Category Archives: Fishing

Glacier Beyond the Crowds: Guest Blog by Andy Austin

As a guide in Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park (GNP) I am no stranger to their beauty, but I am also no stranger to their crowds. With record numbers expected to hit GNP again this year, I knew it was time to explore the surrounding regions. My name is Andy Austin, and I’m a photographer based out of Montana. For the past three weeks, I have road-tripped across Montana in search of spring wildflowers and epic adventures. As my tour starts to come to a close in northwest Montana’s Glacier Country, many of my friends guessed that my trip would take me to the Flathead Valley and GNP, an area I spend a good deal of free time in. But, for this adventure, I had my eyes set on solitude and escaping the crowds.

Video by Lyman Gillen. 

As I finished up my tour in Missoula, I headed north on my usual route towards the Flathead, but this trip was different, as I diverted my path west. My first stop was the National Bison Range, a detour that logistically only cost me 20 minutes, but in reality, kept me captivated for an entire morning. As I forced myself to part ways with watching a herd of bison majestically moving against the backdrop of the Mission Mountain Range I set my sights on the first official stop of the trip, Thompson Falls.

The National Bison Range in Moiese, outside of Charlo, is totally worth the stop. Photo: Andy Austin

Thompson Falls is a quaint little town with an almost immediate beauty hidden behind the historic main road. The town’s dam releases an impressive cascade of water and the views are unbeatable. Even one of my followers remarked that they had once driven through Thompson Falls, but didn’t even think to get off the main road. After a day of exploring the area, my friends and I headed to Island Park to get the best view of the dam and watch the sunset. In the two hours we hung out on those cliffs we didn’t see a single soul, and this was a foreshadowing for the solitude we’d find on our journey.

Sunset at the Thompson Falls Dam. Photo: Andy Austin

After a night of camping on Noxon Reservoir, we woke to a crisp mountain sunrise. The stillness of the lake was only matched by the stillness in the air as, once again, we were the only ones there to watch the sunrise. We packed up camp and headed to Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area to walk amongst the giants. These trees are up to 500 years old and photos don’t even begin to portray their size and beauty.

Ross Creek Cedar Forest offers amazing hiking opportunities; you have to see these trees to believe their size. Photo: Andy Austin

Libby was our next destination, and we arrived to check into our beautiful cabin along the Kootenai River at Dave Blackburn’s Kootenai Angler. The afternoon was spent exploring the Libby Dam before heading off to check a big item off of my bucket list, Kootenai Falls. I’ve seen photos of the falls before and expected a large crowd given how easy the hike is, but, yet again, we were some of the only people around. We took the swinging bridges across the Kootenai River and marveled at the powerful river below before finally heading over to see the actual falls. The whole experience lived up to the hype and then some.

Checked something off the bucket list: the Kootenai River Suspension Bridge. Photo: Andy Austin

The next morning, Kootenai legend Dave Blackburn himself offered to take us out for a float trip down the Kootenai River. The views were stunning and bald eagles were spotted around every bend. As much as I wanted to move into this beautiful cabin, there was still one more town to check off on my roadtrip across the region—Eureka. As we drove up from the Libby Dam we spent the next 40+ miles driving along Lake Koocanusa, and we finally got a feel for just how massive this lake really is. On my list of places to hit was the H.A. Brewing Co., but as I drove out there I realized I was heading off into the mountains. I thought, there is no way there is a brewery tucked out in the middle of nowhere. Sure enough, we arrived at a beautiful, rustic building with a pizza truck out front. Walking in I realized why this place was recommended by so many people I had come across on this trip. H.A. Brewing was an oasis in the middle of the mountains offering up tasty pizza and even tastier brews. Feeling properly fueled for another adventure, my friends and I headed back out onto Lake Koocanusa to go canoeing. Being only an hour from Whitefish I expected to see boaters in every direction, but, yet again, we were the only people out on the water. It was pure bliss.

An evening paddle on Lake Koocanusa is something I could get used to. Photo: Andy Austin

As a lover of Glacier National Park, I think I’ve found my answer when the crowds get the best of me and I need a little solitude. I’ve barely scratched the surface in these mountains, and I can’t wait to return!

Happy Adventuring,

Andy Austin

Beyond the Park: Explore Western Montana’s Glacier Country

The Crown of the Continent. The Backbone of the World. Heaven on Earth. Glacier National Park boasts some pretty apt nicknames. But did you know the epic beauty and unrivaled adventure extend well beyond park boundaries? From charming small towns to pristine rivers and recreation areas, Montana offers a wonderland of discovery.

Blodgett Canyon Overlook shows off Western Montana’s classic big-mountain views. Photo: Noah Couser

Summertime is the park’s busiest season, making it the perfect time to explore what the rest of Western Montana’s Glacier Country has to offer. Here’s a list of things to do and places to see outside the park, plus a few tips and tricks to navigate our peak season and busiest times of day.

SCENIC DRIVES
The stunning scenery and glacial-carved terrain roll right on out of the park for hundreds of miles in every direction. Take the road less traveled on some of Montana’s scenic byways for a jaw-dropping drive in some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. The best part? There’s usually a backroad adventure or hidden small-town treasure around every bend. Hit the road on one of our favorite routes:

Highway 200: Bonner to Clearwater Junction
Highway 83/Highway 12: Lolo to Idaho
St. Regis-Paradise Scenic Byway
Montana Tour 200 
Highway 2, Kalispell to Troy
Highway 89, St. Mary to Choteau
Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway

WILDLIFE VIEWING
Sometimes the best way to spot our majestic wildlife is to go where the crowds aren’t. Western Montana is a birder’s paradise and haven for creatures big and small, offering some pretty incredible viewing areas. Remember to bring your binoculars and always follow wildlife safety guidelines—this is grizzly country, after all! Head to one of our most-treasured wildlife habitat areas:

National Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge
National Bison Range
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge
Bull River Wildlife Management Area

HIKING
One of the easiest ways to cover ground in and get up close and personal with Montana is to head out on your own two feet. Every single one of our trailheads leads to a path of discovery, running the gamut from easy rambles to backcountry wilderness treks. You’ll find sprawling valleys, wildflower-filled meadows, towering peaks, pristine alpine lakes and waterfalls, lush forestland and quiet canyons, all offering an awe-inspiring and unforgettable adventure. The following wilderness areas offer of miles upon miles of trails to explore, or check out more of our favorite trails here.

Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
Cabinet Mountains Wilderness
Mission Mountains Wilderness Complex

OUTSIDE PLAY
From rodeos to rock climbing and zip lining to llama trekking, Western Montana offers infinite ways to play. Here, we hit the rivers and lakes for boating, rafting and world-class fly-fishing. We explore small towns for real cowboy adventures and relaxing yoga retreats. We take to the trails by bike and by horseback. Below are some of our favorite ways to play, Montana style:

Biking: Whitefish Bike Retreat
Gondola Rides: Whitefish Mountain Resort
Rafting: Adventure Missoula
Fly-Fishing, Kootenai Angler
Yoga Retreats: Dancing Spirit Ranch
Horseback Riding: Swan Mountain Outfitters
Llama Trekking: Swan Mountain
Rock Climbing at Lake Koocanusa: Rock Climb Montana
Cowboy Up: Rodeos

With Swan Mountain Outfitters, see Western Montana by horseback, on a llama or on your own two feet. Photo: Donnie Sexton

HISTORY + CULTURE
Montana’s rich heritage and breathtaking vistas inspire a cultural landscape you’ll not want to miss. From two Indian Nations—the Blackfeet and the Flathead—to numerous museums, galleries, theaters, historical sites, farmers markets, shops, eateries (from fine dining to food trucks) and watering holes (did we mention we have more than 20 breweries and distilleries?) you’ll be planning your next visit before this one’s even over. Check out the following Montana must-see cultural destinations:

Bigfork Summer Playhouse  
Missoula Art Museum  
Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana
Museum of Mountain Flying
Smokejumper Visitor Center

The Missoula Art Museum showcases a thriving art scene in Western Montana. Photo: Slikati Photography

LODGES + CABINS
Staying outside the park gives you the opportunity to explore some of our border-town communities infused with the spirit of Glacier Country and that warm western hospitality we’re known for. Take advantage of beyond-the-park adventures and then head into the park at less crowded times of day. Here are three friendly and memorable places to get cozy beyond park boundaries:

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge
Park Cabin Co.
Polebridge Cabins

STATE PARKS + FISHING ACCESS SITES
Psst…did you know that Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks fishing access sites are also campsites? Check out their website for campsite info. We love our state parks, and while many do reach capacity throughout the summer, they offer a true and unforgettable Western Montana outdoor experience. Make your way to one of the following public-land paradises: 

Logan State Park 
Thompson Falls State Park
Placid Lake State Park  
Salmon Lake State Park 

Swim, boat, fish and play at Placid Lake in the Swan Valley, a Glacier Country gem. Photo: Kelsey Lau

PEAK SEASON TRAVEL TIPS + TRICKS
Glacier National Park is expecting another record year for visitor numbers. Planning your trip with this in mind can help you navigate some of the peak-season challenges. Check out Glacier National Park’s Twitter feed for real-time updates on parking-lot statuses, weather, road closures, and other important information. Webcam feeds are also updated on Glacier website for some of the park’s most popular spots.

Here are few other tips and tricks we recommend for making your visit to Glacier National Park enjoyable and memorable:

  • Take a Tour: Help reduce traffic and hop on a bus for an educational and interactive tour with Red Bus Tours or Sun Tours. Check on the Glacier Institute’s list of summer programs and outings.
  • Shuttle it: Ride Glacier National Park’s Free Shuttle System.
  • Plan for delays: With a record number of people heading to Glacier National Park this summer, roads, parking lots and trails will be busier. Pack extra food and water, and set aside a little extra time to fully enjoy your adventure in The Crown of the Continent.

One of the best experiecnes you can have in Glacier National Park—a Red Bus Tour.

There’s so much to see and do in Glacier Country. From our charming small town to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, we’ve got a lifetime of discovery and experiences to offer. Come see for yourself!

Scenic Drives + Small-Town Discovery: Meet Thompson Falls + Tour 200

Thompson Falls is stunning in every season. Photo: Kate Baxter

First things first: Let’s talk 200. Discovery is inevitable on this road less traveled. State Highway 200 offers access to a slice of Montana that may not be on your radar, but should be. This treasure trove of outdoor recreation in the northwest part of the state is also chock-full of small-town surprises for those who like to wander off the beaten path.

The section of Highway 200 from Dixon to Heron is so scenic it’s been designated “Montana Tour 200.” It humbly winds its way through the Cabinet and Coeur d’Alene mountain ranges, with diverse side trips, scenic drives and backroad adventures offered all along the route. Recreation and solitude abound here, and so does authentic western hospitality. Folks are friendly and the lodging is cozy.

Where to stop…

Milepost 50 is where it’s at. Touted as a town “where the weather is always better than the forecast,” Thompson Falls boasts the warmest climate in the state. But that’s not all that makes it a year-round outdoor recreation hotspot. Nestled between the Lolo and Kootenai national forests, public lands are plenty, and “getting away from it all” is easy as pie. (We’ll talk more about pie in a sec.)

Hunting for solitude along a trail near Thompson Falls. Photo: Thompson Falls Main Street

Finding solitude here is pretty simple. Thousands of miles of trails offer adventure in every direction. Fall and winter are especially good for hunting and fishing—Outdoor Life magazine listed Thompson Falls #16 of the 35 best hunting and fishing towns in the country. It’s also a haven for hikers that’s exceptionally beautiful in the golden hues of autumn, and winter offers a snow-globe setting that’s simply magical by snowshoe. Pro tip: Quinn’s Hot Springs is right down the road in Paradise, and a post-adventure soak in Paradise sounds pretty heavenly, if you ask us.

Steam rises from the pools at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort in Paradise, Montana.

Speaking of winter, one of our favorite winter activities is snowmobiling, and the Thompson Falls area offers a motorized mecca for powder hounds. There are plenty of winter recreation opportunities including snowshoeing and sledding, but make sure to bring your own gear with you when you come.

Snowshoeing with the best kind of companion. Photo: Thompson Falls Main Street

In short, Thompson Falls is pretty awesome and totally unassuming. It’s also so friendly it’ll knock your socks right off and then offer you a nice spot to put your feet up by a warm fireplace. Actually, you’ll find that’s pretty common in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Come Tour 200 and see for yourself.

THOMPSON TIPS:

Christmas on Main Street
Get festive in the Falls the first full weekend in December. Shop Main Street’s BUY LOCAL! event with fun activities, including the Main Street Scavenger Hunt, topped off with an evening parade for the whole family. The weekend also includes a musical at the local theater, a gingerbread competition at the Old Jail Museum and a Christmas Craft Show.

Island Park
There’s a little island on the Clark Fork River, and that little island has a park on it where you can view the Thompson Falls dam, a fish ladder, the Clark Fork River and valley, powerhouses, two bridges (including the newly renovated Historic High Bridge) and an old substation. Take a stroll down one of many trails and enjoy a picnic lunch with an incredible view.

Built in 1915, the Thompson Falls Dam can be found on the Clark Fork River.

Minnie’s Montana Café
This mom-and-pop must-stop is a local favorite for homestyle cooking and comfort food, and, of course, that pie we mentioned earlier. The pie so good here you’ll be wondering if your grandmother is hiding in Minnie’s kitchen.

You must try Minnies Montana Cafe on Main Street.

Little Bear Ice Cream
Ice Cream in the winter? Yes please. Even after pie? Absolutely. When it’s some of the best ice cream in the state, you’ll be in the mood for Little Bear any time of year.

Save room for dessert at Little Bear.

See you on 200.

Fall in Montana

This morning, I headed out the door bound for work. And while Montana is still in the trenches of summer, I felt something completely different. A new feeling that could only mean one thing—fall.

And while I’m not trying to rush summer out the door (I literally want her to stay as long as possible), I couldn’t help but let my mind water to fall in Western Montana.

My mind wandered to this scene of the Flathead River, taken last fall.

An early morning on the Flathead River, taken last fall.

It’s just that fall is so lovely. It’s filled with mild temperatures, changing colors, perfect fly-fishing conditions and a delicious breeze that manages to combine fresh, crisp mountain air with the warm smell of sun-drenched grass, pumpkins and cider.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is how I can share the awesomeness of fall in Montana with you. Because let’s get serious…you and I both know that my beloved Montana is not one of the first places you think of when you think of awesome fall destinations.

But, it should be. Here’s why…

Fall Colors
I’m calling it: Montana is an up-and-coming fall foliage viewing destination. While we may not have the gorgeous colors of Michigan or the spectacular array of reds found on the east coast, Montana gets its shine on in the form of brilliant shades of yellows and golds, with splashes of reds and oranges in the underbrush.

Autumn colors in Glacier National Park.

Autumn colors in Glacier National Park. Photo: Donnie Sexton.

Glacier National Park
While the height of visitation to my most favorite place happens during July and August, as far as I’m concerned September and October are totally the belle of the ball in terms of times to visit Glacier National Park. Why? a) The crowds are gone. b) The hiking trails are open and you and your hiking buddy may be the only one on them. c) The fall colors combined with the peaks are a site to see. d) Time restrictions on cyclists biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road are lifted after Labor Day.

A shoulder season trip with Glacier Park Boat Company in Two Medicine.

A shoulder season trip with Glacier Park Boat Company in Two Medicine.

Fishing
To be honest, there’s no time of year I’d rather fly-fish in Western Montana than autumn. I think it’s the quietness of the river, the crisp edge in the air and the relaxation that comes along with it.

Fishing on the Bitterroot River. Photo courtesy of Mike Brodwater

Fishing on the Bitterroot River. Photo: Mike Brodwater

Golf
Even though I may not be known for my stellar golf game, I can still appreciate a beautiful course that plays nicely. You know what else I appreciate? A golf season that reaches into the shoulder season so people like me can hit the links and not be afraid of hitting other golfers.

Epic Events
Montana has some sweet fall events. Topping my personal list are Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake, Montana Brewers Festival in Missoula, Great Northwest Oktoberfest in Whitefish and Scarecrow Festival in Stevensville.

Paddles up!

Paddles up!

Wishing you a fun-filled and delicious smelling fall,
TT

A Montana Father’s Day

HEY DADS!

Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ve got three words to say to you: Happy Father’s Day.

This Sunday, it’s all about you. And not just because the word “father” is in this day’s title.

We honor you because without you, we literally wouldn’t be here. (Mom can’t have a baby on her own, you know). But that’s not the only reason. We also honor you because of the man you are. As it turns out, you’re a pretty cool guy. Heck, any guy who frets over his baby girls, teaches his boys how to do manly things (like change tires, kill spiders and be nice to their sisters), leads by example and brings home the bacon deserves to be acknowledged at least once per year.

Re-enacting a photo with our dad from one of our earliest trips to Glacier National Park.

Re-enacting a photo with our dad from one of our earliest trips to Glacier National Park.

I’ve known some pretty stellar men in my life and I count my lucky stars for each of them. For me, a dad is more than just a father. And I think it’s okay to have more than one dad (said the girl with two dads). After all, a dad is a man who comes in many forms, whether it may be biological, adopted, step-dad, grandpa, big brother or uncle. So today, I give special gratitude, appreciation and thanks to all the men out there who play a fatherly role in someone’s life.

Sometimes if you ask nicely, you can convince your dad and step-mom to be in photo shoots for you.

Sometimes if you ask nicely, you can convince your dad and step-mom to be in photo shoots for you.

So in honor of Father’s Day, I’ve rounded up a couple of activities that may be the perfect way to celebrate this father of all weekends.

Free Fishing Weekend
This includes two magic words: free and fishing. (What dad doesn’t love a good deal, right?) In honor of Father’s Day, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is offering free fishing throughout Montana on Saturday, June 15 and Sunday, June 16.

Free Rafting for Dads
Wild River Outfitters in West Glacier knows the way to a dad’s heart: a free rafting trip. This weekend, dads raft free with family trips. To reserve a trip, call 406.387.9453 and request the “Dad’s Deal.”

For more ideas on how to spend your weekend, check out Western Montana’s event calendar.

Wishing you and your dad a wonderful Father’s Day,
TT

 

 

 

 

A Girl Needs To Fish

Truth #1: I’ve had a hankering to fish all summer. (As in a I-couldn’t-get-it-out-of-my-head-and-thought-about-it-all-of-the-time type of hankering).

Truth #2: I did not go fishing all summer.

Considering these two truths and where I live, you wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to go fishing. But before I knew it, summer had come and gone and fall was here smacking me across the face and reminding me that I didn’t do the ONE thing I had been jonesing for the last few months.

And for this girl, that just didn’t seem right. So I did what any logically thinking, smart-minded, innovative messy-haired person would do. I rounded up some buddies and went fishing. And it, my friends, was grand.

Where did we cast our lines?

First, we traveled south to the Bitterroot River where we met our guides with Montana Hunting & Fishing Adventures and spent the next several hours floating and fishing.

Favorite shot of the day.

Throughout the duration of our float, my cast went from not strong or pretty to slightly improved. After a day of instruction and fine-tuning, I’m happy to report that I landed one fish–a little, yet feisty fella.

Ya buddy. (Photo courtesy of my friend and fishing companion, Mike Brodwater).

The next stop on our journey had us traveling north, with a stop in Missoula to meet up with the nice guides from Grizzly Hackle. While the gentlemen in the group talked fishing, I did once of the things I do best–perused the shop.

Fish + Montana = LOVE.

Waders. Don't mind if I do.

After a pit stop in Missoula, our fish-loving crew north to the Middle Fork of the Flathead River and met up with Glacier Anglers. It was here, I’m very happy to report, that I caught six fish. And while that was the low number for the day (my companions all out-fished me), I take solace in the fact that my guide/friend said I had the prettiest fish of the day.

Want to make a grown man smile? Take him fishing.

Beauty queen.

Here’s to many more days filled with fishing rods, locally tied flies and the great waters of Montana.

xo,
TT

PS: Who wants to go fishing? Call me.