Category Archives: Columbia Falls

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.

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

Hidden Gem Golf Courses in Western Montana

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

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

NORTHWEST CORRIDOR

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

BITTERROOT VALLEY

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

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

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK SURROUNDING AREA + EAST GLACIER CORRIDOR

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

TOUR 200

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

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

FLATHEAD CORRIDOR

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

I-90 CORRIDOR

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

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

SEELEY-SWAN CORRIDOR

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

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

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

Budget Friendly Girls Getaways in Glacier Country

With countless ways to recreate, from golf to yoga and biking to fly-fishing, Western Montana sets the scene for an epic girls getaway—without breaking the bank. Our awe-inspiring views create the perfect backdrop to relax, reconnect and rejuvenate with friends. Set aside time to explore one of our vibrant (and quite charming) downtowns where you will be greeted with warm western hospitality. Here’s your guide to an authentic small-town adventure and instagram-worthy retreats in Glacier Country.

Create unforgettable memories together at Dancing Spirit Ranch. Photo: Dancing Spirit Ranch

ADVENTUROUS GETAWAYS

Just outside Glacier National Park, Dancing Spirit Ranch provides year-round yoga retreats. Reach peaceful serenity by practicing yoga outside in the unmatched scenery of the Flathead Valley. The Ladies Summer Camp, May 30 – June 2, 2019, combines invigorating and restorative yoga with meditation, leaving you in a blissful state. The camp is rounded out with daily activities like stand-up paddleboarding and hikes in Glacier National Park, plus nightly campfires.

Explore Glacier Country on two wheels.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more authentic Glacier Country adventure than Whitefish Bike Retreat. This unique destination located outside of Whitefish calls to you and your bike-loving friends. The resort has a single-lap trail around the property and a skills area with jumps and obstacles for all levels of rider, and also offers accommodations so you can sleep-wake-ride. The property leads to The Whitefish Trail network, which encompasses 42+ miles of trails with loops, scenic overlooks, logging roads and natural-surface trails to ride. In the winter, try fat biking—an increasingly popular and wildly fun activity. The oversized tires on fat bikes make it easy to move across the snow. Rentals are available on-site at Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Soak in natural mineral waters at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort.

One of our favorite ways to unwind is to soak in the warm mineral waters at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort located outside of Paradise. If you are searching for a low-key girls weekend, look no further. Mineral pools have long been thought to offer health benefits, and the pools at Quinn’s are 100 percent natural. Temperatures range from a steamy 106 degrees to a cool and mellow 89 degrees. Overlooking the Clark Fork River, it’s the perfect place to relax and stay awhile, with two lodges, 25 beautiful log cabins, a restaurant and a tavern all on location. Plan to stay during their High Country Cowboys Dinner Show March 18, 2019 or May 6, 2019, to enjoy live western music and fine dining after a rejuvenating soak.

Head to Double Arrow Resort for a round (or many) of golf, and you won’t be disappointed.

In Western Montana springtime means swing time. Challenge your friends on the golf course at Double Arrow Resort, near Seeley Lake. It’s a true golfer’s paradise with breathtaking views of the Swan and Mission mountain ranges, and you’re bound to catch a glimpse of some wildlife on the sidelines. The 6,500-yard course is woven through the landscape truly immersing you in its beauty. Each hole of this scenic course is staged with three sets of tees; choose one based on your skill level. Top off the day with a glass of award-winning wine and classic country cuisine at Seasons Restaurant in the historic main lodge, then get cozy in one of the rustic or new spacious cabins and settle in. Don’t miss the Spring Stay & Play Golf Package available through June 8, 2019.

Try all the different brews by ordering a flight.

EXPLORING WESTERN MONTANA’S TOWNS

Missoula—the cultural hub of Glacier Country—is one town that bustles year-round. It boasts a fast-growing live music scene, museums, art galleries, plus food options from fine dining to cafés and everything in between. With 11 breweries, three distilleries, two wineries and a cidery, it’s not a stretch to say your squad could spend the whole weekend enjoying the eateries and spirits. Stay at the Gibson Mansion Bed and Breakfast, where Victorian elegance meets modern convenience. For a more central stay, the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, in the heart of Missoula, is a short walk from many of the best shops and galleries.

Cast a line in Western Montana.

Anchoring the Bitterroot Valley is Hamilton, the valley’s largest community. This explore-worthy town offers something for everyone in your group, with theater, live music, local breweries and eclectic downtown shops. For a look at Hamilton’s history, tour the historic Daly Mansion, the 24,000 square foot home of copper baron Marcus Daly. The Bitterroot River, a short drive away, is an angler’s paradise known for phenomenal fishing. The Cabins at Deer Crossing offer a rustic retreat; choose between the Homestead Cabin and the Montana Cabin, or stay at the Big Sky Suite in the main lodge. Steps away from downtown, The Historic Wesley Building can be rented on VRBO. With a wraparound porch and conservatory, this house lays on the charm.

GETTING HERE

With two major international airports—Missoula (MSO) and Glacier Park (FCA)—serviced by Allegiant Air, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines, there are plenty of routes to provide smooth travel plans for visiting Western Montana.

Direct flights regularly arrive from Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Phoenix-Mesa, Portland, Salt Lake City and Seattle-Tacoma. Seasonal flights arrive from Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco. In addition to air travel, you can get here by train on Amtrak’s Empire Builder or drive in on our very scenic highway system.

What’s New in Brew, Food and Fun in Western Montana

In a place with so much room to roam, there’s always space for more awesome. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is continually expanding its offerings, because there can never be too many breweries and food hot spots here, and we can always accommodate more adventure.

Here’s what’s new in our neck of the woods.

BRAND NEW BREWS UNDER BIG BLUE SKIES
Missoula continues to be a haven for beer enthusiasts, now with two more spots to savor the sip: Gild Brewing—a brew pub on Missoula’s coolest block, the Hip Strip—boasts craft brew, epic Sunday brunch and a basement arcade. Conflux Brewing offers a convergence of delicious beer, a unique menu with a Southern twist and sustainable brewing practices all in the heart of downtown. Not far from Missoula, KettleHouse Brewing Company has opened its latest tap room adjacent to the the KettleHouse Amphitheater on the banks of the famous Blackfoot River in Bonner.

New breweries keep pouring into Western Montana.

Kalispell also boasts two new places to wet your whistle with local, finely crafted beer. Bias Brewing taps a few mainstay brews, but really gets creative with seasonals and rotators. Their diverse selection includes Crooked Cookie Stout, Chaotic Good Ginger Beer and Equinox Blood Orange Gose, and their corner kitchen features food from a popular local restaurant, Food for the Soul 2. Kalispell’s Sacred Waters Brewing pays homage to Montana’s wild places crafting good beer and hosting events like yoga and live music.

A little closer to Glacier National Park, pull up a barstool at the Gunsight Saloon in Columbia Falls. This old-school saloon-style establishment channeling the Old West features two bars, a gorgeous patio, casual food, 20 beers on tap, a small wine and cocktail selection, and live music throughout the week.

FRESH FOOD FINDS
Wake up to a smoked brisket omelet or banana caramel French toast at Little Montana in the scenic Mission Valley community of Ronan. For lunch, the quintessential western mountain town of Whitefish is dishing up flavor at The Wich Haus, keeping it simple and savory with sandwiches a la braised short ribs and roasted vegetables.

Innovative Asian-fusion cuisine is on the menu at the new Missoula location of Saketome Sushi, and menu items are well paired with wine or sake from their extensive collection. Also in Missoula, Michi Ramen is serving up Asian-inspired dishes like ramen and authentic Japanese noodles.

Stop by Josephine’s for tasty eats and buzz-worthy (and buzz-inducing) cocktails. Photo: Josephine’s Bar & Kitchen

Coram’s Glacier Distilling Co. is now home to Josephine’s Bar & Kitchen, featuring a dinner menu and specially curated cocktail list using house liquors and options from other local distilleries. Think fried green tomatoes, bison gyro, smoked trout cake po’boy, and buttermilk fried chicken in a fireweed cherry bourbon barbecue sauce. Open seasonally.

Rebel Roots Kitchen is keeping things healthy in Whitefish with vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options for the health-conscious consumer. Fuel up on nutritious food that tastes delicious, too.

Get your farm-to-table gourmet food fix at Lakeside’s Beargrass Bistro featuring menu items like schnitzel, stroganoff and local steaks. The culinary creations at this Flathead Lake gem are not only mouth-wateringly delicious, they’re crafted with ingredients from the region’s community of farmers, ranchers, gardeners and growers.

ADVENTURE IN ABUNDANCE
For some authentic Montana recreation and a winter adrenaline rush, Whitefish Vertical Adventures is now offering custom ice climbing excursions and gear rentals.

Experience an ice climbing adventure with Whitefish’s newest outfitter. Photo: Tyler Brower, omni-living.com

For camping and lodging adventures, West Glacier RV Park & Cabins is set to open in 2019. Quietly tucked behind West Glacier Village, these fully-equipped RV sites feature 50-amp power, full hookups, fire pits and green space. The cabins sleep up to four and feature a full kitchen, a private bedroom and a standard bathroom. The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough has expanded their luxury camping or “glamping” with the addition of another campsite bringing the total number of luxury camping tents to 30. Additionally, they will be adding a resort within the resort called The Green O, with 12 new one-bedroom homes for couples to reconnect with nature and disconnect from everyday life with unobstructed views of the forest canopy and custom-tailored service.

Trade screen time for green time at The Green O. Photo: Stuart Thurlkill, The Resort at Paws Up

The much-anticipated Missoula Mercantile project opens in 2019, too. The first floor of the Mercantile Hotel will feature bars, restaurants and retail space, and a new art program, where hundreds of pieces of local art will be on display.

Skijoring: Winter in Glacier Country Just Got Even Cooler

Imagine you’re waterskiing, but you’re being pulled by a horse and rider through the snow. That’s how many participants describe skijoring, an outrageously entertaining winter activity that’s rapidly gaining in popularity in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Cheer on the racers at Skijoring at Rebecca Farm in December. Photo: Tommy Diegel Photography

The word skijoring comes from the Norwegian skijøring, which means “ski driving,” a testament to the fact that it originated in Scandinavia as a form of transportation. This once practical mode of travel has morphed into an exciting—and usually pretty rowdy—competitive sport. Here’s a quick guide to the action:

Each team consists of a horse and rider pulling a skier by a 30- to 50-foot-long rope. The skier sails over jumps, speeds through slalom gates and captures rings. Skiers may hit speeds of up to 60 mph during acceleration. Each team takes two runs through the course, which may be straight, U-, J- or L-shaped, and ranges from 600 to 1,000 feet long. The skier must cross the finish line in an upright position, on at least one ski and holding the rope. Both run times are combined to get the team’s final score, minus time penalties for missing jumps, gates and rings.

Ride ’em cowboy! A skijoring team tackles a jump at Rebecca Farm. Photo: Green Kat Photography

Races take place throughout Glacier Country from December through February, so put on your long underwear, stuff some hand warmers in your pockets and go watch—or even try your own hand at—one of winter’s wildest competitions alongside die-hard skijoring fans.

Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, best known for its annual July equestrian extravaganza of dressage, cross country and showjumping, is a natural fit to host a major skijoring event. Eighty teams and thousands of spectators made their inaugural race in 2017 a roaring success. Held the last weekend in December, skijoring at Rebecca Farm kicks off the Skijoring America racing season. It’s also a great way to spend the last weekend of the year. Downtown Kalispell is a short 5.5 miles away from the event, making lodging, dining and shopping a breeze.

Whitefish Winter Carnival’s two-day skijoring competition in late January ranks as the oldest and most storied of Montana’s skijoring competitions. In the 1960s, skijorers raced through downtown Whitefish. Legend has it that one competitor almost went through a store window, and spectators had to watch out for runaway horses. Times have definitely changed. Nowadays, the event takes place at Big Mountain Ranch, a working cattle operation with gorgeous views of Big Mountain. The J-shaped track is great for spectators, and the costume division is particularly entertaining. The ranch is just 3 miles from town, so plan to eat, shop and overnight in Whitefish. You could also tack on an extra day or two to ski fresh powder on the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Now that’s some horsepower! Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

The Wilderness Club, a luxury ranch in Eureka, will hold its first-ever skijoring competition in early January. Close to the Canadian border and Lake Koocanusa, Eureka will be in breathtaking winter wonderland mode. After the races are over, settle in fireside at the Wilderness Club Lodge, or warm up in the hot tub.

Mid-February will bring Skijor Columbia Falls’ inaugural “Soldiers, Saddles and Skis: The Race for Valor,” a fundraiser for Valor Equine Therapy. Combine your support for the skijorers and their noble cause with a trip to nearby Glacier National Park for an even more unforgettable weekend of alpine adventures.

Find out what it’s like to “waterski on snow.” Photo: Stuart Thurlkill, The Resort at Paws Up

Not content to sit on the sidelines? Book a stay at The Wilderness Club in Eureka, The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough or Triple Creek Ranch in Darby. Along with top-notch accommodations, they all include skijoring on their lists of guest activities. If you’ve already got other lodging planned, both The Wilderness Club and The Resort at Paws Up offer skijoring activities to the public.

Holiday Charm in Western Montana

Winter in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is pure magic; we really know how to deck the halls and celebrate the season of giving with all things merry and bright. It’s also true that winter’s the time of year when it’s pretty easy to get a little stir crazy, which is why we fill the season with holiday events and celebrations galore.

Deck the halls! Bigfork, Montana shows off its western holiday spirit. Photo: Bigfork Chamber of Commerce

HOLIDAY STROLLS AND PARADES OF LIGHT

You would be hard-pressed to find a more authentic Western Montana evening than a Christmas stroll. Wander the streets and enjoy the perfect combination of wagon rides, chestnut roasting and vendors selling Montana-made goods and artisan crafts. The holiday celebration doesn’t end there. Experience the splendor of a Parade of Light and prepare to be swept up in the magic of the holidays. Sightings include Santa, reindeer and floats adorned in lights galore.

Glacier Country gives family time a whole new meaning. Photo: Chelsea Culp

HOLIDAY CHEER AT THE THEATER

If you are ready to cozy up inside for a unique and unforgettable winter experience you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that the state’s rugged exterior belies a highly developed artistic sensibility. Musicals, symphony concerts, ballets and more dot the region during the holiday season and are a Western Montana specialty. Attend the timeless performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” (University of Montana’s Adams Center), enjoy a buttered popcorn and a soda or adult beverage while watching classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Roxy Theater), or listen to This Sacred Season and “Messiah” with the Glacier Symphony (Whitefish Performing Arts Center). Here are many ways you can add a splash of culture to the holiday season.

The grace and tradition of Missoula’s Nutcracker performance will be the highlight of your holiday season. Photo: Garden City Ballet – Neil Chaput de Saintonge

HOLIDAY BAZAAR

One of the things Western Montana does best is put on a good holiday bazaar. Embrace the spirit of giving this season with gifts from locally sourced and canned foods, hand-crafted jewelry, pottery, woodworking, handmade soaps and other Montana artisan goods and wares. While you’re browsing, be sure to enjoy a cup of cocoa and mingle with the locals—we’re known for being some of the friendliest folks around.

So many different and amazing choices for children and adults alike. Photo: HandMADE Montana -Carol Lynn Lapotka

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Glacier Country Montana is always ready to make your trip memorable, but there is a special atmosphere around New Year’s Eve. Whether you are looking for a night out dancing, a fireworks send-off under the vast night sky, or a low-key night downtown without the big-city crowds—we’ve got the best place to close out the holidays and make your 2019 resolutions.

Send off 2018 with a bang. Photo: Flathead Beacon – Lido Vizzutti

MUST-STOP TOWNS BURSTING WITH HOLIDAY CHARM

Bigfork: Located on the bay of Flathead Lake, the storybook town of Bigfork gets a little magical around the holidays. The community “elves” come together every year to adorn the town with wreaths, ribbon, garland and lights, creating authentic Western Montana holiday charm.

Whitefish: The quintessential mountain resort town of Whitefish goes all out creating an enchanting winter wonderland. A stroll through downtown will yield bells, wreaths, boughs and lights ornamenting each business and weaving through the streets.

Ovando: Another stop-worthy town is Ovando. This quaint (and beyond adorable) town lays on the charm for the holiday season. Downtown, the 100-year-old buildings create the atmosphere of an authentic Old West holiday.

Not many places celebrate the holidays like Whitefish, Montana. Photo: Brian Schott

You can also check out a full listing of holiday events at glaciermt.com/events.

Discover Fall in Glacier Country

We’re sweet on every season here, but we’re especially smitten with autumn. The tapestry of golden hues and hillsides dusted with the first snow complemented by the impossibly blue sky gets us every time, and fall brings a few of our favorite things: flannels, festivals, scenic road trips, seasonal microbrews and farmers markets brimming with pumpkins, heritage apples, ciders and more of our favorite harvest flavors.

Not to brag, but our fall look is pretty spectacular.

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The crisp mountain air beckons, so we get out and about for fall frolic, and then we cozy up fireside. Autumn is our golden season—it’s vibrant, it’s quiet, it’s not to be missed. Traffic is lighter and shoulder season prices kick in. It’s a wonderful time to hop in the car and take a road trip around Glacier Country.

Here’s where and how we like to spend beloved fall days in our corner of Montana.

INTERSTATE 90 CORRIDOR – MISSOULA

The thing about Missoula is that you can explore one of Glacier Country’s hippest cultural hot spots, which bustles all year long, and then pretty much take off in any direction to add a scenic fall drive into the mix. While in town, explore the “Best of the West” outdoor market scene, visit one of 10 breweries, three distilleries and two wineries, pick out a pumpkin and conquer the corn maze, or hike any one of several trails; we love the Rattlesnake Wilderness in the fall.

Fall Bonus: Montana Cider Week (September 29 – October 7) hosts events throughout Montana, with multiple festivities taking place in Glacier Country communities. See what’s happening where and when, and prioritize a stop at Missoula’s new (and first ever) cidery—Western Cider—for a tour and a taste.

We love dining out during all our seasons, but fall cuisine has some extra special flavor. Photo: Top Hat Lounge

Trip Tip: A Missoula favorite, the Top Hat serves up mouthwatering cuisine—like chicken spaghetti squash—amid live music and friendly community vibes. Plan your visit around one of their Tunes & Taste music-infused dinner theme nights.

BITTERROOT VALLEY

This lush forested valley nestled between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges is prime for leaf peeping, and the fall rut makes it a spectacular time for watching wildlife at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Begin in Missoula, and take U.S. Highway 93 south toward Hamilton, stopping along the way in some of Glacier Country’s most charming towns.

Hamilton’s Daly Mansion boasts 50 kinds of trees—all gorgeous this time of year—and offers haunted hayrides at the end of October. Top off your tour at Backroad Cider or betterRoot Cidery for some fresh-pressed deliciousness—the core of fall flavor.

It doesn’t get much more festive than Stevensville’s Scarecrow Festival. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Fall Bonus: Plan your trip around a Ravalli County Museum Ghost Tour, Victor’s Field of Screams, Stevensville’s famous Scarecrow Festival or Hamilton’s McIntosh Apple Day—hailed as one of Montana’s Best Fall Festivals.

Trip Tip: Bike “The Root” instead! The Bitterroot Trail is a 50-mile-long paved bike path following the same route mentioned above, perfect for a vibrant autumn cycling adventure.

TOUR 200

Montana Tour 200 in Sanders County from Dixon to Heron travels along scenic riverbanks (bursting with fall color), active wildlife and ample outdoor recreation opportunities. Stop for a soak in the mineral waters at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort, nestled in Paradise along the Clark Fork River. Afterwards, stop in Thompson Falls for a home-cooked meal at Minnie’s Montana Café, or enjoy a drink and exceptional fall views from the deck Big Eddy’s.

Fall greets winter in Thompson Falls. Photo: Kate Baxter

Trip Tip: Lace up your hiking boots near Trout Creek and hike to the beautiful Vermilion Falls or Graves Creek Falls.

SEELEY-SWAN CORRIDOR

Between the stunning Swan and majestic Mission mountain ranges, the Seeley-Swan Valley boasts hundreds of pristine alpine lakes and beautiful hiking spots. Kayak around picturesque Holland Lake, canoe the Clearwater Canoe Trail or hike Morrell Falls, all spectacular ways to take in the fall spectacle. This exceptionally scenic valley is known for its large population of tamaracks—unique pine trees that lose their needles in the fall, setting Montana’s hillsides aflame with vivid shades of yellow and orange.

If you take U.S. Highway 83 from Seeley Lake all the way to Bigfork (as you should), this storybook village on the northeast shore of Flathead Lake, does not disappoint. Bigfork’s Whistling Andy Distilling serves up award-winning whiskeys and spirits made with Montana-grown grains and fruits. Savor some Harvest Select Whiskey, perfect for the season. From Bigfork, head south on State Highway 35 to The Raven Bar & Grill in Wood’s Bay for delicious waterfront dining, craft cocktails and some of the best views in the area.

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

Fall Bonus: Visit Seeley Lake mid-October and meet some of Montana’s finest artists, see their work and tour area studios, galleries and museums during the Alpine Artisans – Tour of the Arts, or land in Bigfork on October 13 for Tamarack Time!—an annual local’s-favorite amateur food competition akin to a county fair—and be sure you’re hungry.

Trip Tip: Make your Glacier Country getaway an overnight adventure with an authentic Montana lodging experience at the Double Arrow Resort in Seeley Lake, offering four-season recreation, cozy accommodations and incredibly warm hospitality.

FLATHEAD CORRIDOR

The west side of Flathead Lake is equally as scenic and charming as the east. If you’re coming from the south on U.S. Highway 93 or State Highway 200, stop in Moiese for wildlife watching at the National Bison Range. You may even get to experience bull elk bugling in the fall rut. Further north, in Charlo, visit Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana and Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge with stunning wide-open panoramas of the Mission Mountains. Then, on to Flathead Lake where jaw-dropping views await.

Fall Bonus: The Tamarack BrewFest take place in Lakeside, October 13. Enjoy live music, line dancing, canoe races, local vendors and evening bonfires, all taking place in this stunning fall Flathead Lake location.

HIGHWAY 2 CORRIDOR LIBBY TO KALISPELL

Running through Western Montana’s northern region, Highway 2 travels along some of the most scenic places in Glacier Country and introduces road-trippers to off-the-beaten-path treasures and well-known attractions. Begin in Libby, one of the region’s most scenic and quietest corners and end in Kalispell, the perfect mix of small-town Montana and old-west charm. Ghost chasers can head to the Conrad Mansion for a ghost tour.

Fall Bonus: Meander 4,000 bales of hay at Kalispell’s Whitefish Stage Organic Farm hay bale maze. This family-fun autumn activity also includes a barrel train ride, hay ride, super trampoline, petting zoo, pumpkins and more.

Get lost in Glacier Country. Photo: Whitefish Stage Organic Farm

Trip Tip: Linger in Kalispell for good food, shopping and museums, plus the whimsical autumn wonderland of Sweet Pickin’s Pumpkin Patch, where you’ll find plenty more than gourds.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK SURROUNDING AREA

The park is absolutely breathtaking in autumn. Traffic is light, shoulder-season prices are in effect, and communities in and beyond the park are celebrating the season. Explore the outdoors by boat in Whitefish on Whitefish Lake, or take to the trails by bike or by foot on The Whitefish Trail or the Swift Creek Loop, and then stop in for delicious food at Casey’s Whitefish pub and grill, featuring rooftop dining options—especially scenic right about now.

Raise a glass to our amazing local brews at the Great Northwest Oktoberfest. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

A bit closer to the park, Columbia Falls offers the perfect place to swap adventure stories over burgers and craft beer at Backslope Brewing. Try one of their rotators on tap this fall: Chocolate Hazelnut Stout. When it’s time to turn in, Cedar Creek Lodge offers a truly exceptional Montana lodging experience, and their pool and hot tub are open year-round.

Fall Bonus: The Great Northwest Oktoberfest takes place in Whitefish, and, because one weekend is not enough, join us for two weekends of authentic German beer, food, music and fun with a Montana flair, September 27 – 29 and October 4 – 6.

Trip Tip: There’s still time to get on the green at Meadow Lakes Golf Course, open until mid to late October.

We packed quite a bit of autumn adventure in for you, and now it’s time for you to pack your bags and head to Western Montana’s Glacier Country for the perfect fall road-trip experience.

Off-Road Adventures: 5 ATV Trails to Explore in Western Montana

We have plenty of hidden treasures here in Western Montana, and sometimes the best—and only—way to discover them is to go off-road into our beautiful backcountry and heavenly high country. You can cover quite a bit of ground when you get off the main roads and explore our pristine alpine lakes, lush forests and mesmerizing mountain meadows. From technical to family-friendly rides, alpine all-terrain vehicle (ATV) adventures abound in Glacier Country.

It’s time to revel in the rugged—here’s a handful of our favorite rides.

New to ATVing? Go with a guide! Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

ASHLEY LAKE ATV TRAIL #812
Open: June – October
This local’s favorite west of Kalispell is popular in the summertime, but if you’re looking for a quieter ride, venture over in the late spring or early fall before big-game hunting season begins. The trailjust north of Ashley Lake—offers 7 miles of scenic ATV terrain, and the lake itself provides off-trail recreation like swimming, fishing and camping. Pitch a tent on one of three campgrounds and reel in one of the huge rainbow-cutthroat trout hybrids the lake is known for. GETTING THERE: From Kalispell, take U.S. Highway 2 west for 4 miles, turn onto Ashley Lake Road (Forest Service Road #912) for 15 miles, then turn onto Forest Service Road #10236 for about 4 miles. The trailhead is marked with signs.

BLUE MOUNTAIN ROAD
Open: May – November
For picture-perfect views of the Missoula Valley as well as the Sapphire and Rattlesnake Mountains, Blue Mountain Recreation Area boasts about 15 miles of motorized vehicle trails, four of which are open to ATVs. There’s a fire lookout tower in service from July – August, and you can climb to the top for stunning views of Lolo Peak, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the Mission Mountains. Be sure to pick up an off-road sticker (available at the Missoula County Courthouse) before hitting Blue Mountain on your off-highway vehicle (OHV). GETTING THERE: From Missoula, head south on U.S. Highway 93 for about 2 miles, making a right (north) onto Blue Mountain Road for 1.4 miles. Turn left onto Forest Service Road 365 for 1.2 miles, and the staging area will be on your left. 

Every season in Western Montana lends itself to an ATV adventure. Photo: Kurt’s OffRoad

HUNGRY HORSE MOTOCROSS TRACK
Open: Year-round (weather dependent)
Just east of Columbia Falls in Hungry Horse, Montana, this natural terrain track is open to ATVs and packs a punch with steep and challenging elevation gains. You’ll also find camping and other adventures at nearby Hungry Horse Dam. Time your trail trip right and you’ll get to see a race event held by the High Country Motocross Association. GETTING THERE: From Columbia Falls, take U.S. Highway 2 east for about 6 miles. When you see the Forest Service station on your right, turn south onto Colorado Boulevard for about 1.25 miles. Look for a gravel road on the left and turn there. The track is about a half mile down on the right. 

KOOCANUSA SAND DUNES AND TRAIL SYSTEM
Open: Year-round (weather dependent) 
Sand dunes in Montana? Don’t mind if we do. Mix things up off trail in the dunes and play pits of this large open area at the northeast corner of the Koocanusa Reservoir, best accessed late March through late June when the water levels are low. You’ll also find 20 miles of trails that lead into the woods surrounding the reservoir. Fun Fact: This is the original site of the city of Rexford. You’ll discover American Indian burial grounds in the area, which are well marked and closed to riding. GETTING THERE: From Eureka, take U.S. Highway 93 north for 5 miles to State Route 37. Take a left on MT-37 for 2.2 miles, then veer right onto Douglas Hill Road for half a mile, turn right onto Sophie Lake Road for 1 mile, veer left onto Iowa Flats Road for .1 miles, and then turn right onto Sophie Lake Road for 3.5 miles toward the lake.

ATV trails are often shared with hikers and bikers. Photo: Kurt’s OffRoad

OVERWHICH FALLS TRAILS 182 + 248
Open: December 2 – October 14
South of Darby past Painted Rocks Lake, this “destination ride” offers a scenic 8-mile excursion to Overwhich Falls. This easy ride does have a few steep, rocky sections to be aware of, and encounters with horses, hikers and mountain bikers are possible, but the views—and the falls—are worth it. GETTING THERE: From Darby, head south for 4.3 miles. Turn right onto West Fork Road, heading south past Painted Rocks Lake to Forest Service Road #5703, where you’ll head east for about 2 miles to Forest Road #5706. Turn north and follow this road to the trailhead. There is a good turnaround and parking for vehicles and trailers about 7 miles from the trailhead in NW Section 17, west of Gentile Creek. 

Cover ground in Western Montana, through sage, pine and fresh mountain air. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

BONUS: DARBY TRAILS – BITTERROOT NATIONAL FOREST
Just last summer, the Bitterroot National Forest opened 50 miles of trails to ATVs, including two loops—#1, a 28-mile loop and #2, a 15-mile loop—on the old Darby Lumber Lands, also south of Darby. This new trail system is popular with beginner and intermediate riders, and, as always, the views are spectacular. GETTING THERE: From Darby, head south on U.S. Highway 93 for about 4 miles and take a left on Rye Creek Road. For Loop #1, take Rye Creek Road for 4 miles to North Fork Rye Creek Road/North Fork Road, where you’ll take a left and drive for about 6 miles until you reach Road #1127 and the trailhead. For Loop #2, take Rye Creek Road for 6 miles. Before the Rock Creek Road divide, you’ll see a parking area on the left with signage for Loop #2. 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO, and ride safely. For information on road designations, conditions and closures, as well as registration (resident and nonresident), permits, maps and off-roading laws, visit Montana State Parks.

TRIP TIP: Did you know? It’s legal to drive ATVs on roads and highways, as long as they’re equipped with “street kits.” This means that all public-land roads are open for riding!

 

Small-town Discovery in Glacier Country: Meet Columbia Falls

If you’ve been reading our blog, you know just how obsessed we are with Western Montana—the glacial-carved terrain, wildflower-filled meadows, charming small towns and endless outdoor adventure are all pretty easy to love. One of our favorite places to spend time in Glacier Country is Columbia Falls.

A gateway to Glacier National Park, Columbia Falls is just 15 minutes from the park’s west entrance. This beautiful Montana town is home to locally owned shops, restaurants, a brewery and a not-to-be-missed summer farmers market.

We recently explored this friendly little town, and it was such an enjoyable way to spend time in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Check out our day below, and then head to Columbia Falls for your own adventure.

Old Red Bridge in Columbia Falls.

Uptown Hearth + Azul Coffee Bar
Starting our morning off right, we headed to the Uptown Hearth. Walking into this microbakery and food studio feels like a big warm hug. It’s a super cozy spot with the scent of coffee and freshly baked pastries filling the air. Azul Coffee Bar shares the space with Uptown Hearth (hence the mouthwatering aroma) and offers handcrafted specialty coffee and espresso served from a custom-built mobile coffee cart. This is honestly some of the best coffee we’ve ever tasted.

Bad Rock Books
After our caffeine fix, we stopped at the used book store next door. With a large and diverse selection of titles plus stellar prices, Bad Rock Books is a bibliophile’s paradise. Any book junkie could spend an entire afternoon browsing the shelves. But we headed to the park…

Depot Park
Just a short walk from Bad Rock at 57 Railroad Street and Nucleus Ave. we explored Depot Park’s historic locomotive, the Shay Engine. Pssst…this is a great outdoor spot for a family picnic.

Backslope Brewing
Montana has become a top destination for breweries and distilleries, and one of our favorite brew stops is Backslope Brewing. Located in the shadows of Glacier National Park, Backslope offers a comfortable atmosphere to indulge in a delicious, handcrafted beer, and we did just that. Not only is the beer at this brewery tasty, but they also offer an amazing selection of food. From burgers to parmesan fries and dessert, the array of delectable foods made it hard to choose!

If you’re planning to visit Western Montana, Columbia Falls is just the place for a true taste of the charm, hospitality and fun Glacier Country offers.

Happy adventuring!