Category Archives: Flathead Valley

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.

Wildlife Viewing Areas in Western Montana

One of the things that makes Montana so special is that we share the land with an abundance of beautiful, wild creatures. There are plenty of undesignated places to watch wildlife in Western Montana, but some pretty amazing spots are set aside specifically for Montana’s mammals, birds and reptiles. Glacier Country’s year-round wildlife refuges and viewing areas boast a diversity of habitat and offer a look at some of the region’s most majestic inhabitants.

A drive through the National Bison Range offers a look at these majestic mammals. Photo: Andy Austin

The beloved National Bison Range in Moiese is not only an excellent place to view bison (250 – 300 head of bison call this area home), but deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions and the occasional black bear also roam the area, along with 200+ species of birds. The range consists of a diverse ecosystem of grasslands, fir and pine forests, riparian areas and ponds. Open dawn to dusk daily, the range includes three wildlife drives. The West Loop and Prairie Drive are short year-round drives. Red Sleep Mountain Drive is open mid-May to mid-October. It’s a two-hour 19-mile loop with switchbacks and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Make sure to bring your camera and binoculars or spotting scope. Plan your visit with seasonal visitor center hours in mind.

Keep an eye out for muskrats, waterfowl and deer while riding along Wildfowl Lane in the Lee Metcalf NWR.

In the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge—2 miles north of Stevensville—is one of the most popular refuges in Montana. Open dawn to dusk daily, walk along the 2.5-mile Wildlife Viewing Area Trail and 1.25-mile Kenai Nature Trail. Drive or bike Wildfowl Lane, a county road that runs through the refuge and provides a close look at ponds packed with migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall. More than 240 species of birds have been observed in the area, and mammals in the refuge include white-tailed deer, yellow-bellied marmots, porcupines, beavers and gophers, among others. Plan your visit with time to stop by the year-round visitor center.

Dusk is a great time for wildlife watching at Ninepipe. Photo: Dave Fitzpatrick/USFWS

Stunning Mission Valley views accompany the scenic Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, a pristine wetland complex in Charlo. Photographers flock here to capture the evening grandeur of the reservoir’s Mission Mountain backdrop. In addition to 200+ species of birds, you’ll find nationally acclaimed winter raptor viewing and mammals like white-tailed deer, the occasional grizzly bear and wetland creatures like muskrats, skunks, mice and voles. Explore the interpretative site for interesting information about the refuge.  Directly across the highway from the refuge, explore the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Established to accommodate nesting birds, access to the refuge changes with the seasons, and there are no amenities or facilities of any kind at the refuge itself, so plan your visit accordingly. Driving on Ninepipe Road is available year-round. Walking is limited on the refuge as water comprises more than 80% of the area and much of the land is very wet during the spring.

Wild Horse Island/Flathead Lake State Park is a true Montana treasure, featuring old-growth ponderosa pine forestland and prairie grasslands with scenic trails and ample wildlife viewing. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the wild horses for which the island is named. Accessible only by boat, the biggest island (3 miles long) on the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—Flathead Lake—abounds with wild adventures like hiking, swimming, sailing and boating. Other island inhabitants include bighorn sheep, deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, falcons and bears. (Note: store food in bear-safe containers on your boat.) Also, a joint state/tribal fishing license is required for anglers at this Flathead Indian Reservation site. For a fun paddling adventure, kayak to the island from Dayton. It’ll take you about 45 minutes.

Two miles south of Polson—and also within Flathead Indian Reservation boundaries—the Pablo National Wildlife Refuge provides a unique glimpse at pothole wetlands and offers hiking, biking, fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. This serene setting is the site of the trumpeter swan release during the 1996 reintroduction to the Mission Valley, and continues to be an important release site. Vehicles can access the refuge along roads across the dam and along the north side of the refuge. The wetland habitat supports abundant waterfowl species and common wetland-friendly mammals, like muskrats, striped skunks, mink, field mice and meadow voles. There are no amenities or facilities of any kind here, and portions of the refuge are closed in the spring to minimize human disturbance to nesting birds, so plan your visit accordingly.

Seeing a moose in the wild is an unforgettable experience. Photo: tonybynum.com

The Swan River National Wildlife Refuge is situated between the breathtaking Swan and Mission Mountain ranges south of Swan Lake, offering a scenic wildlife viewing adventure. The refuge provides wetland and grassland habitat for 171 bird species, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose, plus beavers, muskrats and raccoons. Visitors enjoy hiking and snowshoeing this picturesque refuge from east to west via Bog Road. You’ll find a viewing platform and information kiosk with interpretive panels, but there are no significant facilities on the refuge, so plan your visit with that in mind.

Lost Trail’s Dahl Lake draws animals looking for a drink or a swim. Photo: Beverly Skinner

Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge lies in the tranquil Pleasant Valley mountain drainage area northwest of Marion. Prairie grasslands, riparian and wetland areas and aspen groves serve as important habitat for a variety of wildlife including elk, deer and moose. Although elusive, wolverines, Canada lynx, fishers and grizzly bears have all been documented here as well. This remote refuge offers a secluded authentic Montana experience. Please note, GPS navigation to the refuge is not always perfect and cell phone service can be spotty, so plan your visit accordingly.

As always, remember that wildlife is just that—wild. Respect their space, keep your distance and stay safe when recreating in wild places. Read more about Western Montana wildlife safety here.

Western Montana Wings: Birding in Glacier Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTABLE GLACIER COUNTRY BIRDS

A western meadowlark bursts into song. Photo: Brian Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain bluebirds match the color of Western Montana skies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Stopping Performing Arts in Western Montana

Nature isn’t the only thing putting on a spectacular show in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Talented performing artists flock to the region, inspired by the sheer beauty and wide-open landscape for artistic expression. Long-running theater companies and symphony orchestras have staged captivating performances here for decades. From community plays to Broadway-caliber theater to live concerts, Western Montana boasts a critically acclaimed performing arts scene.

Soaking up soul-inspiring music and skies at Glacier Symphony’s Summer Pops Concert. Photo: Michael Roessman

The Flathead Valley touts a pretty impressive commitment to the arts. One of the region’s most renowned theater companies, the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, performs “Broadway in the Rockies” every summer. This storybook village on Flathead Lake has been wowing audiences for 60 years with many talented performers—like J.K. Simmons of Whiplash and Spider-Man fame—gracing the stage at the local playhouse. From a beautiful 1938 log theater on the south end of the lake, Port Polson Players has long been committed to community, children’s and summer theater with a captivating lineup of shows. In nearby Whitefish, the Alpine Theatre Project, founded by three Broadway veterans, brings Broadway to this charming mountain town, no doubt helping this community claim its spot as “One of the Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America.” Kalispell’s Glacier Symphony Orchestra and Chorale offers live symphonic music concerts year-round including summer chamber series, outdoor pops and the Festival Amadeus.

Alpine Theatre Project’s productions draw top talent like Broadway star N’Kenge. Photo: Brenda Ahearn

Another breathtakingly beautiful Western Montana valley—the Bitterroot—holds its own with the Hamilton Players, spotlighting the importance of education and community through theater, and the Stevensville Playhouse, offering a springtime lineup in a theater with quite the storied past, including being destroyed twice by fire.

Bigfork Summer Playhouse presents musicals from July – September. Photo: Brach Thomson, “Into the Woods”

As the arts and culture hub of Glacier Country, Missoula packs a big punch in the performing arts realm. The year-round Missoula Community Theater presents five main-stage productions each season and the Missoula Children’s Theater—the nation’s largest touring children’s theater—tours 1,200 communities in all 50 states and Canada, plus schools and U.S. military bases in more than 15 countries.

Hamilton Players prove that small-town theaters can put on big-time shows like “Chicago.” Photo: Tom Brader

The artistically ambitious independent BetweenTheLines Theatre stages raw, contemporary performances at Missoula’s historic Roxy Theater. With a focus on celebrating the human spirit, the Montana Repertory Theatre at the University of Montana is one of the most respected touring companies in the country. You can catch an MRT performance at the Masquer Theatre on the UM campus during their short Missoula summer season, and they also host a Plays on Tap series where you can watch a “site-based theater for small audiences” performance one to two times a year at locations in Missoula, such as a local brewery or taproom. The UM’s School of Theatre & Dance also performs throughout the year. Enjoy an evening of dance at their popular annual Dance in Concert celebrating the captivating and finely crafted choreographic work of students, faculty and guest artists. Check the UM box office for performing arts schedules and tickets.

Missoula’s streets doubled as the set for Montana Repertory Theatre’s “Buckle Up.” Photo: Justin Philalack

Experience the Missoula Symphony Orchestra at Caras Park in downtown Missoula each summer during their local’s favorite Symphony in the Park, or one of their six concerts throughout the year, including a show created specifically for kids. It’s a great way to experience the tight-knit community vibes Missoula is known for and the big talent coming out of small-town Montana.

Delight in a sophisticated performance by the Missoula Symphony. Photo: Jonathan Qualben Photography

Unique and Fun Winter Activities in Western Montana

Winter in Glacier Country is for adventurous powder plungers, downhill dreamers and paradise seekers looking for a peaceful escape in an enchanting frosty forest of white. We have activities year-round here, but winter is one of our best seasons for adventure. Exploration is exponential this time of year, and it’s one of our favorite seasons to recreate in Western Montana.

Glide through miles of pristine snow. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

Let’s face it, cross-country skiing is one of Montana’s favorite winter pastimes. Cross-country skiing makes it possible to head into backcountry quiet places that might not be otherwise accessible this time of year. You’ll find easy access to groomed trails all over Western Montana that allow you to tour the terrain in an intimate way. Trails off the beaten path are in the Bitterroot, Lolo, Kootenai and Flathead Nationals Forests. The Izaak Walton Inn in Essex offers 20 miles of sheltered trails that wind through forested terrain and offer views of Glacier National Park.

DOG SLEDDING

Travel at the speed of a dog and experience the adrenaline rush of mushing your own team of Inuit sled dogs through miles of terrain and across frozen lakes. Choose between guided half-day tours or a multinight excursion; many companies in Glacier Country offer dog sledding, but one of our favorites is Base Camp Bigfork.

Mush through a beautiful winter landscape. Photo: Base Camp Bigfork

ICE FISHING

Montana is a dream destination to drop a line in any of our four seasons—our fish bite year-round. Ice fishing in Western Montana can be a true test of skill and a whole lot of fun. So bundle up, review fishing regulations and, for phenomenal fishing, visit Flathead Lake, Whitefish Lake or any one of the lakes that dot the Seeley-Swan Valley.

SLEIGH RIDES

There isn’t a more authentic way to experience the magic of our enchanting winter wonderland than dashing through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh. It’s also one of our coziest winter activities if you are ready to bundle up and relax. Glide across the snow with a sleigh ride from Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Double Arrow Lodge in Seeley, or Cripple Creek Horse Ranch in Trego.

Dash through the snow in Western Montana! Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

ICE SKATING

When our lakes freeze over, we don’t just admire them from afar. We lace up our skates and head out to enjoy the crisp mountain air. This peaceful winter activity is ideal for all ages, with indoor ice rinks available throughout the region as well.

FAT BIKING

Embrace all that is winter in Western Montana with this wildly fun activity that is quickly gaining in popularity. Fat biking includes riding a bike with oversized tires that make it easy to move across the snow. You can rent a fat bike and access groomed trails, snow-packed roads or the Whitefish Trail (which is ungroomed) from Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Fat biking is a fun and unique experience. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

HOT-AIR BALLOON RIDES

A hot-air balloon ride is a great way to make magical winter memories. Enjoy the crisp mountain air and breathtaking scenery while staying toasty—the hot air will ensure it. Panoramic views of never-ending bluebird skies against pure white sparkling snow are what dreams are made of. The hot-air balloon company Mountain Butterfly provides rides throughout Glacier Country with liftoffs from Glacier National Park to the Bitterroot Valley. During the summer and fall, Fantasy Flights and Phoenix Balloon Flights air up for rides around Glacier National Park.

You can’t beat the views up here. Photo: Mountain Butterfly

SNOWSHOEING

Taking a walk in the snow is high on our list of things we love. This quintessential winter pastime is one of the easiest ways to play in pristine Montana powder. Our favorite place to snowshoe in Western Montana is Glacier National Park, although there are many places throughout the region. In the park, popular places to don your snowshoes include the Going-to-the-Sun Road and trails at Marias Pass and Lake McDonald.

There is nothing quite as classic as snowshoeing with family.

Visit glaciermt.com for additional information about these activities, including safety, equipment rentals, lodging and more.

 

 

 

 

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.

Slay the Snow: Sled Epic Terrain in Western Montana

It’s no secret that Montana is a pretty big place with plenty of room to roam. We like to take advantage of all that gorgeous open space and cover as much ground as we can, especially in winter when we can power up our sleds and snowmobile miles and miles of bragworthy winter-wonderland terrain.

Unleash your inner powder hound on Glacier Country’s outstanding terrain. Photo: Warren Miller Entertainment

4,000 miles of scenic groomed trails crisscross Montana, and untouched backcountry powder playgrounds are too many to count. You’ll find world-class snowmobiling under our famously big blue skies, with some of the best riding in the state right here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Mesmerizing woodland landscapes are interwoven with premier mountain towns, where charm and hospitality are in abundance, and an obsession with snow is palpable. More than 300 inches of powder falls annually around these parts, and you’ve got easy access to trails and open space.

Though snowmobiling within Glacier National Park is prohibited, the beauty and sheer wild wonder of the park can be viewed for miles beyond, and the charming small towns just outside the park are open year-round and always at the ready to host winter outdoor lovers with warm lodging and inviting amenities. Test your mettle in Montana’s rugged and remote Marias Pass Trail Complex, or head beyond the park’s surrounding towns, where there’s much more riding to be had.

Be the first to traverse snow-laden backcountry playgrounds. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

Discover the recreation wonderland of Western Montana’s Flathead Valley, explore extensive family-friendly trails in the Haugan area, crush a ride in scenic Kootenai Country, slay the Skalkaho Pass in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, or fan out from a Missoula basecamp and explore Lolo Pass or the Garnet Ghost Town trail system. There’s brand new terrain to be explored in Glacier Country, too. In the summer of 2017 two wildland fires burned areas in Seeley Lake, Ovando and Libby, making way for new riding terrain. Come Sled the Burn.

Sledders wind their way through mountains tinted by alpenglow.

Snowmobiling in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is matched only by that of snowmobiling in Yellowstone Country Montana. The sledding opportunities in these regions are renowned, and the season here is quite long. For a park-to-park adventure, take a Glaciers to Geysers sled tour. Find itineraries, trails, resources and snowmobile club information all on our new and very helpful glacierstogeysers.com website.

Part of the beauty of a “sledventure” in Glacier Country is the post-sled revelry. Did you know Montana ranks 4th in the nation for breweries per capita? Countless breweries and distilleries dot the region. When it’s time to power down, pull up a barstool for a finely crafted beer or a whiskey made from glacial waters and locally-sourced ingredients. You’ll find yourself in the midst of a community of fellow sled heads, all with a tale to tell of a killer day in unfathomably deep, fresh powder. Our downtown regions focus on authentic experiences, where food and drinks are a priority, lodging is exceptional, and there are plenty of places to fuel up on caffeine before a day of snow play.

Snowmobiling leads to unbelievable snowscapes and lasting friendships. Photo: Lincoln County SnoKat Club

Beginners to expert sled heads will all find their place here, and there are plenty of guides and outfitters available to help you out. Plus, local snowmobile clubs are always at the ready to hook you up with trail details.

For groomed trail information as well as information on passes and permits, visit Glacier Country Tourism and Glaciers to Geysers. As always, sled safe and check avalanche reports before you power up.

Order your free Montana Snowmobiling Guide and trail map.

 

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.

Celebrate the Season of Giving With Montana-Made Gifts

Here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we love the holidays and all the magical experiences they bring, like corn mazes, craft fairs and sleigh rides, to name a few. Although we would like to spend all our time outdoors frolicking in the snow or bundled up by the fireplace with hot cocoa, we also know that with the holidays—no matter what holiday you celebrate—comes gift giving. In Western Montana we really know how to deck the halls and celebrate the season of giving with all things merry and bright.

Deck the halls! Whitefish, Montana showing off its western holiday spirit. Photo: Brian Schott

MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS

We love huckleberries, and that’s the truth. It’s also true that you can find huckleberries in just about any form here; for an extra decadent taste of this coveted wild fruit, we recommend huckleberry fudge. The Sweets Barn in Lolo offers an ongoing taste of Montana with their Fudge Hog Club. This gift will keep on giving month after month with a new flavor of scratch-made buttercream fudge. The Last Best Box is another subscription chock-full of Montana goodies from artists, artisans and local businesses. Their October box featured Evening Chai tea from Lake Missoula Tea Company (a local favorite).

The Last Best Box is an amazing gift to give. Photo: Last Best Box

CABIN ESSENTIALS

You would be hard pressed to find a more authentic Montana gift than these hand-drawn, hand-lettered maps by Xplorer Maps. Choose from a map of Montana, Flathead Lake or Glacier National Park. Their masterful Old-World style maps offer vibrant images of the landscape, flora and wildlife—making them a unique and unforgettable gift. Get snug fireside with a Camp Blanket from Dig + Co. This blanket is made of high-quality flannel sourced from Missoula—the ultimate get-your-cozy-on gift.

These maps will add a vibrant splash of Montana to any décor. Photo: Xplorer Maps

BATH AND BODY

Bath and body gifts are always on trend, but DAYSPA Body Basics keeps it fresh with their own line of handcrafted natural products. Online and gift options include those for men, pregnancy, babies, cold season and more. The organic sugar body scrub comes in scents like Cowboy Coffee, Coconut Cake and Lavender Mint. Pamper your man with the Activated Charcoal Shave Cream paired with the Organic Aloe After Shave Balm.

So many different and amazing choices, we can’t make up our minds! Photo: DAYSPA Body Basics

JEWELRY

Montana-made jewelry is a timeless gift, and a favorite for any occasion. Always There Designs offers fun and casual hand-stamped metalwork necklaces, earrings and bracelets. They feature designs in the shape of Montana and mantras like “be brave” or “fearless.” For a bolder look, Wild Mountain Ink makes porcelain jewelry adorned with hand-drawn designs. All of their products are one of a kind and depict Montana’s vast and beautiful landscape.

So many beautiful pieces to choose from, but this is one of our favorites. Photo: Wild Mountain Ink

HOLIDAY ODDS AND ENDS

Western Montana is known for bison, and we are lucky enough to have bison ranches galore. One ranch, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, makes one of our favorite treats, Roam Free bison bites. You can’t beat the taste of this grass-fed and sustainably raised bison. Another item high on our list of things we love is coffee. Online at Montana Coffee Traders find savory flavors like Montana Blend and Trailblazer. From dark to light roasts, plus organic and espresso options, they have it all—the perfect gift for any coffee lover.

Roam Free wood-fired pizza bison bites are drool-worthy. Photo: Roam Free

GLACIER COUNTRY STORES AND SHOPS

Capture the magic of the season by shopping at one of many picturesque small-town shops in Western Montana. We don’t like to pick favorites, but here are a few unique shops that feature Montana-made products: Sage & Cedar in Whitefish and Kalispell, Great Gray Gifts in Charlo, The Green Light in Missoula, St. Regis Travel Center in St. Regis and Grizzly Claw Trading Company in Seeley.

Lovely Lakeside: Exploring Small-Town Charm on Flathead Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toast to Lakeside at the Beargrass Bistro.

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

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

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

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