch, locally known as Gus.

Andy Austin Spring Tour: I-90 Corridor

Every summer, thousands of travelers drive I-90 as they cruise across Montana. Many of these folks will take a detour south near Bozeman to head to Yellowstone, and others may take the detour north of Missoula to Glacier National Park. But Montana has so many hidden gems tucked just off the interstate, from endless mountain views to quaint small towns with big personalities. My name is Andy Austin. I am a Montana-based photographer and lover of the lesser-visited places in my beautiful state. When Glacier Country Tourism reached out to do a shoot in the I-90 corridor west of Missoula, I was quick to say yes to exploring one of the few areas I have only driven through. 

I-90 and the Clark Fork River in a perfect scene under a double rainbow. Photo: Andy Austin

Day 1:
I met up with some friends in Missoula in the morning and we headed west to Tarkio to put a few boats in the river and try our luck at fly-fishing. Any day on the river is a good day in my book, but the beautiful weather and stunning scenery along the Clark Fork made for a picture-perfect day (literally). After catching a few trout, we took the boats out at Forest Grove and headed for the quiet town of Superior.

Our fly-fishing guide, Sarah, with a beautiful rainbow trout caught on the Clark Fork River. Photo: Andy Austin

We set up camp just minutes from town in the secluded Trout Creek Campground before setting our sights on the countless forest service roads sprawling throughout the Bitterroot Mountains. Driving up Thompson Peak was one of the more incredible drives I’ve taken this year, as wildflowers and grandiose views kept me wanting to stop every few feet. Watching the sunset up here made me realize how large and vast this range is, and I realized how little of it I actually have seen from the interstate.

Enjoying the peace and quiet of the Lolo National Forest with friends and campfire stories. Photo: Andy Austin

Day 2:
A rainy morning made for the perfect opportunity to spend the day exploring the small towns just minutes from the interstate. We started in Alberton at the historic Montana Valley Bookstore, and, honestly, I would have been happy if you left me there all day. With more than 10,000 used books, this small bookstore immediately leaves you in awe. From here we headed down the road to St. Regis and one of the most visited attractions of the area, the Travel Center. Of course, I had to get a huckleberry milkshake (okay, I had two) while I wandered the store and found some Montana-made gifts to send to out-of-state friends.

It’s called the “Best Shake Ever” and I cannot disagree with that. Photo: Andy Austin

We rounded out the afternoon with a trip to Haugan and a visit to the 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar (although the number of silver dollars has now passed 75,000) as well as a visit to Superior for a beautiful hike up the Vista Trail Scenic Overlook. We headed back west for a good night’s rest in a cabin along the Clark Fork River just north of St. Regis.

Alberton offers this hidden gem of a bookstore on its historic Railroad Avenue. Photo: Michael Graef

Day 3:
An early morning trip to the Montana/Idaho state line was in order so we could spend the majority of our day on the Route of the Hiawatha Trail. A rails to trails mountain biking route took us down 15 miles of the most scenic riding I’ve ever been on. This route followed the original route of the Milwaukee Railroad as we crossed seven steel trestle bridges and through 10 tunnels that have all been here for more than 100 years. Along the way, numerous informative signs told us the rich history of the area and the trail we were on. After completing 15 downhill miles, a shuttle bus was waiting at the bottom to take us back to the top.

Riding the Route of the Hiawatha was a perfect way to cap off an incredible trip. Photo: Andy Austin

Overall the trip will always hold a special place in my heart and now I’m going to have to budget a lot more time when I take I-90, as I have many new favorite places to make stops for.

Happy Adventuring,
Andy Austin

Have Fun Boating Montana’s Waters, But Be Responsible, Too

From Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—to countless alpine lakes, legendary rivers and famous blue-ribbon trout streams, there’s no shortage of places to play on the pristine waters of Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Boaters, rafters, paddlers, sailors and anglers alike flock to the region to take advantage of world-class water recreation opportunities among some of the planet’s most scenic and unspoiled landscapes.

After a day of adventure on the water, practice CLEAN. DRAIN. DRY. to guard against aquatic invasive species.

One of the most vital ways we keep Montana’s waters clean is by doing our part and complying with Montana’s Aquatic Invasive Species laws and rules. As a recreator in the region, we rely on you to help keep Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) out of our waters. If you’re planning a boating or fishing trip in Montana, it’s important to know about AIS—plants, animals and pathogens that are not native to Montana and can have far-reaching impacts on the state, wreaking havoc on our environment.

AIS can displace native species and threaten recreational fishing opportunities—those trophy rainbow trout we all love to fish. Wildlife—like bears, elk, moose, birds and waterfowl can be greatly impacted by AIS contamination, when their food and habitat are compromised. AIS can also clog waterways, impact irrigation and power systems, degrade ecosystems and cause public health problems.

Aquatic invasive species include half-inch-long zebra mussels, which can quickly infest lakes and rivers.

It’s easy for these non-native invasive water species to hop a ride on watercraft, paddles, fishing nets or a pair of waders, and find a new home in Montana. When these invasive creatures set in, they spread quickly and are nearly impossible—and very costly—to contain.

You can take a few simple steps to ensure that your unforgettable Montana adventure doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment:

CLEAN. DRAIN. DRY.

CLEAN Completely remove all mud, water and vegetation from your watercraft and gear before leaving the access area of a place you’ve recreated.

DRAIN All water from your watercraft and gear.

DRY Your watercraft and gear completely.

Stop for a quick mandatory inspection. Montanas’s waterways are worth it! Photo: Washington DFW

Prior to launching on a Montana waterway, you’ll need to have your watercraft inspected. This is a state requirement. Watercraft isn’t limited to boats and rafts; it includes kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and river-surfing boards. You can find more information about inspections and inspection stations here.

As you take in the natural beauty of Montana’s waterways, please remember to always CLEAN. DRAIN. DRY., and comply with our rules and regulations. Visit the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website for boating laws, fishing licenses and regulations and information about places to boat, float and kayak in the area. Together, we can keep the Treasure State a treasured place for all to enjoy.

 

Hidden Gem Golf Courses in Western Montana

With wide-open vistas and room to roam, it should come as no surprise that Western Montana’s Glacier Country is a golfer’s paradise. Come spring, we gleefully trade our ski poles for golf clubs. Here, we have the perfect blend of breathtaking landscapes, renowned courses and affordability. Pair that combo with small-town charm, and teeing up in Montana is a real treat. Get on the green in Glacier Country, where you’ll find some of the most stunning and enjoyable golf experiences, and get to know our scenic travel corridors while you’re at it.

Sunset bathes hole 12 of the Nick Faldo-designed course at the Wilderness Club. Photo: Wilderness Club

NORTHWEST CORRIDOR

Along Montana’s quiet Northwest Corridor, you’ll find three courses all offering something special. Eureka may be small but it boasts not one, but two golf hot spots. At Indian Springs Ranch play the links-style, 18-hole championship course that’s pure fun. Bask in the beauty of the Tobacco Valley at this unique, master-planned recreational community. Also in Eureka, the stunning Wilderness Club—designed by golf legend Nick Faldo—was ranked the No. 1 golf course in Montana by Golfweek and Golf Magazine and the No. 2 Best New Private Golf Course in the U.S. by Golf Magazine. In Libby, the aptly named Cabinet View Golf Club offers just that—a great game of golf among gorgeous Cabinet Mountain views.

BITTERROOT VALLEY

The beautiful Bitterroot Valley beckons all year long, but any season you can swing a golf club here is extra special. The unique Whitetail Golf Course in Stevensville is located within the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, so it’s the perfect place to find an authentic Montana golfing experience…and spot some wildlife on the green. Further down U.S. Highway 93 in Hamilton, the Hamilton Golf Course offers a fabulous round of golf and some of the best views in the valley.

Playing the 14th hole at Meadow Lake Golf Resort. Photo: Meadow Lake Golf Resort, Inc.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK SURROUNDING AREA + EAST GLACIER CORRIDOR

If your trip to Glacier National Park isn’t complete without a round of golf (we don’t blame you), here are four places in and around the park to swing your clubs. Meadow Lake Golf Resort in Columbia Falls is a must-play, and Golf Magazine agrees. Golf Digest gives this treasured course 4.5 stars and named it one of the top four public courses in Montana. Within the park itself, Glacier View Golf Course in West Glacier blends natural beauty with a polished game of golf. Along the East Glacier Travel Corridor in East Glacier Park, tee up at Glacier Park Lodge Golf Course. This historic course on the Blackfeet Reservation is the oldest grass greens golf course in Montana, and all 9 holes are named for former Blackfeet chiefs. At the Cut Bank Golf and Country Club a mile west of Cut Bank, enjoy small-town golf at its finest with an exceptional game and down-to-earth vibes.

TOUR 200

The laid-back Wild Horse Plains Golf Course in Plains is a family favorite along Montana’s scenic Tour 200 just north of Paradise. From there, drive the length of this scenic byway and end up in the quaint town of Thompson Falls for another round at Rivers Bend Golf Course, where every third hole finds you back at the clubhouse.

The Mission Mountain Golf Club offers gorgeous views of its namesake. Photo: Mission Mountain Golf Club

FLATHEAD CORRIDOR

The Flathead Valley has been named a “Top 50 Golf Course Destination” by Golf Digest. There’s no denying the beauty of the region and the caliber of its courses. At the southern tip of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—the Polson Bay Golf Course in Polson offers beautiful mountain views and fairways adjacent to the lake. South of that, in Pablo, the 9-hole executive Silver Fox Golf Course winds its way through lush trees, serene ponds and a wildlife corridor on the Salish Kootenai College campus. Even farther south, take in exceptional Mission Mountain views and a challenging game of golf at the Mission Mountain Golf Club in Ronan.

I-90 CORRIDOR

Experience good old-fashioned Montana hospitality 10 miles west of Missoula at King Ranch Golf Course in Frenchtown, where you’ll find 18 holes on wide fairways along the scenic Clark Fork River. Another I-90 Corridor favorite along the Clark Fork, and one of Western Montana’s hidden gems, is Trestle Creek Golf Course in St. Regis—known for some of the finest greens.

The Double Arrow Lodge features a spectacular golf course plus lodging and dining in Seeley Lake.

SEELEY-SWAN CORRIDOR

The recreation opportunities in the Seeley-Swan Corridor are some of Montana’s best, and golf is no exception. In the storybook village of Bigfork on the north shore of Flathead Lake, the semi-private Eagle Bend Golf Club offers a championship 27-hole course. In Seeley Lake, the pristine ponderosa pine setting of the Double Arrow Golf Course offers resort golfing nestled between the Swan and Mission mountain ranges. Watch wildlife as you make your way around water features and bunkers, and don’t miss the No. 15 signature hole, featuring an elevated tee and island green.

The list goes on—Western Montana is dotted with golf courses, from small-town favorites to large championship and semi-private golf clubs and resorts. Go green under our famous blue sky. For more inspiration, visit the Northwest Montana Golf Association, and read more about Glacier Country’s larger golf courses here.

Added Bonus: In addition to stunning scenery and incredible terrain, golfing in Western Montana won’t break the bank; it’s part of the warm western hospitality we’re known for.

Unique Ways to Explore Glacier National Park

The Crown of the Continent beckons outdoor enthusiasts. With more than 1 million acres of towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, wild meadows and sparkling waters—the sheer beauty of Glacier National Park is jaw-dropping from every angle. However, it can be a little intimidating. For those of you who don’t want to bite off more adventure than you can chew, but still want to get out of your car and away from the crowds, here’s an insider’s guide for a low-key introduction to the park.

Glacier National Park is captivating from every angle.

Explore in style by moped, horseback, boat, or a guided walk. These mellow adventures are some of the best ways to cover ground and discover the raw splendor of the park’s glacial-carved terrain. Experience a truly off-grid authentic Montana moment, without breaking a sweat.

Enjoy aquamarine glacial waters on a walk with Glacier Guides. Photo: Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

GUIDED WALKS

Set out on one of the park’s forested footpaths. Glacier National Park has more than 734 miles of maintained trails, including many short walks that provide an intimate tour of the terrain. Glacier Guides and Montana Raft leads hikes for all ages and fitness levels. New this year is a half-day nature walk. Learn about Leave No Trace, forest fire science, river ecology and the history of early settlers, while leisurely strolling on two easy walks—first at Lake McDonald Valley and then in the North Fork Valley. Each walk is about 1.1 miles, with an elevation gain of only 180 feet. 2019 guided walks are available May 30 – August 29. You can also request a custom walk, if you want to go to a different location.

The Sinopah, built in 1926, cruises Two Medicine Lake.

BOAT TOURS

For a different park perspective, step aboard a scenic boat tour by Glacier Park Boat Company. A guided tour of St. Mary Lake, Lake McDonald—the park’s largest lake—Many Glacier or Two Medicine Lake offers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, allowing you to take in 360 degrees of Glacier National Park grandeur. One of the most tranquil ways to explore the park, you’ll also have the option to get off the boat for a short guided walk. Each tour is unique, informative, and, most importantly, the view from the water is always extraordinary. Book a 2019 tour between May 18 and September 22, depending on location.

Saddle up in Glacier Country. Photo: Swan Mountain Outfitters

GUIDED HORSEBACK TRAIL RIDES

Get off the beaten path and take in Glacier National Park from the saddle with a guided horseback trail ride from Swan Mountain Outfitters. Experience unspoiled beauty and aquamarine glacial waters, along with wildlife and wildflowers around every bend. Trail rides vary from one hour long to one and a half days, and accommodate all levels of riders, beginner to expert. Take off from one of three locations—Apgar, Lake McDonald or Many Glacier. No two trails are alike; choose what views you’d like along the trail, from meadows to forests and lookouts to lakes. Tours are offered mid-May through the end of September/early October, weather dependent.

Enjoy an open ride through the fresh mountain air.

MOPED RIDES

Not wanting to stray far from the road? We’ve got you covered. Revel in the freedom of a self-guided road tour on a moped from Glacier Moped Rentals. Why? Because mopeds are exhilarating! You’ll also enjoy open views, plus the sounds and scents of the fresh mountain air. You don’t need a motorcycle license to ride; a helmet, map and safety briefing are all provided. Rent for as little as an hour, or choose a multiday trip. Mopeds make scenic viewpoints and pull-outs a breeze. Don’t miss the chance to ride the more undiscovered areas of the park on roads less traveled, taking in unrivaled, breathtaking views.

 

For more adventure inspiration, itineraries, facts, and safety information, visit glaciermt.com/glacier-park.

Western Montana Wings: Birding in Glacier Country

Western Montana’s pristine landscape makes for prime bird habitat. Our skies are graced with soaring raptors, our lakes and rivers are flush with waterfowl and shorebirds, and our grasslands and woodlands are visited by beautiful songbirds. Whether you’re an avid birder checking birds off a life list, or someone who just wants a look at something wild and free, there’s plenty of opportunity to catch some good glimpses of Glacier Country’s feathered residents.

There’s no better way to locate and learn about Western Montana’s birds than to go on a birding trip with a local expert. Glacier Country is home to four chapters of the Audubon Society: Bitterroot Audubon, Five Valleys Audubon, Flathead Audubon, and Mission Mountain Audubon. These groups frequently offer free or low-cost outings, but you may need to sign up in advance. Usually the group leader sets up a spotting scope for everyone to share, but you’ll want to bring your own binoculars. Check out The Montana Natural History Center in Missoula for birding events, like Naturalist Field Weekend: Sage Grouse Experience at the end of April and Naturalist Field Day: Birding by Ear in May.

The Montana Natural History Center offers birding classes and outings. Photo: Montana Natural History Center

If you’d like to do some birding on your own, check out the following hot spots:

In the Bitterroot Valley there’s no better place to bird-watch than Stevensville’s Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. More than 225 species of birds have been recorded there. Hit the riparian habitat along the walking path by the Bitterroot River trail. Don’t miss the ponds on the north end of the park that fill with migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall.

Downtown Missoula is steps away from the Riverfront Trail, where even without binoculars you can often spot osprey, great blue herons, kingfishers, and more. If you’re willing to venture a little further, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area is teeming with avian life. Word is, birders often don’t even need to leave the parking lot.

The Flathead Valley’s Owen Sowerwine Natural Area abounds with songbirds and waterfowl. Also scope out the West Valley Ponds, where there’s a new viewing area from which to see hundreds of sandhill cranes during fall migration.

Base your birding adventure out of the Mission Valley. There are three outstanding destinations here: the National Bison Range, Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and Pablo National Wildlife Refuge.

NOTABLE GLACIER COUNTRY BIRDS

A western meadowlark bursts into song. Photo: Brian Williams

Montana’s state bird, the western meadowlark, can be seen in abundance at the National Bison Range in the spring and summer. This medium-sized songbird with a striking yellow neck and chest nests and forages in tall grasses, so you’ll often hear its beautiful voice before seeing it. Luckily, you won’t have to wait long before it flies up to perch on a fence or a shrub to put on a concert for you.

Who ordered take-out? An osprey delivers a fish. Photo: Alan D. Wilson

The osprey is one of Glacier Country’s most recognizable birds. Not only is the city of Missoula’s semi-pro baseball team named after this charismatic raptor, but the stadium includes a nesting platform where an osprey pair can be reliably seen from April through September. It’s a real treat to watch one fishing—osprey plunge feet first into the water to grab a fish, which they’ll hold facing forward and upright in their talons as they glide off to find a dining spot.

Male harlequin ducks are a sight to be seen. Photo: Alan D. Wilson

Glacier National Park claims the densest population of harlequin ducks in the state and is, therefore, one of the best places to find them. Still, one researcher claims it’s rarer to spot a harlequin than a grizzly. Harlequins are the only North American duck that breed and forage in clear, fast rivers and streams. Keep an eye out for these distinctively colored ducks during May and June at Upper McDonald Creek near the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

A variety of woodpeckers call Western Montana home for part of the year. Named after Corps of Discovery adventurer Meriwether Lewis, Lewis’s woodpeckers can be spotted in Council Grove State Park from roughly May through August. Look for dead trees, where the birds nest in cavities. Their greenish-black back and wings, salmon-colored bellies and red faces make them easy to identify.

Look for pileated woodpeckers in areas with large dead trees. Photo: Alan D. Wilson

Over a foot long, with black bodies, white-striped faces and flaming red crests, pileated woodpeckers are always an exciting find. Their loud calls and drumming will help you locate these year-round residents in their forest habitat, like the cottonwood snags in the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area.

Mountain bluebirds match the color of Western Montana skies.

Glacier Country’s skies get even bluer when mountain bluebirds and western bluebirds arrive in the spring. The males of these two species of songbirds are easy to tell apart; mountain bluebirds are blue all over, while western bluebirds sport an orange chest. Western bluebirds prefer open woodlands like Blue Mountain in Missoula. Mountain bluebirds are prevalent at the National Bison Range. Like western meadowlarks, both species flit between the ground and low perches.

A sandhill crane flies with its legs and neck fully stretched out. Photo: Alan D. Wilson

One of the largest birds you’ll see in Montana is the sandhill crane at 3.5 feet tall with a 6-foot wingspan. These elegant gray giants fly with neck and legs extended, looking like prehistoric pterodactyls come to life. From April to October, the long-legged cranes can be seen in open habitats like marshes and grasslands. The best place to spot them is during fall migration at the new viewing platform in West Valley near Kalispell.

Trumpeter swans are making a comeback at the Flathead Indian Reservation. Photo: Alan D. Wilson

For a chance to see America’s largest waterfowl, the trumpeter swan, head to the Flathead Indian Reservation’s Pablo National Wildlife Refuge, where these impressive birds have been successfully reintroduced. Biologists for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have been working for 20 years to establish a viable population, which now numbers roughly 200 swans.

Great blue herons are a common sight in Western Montana waters. Photo: Alan D. Wilson

The majestic great blue heron can be found year-round almost anywhere there’s a river, lake or wetland. Birders can get relatively close to the nesting colonies at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. In the spring and summer, the conifers near the pond host several nests each, and visitors are treated to an abundance of heron activity.

Snowy owl sightings in Western Montana are a rare treat. Photo: Elaine R. Wilson

Western Montana is home to 15 owl species, and one of the foremost owl researchers in the world, Denver Holt. His Owl Research Institute, based out of Charlo, often leads workshops and field days, which are open to the public. Driving through the Flathead and Mission Valleys in the winter, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for snowy owls—they sometimes migrate down from the Arctic to feast on voles.

Common loons arrive in the summer to nest on Glacier Country’s lakes. Photo: Elaine R. Wilson

Glacier Country boasts the only common loon habitat in Montana. If you’re hoping to hear this black and white bird’s legendary call, visit Spencer Lake west of Whitefish from March through September. There are three distinctive vocalizations you might hear during the summer months: 1) a long, and some say eerie, cry, 2) a high-pitched fast call, and 3) the territorial yodel of the males.

For more information on birding in Western Montana, visit glaciermt.com/birding.

Lovely Lakeside: Exploring Small-Town Charm on Flathead Lake

The shores of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—boast some pretty spectacular communities, and the lovely little town of Lakeside is no exception. Hugging the western shore of the lake’s northern tip, ease of access to the water is a highlight, but this popular summertime destination happens to be a Glacier Country getaway worth getting away to any time of year.

Fall is the perfect time to plan for next summer’s visit to Lakeside.

With a name like Lakeside, expectations are high and this little town lives up to them. Lake life, winter recreation and small-town charm an hour from Glacier National Park? We’re always up for that.

There are endless ways to explore Flathead Lake, but a Far West Boat Tour is a must. Board this historic Montana cruise ship for a fun, educational and awe-inspiring cruise or private charter seasonally from Lakeside.

Enjoy the water and the serene lakeside landscape at West Shore / Flathead Lake State Park. Sheltered by lush forestland, West Shore offers glacially-carved rock outcroppings and spectacular lake views of the Mission and Swan Mountain ranges. Fishing—especially along the rocky shoreline—and boating are popular here, and there’s a 31-site RV-accessible campground in the park.

West Shore State Park in Lakeside offers recreational opportunities galore on Flathead Lake.

Lakeside’s Volunteer Park offers a beach hangout and pier access, swim docks, a boat dock, canoe and bicycle racks and pavilions available for rent.

The town of Lakeside itself is quaint and picturesque. Stroll through locally owned shops and eateries while taking in views of the Swan Mountains. Serving up one of the best breakfasts in Lakeside, head to The Homestead Café for huckleberry pancakes.

An antique store filled with western collectibles adds to Lakeside’s small-town charm.

Montana ranks #4 in the nation for craft breweries per capita, and Lakeside is proud to be the home of Tamarack Brewing Company. A post-adventure, artisan beer is a Montana must, and their chicken wings are famous.

Savor the flavor of Montana at Beargrass Bistro, offering easygoing upscale dining—including a kids’ menu—as well as wine, beer and cocktails. This Lakeside gem prepares seasonally inspired dishes using locally and regionally sourced ingredients.

Toast to Lakeside at the Beargrass Bistro.

Western Montana is known for world-class winter recreation and Lakeside is a pretty exceptional ski destination for snow enthusiasts. Boasting panoramic views of Flathead Lake, the Mission Mountains and Glacier National Park, Blacktail Mountain Ski Area is just 30 minutes from town and the surrounding Blacktail Mountain Nordic Trails are perfect for scenic hiking and cross-country skiing.

Gorgeous fall colors will give way to wintry white on the road to Blacktail Mountain Ski Resort. Hello, ski season!

Lodging in Lakeside is always warm and friendly, representing that western hospitality we’re known for here in Glacier Country. Stay at one of the condos or cabins at Edgewater RV Resort & Motel, or choose from a number of cozy spots from which you can explore Lakeside, Montana.

A dusting of snow in early fall reveals spectacular views of Flathead Lake and the Mission and Swan mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

SUP: Top 12 Places to Stand-Up Paddleboard in Western Montana

Come see what’s SUP in Western Montana. Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is an increasingly popular way to explore Montana’s sparkling alpine lakes and scenic, lazy rivers. In fact, SUP is the fastest-growing water sport in the world. Surfing meets kayaking in this epically fun way to play on the water.

Glide across Western Montana waters on a SUP board. Photo: Noah Couser

If you’re new to the sport, your best bet is to go with a guide. Many local outfitters here in Glacier Country offer rentals, lessons and guided trips, so, you’re in luck. Here’s a list of our top 12 SUP spots as well as the folks who can help you get on the water for your Western Montana stand-up paddleboarding adventure.

ASHLEY LAKE
Fifteen miles west of Kalispell, Ashley Lake is a real charmer. Easy on the eyes, the alpine aqua waters of this special SUP spot make for an unforgettably picturesque day.
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FLATHEAD LAKE: WAYFARERS STATE PARK
Paddle the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Wayfarers State Park has some of the best Flathead Lake access, including a beach area as well as rocky cliffs along the shoreline. The water is clean and clear and is typically sheltered from wind and waves, though it can make for some fun SUP action when the swell picks up and creates near surf-like conditions, which are also great for downwind paddling. Wayfarers happens to be one of the best spots on the lake to watch the sunset, too.
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Base Camp Bigfork has got you covered on rentals, instruction and location tips. Photo: Base Camp Bigfork

The north shore of Flathead Lake offers miles of undeveloped shoreline. It’s a great place to spot waterfowl, eagles, osprey and deer, and take in amazing mountain views. If you access the lake via Bigfork Bay, you’ll be able to paddle right into the storybook town of Bigfork for some post-SUP food and drinks or delicious Sweet Peaks Ice Cream. If you’re up for a celebration, plan your trip around the Northern Rockies Paddlefest at Wayfarers State Park, held annually in May.

Anywhere you decide to put in on Flathead Lake, great views and cool waters will meet you there.

SWAN RIVER
The Swan River flows into the Bigfork Bay, which allows the more adventurous to try paddling moving water. There are several access points, which allow for more of a downriver journey while the river winds through a picture-perfect landscape. There are miles of slow-moving water perfect for beginners. There is also a nice class 2+ rapid stretch, which is popular for inner tubing, but also ideal for paddlers looking for an introduction to whitewater paddleboarding.

SWAN VALLEY LAKES: SWAN LAKE, ECHO LAKE AND HOLLAND LAKE
These three lakes offer authentic Montana SUP adventures. Paddle to the sandbar in the middle of scenic Swan Lake, experience the famously warm waters of Echo Lake, or combine your Holland Lake paddle with a 3.3-mile out-and-back hike to gorgeous Holland Falls.

The Swan Valley lakes offer amazing paddling in pristine waters. Here a paddleboarder cruises Swan Lake.

TRIP TIP: For Swan River plus Ashley, Flathead and Swan lakes SUP gear, rent a board at Base Camp Bigfork and get complimentary delivery and pickup as well as on-the-water instruction. Base Camp also rents boards to those who want to self-drive their gear to any number of lakes in Glacier National Park.

BLACKFOOT RIVER
The clear, cold, trout-filled waters of the Blackfoot—made famous by Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It”—offer the scenic splendor of canyon walls often dotted with majestic bighorn sheep. Paddle the Blackfoot in July for unobstructed flows.

CLARK FORK RIVER
Experience the eclectic town of Missoula from the waters of the winding Clark Fork River. Put in at the Sha-Ron fishing access site in East Missoula and then hop off the water at the river’s edge in downtown Missoula, where you’ll find good eats, plenty to drink, and lots to see and do.

BITTERROOT RIVER
This scenic valley waterway is flanked by the beautiful rolling Sapphire Range to one side and the dramatic Bitterroot Mountains to the other. Hop on the water at Bells Crossing and paddle to the Stevensville Crossing site to hop out.

LAKE COMO
Solitude abounds at this Bitterroot Valley gem 8 miles south of Hamilton in the Bitterroot National Forest. There’s a sandy beach at the north end of the lake, perfect for paddling and swimming. Bring a picnic lunch and your hiking shoes…abundant trails surround the lake.

TRIP TIP: For Blackfoot, Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Como SUP rentals, guides, gear and tips, check out Missoula’s Trail Head, or Bob Ward’s, with locations in both Missoula and Hamilton.

UPPER WHITEFISH LAKE
This Stillwater State Forest stunner north of Whitefish, dazzles and is the perfect tucked-away spot for a quiet day on the lake. Feeling adventurous? Head south to Whitefish (1.5 hours) for post-paddle food, drinks and fun.
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TALLY LAKE
West of Whitefish, the warm waters of Tally Lake offer a peaceful paddle among the lush trees and scenic cliff walls of the Kootenai National Forest. Head to the east shore for a serene evening paddle.
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FLATHEAD RIVER: THE NORTH AND MIDDLE FORKS
The stunning emerald waters of the Flathead River offer a Glacier Country experience like no other. Paddle the Middle Fork from West Glacier to Blankenship Bridge, passing through a jaw-dropping gorge with a perfect cliff-jumping spot. The North Fork is one of only four Wild and Scenic Rivers in Montana and forms the western border of Glacier National Park. Breathtaking scenery is a given, and black bear sightings are not unheard of.

It doesn’t get much better (or prettier) than the Flathead River. Photo: Noah Couser

TRIP TIP:
For Tally Lake and Flathead River SUP rentals, plus the goods on gear and guides, visit the friendly folks at Tamarack Ski & Lake Shop.
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LAKE KOOCANUSA
This trout-heavy reservoir between the Purcell and Salish mountains in Libby, Montana offers scenic-byway landscapes, a sandy beach, wildlife watching and the opportunity to take a pre- or post-paddle Libby Dam tour.
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TRIP TIP: For Lake Koocanusa access and gear rentals, head to the Wilderness Club, just a short walk to the Lake Koocanusa beach area.

SUP SAFETY
Before you hit the water for your Western Montana SUP adventure, contact one of the outfitters listed above for details on where to float when, based on water flows and temps, and always check the weather before you head out (especially when lake paddling away from shore). Spring runoff means fast-moving rivers. (If you’re new to SUP, stick to a late-summer guided river trip or take a calm lake tour.) Learn basic techniques and safety tips from these local outfitters, too.

Our lakes and rivers offer amazing experiences, but proper preparation and equipment are always recommended.

On the river, wear a quick-release leash around your waist. It’s IMPERATIVE that you use quick-release technology in SUP, as ankle leashes can get hung up on rocks and other debris. Wear a PFD, a helmet, a wetsuit and protective gear, especially in shallow rivers.

On the lake, bring a flotation device, try to confine your trip to an hour or less, and stay closer to the shore. SUP is a full-body workout. Plan your trip with that in mind. Learn more about safety, rules and regulations through Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Lastly, have fun paddling paradise. That’s what’s SUP in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.