Category Archives: Bigfork

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.
Map it

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.
Map it

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.
Map it

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.
Map it

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.
Map it

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.
Map it

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.

A Perfect Western Montana Getaway: Bigfork

Western Montana’s Glacier Country spans 22,000 square miles of pure perfection. Boasting natural wonders like Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Bitterroot Valley and Flathead Lake, you’ll never tire of exploring our corner of heaven. This stunningly beautiful region is home to 75+ communities, and each of them deserves to be discovered. We recently visited one of our very favorite Western Montana towns, the storybook village of Bigfork.

One of our favorite small towns, Bigfork. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

Spending a summer weekend in Bigfork is the stuff that dreams are made of. Hugging the sparkling blue bay where the Swan River flows into the northeast corner of Flathead Lake, this picturesque community lays on the charm with world-class art galleries, fine dining, live theater and outdoor fun. We feel right at home whenever we find ourselves in this little Glacier Country gem, and we wanted to share some of our favorite Bigfork hot spots and activities with you.

BIGFORK VILLAGE
Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with Bigfork the moment you set foot in it. This waterfront village is lined with quaint and eclectic shops and boutiques, fun eateries, and art galleries where you’ll discover artwork made by cherished Western Montana artists. Taking in the rustic charm of this historic little downtown is a Flathead Valley must.

Bigfork Village is seriously charming. See it for yourself.

BIGFORK SUMMER PLAYHOUSE
If you’re visiting Bigfork between May and September, do yourself a favor and catch a performance at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, which brings in popular Broadway shows with exceptionally talented artists. For more information, click here.

The performances at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse are a cannot miss. Photo: The Bigfork Summer Playhouse

POCKETSTONE CAFÉ
Start your morning off right by eating at the Pocketstone Café. All the food here is delicious, but their breakfast is absolutely delectable—think pancakes, waffles, crepes and scrambles. Located in Bigfork Village on Electric Avenue, Pocketstone offers home cooking that will leave your taste buds simply satisfied. Tip: get the cinnamon roll; you’ll thank us later.

THE RAVEN BAR & GRILL
Located in Woods Bay (just south of Bigfork), The Raven Bar & Grill offers guests Flathead Lake waterfront dining in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. This welcoming spot serves up some tasty food and drinks. If you’re looking for a scenic and fun dining experience, The Raven is where you’ll find it.

The Raven Bar & Grill offers tasty food, refreshing cocktails, and cool lake breezes. Photo: Beth Woods

BRIDGE STREET COTTAGES
Enjoy a weekend in Bigfork with a stay at the Bridge Street Cottages. These luxury cottages along the Swan River at the edge of Bigfork are within walking distance of Bigfork’s restaurants, galleries, shops and the Bigfork Summer Playhouse. These cozy cottages are open year-round.

MARINA CAY RESORT
As one of the only lakeside resorts on Flathead Lake, Marina Cay Resort is one of Glacier Country’s finest. Enjoy a cocktail at the waterfront Tiki Bar, or during the off-season, the Fireside Restaurant & Lounge provides a fine-dining experience of locally sourced food. Marina Cay offers activities for everybody: live music events, a relaxing spa and fishing charters as well as rentals for jet skis, pontoons, boats, inner tubes and wakeboards.

OUTDOOR FUN
In addition to exploring all of the indoor fun to be had in Bigfork, outdoor recreation abounds here. Perfectly situated on the sparkling and pristine Flathead Lake, water play is a given. For starters, take a boat tour with Flathead Lake Sailing and Charters or WildHorse Island Boat Tours. Or, try your hand at “SUP” (stand-up paddleboarding), rent a boat or kayak, or cast a line on the lake’s calm cool waters. June through August, hook up with the friendly folks at Base Camp Bigfork for a guided kayak tour of the lake at sunset or wake up to a refreshing morning paddle. If you are looking for something a little different, we suggest taking a horseback ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters for a short excursion or day trip.

Relax by the lake or dive-in, Bigfork is the perfect point for all Flathead Lake activities. Photo: Donnie Sexton

INSIDER TIP
Bigfork charms all year long, but if you plan your visit around one of their celebrated annual events or weekly markets, it’s icing on the cake.

Whitewater Festival: May
Fourth of July Parade
Bigfork Rodeo: July
Festival of the Arts: August
Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival: August/September
Rumble in the Bay Car Show: September
Farmers Market: Tuesdays + Fridays, May – September

Here’s wishing you a big time in one of our favorite little villages!

Homegrown + Handmade: Farmers Markets in Western Montana

Homegrown, handmade and locally harvested—that’s what you’ll find in abundance across Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The farmers market scene here is brag-worthy. Locally grown produce is a given, but there’s so much more to discover, from fresh flowers and baked goods to cheeses, meats, honey, jams and jellies, coveted Montana huckleberries and Dixon Melons, plus the elusive morel mushrooms.

Experience a bright morning or early evening stroll through historic downtown streets or a community park for live music, coffee carts, food trucks, handmade arts and crafts, friendly locals and of course, a spirit you’ll only find in a charming small town in Western Montana.

Grab a bundle of fresh vegetables at one of Glacier Country’s amazing farmer’s markets. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

With 75+ communities brimming with local pride, it’s no surprise Glacier Country plays host to so many outdoor markets—more than 20, in fact—including the Missoula Farmers Market, voted Best in the West by Sunset magazine. Below you’ll find all of the markets in our area listed out. While you’re at it, check out the Montana Office of Agriculture’s Famers Market Directory for a complete list of markets around Glacier County and the rest of the state!

Go and enjoy all that our wonderful farmers markets have to offer. Note: markets are seasonal, and usually open May through September/October, but check specific dates before visiting.

ARLEE FARMERS MARKET
Wednesdays 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Hangin Art Gallery Lot
92555 U.S. Highway 93
More info

ALBERTON COMMUNITY FARMERS MARKET
Thursdays 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
701 Railroad Ave.
(Community Center Lot)
More info

BIGFORK FARMERS MARKET COOPERATIVE
Tuesdays 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. + Fridays 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Masonic Temple
8098 State Highway 35
More info

BIGFORK VILLAGE MARKET
Mondays 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Brookside Yard
191 Mill St.
More info

COLUMBIA FALLS FARMERS MARKET
Mondays 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Marantette Park
133 13th St. E.
More info

COLUMBIA FALLS COMMUNITY MARKET
Thursdays 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
The Coop in Columbia Falls
830 First Ave. W.
More info

CUT BANK FARMERS MARKET
Wednesdays 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Main Street City Park
North Side of Park (Railroad Street)
More info

DARBY FARMERS MARKET
Tuesdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Main Street Park
106 S. Main St.
More info

EUREKA FARMERS MARKET
Wednesdays 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Memorial Park
2 Dewey Ave.
More info

FLORENCE HAAS COUNTRY MARKET
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
5189 State Highway 93 S.
More info

Fill your basket with a bouquet of flowers or fresh herbs. Photo: Donnie Sexton

HAMILTON FARMERS MARKET
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Bedford and Third streets (downtown)
More info

LIBBY FARMERS MARKET
Thursdays 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Libby Chamber Parking Lot
905 W. Ninth St.
More info

KALISPELL FARMERS MARKET
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Flathead Valley Community College
777 Grandview Drive
More info 

MISSOULA FARMERS MARKET
Tuesdays 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. + Saturdays 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Circle Square, north end of Higgins Ave.
More info

MISSOULA PEOPLES MARKET
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
East Pine Street (downtown)
More info

MISSOULA CLARK FORK MARKET
Saturdays 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Riverside Parking Lot, under the Higgins Bridge
More info

Local bakery treats and food trucks complete the Western Montana Farmers Market experience.

MISSOULA TARGET RANGE FARMERS MARKET
Sunday’s 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
4095 South Avenue West
More info

PLAINS-PARADISE FARMERS MARKET
Fridays 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sanders County Fairgrounds
More info

POLSON FARMERS MARKET
Fridays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Third Ave. W.
More info

SEELEY LAKE FARMERS MARKET
Sundays 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Littlebird’s Market Lawn, Larch Lane
More info

STEVENSVILLE HARVEST VALLEY FARMERS MARKET
Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Main and Third W. streets, next to Valley Drug
More info

SUPERIOR FARMERS MARKET
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
100 River St.

TROY FARMERS MARKET
Fridays 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Troy Museum Grounds
700 E. Missoula Ave.
More info

WEST GLACIER FARMERS MARKET
Fridays 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
West Glacier Entrance
765 Belton Stage Road
More info

WHITEFISH DOWNTOWN FARMERS MARKET
Tuesdays 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
At the North end of Central Ave.
More info

Farmers Markets are abundant in Western Montana, see (and taste!) for yourself. Photo: Lisa Jones/Explore Whitefish

Your Ticket To Western Montana’s Concert Hot Spots

From downtown theaters, bars, breweries and main streets to hot springs and a river’s edge amphitheater, there’s no shortage of places to see good music in Western Montana. Our noteworthy music scene boasts venues big and small, hosting national acts, local singers and songwriters, symphonies and other mountain sounds made all the more magical by the stunning Montana landscape.

From blues to bluegrass, there is so much to hear and see in Glacier Country. Photo: Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival.

Tune in below to read about Glacier Country’s top spots for concerts, music festivals and intimate local shows.

MISSOULA MELODIES
As the musical hub in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, Missoula is offering up some amazing spaces to enjoy live music. Offering a world-class entertainment experience with a community-centric vibe, Missoula’s venues are serving up a serious dose of Montana melodies. One of Glacier Country’s newest venues, the KettleHouse Amphitheater capitalizes on its natural setting for an authentic Western Montana outdoor concert experience, i.e., a downright good time. Nestled on the banks of the famed Blackfoot River and adjacent to the KettleHouse Brewery, the new amphitheater brings your favorite artists to a truly unique and inspiring spot. Next you can check out a Missoula icon: The Wilma. This beautiful venue, located in downtown Missoula on the edge of the Clark Fork River, offers concertgoers the character and charm of a historic theater with state-of-the-art amenities like one of the country’s best sound systems. Check out what’s happening at The Wilma here. Get up close with your favorite national and local musicians in the intimate club experience that The Top Hat provides, and eat like a rock star, too. The Top Hat serves up good tunes and great food. See what’s up next on the music menu here. Last but not least, Big Sky Brewing Company Amphitheater offers an incredible summer concert series every year and you’ll love the brews and tunes at this location.

The Kettlehouse Amphitheatre offers a world-class concert experience. Photo: Logjam Presents

BREWS + BEATS
When it comes to mixing local beer with live music, we don’t miss a beat. To know Western Montana is to know that we lovingly craft (and savor) award-winning microbrews in more than 20 breweries across the region, and we like to pair our tall ones with live tunes. Just outside Glacier National Park, Kalispell Brewing hosts weekly music events and their rooftop patio provides a breathtaking view of the Swan Mountains. Dubbed Libby’s Living Room, dig the neighborhood vibe at Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co. This Kootenai River Valley community gathering place hosts live music every week. Check out our full list of breweries and see what’s on tap.

SOAK UP THE SOUNDS
How about a little rhythm and relaxation? One of the things that makes Montana so heavenly is our hot springs. Visit one of our resorts for a soak in the soothing mineral waters and plan your trip around a live-music event. Bask in Bitterroot beauty at Lolo Hot Springs (Lolo), offering live music in the bar every summer Saturday night (Memorial Day – Labor Day). In the aptly named town of Paradise, relax and restore at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort and enjoy concerts and music events from classical to cowboy at Quinn’s Paradise Hall. The Historic Symes Hot Springs Hotel and Mineral Baths hosts an annual Blues Festival plus live music every Friday and Saturday night. Soak up the sounds of mountain music right here in Glacier Country.

FESTIVAL FUN
There’s no denying we love our festivals in Western Montana, and a good ol’ fashioned music fest is just our scene. Plan your trip around one of these much-anticipated annual events.

Festival Amadeus at the Glacier Symphony is a unique concert-going experience for Western Montana. Photo: Glacier Symphony & Chorale

Missoula Symphony Orchestra and Choral: Symphony in the Park (Missoula)

Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival (Hamilton)

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge: Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival (Bigfork)

Riverfront Blues Festival (Libby)

Travelers’ Rest Music Festival (Missoula)

River City Roots Festival (Missoula)

Montana Baroque Music Festival (Paradise)

Bob Marshall Music Festival (Seeley Lake)

Lost Trail Ski Area: Lost Trail Fest (Sula)

+ Glacier Symphony & Chorale: Festival Amadeus (Whitefish)

Happy Listening!

Bike the Big Sky This Spring: 9 Trails In Western Montana to Explore

You may have already figured out that we’re pretty good at divulging our own secrets. That’s because we have so much good Glacier getaway intel to share. For instance, spring is one of the best times to explore Big Sky Country by bike. As the temperatures begin to warm in Western Montana, snow enthusiasts head home, making spring one of our quietest—and most serene—seasons. Experience wildflowers, emerging wildlife, rushing rivers and the always welcome shoulder-season pricing (which pairs well with our warm western hospitality).

Hop on two wheels for a refreshing look at Glacier Country. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

Pedal the pure mountain air and discover a Montana springtime on two wheels. Here are a handful of our favorite trails.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of our favorite routes. Photo: Whitefish Bike Retreat

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Road Biking  
Length: Varied
Biking this beauty is a pretty epic way to see spring flourish in Glacier National Park, and this season of serenity is the only time you can pedal one of the most scenic roads in America before it opens to vehicular traffic. Additionally, biking is also permitted on all roads in the park, plus three park trails. Side trip, anyone? Weekend spring shuttle service begins May 13. For more information, visit the National Park Service. Also, contact our friends at Glacier Guides for bike rentals, guided bike tours and unforgettable custom Glacier National Park adventures. This is one Glacier Getaway for the books.

2. Whitefish Bike Trail
Level: Beginner Road Biking
Length: Varied
The quintessential mountain town of Whitefish is a mecca of meandering trails. One particular stretch—the paved Whitefish Bike and Pedestrian Trail—follows the Whitefish River through town near Riverside Park. Whitefish is a year-round resort community, and the spring warm-up offers a chance to explore this charmer without the crowds. Make it an overnight adventure with Whitefish Bike Retreat, offering trail-side lodging—and a very authentic Montana experience—just west of town.

3. Lake Koocanusa Loop
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Road Biking
Length: 80 miles
Who doesn’t love a good loop? Add a lake and you’ve got one of the best road rides in Montana. Discover beauty around every bend as you circle Lake Koocanusa between Eureka and Libby. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a flat stretch on this gem, so gear up for the hills. Go the distance on this lake loop and you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and there are breweries in both Eureka and Libby, so no matter which town you end up in, you can treat yourself to a handcrafted big-sky brew after a long ride.      

Missoula via bike is the best way to see this beautiful city.

4. Ron MacDonald Riverfront Trail System
Level: Beginner Road Biking
Length: 7 miles
Explore springtime by bike in one of Western Montana’s cultural hot spots—MissoulaFollow the Clark Fork River and wind through downtown before connecting to the Kim Williams Nature Trail. This university town is very pedal friendly, so, when the trail ends, take to the streets and discover everything this Glacier Country getaway community has to offer, including one of the West’s top 10 farmers market, which begins annually in May.  

See mountains and quaint towns on the Bitterroot Trail. Photo: Saara Snow

5. Bitterroot Trail
Level: Beginner Road Biking
Length: 50 miles
Cycle the sights along the winding Bitterroot River between the jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains and the rolling Sapphire Range. Biking the Bitterroot from Missoula to Hamilton via the paved Bitterroot Trail is a unique and fun way to explore this very scenic valley. You’ll pass through multiple charming communities in “The Root,” with stops ranging from side trails and fishing spots to eclectic shops, coffee houses, breweries and bakeries.

6. Buttercup Loop
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Mountain Biking
Length: 21.1 miles
A little farther down the Bitterroot in Darby, get in gear for the Buttercup Loop. The first 7 miles of this trail are paved, but the Sleeping Child Canyon setting makes it well worth the ride. Then it’s time to climb Black Tail Road, enjoying the Bitterroot Valley views along the way. Bonus: En route to the trailhead, there’s a bike shop housed in an old red barn featuring a collection of classic bikes.

7. Route of the Hiawatha Trail
Level: Beginner – Intermediate Mountain Biking
Length: 15 miles
This Rails to Trails “Crown Jewel” is a Western Montana family favorite. It’s one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country, and is all downhill to boot. Traverse multiple towering trestles in the Lolo National Forest and burrow under the Bitterroot Mountains in the Taft Tunnel. For tickets, reservation dates and bike rental information, visit the official website.  

Route of the Hiawatha opens May 26. Gear up…this trail is one of Western Montana’s best.

8. Clark Fork River Trail #233
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Mountain Biking
Length: 9 miles
Pedal Paradise (literally) to St. Regis on this Sanders Country single-track, navigating lush old-growth forestland and sweeping meadows popping with color—springtime is wildflower season, after all. Soak up the solitude in this hidden heaven, and then literally go for a soak at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort, just a couple miles north of the trailhead—a perfect way to relax after a perfect ride.  

9. Herron Overlook Loops
Level: Beginner – Advanced Mountain Biking
Length: 10.3 miles
Clip in near Kalispell for Foy Lake fun, and wind through Western Montana wildflower country. These Herron Park trail routes to Chase and Notch overlooks offer excellent Flathead Valley views. Both of these single-track climbs are moderate, but be prepared for fast and technical descents. Then, be prepared to enjoy the exceptional food and friendly local vibe in downtown Kalispell.

 

Discover Winter’s Wonder with a Snowshoe in Western Montana

Winter in Montana isn’t only for adventurous powder plungers and downhill dreamers. It’s also for paradise seekers looking for a peaceful escape in an enchanting frosty forest of white. We hike all year here, and taking a walk in the snow is high on our list of things we love—it just requires a little extra gear. Snowshoes make it possible to head onto the trails and into backcountry quiet places that might otherwise not be accessible this time of year. This easy—and family-friendly—snowsport is a must-do winter activity, bound to leave you with some pretty incredible Montana memories.

See Glacier Country on snowshoees for an outdoor experience you won’t forget.

Many facilities around the region rent gear and offer friendly tips and trail advice to eager adventure seekers. Not all snowshoes are the same, and not all trails are either. Our gear shops can help with size and fit and steer you in the right direction. Local outfitters are also available to show you the way if you’re looking for a guided tour.

Here are some tips for the trek.

TRAILS + TERRAIN
Groomed and ungroomed winter trails are a dime a dozen around here, and we tend to brag about our backcountry terrain because it’s just so brag-worthy. That said, here are some of our favorite spots to explore.

Snowshoe the park.
Winter is the most magical time of year in Glacier National Park. The crowds are gone and the landscape is heavenly. The stillness and quiet offer an ideal time to strap on a pair of snowshoes and discover this powder paradise. Take a self-guided tour along the shores of Lake McDonald or up the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Let our resident experts show you the way around the park by snowshoe. Glacier Adventure Guides offers alpine adventures through old-growth forest, past frozen waterfalls and lakes and across meadows blanketed with snow.

Lake McDonald views with Glacier Adventure Guides. Photo: Devin Schmit

You can also take an interpretive ranger-led snowshoe tour of the park’s Apgar area, learning about the park’s topography and wildlife along the way.

Autumn Creek Trail in East Glacier is one of the most popular routes in the area. This 6-mile trail begins at the summit of Marias Pass before entering the park.

Beyond the park.
Whitefish is pretty much winter defined. Whitefish Mountain Resort offers two uphill routes—the Toni Matt and the East Route—and, west of town, you can shoe the dog-friendly Round Meadow trail system. Whitefish’s Sportsman & Ski Haus will set you up with the right gear for your adventure.  

One of the best things about snowshoeing is it’s easy to master. Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell is a great place to try out this beginner-friendly sport for the first time, and Spoke & Paddle can help you with equipment rentals. Nearby Herron Park/Foy’s to Blacktail Trails is another great place to start out.

For fun near Flathead Lake, trek Lakeside’s Blacktail Mountain or Bigfork’s Crane Mountain Snowmobile Trail (Road #498). Contact the friendly folks at Base Camp for gear rentals and trail suggestions.

Head up near “The Yaak” to Troy’s Cougar Ridge for a trek on snow-covered roads that wind in and out of the wintry woods of the Kootenai National Forest.

The Thompson Falls Fitness Trail is a wonderful hike for families, as it’s relatively flat, deer sightings can be frequent and following wildlife tracks in the snow is fun for the kids.

Check trail resources ahead of time to see if dogs are allowed to come along. Photo: Thompson Falls Main Street

Explore Missoula’s Pattee Canyon or Blue Mountain recreation areas for endless trails. You’ll also find snowshoe adventures in the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Missoula’s South Hills. Just east of Missoula, Greenough’s Lubrecht Forest offers a quiet getaway to test your snowshoe know-how. Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area on the Montana/Idaho border offers over 15 miles of groomed trails for snowshoers. You’ll find gear and good advice from the fine folks at Missoula’s Trailhead.

From Lookout Pass, you can snowshoe, ski or snowmobile to Taft, about 10 miles. This route is for well-experienced snowshoers only, due to the nature of the trail.

The Bitterroot Valley boasts stunning winter landscapes, charming small towns with warm western hospitality, and trails abound. Lolo Pass lets you choose your own adventure with multiple snow-covered roads. Four miles from the pass, walk upstream to Snowshoe Falls for the perfectly picturesque winter waterfall scene. Hike the Continental Divide at the Chief Joseph Trail System’s large network of groomed trails, complete with a cozy log cabin at the trailhead for warming up after your trek. Skalkaho Snowpark provides access to Skalkaho Pass in the scenic Sapphire Mountains.

Wandering snowy trails under Western Montana’s winter sun, does it get much better?

Make it an overnight adventure.
Many of Western Montana’s ranches and resorts offer year-round activities, and snowshoeing is no exception. You can also find off-the-beaten-path overnight adventures at lodges, vacation homes and U.S. Forest Service cabins.

Revel in rustic splendor at Sula’s Twogood Cabin, a 6-mile hike from the Warm Springs Creek Trailhead. (Open until October 15th and the month of December.)   

Explore the breathtaking Seeley-Swan Valley from your cabin door at Seeley Lake’s Double Arrow Lodge, where you can borrow a pair of snowshoes or rent a pair at nearby Rocky Mountain Adventure Gear.

The 37,000-acre Resort at Paws Up offers guests two-hour snowshoe tours of the resort grounds, plus luxury Montana lodging in beautiful Greenough.

It’s safe to say, wherever you stay, there’s probably a trail close by and a pair of snowshoes calling your name.

Shoe safely.
Though snowshoeing is a tranquil and fairly simple winter activity, it’s still important to know your snow safety. Be avalanche aware and read snow reports before you head out. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions, pack water and snacks, take a trail map and follow trail signs, and be wildlife savvy.

Wildlife.

Our trails may come with lots of surprises, be prepared for wildlife and changing conditions. Photo: Devin Schmit

See you on the trail, friends.

Winter Road Trips and Scenic Drives in Western Montana

Road trips are often equated with summertime, or at least with the warmer months (and by warmer we mean no threat of snowy road conditions). But here’s the thing: we recreate outdoors all year here in Western Montana, so we’re always on the road driving from one ski hill, Nordic paradise or snowmobile trail to another, and we’re here to tell you this—the winter panoramas from the pavement here are pretty magical, and the stops along the way are, too. 

Winter views in Western Montana, like East Glacier’s Dancing Lady Mountain, will not disappoint. Photo: Tracey Vivar

A winter road trip in Glacier Country is always good for a snow-season refresh, whether you get out for a few hours or a whole day, or you turn your travels into an overnight adventure. Never-ending bluebird skies against pure white snow sparkling in the sunshine? Yes please.

Here are a few of our favorite winter drives in Western Montana:

RAVALLI TO ST. REGIS – TOUR 200 + ST. REGIS/PARADISE SCENIC BYWAY
53 Miles
Just outside of Ravalli, head west on Highway 200 traveling along with the Flathead River as it snakes through scenic valley vistas. You’ll pass through the small towns of Dixon—famous for their mouthwatering Dixon Melons—and Perma. As this two-lane highway winds down the valley, the mountains continue to get more and more grand. Head south on Highway 135, following the Clark Fork River down the St. Regis/Paradise Scenic Byway. Stop for a soak at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort or a meal at their historic Harwood House Restaurant. Continue south down this picturesque mountain highway until you reach St. Regis. Stop at the St. Regis Travel Center for gas and a huckleberry shake, and don’t miss the free live trout aquarium!

Highway 135 follows alongside the Clark Fork River, making for a gorgeous and fun drive. Photo: Jerrie Bullock

MISSOULA TO SULA HIGHWAY 93
82 Miles
This four-lane highway takes you straight through the always-gorgeous Bitterroot Valley. From Missoula, drive south towards Lolo, admiring the many towering peaks of this picturesque range, like Lolo and St. Mary. Make an appointment with the Holt Heritage Museum for a history lesson on cowboy culture, American Indians and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. From Lolo, head to Florence and on through Stevensville, Victor and finally to Hamilton. Continue south on 93 until you see the right-hand turn for Lake Como Road. Follow that until you reach the Lake Como Group Picnic Site. Check the Bitterroot National Forest website for trail information, or just enjoy the views of Lake Como underneath Western Montana’s El Capitan and West Como Peak.

Jump back on Highway 93 towards the quaint, Old West town of Darby, where you can fuel up on food and gas, or extend your trip with a stay at Alta Ranch—a great place for cross-country skiing. Highway 93 takes you past Lost Trail Powder Mountain and Chief Joseph Pass for more cross-country-country skiing, snowshoeing or winter hiking.

HIGHWAY 12 SCENIC DRIVE
70 Miles
Highway 12 into Idaho is one spectacular drive, especially in the winter. This two-lane highway weaves through the lush Lolo National Forest. Check out Travelers’ Rest State Park for a little Lewis and Clark history. Highway 12 follows West Fork Lolo Creek, and with the density of the trees and slope of the surrounding mountains, this beautiful drive makes you feel far away from it all. Take a much-deserved stop Lolo Hot Springs for a mineral soak, a warm meal or place to rest your head. Lolo Hot Springs is close to easy snowshoe and cross-country trails (Lolo Pass). Head back towards Lolo to enjoy a different view, but take it easy on this winding mountain road. When you’re back in Lolo, treat yourself to a steak dinner.

WHITEFISH TO WEST GLACIER
26 Miles
Thousands travel this route throughout the summer months, but as a winter drive, it’s just as stunning. Begin in Whitefish with views of a winter Whitefish Lake, or take a fat-bike ride around Beaver Lake with Whitefish Bike Retreat. Outside of Whitefish, head south on Highway 93 to Highway 40 toward Columbia Falls. Highway 40 becomes Highway 2 as you drive into the mouth of this breathtaking canyon. Covered in ice and snow, the Flathead River is truly stunning. Stop in Hungry Horse at the Huckleberry Patch for a slice of homemade Montana pie or fudge. Continue on Highway 2, making a stop at Glacier Distilling Company in Coram (be sure to designate your driver). Highway 2 passes through West Glacier, with access to Glacier National Park. For winter access to Lake McDonald, head north to Apgar Village. The Apgar Visitor Center has weekend hours throughout the winter months. Make sure to check their hours online.

Fat bikes are one cool way to sightsee around Glacier Country. Photo: Adam Caira

The National Park Service also offers weekend ranger-guided snowshoe park tours January through March. Make sure to check the Going-to-the-Sun Road status to see how far into the park the road is open.

Lake McDonald’s keeps its stunning allure all year long.

POLSON TO POLSON: FLATHEAD LAKE LOOP
87.5 Miles
See Flathead Lake from all sides. From Polson, head northwest on Highway 93. Stop by the Kwataqnuk Resort & Casino for a little extra fun. Stay on 93 towards Big Arm and Flathead State Park. Wraps around the “big arm” of the lake through Elmo, Dayton, and Rollins. Lakeside Motel & Resort offers relaxing and scenic lakeside lodging, plus delicious food. From Lakeside, continue north to Somers and then take a left on Highway 82, which will take you past Kalispell Bay and over the Flathead River, then turn onto Highway 35 heading south.

Bigfork is a real charmer. Determine your designated driver and stop by Flathead Lake Brewing Company, or check out The Barn Antiques, Consignment & Gifts. Afterwards, travel on to the stellar winter lake views at Wayfarers/Flathead Lake State Park. We recommend taking it easy on this two-lane highway, for safety reasons and because the winter views of Flathead Lake are incredible. Continue on past Woods Bay towards Finley Point, where we recommend sitting down for dinner at Finley Point Grill.

ESSEX TO ST. MARY
72 Miles
Taking the route from Essex to St. Mary is a unique way to see a very wintry Glacier Country. In Essex, start by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing from the Izaak Walton Inn. If you’re looking for a place to spend the night, rent one of their cabins or iconic renovated cabooses. From Essex, head east on Highway 2. This two-lane highway winds through the mountains, including Mt. Furlong, Snowslip Mountain and Calf Robe Mountain. Wintertime in East Glacier is quiet, but you’ll enjoy the view of Glacier National Park’s peaks where they meet the plains of Eastern Montana. Take the more frequently traveled Highway 2 east towards Browning or the less-traveled Highway 49 north towards Lower Two Medicine Lake, which eventually meets Highway 89. In Browning, check out Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post or the Museum of the Plains Indian for fascinating American Indian history. Beyond Browning, jump on Highway 89 heading west, passing through the small towns of Star and Kiowa. Continue north until you reach the junction back into the park to see Saint Mary Lake or Lower St. Mary Lake. Travel into Glacier National Park on the east side is a bit more limited than the west, but always know what’s open by checking road conditions online.

Look to the north on Highway 2 for a view of Calf Robe Mountain. Photo: Tracey Vivar

WINTER DRIVING SAFETY TIPS

  • Check out Montana Department of Transportation’s Travel Map for up-to-date road conditions.
  • Travel with sleeping bags, blankets, extra water and food, extra warm clothes, and look ahead for where cell service may be spotty or nonexistent.  
  • Make sure your vehicle is well-maintained: working headlights and tail lights, coolant, windshield wipers, tire pressure, etc.
  • Take it slow! Road conditions may change quickly.
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife.
  • Assign a designated driver if consuming alcohol.
  • Refuel when you can—in some areas, gas stations can be few and far between.
  • Always check business hours before stopping, in case there are weather-related closings or changes.    

We love our wildlife, so please watch carefully for bighorn sheep or other animals while driving. Photo: Jerrie Bullock

Big Sky Beats: Music Festivals and Concerts in Western Montana

Western Montana’s jaw-dropping natural beauty and wide open spaces are perfect for nurturing the imagination. That means there’s no shortage of creative genius in our roots. Artists are drawn here from all over the world. Our communities are alive with arts and culture, and our festivities are often centered around one of our favorite things—music, which we take pretty seriously around these parts.

Glacier Country offers the perfect combination of diverse venues, small-town charm and breathtaking scenery, so it’s no surprise that there’s always some form of musical entertainment to take in. From seasonal symphonies to outdoor concerts and festivals featuring local and national acts to local bands in favorite bars, music echoes in these mountains any chance it gets…which is pretty often. Well, all the time, actually.

We host some of the best music festivals west of the Continental Divide, in unique indoor and outdoor settings big and small. Plan your late summer or early fall visit around one of the events below, put on your dancing shoes, and come hear what’s playing under the big sky.

One of Western Montana’s newest concert locales is now open and offering a rare treat for music lovers in the 4000-capacity open-air venue right on the edge of the Blackfoot River adjacent to Kettlehouse Brewery.

Travelers’ Rest Festival

August 12 – 13, 2017
For over a decade, Big Sky Brewing Company has hosted concerts on their scenic Missoula grounds, and they’ve recently (earlier this year!) unveiled a brand new state-of-the-art amphitheater, designed with larger productions in mind. The August 2017 Travelers’ Rest Festival (presented by The Decemberists) brings stellar artists and fresh mini donuts. What’s not to love?

Festival Amadeus

August 8 – 13, 2017
Mozart in the mountains? We’re all about that. Seven days of classical music against the backdrop of Glacier National Park sounds like a pretty good time to us. The Glacier Symphony and Chorale is an established cultural treasure and Festival Amadeus offers an engaging lineup of highly acclaimed musicians in Whitefish.

A road trip to an event on Flathead Lake is always filled with incredible views.

Flathead Lake Blues Festival

August 18 – 19, 2017
Enjoy the deep south in the wild West with blues under the big sky. The Flathead Lake Blues Festival in Polson showcases musicians from all over Western Montana, situated right on the shores of stunning Flathead Lake. This year’s festival features Ladies of the Blues and several International Blues Challenge competitors.

Bitterroot Celtic Games and Gathering

August 19 – 20, 2017
Listening to bagpipes in Montana’s beautiful Bitterroot Valley is one way to enjoy a summer visit to Glacier Country. Come to Hamilton’s historic Daly Mansion for pipes, drums and Irish step dancing—and a “Shamrock vs. Thistle” Irish whisky and scotch comparison, of course.

The River City Roots Festival is fun-filled free community concert held in Downtown Missoula.
PHOTO: Athena Photography/Missoula Downtown Association

River City Roots Festival

August 25 – 26, 2017
For a true taste of the heart and soul of Missoula, plan your visit around its signature event, the River City Roots Festival. Recognized as the 2009 Montana Tourism Event of the Year, the Roots Fest is a free two-day festival offering exceptional music, local art and family fun. Dancing in the streets highly encouraged.

The Crown Guitar Workshop & Festival

August 27 – September 2, 2017
Billed as “summer’s best backyard party,” The Crown Guitar Workshop & Festival at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork draws guitar lovers from all over the world. Hear music legends perform in a small meadow venue and enjoy family-style meals in the log cabin Main Lodge.

 

Caras Park in Missoula has many outdoor music events throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Symphony in the Park

August 13, 2017
Grab a blanket, pack your picnic basket and head to Caras Park for this free, family-friendly downtown Missoula summertime tradition—an evening of pops favorites and classical music overlooking the Clark Fork River.

Happy Listening,
Glacier Country Tourism

Oh Snap! A Montana Spring in Pictures

As you know, a picture is worth a thousand words, and when we get our fans and friends out there capturing Montana moments in Glacier Country, we’re left speechless. These snapshots of our corner of paradise speak for themselves. Do we actually get to live, work and play in this place? Yep, we sure do, and you’d be ahead to come experience the magic and wonder for yourself. There’s a reason why we call it heaven on earth. So, although we love telling you all about our stunning landscapes and unrivaled recreation opportunities, this time we’re going to just show you. (We’re still bragging, but with less words and more pictures.)

Warning: daydreaming for an unspecified amount of time is sure to ensue after you make your way through this post.

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Quinton Tolman (instagram.com/quintontolman)

Wildflowers in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Matthew Mason (instagram.com/mason.art.globe)

Waterworks Hill in Missoula, Montana.

Photo: Sara Schroeder (instagram.com/saraoutside)

Blodgett Canyon near Hamilton, Montana.

Photo: Hunter Day Photo (hunterday.photo/montana)

Horses at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Along the Bull River.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

The forest near Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

A mountain goat at Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Kent Johns (instagram.com/kent_johns)

A wedding in Glacier National Park

Photo: Emil Rajkowski (instagram.com/raj_photo)

Aurora Borealis over the North Fork of the Flathead River.

David Marx Photo (instagram.com/davidmarxphoto)

A peaceful view of Flathead Lake.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

A kayaker rides Brennans Wave on the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

How’s that for inspiring? There’s more where these came from. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for your daily dose of Western Montana beauty.

Want to share your incredible travels in Western Montana? Use #GlacierMT on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a chance to be featured.

Spring in Montana and Glacier National Park

First things first: Happy spring!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’ll be straight with you. I know it seems like spring is not actually here (especially with the 14 inches of fresh snow at Whitefish Mountain Resort), but I promise you she’s on her way.

The view from Apgar Lookout webcam in Glacier National Park on the first day of spring

The view from Apgar Lookout webcam in Glacier National Park on the first day of spring.

Sure, spring plays coy every once in a while and is known to have a flair for the dramatic, but she is also one of the loveliest seasons in Montana. During her reign, Montana is covered with blooming flowers, emerging wildlife, fresh mountain air and bright blue skies. And with all of those attributes, you’d think spring would be a popular time to visit Montana…right?

Well, I’ve got good news for you: Spring in a season that is still largely undiscovered, especially here in Glacier Country. It’s not because she’s not enchanting, it’s just that her big sister summer is Montana’s most popular season in terms of the most time to visit. And while summer will likely remain Big Sky Country’s reigning queen, little miss spring is definitely holding her own.

Here’s are my top picks for some of the best places to experience spring in Montana.

Glacier National Park
While the park is open year-round, spring is one of the quietest times to visit. And even though the Going-to-the-Sun Road isn’t open in its entirety to vehicular traffic until at least June 20, there are still ample opportunities to play in Glacier National Park. Topping the list: biking the iconic road. Read more about biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road in this story from Elevation Outdoors.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The view from the loop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The view from the loop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Additional activities: Wildlife watching (be sure to keep a safe distance and never feed wildlife), red bus tours (the Huckleberry Tour begins May 25) and hiking. For the latest updates on which hiking trails are clear of snow, call 406.888.7800.  

Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Browning (open year-round), Historic Tamarack Lodge & Cabins in Hungry Horse (open year-round) and Glacier Outdoor Center (opens in April). Additional properties around the park open in early May.

In the news: Fodor’s recently picked Glacier National Park as one of the 10 best national parks to visit this spring. Read more about it here.

Bigfork
This is one of the cutest towns you’ll come across in Western Montana. Located on the bay of Flathead Lake, it has an adorable downtown village, fun shops and easy access to hiking trails and water fun. In the spring, Bigfork also has a wide variety of events including Taste of Bigfork and Bigfork Whitewater Festival. Scheduled for May 24 and 25, the festival has kayakers paddling on the class IV section of the “Wild Mile” of the Swan River.

The Raven in Woods Bay (just south of Bigfork).

The Raven in Woods Bay (just south of Bigfork).

Additional activities: Take time to stroll through downtown and check out the art galleries and restaurants that call this quaint town home. Also, be sure to take the short drive south to The Raven for dinner and a drink. And if you’re looking to land a fish? Book a trip with Bagley Guide Service or Crane Mountain Guide Service.

Where to stay: Mountain Lake Lodge (gorgeous views of Flathead Lake) or Bridge Street Cottages.

Missoula
With the Clark Fork River flowing through the heart of downtown, spring takes off early in Missoula. (Side note: I’ve already seen kayakers paddling on Brennan’s Wave). And while there are events that happen here in the spring (like the International Wildlife Film Festival and Garden City Brewfest), it’s the easy accessibility to the outdoors that make Missoula a standout destination.

A spring stroll on the Clark Fork River.

A spring stroll on the Clark Fork River.

Additional activities: Hike the M Trail on Mount Sentinel, take in the view of Missoula from Blue Mountain Recreation Area or bike the Clark Fork riverfront trails. Plus, the driving range at Canyon River Golf Club is officially open, with the rest of the course slated to open in the next few weeks.

Where to stay: Gibson Mansion Bed & Breakfast (Tom’s scones are insanely delicious), C’Mon Inn (numerous hot tubs to soak your muscles after hiking) and Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park.

Here’s to a fun-filled spring.

xo,
TT