Author Archives: GlacierMT

Air Adventures in Glacier Country

Western Montana boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. Lush alpine forests, sweeping valleys and mountain meadows full of wildflowers create jaw-dropping views from every angle—but a bird’s-eye view of our spectacular scenery is a view you won’t forget. An aerial tour is a one-of-a-kind adventure, from tranquil hot air balloon rides to the adrenaline rush of skydiving. Take to the skies in Glacier Country. You’ll be glad you did.

Make a treasured memory in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Photo: Mountain Butterfly

HOT AIR BALLOONING

Soar up, up and away on a hot air balloon flight. Be carefree in the crisp mountain air and enjoy the sheer beauty of Glacier Country from above—there’s not a bad seat in the basket! The panoramic views from high up in our big blue sky are unforgettable. A mellow sunrise or sunset flight is an unbeatable way to explore from above, whether you’re on a romantic getaway or looking for a once-in-a lifetime family adventure. Mountain Butterfly takes flight year-round throughout Glacier Country, with liftoffs from Whitefish to the Bitterroot Valley and points in between. Or, float over the Flathead Valley with 2FlyUs between June and September.

Float over our sweeping valleys. Photo: Mountain Butterfly

 AIRPLANE TOURS

Taking flight in Glacier Country is one of the best ways to explore our vast terrain. See the expanse of land dotted with backcountry glacial lakes you’d otherwise spend a day hiking into, survey many of our charming small mountain towns, take in our stunning peaks amidst sweeping valleys and try to catch a glimpse of wildlife, all from an aerial perspective. Bluegoose Aviation and Montana Air Adventures offer scenic aerial tours over the Mission Mountains, Flathead Valley and Flathead Lake.

Our professional and experienced guides will ensure your comfort. Photo: Montana Air Adventures

BONUS: Take to the skies in a float plane with Backcountry Flying Experience and glide across Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—Seeley Lake, Lake Koocanusa and other lakes across northwest Montana.

Waterfalls abound in Glacier Country. Photo: Montana Air Adventures

SKYDIVING

If you’re looking for an adventure that’ll get your adrenaline pumping, skydiving in Western Montana is not to be-missed. Skydiving is an epic adventure anywhere, but Glacier Country sets the scene for a picture-perfect jump. Soak in the 360-degree grandeur of mountain peaks, sparkling lakes and sweeping meadows during the 40 second freefall—you’d be hard pressed to find a more immersive aerial tour. Skydive Whitefish offers tandem jumps from an altitude of 10,000 feet, above the quintessential mountain town of Whitefish between June and October.

Fall in love with skydiving. Photo: Skydive Whitefish

You’d be hard pressed to find a better view. Photo: Skydive Whitefish

MUSEUMS

For those of you hesitant to jump in a small plane—or out of one—here are a few options to satisfy your curiosity of Western Montana’s aerial adventures, while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground. The Smokejumper Visitor Center in Missoula is the nation’s largest smokejumper base. Displays give you a glimpse into the life of a smokejumper. You’ll learn about smokejumper gear, cargo and aircraft, and you can explore the reconstructed lookout tower. The Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center is open Memorial Day to Labor Day, then by appointment only. The Museum of Mountain Flying, also in Missoula and very near to the Smokejumper Visitor Center, focuses on the history of mountain flying in the Northern Rockies. Displays include multiple vintage aircraft, clothing, photographs and personal narratives and diaries.

If you visit in the spring you may even see smokejumpers taking practice jumps. Photo: Smokejumper Visitor Center

Small Town Rodeos in Western Montana

The mention of Western Montana often conjures up visions of the Old West, like cowboys and horses, and with good reason—they’re a part of both our past and our present. One way we recognize that is through rodeos, which are an authentic western tradition, paying homage to our heritage with events based on the duties of actual working cowboys. Next time you’re in Glacier Country, pull on your boots, grab your cowboy hat and head to a local rodeo.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic Western Montana experience. Photo: Missoula Fairgrounds

Steeped in tradition and history, many of our communities host rodeos beginning in spring and continuing through fall. Communities come together for competition, entertainment and some boot-stomping, good old-fashioned fun. Enjoy the cowboy culture and marvel at the athleticism as participants compete in challenges like calf roping, barrel racing, and bronc riding.

CALF ROPING

Calf roping, also know as tie-down roping, is an event featuring one rider mounted on a horse, and a free-roaming calf. The goal of this event is to have the shortest time lassoing the calf, dismounting the horse and tying three legs of the calf together. A similar event to this is breakaway roping, another timed competition where the rider who ropes a calf in the quickest time wins. Old-time cowboys often had to rope calves to administer medicine or to brand them, and cowboys would boast to one another about their roping skills. This soon turned into a good spirited competition in which the winner won bragging rights.

Announcers keep you entertained and updated on each competitor’s performance. Photo: Michael Rosling

BARREL RACING

The goal of this rodeo event is for a horseback rider to make a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time. This event combines the horsemanship skills of a rider with the natural and trained athleticism of the horse. Precision is the key to winning because if a rider or horse touches or knocks down a barrel their time is penalized. This event was originally developed for women to assist them in breaking into the rodeo scene, and is now one of the most popular events.

Competitors spend hours each week practicing for these two minutes in the arena. Photo: Josh Homer

BRONC RIDING

Originally based on the necessity of training wild horses, bronc riding is one of the wildest rodeo events and bound to get your adrenaline pumping. Bronc riding can either be bareback bronc riding or saddle bronc riding. The goal of this event is for a rider to stay on the back of an untamed horse (often bred for strength, agility and bucking ability) for eight seconds, using only one hand to hold on while the horse tries to buck him off. Half of a rider’s score is based on his or her performance, the other half on the horse’s bucking, diving and twisting.

Competitors test their grit and try to stay horseback for eight seconds. Photo: Burning Ember Photography

LIVESTOCK SHOWING

A livestock show is not a rodeo event, but often the two events are paired together. At a livestock show, pigs, cattle, sheep and other animals are judged in an arena on certain breed traits such as muscle, frame size and balance. The animals are judged, then awarded ribbons or trophies for Best of Breed, then owners have the option to sell their rated livestock. Teenagers often show livestock through clubs like FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4-H, and children participating in these clubs can raise and show rabbits, or chickens—which are also judged.

The ideal lamb weighs between 110 and 120 lbs. Photo: Glacier Gazette

WESTERN MONTANA FAIR

Often, a rodeo will take place with a local fair. Many of our charming communities have a local fair, where you can expect games, rides and delicious fair food. Sampling the fare at the fair is not to be missed, as fair food consists of local favorites like fried cheese curds, kettle corn, elephant ears and famous vikings (a meatball on a stick, seasoned in batter and deep fried). The largest fair in Glacier Country is the Western Montana Fair in Missoula, which boasts a petting zoo, rodeo, livestock showing, art and baking competitions, monster truck show, and many rides and games.

A summer evening at the fair is a must. Photo: Missoula Fairgrounds

UPCOMING RODEOS

For more upcoming events, visit glaciermt.com/events.

Summer Fun: Top 7 Kid Friendly Activities

For generations Western Montana’s authentic way of living has drawn families to vacation here, where adventure comes in many forms and simple pleasures such as floating a river, picking cherries off a tree or seeing wildlife on Wild Horse Island are plentiful. Try kayaking on Flathead Lake, learning to ride a horse, or taking a zip-line tour at a ski resort. Summer fun abounds in Glacier Country.

Relax and refresh in Glacier Country.

KAYAKING

Whether you’re getting the whole family out on one of our numerous lakes or floating casually down a river, Western Montana is a prime kayaking destination. Our waters make up some of the most serene parts of our region and offer an intimate way to explore our landscape and catch a glimpse of wildlife. Rentals are available throughout the region, or hire a guide who can customize a float to your comfort level and age of kids.

Saddle-up for fun! Photo: Bar W Guest Ranch

HORSEBACK RIDING

Saddling up in Western Montana is a part of the western experience, and with thousands of miles of horseback riding trails to explore, there are options (and lessons) for every experience level. Riding on horseback is a great way to see the countryside inaccessible to motorized vehicles, and kids can find their inner cowboy or cowgirl. Experienced guides can take you out for a lesson in the arena, a ride on a creekside trail, or a daylong journey into Glacier National Park or the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Either way, your family’s Western Montana vacation is sure to be memorable from the vantage point of a saddle.

Imagine the magical moments you can have on Wild Horse Island. Photo: Explore Flathead Lake

WILD HORSE ISLAND

Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—is one of Glacier Country’s biggest playgrounds, and a summer recreation hot spot. Multiple islands dot the lake, the largest of which is Wild Horse Island. Accessible only by boat, this 2,160-acre island serves as a day-use state park. Wild Horse Island is sure to delight kids of all ages. Not only is the island breathtaking, it’s a prime wildlife-watching destination, home to wild horses (hence the name), bighorn sheep, coyotes, deer and a variety of birds. While hiking on one of the island’s short trails, you can tell your kids the legend of Wild Horse Island. The Kootenai American Indians were reported to have used the island to pasture their horses and to keep them from being stolen by neighboring tribes. The horses on the Island today are, if legend is believed, descendants of those horses. To access the island you can rent a boat, or book a private charter service with a guide such as Explore Flathead Lake.

If you can’t decide which horse to ride, just ride them all. Photo: Destination Missoula

CAROUSEL

A Carousel for Missoula is not-to-be-missed and delights children and adults alike. The carousel has more than 38 horses, 14 gargoyles and two chariots; each was hand-carved and painted. The carousel is housed inside, but on warm days the shuttered walls are opened. A band organ plays while the carousel spins around, and is the largest band organ (with 400 wooden pipes) in continuous use today in the U.S. Directly next to the carousel is Dragon Hollow Park. This magical park was constructed by volunteers and envisioned by children. It’s complete with a three headed dragon, an obstacle course and a tiny tots area.

Swing, climb and navigate your way through the Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT

Whitefish Mountain Resort is one of our premium destinations for kid-friendly fun; with unique adventures from novice to expert, there’s an activity for everyone in the family. This skier’s paradise turns into a full-swing summer resort once the snow melts, and serves up fun on the Aerial Adventure Park, zip line, alpine slides, new tubing slide and much more. Rising above the town of Whitefish, sweeping views of the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park are jaw dropping from the mountain. With on-site lodging and food, it’s easy to play the entire day.

It’s not hard to find a delicious treat at a farmers market. Photo: Destination Missoula

FARMERS MARKETS

A farmers market is the perfect way to spend a Western Montana morning, and with more than 20 in the region it’s easy to plan one into your trip. Not only will kids get an authentic glance of life in our charming small towns, but they’ll have the chance to sample local fare. From elephant chai ice cream to baked goods or fresh fruits, the markets are chock-full of locally grown and handmade food. Treats are not the only thing to delight in; often you can find a vendor who does face painting or balloon animals.

Savor the flavor of our locally grown fruits and vegetables.

U-PICK FARMS

You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic experience than a u-pick farm. U-pick farms let kids get their hands dirty, and play a role in picking out their food, both of which kids love. The Flathead Valley boasts more than 120 growers of our famous Flathead cherries. Western Montana’s warm days and cool evenings make the perfect growing conditions for this beloved fruit, and it’s hard to find a sweeter tasting cherry. The cherry harvest begins late July, and many u-pick orchards will place signs out welcoming you to stop by. In many of our towns you’ll be able to find a u-pick farm to pick a sampling of local fruit, vegetables and farm fresh eggs.

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

Explore the East Glacier Park Area

Glacier National Park covers a staggering 1 million acres, surrounded by some of Western Montana’s charming small communities that serve as gateways to the park. East Glacier Park, located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, is less than 10 miles from the Two Medicine park entrance. This historic community, with its 363 residents, is ready to give you a warm western welcome this summer and is the perfect place to begin a Western Montana adventure.

It took 75 men a year and a half to construct the two main buildings. You won’t want to miss the splendor of Glacier Park Lodge.

It’s easy to get here. Amtrak’s historic Empire Builder train stops (seasonally) at East Glacier Park and convenient car rentals are available to help you get around. The East Glacier Park train depot was built in 1913 and sits directly across from Glacier Park Lodge, built the same year by the Great Northern Railway, beginning its rich and unique history with the railway. The architecture of Glacier Park Lodge will take your breath away; even if you’re not staying the night, be sure to stop in to see the grandeur of the lodge and its lobby. Explore the grounds further and you’ll find a nine-hole golf course—the oldest grass greens course in Montana, where each hole is named after a chief of the Blackfeet Nation. Not-to-be-missed are the lush gardens with breathtaking views of Dancing Lady Mountain.

The exposed beams, gabled roofs, large windows, and decorative moldings of Glacier Park Lodge were designed to resemble Swiss-style architecture.

When it’s time to eat, Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant has you covered. The restaurant building is the oldest house left standing in East Glacier Park. Built in 1909, it has since been updated with modern conveniences. Specializing in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, customers leave bragging about their meal—and come back for more. For a spin on a classic taco, try the locally raised bison taco when offered as a special, or choose a bison burger with green chili and jack cheese—a regular on the menu. Note: this popular restaurant does not take reservations and sometimes has quite a wait—it’s worth it, but plan accordingly.

Saddle up! Horseback riding is one of the most intimate ways to explore Glacier Country. Photo: Visit MT

Once you’ve fueled up on food, saddle up for a guided horseback ride from Glacier Gateway Trailrides. Experience unspoiled beauty riding along the eastern border of Glacier National Park and deep into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. American Indian guides will take you off the beaten path, providing an intimate view of Looking Glass Mountain and the Two Medicine River gorge. Offered June through September, you won’t want to miss this tranquil and unique adventure.

You won’t find a more genuine Western Montana affair than this. Photo: Bear Creek Ranch

You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic ranch experience than Bear Creek Guest Ranch during their Montana Cattle Drive or Horseback Riding Retreats. Immerse yourself in cowboy culture, participate in roping, cattle drives, arena riding, hiking or fishing in Glacier National Park, float trips and more. Choose between staying in the main house with your hosts, the Beck family, or stay in one of the on-site cabins.

The nearby Two Medicine Valley has some of the most spectacular hiking spots. Photo: Josephy Kennedy

Of course, in East Glacier Park—located right outside Glacier National Park—recreation abounds. The surrounding streams and lakes offer world-class trout fishing. Numerous hiking trails dot the area, and wildlife watching commonly delivers sights of moose, deer, elk and mountain goats among spectacular scenery.

Relax, rejuvenate and enjoy the view at The Cottages at Glacier. Photo: The Cottages at Glacier

Still looking for a place to rest your head? The Cottages at Glacier provide luxurious accommodations. The detached two and three-bedroom cottages feature a stone fireplace, a full kitchen, AC, Wi-Fi, and a balcony that serves up unmatched views of Glacier National Park. The newest cabins have a Jacuzzi tub, and, after a full day of exploring, you’ll rejoice from a relaxing soak. Owned by the family that founded St. Mary Village, the original cottages were built it 1929 for the children of the founders. Today those cottages comprise The Cottages at Glacier.

This tightly knit community charms with events like the Glacier Half Marathon, approaching soon on June 22, 2019. Visit East Glacier Park for yourself. Click here for more information on where to eat, stay and play, and to learn about the history of East Glacier Park.

7 Mountain Bike Trails to Explore in Glacier Country

Mountain biking Glacier Country’s extensive trail systems is the perfect way to cover epic ground while breathing in fresh mountain air. Shred a single-track mountain biking trail or visit our family-friendly ski resorts turned downhill mountain bike resorts. There’s no shortage of terrain to pedal; miles of trail systems crisscross the region, and there’s something for every skill level. Explore Western Montana on two wheels. Here are a handful of our favorite trails.

Elevate your mountain biking adventure in Glacier Country.

WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT – WHITEFISH 

Level: Children and Beginners – Advanced

Whitefish Mountain Resort, located 8 miles north of the quintessential mountain town of Whitefish is a mecca of meandering trails. Ski mountains provide some of the best terrain for mountain biking and family fun for riders of every skill level, and Whitefish has it down to an art. At Strider Bike Park aspiring young mountain bikers, ages 2 – 6, practice their riding skills on pedal-less bikes. A bike school is offered for first-timers, while skilled riders can explore 30-plus miles of chair lift-accessed cross-country mountain bike trails. Unbeatable panoramic views of the Flathead Valley can be taken in from the top. Bike rentals are available on site. Whitefish Mountain Resort opens for summer activities May 25, 2019 (weather dependent).

Round Trip Distance: Varies

Western Montana’s alpine forests wait to be explored. Photo: Whitefish Bike Retreat

WHITEFISH BIKE RETREAT AND BEAVER LAKE TRAIL – WHITEFISH

Level: Beginners – Intermediate  

Eight miles west of Whitefish is the Whitefish Bike Retreat, the perfect place to begin your biking adventure. Make it an overnight—trail-side lodging and on-site bike rentals let you sleep, wake and ride. Warm up for the day by taking a lap on the short loop circling the 19-acre property, navigate berms on the pump track or weave through obstacles in the skills park. When you’re ready to explore more, the Whitefish Bike Retreat connects directly to The Whitefish Trail, serving up more than 42 miles of single-track trails. The Beaver Lake Trailhead, located next to the retreat, is a short but fun 3-mile loop. Choose to turn back, or keep exploring The Whitefish Trail system.

Round Trip Distance: 3.5 miles

Take in panoramic views of the Missoula Valley at Montana Snowbowl. Photo: Montana Snowbowl

MONTANA SNOWBOWL – MISSOULA

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Montana Snowbowl, located minutes from downtown Missoula, is a local’s favorite ski mountain in the winter and a mountain bike enthusiast’s dream during the summer. Ride the Grizzly Chairlift to 7,000 feet, taking in the sheer beauty of Lolo National Forest with breathtaking views of sweeping meadows and alpine forests. Challenge yourself to bike to the top of Point Six Trail, an elevation gain of 926 feet, and try to beat the record of 37 minutes, 36 seconds. After a hard but brief push to the top, enjoy mostly downhill trails on the other 25 miles of trail systems, then ride the chairlift back up and do it all again. Cap off the day with a post-adventure bloody mary and delicious wood-fired pizza. Montana Snowbowl opens for summer activities in late June.

Round Trip Distance: Varies

BLUE MOUNTAIN – MISSOULA

Level: Intermediate

Directions: After exploring Missoula—the arts and culture hub of Western Montana—head south for 2 miles on U.S. Highway 93. Turn right onto Blue Mountain Road and the trailhead is on the left where the road makes a 90-degree turn. This popular recreation area boasts more than 41 miles of trails, so be sure to pick up a map. You’ll begin your ride in open meadows, where you can enjoy views of the Missoula Valley and Sapphire and Rattlesnake mountains, before you ascend into forested wilderness. Ride a quick and easy 3-mile loop, or explore much farther.

Round Trip Distance: Varies

Ride to Paradise on the Clark Fork River Trail. Photo: Vo von Sehlen

CLARK FORK RIVER TRAIL – ST. REGIS

Level: Intermediate

Directions: From St. Regis, travel east 11 miles on State Highway 135. The trailhead is at the Ferry Landing fishing access, located on the north side of the highway. The Clark Fork River Trail takes you through Lolo National Forest along the Clark Fork River between Paradise and St. Regis. It’s a smooth single-track trail that winds along lush old-growth forest and sweeping wildflower meadows. The first switchback climbs are the most difficult, but push through them because this ride is well worth it.

Round Trip Distance: 18 miles

There’s plenty of fun to be had at Lake Como.

LAKE COMO TRAIL – DARBY

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Directions: After experiencing the Old West charm of Darby, travel north for 4 miles on US-93 then turn left on Lake Como Road. Follow it for 3 miles until you meet the campground and trailhead on your right. Lake Como Trail is a relatively flat yet technically difficult trail. Discover beauty around every bend as you circle Lake Como, pass by a waterfall and take in the dramatic mountain setting. This is a popular hiking trail in the summer and it’s a bit narrow, so spring is the perfect time to ride it.

Round Trip Distance: 8 miles

BUTTERCUP LOOP – HAMILTON

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Directions: From Hamilton, turn south onto US-93 for 2.8 miles before turning left on State Highway 38 heading east. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto Sleeping Child Road and continue for 4 miles until you reach the junction of Little Sleeping Child Road. Park at the junction where you’ll often see vehicles of fellow bikers, but there is no designated parking lot. This is the beginning of the Buttercup Loop trail. The first 7 miles of the ride are on Sleeping Child Road, but views of the canyon make the short road-riding portion well worth it. You’ll start climbing on Black Tail Road and wind through woodland terrain until it opens up to meadows popping with color. After a bit of a difficult climb, the fresh mountain air and unrivaled views of the Bitterroot Valley are worth it before coasting back down to the car. Go the distance on this loop and you won’t be disappointed.

Round Trip Distance: 21.1 miles

The Crown of the Continent beckons cyclers.

BONUS: GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD – GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

Level: Intermediate Road Biking

You won’t want to miss the opportunity to bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road—an engineering marvel and National Historic Landmark—before the road is fully open to cars. In the spring, hikers and bikers are given first access, and biking one of America’s most scenic roads is a pretty epic way to see spring flourish in Glacier National Park. Take in jaw-dropping views of glacial-carved terrain.

Round Trip Distance: Varies. Check road status here.

Pro-Tip: Catch a shuttle on the weekends between Apgar Visitor Center and Avalanche Creek. Shuttle service begins mid-May and operates until the road is fully open to vehicles. Or, do a guided trip with our friends at Glacier Guides, who provide shuttle, bike rental, helmet and lunch.

GEAR UP

  1. Spring weather is unpredictable. Dress in layers and bring a rain jacket. Wear worn-in and comfortable biking shoes.
  2. It’s important to stay safe in the sometimes remote Western Montana wilderness. Wear a helmet.
  3. Pack a light backpack with water, snacks, a map and a tire pump.
  4. Carry bear spray with you—you never know what wildlife you’ll encounter.

Helpful trail maps can be found at local visitor centers, ranger stations and forest service offices. Bike rentals are available throughout the region.

Bark Ranger Gracie Teaches Wildlife Safety

Glacier National Park boasts an abundance of wildlife—one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states. The park is home to at least 19 large mammals, including bear, moose and bighorn sheep. These magnificent animals are exciting to witness in their natural setting, however, wildlife is just that: wild. We need to respect their space, for their safety and ours. To help keep wildlife a safe distance from visitors, the park hired an expert on the subject—Gracie the Bark Ranger. Learn how Gracie is keeping you safe this season, and discover best practices when it comes to wildlife safety. Warning, cuteness overload ahead.

Gracie wears an orange vest on duty to let visitors know she’s a working dog. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

BARK RANGER GRACIE

The secret is out, Glacier National Park’s sheer beauty is unrivaled, and as the number of visitors increases each year, so does the likelihood of human-wildlife interactions. To address visitor safety, Glacier National Park hired an employee-owned dog for wildlife shepherding. Bark Ranger Gracie is a professionally trained border collie who moves bighorn sheep and mountain goats out of dense visitor areas. Gracie shepherds wildlife by applying pressure from a distance through standing her ground and the occasional staredown. And no, she does not work on bears!

Once the wildlife is a safe distance away Gracie stops shepherding. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

You’ll often find Gracie working on-leash at Logan Pass. At the crest of the Continental Divide, Logan Pass serves up jaw-dropping views of meadows filled with wildflowers and the occasional mountain goat or bighorn sheep, and, sometimes, a grizzly bear or two. As one of the most popular passes with the highest elevation reachable by car, the parking lot is generally full during the day. Bighorn sheep and other wildlife have been habituated to visit the parking lot to scavenge for litter left behind by visitors.

Gracie looks to Mark for instructions. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

Habituation happens when wildlife are repeatedly exposed to humans and then no longer see visitors as a threat. Wildlife may approach visitors themselves or may allow visitors to come close to them. However, any wildlife in close proximity creates a dangerous situation for both humans and animals. Wildlife can become aggressive at any point if they suddenly feel threatened, and they may kick, bite or gore. Bark Ranger Gracie shepherds animals to stay 30 – 75 yards away from the parking lot, which is still a close enough distance for visitors to watch and get a picture-perfect photo. Wildlife shepherding works because mountain goats and bighorn sheep have an innate fear of predators, and they view Gracie as a predator.

Gracie takes a break to share her love of Glacier National Park. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

Glacier National Park’s ultimate goal for the wildlife shepherding program is to teach mountain goats and bighorn sheep to decide for themselves to avoid dense visitor areas. You’ll also find Gracie educating visitors on wildlife safety and why approaching and feeding wildlife is dangerous. During the winter, Gracie keeps up with her commands by herding deer out of the park’s headquarters and residential areas. Mountain lions will follow their prey, and moving deer out of populated areas also helps reduce the presence of mountain lions.

Gracie reminds you to follow Glacier National Park’s pet regulations. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

Bark Ranger Gracie is a certified and professionally trained dog who is permitted to go to specific places in Glacier where other dogs cannot. Read the pet regulations for Glacier National Park when planning your trip. For more adorable photos and safety information, follow Bark Ranger Gracie on instagram.

Gracie knows the wildlife safety rules, do you? Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

WILDLIFE SAFETY TIPS

Here are some tips for having a safe, pleasant, and respectful experience when wildlife watching.

View wildlife from the safety of your car or from a safe distance. Stay at least 25 yards away from all wildlife except bears—who you’ll need to give at least a hundred-yard berth. Tip: Bring binoculars and a camera with zoom if you’re looking for close-ups.

Never approach, touch or feed wildlife, even when an animal approaches or doesn’t seem to be threatened by your presence—wildlife may not know better, but you do! Don’t risk injury to yourself or the animal over a selfie. Some wildlife have been habituated to approach visitors for human food, but don’t feed wildlife, and be sure to distance yourself from them. Human food is harmful to wildlife, big and small, and can result in poor nutrition and a shorter lifespan. Learn about Leave No Trace for more information about respect for wildlife and their habitat.

Let wildlife know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to bring a chatty friend, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals. Learn more about specific safety information when camping or recreating in bear country.

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.

Top 7 Easy Spring Hikes in Glacier Country

Spring has sprung and we couldn’t be more excited. The snow is melting, wildflowers are blooming and wildlife is emerging. While the snow in the mountains will take longer to melt, at lower elevations the snow has quickly disappeared. Which means our closer-to-town trails are cleared off and ready to hike. One of the easiest ways to explore Western Montana’s charming small towns is by foot. Stretch your legs and enjoy these leisurely hikes.

Spring colors are surreal. Photo: Missoula Parks and Recreation

FORTLOOP TRAIL

Directions: In Missoula—the cultural hub of Glacier Country—head to the newest city park: Fort Missoula Regional Park. Home to nine multisport fields, tennis courts, a dog park and more, Fortloop Trail loops the entire park—an approximately 2.5-mile hike. In total, there are 7 miles of trails to explore, some of which connect directly to the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, which houses 20 historical structures and buildings on the grounds.

Round Trip Distance: Fortloop Trail, 2.5 miles.

Walk along the Clark Fork River from bustling downtown Missoula into the serene Kim WIlliams Nature Area. Photo: Missoula Current

MILWAUKEE TRAIL / KIM WILLIAMS TRAIL

Directions: Located in the heart of downtown Missoula, the Milwaukee Trail follows the Clark Fork River through downtown to the University of Montana. The trail then merges into the Kim Williams Nature Trail, and eventually between the Clark Fork River and the base of Mount Sentinel. On top of the old Milwaukee Railroad tracks, this trail is wide and flat. If you stay quiet along the river you’re likely to see wildlife, like blue herons and sandhill cranes or an osprey in one of the multiple nests along the way. To walk the entire length of the trail, park at McCormick Park.

Round Trip Distance: From McCormick, 13 miles. For a shorter hike, turn around at the university, 4.4 miles.

At a distance of only 2 miles to the summit, the views are worth the hike. Photo: Explore Libby

FLAGSTAFF TRAIL

Directions: After exploring Libby, travel north on Highway 37, turn left at River Road and travel 4 miles. Turn right at Quartz Creek Road 600 and follow it for 5 miles, then turn left on West Fork Road. Continue until the road ends at a “T” junction. Turn left to follow Road 4690 7.3 miles to the trailhead. The Flagstaff Trail winds through grassy meadows, filled with wildflowers this time of year, and leads to the summit of Flagstaff Mountain. It’s 2 miles to the summit with an elevation gain of 1,642 ft. Once there, the trail continues another 3.45 miles, or you can turn around.

Round Trip Distance: Flagstaff Mountain Summit, 4 miles.

This scenic path is great for all ages. Photo: Brian Schott / Explore Whitefish

WHITEFISH RIVER PATH

Directions: Whitefish has a network of in-town trails which are maintained year-round. The Whitefish River Trail, one of the most accessible walks, begins at Riverside Park. The paved path travels through town along the Whitefish River and along part of Whitefish Lake. The path eventually connects to Reservoir Road, just 0.5 miles from the Reservoir Trailhead of The Whitefish Trail—one of 12 trailheads that encompasses 42 miles of single track trails.

Round Trip Distance: The Whitefish River path has approximately 15 miles of paved path, which then connects to The Whitefish Trail. Hike for however long you want, then turn around.

Explore as much or as little of this 22-mile trail. Photo: Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana

GREAT NORTHERN RAILS TO TRAILS

Directions: The Great Northern Historical Trail extends 22 miles between Somers—at the north end of Flathead Lake—and Kalispell, then South, ending at the tiny community of Kila (no amenities, but parking is available). Start in Somers, Kila or Kalispell. The trail follows the old Great Northern Railway route, serving up unrivaled views of the Swan, Mission, Salish and Whitefish ranges. To find the trail in Kalispell, head west until you meet the intersection of U.S. 2 and Spring Creek Road. Find parking just east of the intersection.

Round Trip Distance: 44 miles round-trip. Pick your starting point, then turn around whenever you want.

Enjoy views of the Cut Bank Coulee and rolling plains on the 2-mile Cut Bank Coulee Trail.

CUT BANK COULEE TRAIL

Directions: From Cut Bank, find parking for the Cut Bank Coulee Trail at two trailheads. The east trailhead is located at Seventh Avenue South and Dean Drive. The west trailhead is located at Mountain View Boulevard and Lookout Road. This U-shaped trail follows the Cut Bank Creek Coulee for 2 miles.

Round Trip Distance: 4 miles.

MULE PASTURE LOOP

Directions: Mule Pasture Loop is 0.5 miles north of Thompson Falls. Follow the USFS direction signs from either the east or west ramp north of Highway 200. The Mule Pasture Loop travels through a beautiful wooded setting, which feels remote yet is in town.

Round Trip Distance: 2.3 miles.

If trekking up steep hills and mountains isn’t your idea of fun, these hikes are a great option— allowing you to get outdoors but keep things casual. Enjoy these hikes year-round and find more trails at glaciermt.com/hiking.

Spring Festivals and Events in Western Montana

Spring is one of the best—and most underrated—times to visit Western Montana. Shoulder season prices are in effect, wildflowers are blooming and wildlife is emerging; the splendor of spring is not to be missed. As the temperatures warm, our vibrant small towns are ready to celebrate spring and the special events and festivals it brings. Whether you’re interested in sporting competitions or food festivals, we have something for everyone. Plan these events into your schedule. You’ll be glad you did.

Glide across the pond on skis or a snowboard at the Whitefish Pond Skim. Photo: Whitefish Mountain Resort

WHITEFISH POND SKIM:

Whitefish Mountain Resort ends each ski season with a splash at the Whitefish Pond Skim. In early April, watch skiers and snowboarders attempt to skim across a man-made pond, avoiding zebra floaties and other obstacles. It’s outrageously entertaining. Did we mention costumes are required?

Dancers compete at the Kyiyo Pow Wow. Photo: Kyiyo Pow Wow

KYIYO POW WOW:

Glacier Country is home to two Indian reservations—the Flathead and the Blackfeet. The tribal nations here often share their culture and traditions through pow wows and storytelling. This spring marks the 51st Annual Kyiyo Pow Wow Celebration in Missoula, mid-April at the University of Montana. Filled with dance competitions, singing and traditional drumming, this gathering is an unforgettable experience for people of all ages.

Get close to the action at the Bigfork Whitewater Festival. Photo: Mike Roessmann Photography

BIGFORK WHITEWATER FESTIVAL:

The Bigfork Whitewater Festival—annually at the end of May—is a much-anticipated event not just for whitewater enthusiasts. This extreme whitewater kayaking competition draws competitors from around the world and spectators have multiple unique vantage points to view kayakers maneuvering through whitewater. Accompanied by a community celebration, this is a fun—and usually pretty lively—event.

Wood chopping, pole climbing, ax throwing and cross-cut sawing are some of the competitions you’ll see at Forestry Day. Photo: Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

FORESTRY DAY:

You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic timber sports competition than Forestry Day at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. This competition pays tribute to the bravery of loggers and honors Montana’s history. Excitement is palpable during the log rolling, pole climbing and ax throwing competitions. This event includes antique logging equipment exhibits and demonstrations.

Sampling food has never been so easy. Photo: Whitefish Feast

FOOD CELEBRATION:

Glacier Country is home to many world-class chefs and culinary artists; their dishes are inspired by the sheer beauty of our landscapes and pay homage to Montana’s wild places. Feast on flavor at one of the many food festivals that dot the region with deliciousness. Food celebrations let you sample a range of cuisines—from fine dining to comfort food and everything in between.

Taste of Bigfork: end of April

Festival of Flavors: Kalispell, beginning of May

Feast Whitefish: mid-May

Taste of Kalispell: mid-June

Bacon and brew beckon you to Missoula. Photo: Bacon and Brew Fest

BREWFEST:

Glacier Country is becoming known for craft beer. We’re home to more than 30 breweries, after all, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the things we do best is put on an epic brewfest. One of our larger events, Garden City Brewfest in Missoula in early May, boasts more than 70 local craft beers, wines and ciders. Savor the sip, then satisfy any food cravings at on-site food trucks. At the end of April, Missoula’s Bacon and Brewfest pairs two of our favorite things—beer and bacon! Whitefish hosts the Dummy Derby & Winter Brewfest in late March.

Biking is one of the best ways to explore Glacier Country. Photo: Bike Walk Bitterroot

FORK TO FARM:

In early June, the Fork to Farm Bike Tour is a cycling adventure to culinary bliss. This 40-mile bike ride through the beautiful Bitterroot Valley stops at four farms for agricultural tours. Fuel up at each stop on delicious, locally sourced tapas cuisine. At the end of the ride you’ll be greeted with live music, a full dinner, cider and beer.

A treasure trove awaits you at the Creston Auction. Photo: Creston Fire Department

CRESTON AUCTION & COUNTY FAIR:

For a small-town auction experience—one known for bringing in several thousand people—attend the 53rd Annual Creston Auction & Country Fair in early April. Auction items range from Montana made art, goods and wares, to farm and ranch equipment. Montana treasures come in all makes and styles, new and old.

For other celebrated events in Glacier Country, visit our events page.