Category Archives: Flathead Valley

SUP: Top 12 Places to Stand-Up Paddleboard in Western Montana

Come see what’s SUP in Western Montana. Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is an increasingly popular way to explore Montana’s sparkling alpine lakes and scenic, lazy rivers. In fact, SUP is the fastest-growing water sport in the world. Surfing meets kayaking in this epically fun way to play on the water.

Glide across Western Montana waters on a SUP board. Photo: Noah Couser 

If you’re new to the sport, your best bet is to go with a guide. Many local outfitters here in Glacier Country offer rentals, lessons and guided trips, so, you’re in luck. Here’s a list of our top 12 SUP spots as well as the folks who can help you get on the water for your Western Montana stand-up paddleboarding adventure.

ASHLEY LAKE
Fifteen miles west of Kalispell, Ashley Lake is a real charmer. Easy on the eyes, the alpine aqua waters of this special SUP spot make for an unforgettably picturesque day.
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FLATHEAD LAKE: WAYFARERS STATE PARK
Paddle the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Wayfarers State Park has some of the best Flathead Lake access, including a beach area as well as rocky cliffs along the shoreline. The water is clean and clear and is typically sheltered from wind and waves, though it can make for some fun SUP action when the swell picks up and creates near surf-like conditions, which are also great for downwind paddling. Wayfarers happens to be one of the best spots on the lake to watch the sunset, too.
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Base Camp Bigfork has got you covered on rentals, instruction and location tips. Photo: Base Camp Bigfork

The north shore of Flathead Lake offers miles of undeveloped shoreline. It’s a great place to spot waterfowl, eagles, osprey and deer, and take in amazing mountain views. If you access the lake via Bigfork Bay, you’ll be able to paddle right into the storybook town of Bigfork for some post-SUP food and drinks or delicious Sweet Peaks Ice Cream. If you’re up for a celebration, plan your trip around the Northern Rockies Paddlefest at Wayfarers State Park, held annually in May.

Anywhere you decide to put in on Flathead Lake, great views and cool waters will meet you there.

SWAN RIVER
The Swan River flows into the Bigfork Bay, which allows the more adventurous to try paddling moving water. There are several access points, which allow for more of a downriver journey while the river winds through a picture-perfect landscape. There are miles of slow-moving water perfect for beginners. There is also a nice class 2+ rapid stretch, which is popular for inner tubing, but also ideal for paddlers looking for an introduction to whitewater paddleboarding.

SWAN VALLEY LAKES: SWAN LAKE, ECHO LAKE AND HOLLAND LAKE
These three lakes offer authentic Montana SUP adventures. Paddle to the sandbar in the middle of scenic Swan Lake, experience the famously warm waters of Echo Lake, or combine your Holland Lake paddle with a 3.3-mile out-and-back hike to gorgeous Holland Falls.

The Swan Valley lakes offer amazing paddling in pristine waters. Here a paddleboarder cruises Swan Lake.

TRIP TIP: For Swan River plus Ashley, Flathead and Swan lakes SUP gear, rent a board at Base Camp Bigfork and get complimentary delivery and pickup as well as on-the-water instruction. Base Camp also rents boards to those who want to self-drive their gear to any number of lakes in Glacier National Park.

BLACKFOOT RIVER
The clear, cold, trout-filled waters of the Blackfoot—made famous by Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It”—offer the scenic splendor of canyon walls often dotted with majestic bighorn sheep. Paddle the Blackfoot in July for unobstructed flows.

CLARK FORK RIVER
Experience the eclectic town of Missoula from the waters of the winding Clark Fork River. Put in at the Sha-Ron fishing access site in East Missoula and then hop off the water at the river’s edge in downtown Missoula, where you’ll find good eats, plenty to drink, and lots to see and do.

BITTERROOT RIVER
This scenic valley waterway is flanked by the beautiful rolling Sapphire Range to one side and the dramatic Bitterroot Mountains to the other. Hop on the water at Bells Crossing and paddle to the Stevensville Crossing site to hop out.

LAKE COMO
Solitude abounds at this Bitterroot Valley gem 8 miles south of Hamilton in the Bitterroot National Forest. There’s a sandy beach at the north end of the lake, perfect for paddling and swimming. Bring a picnic lunch and your hiking shoes…abundant trails surround the lake.

TRIP TIP: For Blackfoot, Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Como SUP rentals, guides, gear and tips, check out Missoula’s Trail Head, or Bob Ward’s, with locations in both Missoula and Hamilton.

UPPER WHITEFISH LAKE
This Stillwater State Forest stunner north of Whitefish, dazzles and is the perfect tucked-away spot for a quiet day on the lake. Feeling adventurous? Head south to Whitefish (1.5 hours) for post-paddle food, drinks and fun.
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TALLY LAKE
West of Whitefish, the warm waters of Tally Lake offer a peaceful paddle among the lush trees and scenic cliff walls of the Kootenai National Forest. Head to the east shore for a serene evening paddle.
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FLATHEAD RIVER: THE NORTH AND MIDDLE FORKS
The stunning emerald waters of the Flathead River offer a Glacier Country experience like no other. Paddle the Middle Fork from West Glacier to Blankenship Bridge, passing through a jaw-dropping gorge with a perfect cliff-jumping spot. The North Fork is one of only four Wild and Scenic Rivers in Montana and forms the western border of Glacier National Park. Breathtaking scenery is a given, and black bear sightings are not unheard of.

It doesn’t get much better (or prettier) than the Flathead River. Photo: Noah Couser 

TRIP TIP:
For Tally Lake and Flathead River SUP rentals, plus the goods on gear and guides, visit the friendly folks at Tamarack Ski & Lake Shop.
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LAKE KOOCANUSA
This trout-heavy reservoir between the Purcell and Salish mountains in Libby, Montana offers scenic-byway landscapes, a sandy beach, wildlife watching and the opportunity to take a pre- or post-paddle Libby Dam tour.
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TRIP TIP: For Lake Koocanusa access and gear rentals, head to the Wilderness Club, just a short walk to the Lake Koocanusa beach area.

SUP SAFETY
Before you hit the water for your Western Montana SUP adventure, contact one of the outfitters listed above for details on where to float when, based on water flows and temps, and always check the weather before you head out (especially when lake paddling away from shore). Spring runoff means fast-moving rivers. (If you’re new to SUP, stick to a late-summer guided river trip or take a calm lake tour.) Learn basic techniques and safety tips from these local outfitters, too.

Our lakes and rivers offer amazing experiences, but proper preparation and equipment are always recommended.

On the river, wear a quick-release leash around your waist. It’s IMPERATIVE that you use quick-release technology in SUP, as ankle leashes can get hung up on rocks and other debris. Wear a PFD, a helmet, a wetsuit and protective gear, especially in shallow rivers.

On the lake, bring a flotation device, try to confine your trip to an hour or less, and stay closer to the shore. SUP is a full-body workout. Plan your trip with that in mind. Learn more about safety, rules and regulations through Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Lastly, have fun paddling paradise. That’s what’s SUP in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

A Perfect Western Montana Getaway: Bigfork

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

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

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

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

Bigfork Village is seriously charming. See it for yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homegrown + Handmade: Farmers Markets in Western Montana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Ticket To Western Montana’s Concert Hot Spots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival (Hamilton)

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

Riverfront Blues Festival (Libby)

Travelers’ Rest Music Festival (Missoula)

River City Roots Festival (Missoula)

Montana Baroque Music Festival (Paradise)

Bob Marshall Music Festival (Seeley Lake)

Lost Trail Ski Area: Lost Trail Fest (Sula)

+ Glacier Symphony & Chorale: Festival Amadeus (Whitefish)

Happy Listening!

Dallas to Missoula: Fly Direct to Even Bigger Skies

Dallas friends: leave the humidity in the Lone Star State and come bask in the heavenly mountain air in Big Sky Country. American Airlines now offers direct flights from Dallas to Missoula. Your friendly neighbors up north in Western Montana’s Glacier Country offer the warm hospitality you’re used to and your cowboy boots will fit right in here, plus…our mountain landscape offers a stunning change of pace.

There’s a lot to see in Western Montana and Upper Holland Lake is one of our favorites. Photo: Noah Couser

In under three hours you can be in Montana. Let that sink in. People tend to think of Montana as a faraway place, but it’s actually quite simple to get here, and now it’s especially easy—and quick—for you, Texas. Think about it: you can eat breakfast in Dallas and be in Missoula for a bison burger by lunchtime.

We’re picture perfect up here in the mountains of Montana, and our outdoor recreation scene is second to none. Home to storied small towns and mesmerizing panoramic landscapes of majestic peaks and sweeping valleys with sparkling rivers and lakes, adventure is endless no matter the season—did we mention nonstop flights between Dallas and Missoula are year-round? Get away for a weekend of hiking and hot springs. Looking for snow? Take a ski vacation—we specialize in downhill, backcountry and Nordic adventures

Paws Up Resort is one of Glacier Country’s most luxurious and popular resorts. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Accommodations come in every shape and size here, from relaxing guest ranches and luxury resorts to timbered mountain lodges, tents for camping, bigger tents for glamping, B&Bs, vacation homes, cabins, hostels and hotels. Around here, everything’s cozy and everyone’s friendly.

You’ll land in—and love—Missoula, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stay put right here in this treasured mountain town. It’s the kind of place you can visit over and over again and never have the same adventure twice, unless you want to, of course. This Western Montana arts and culture hot spot at the confluence of three rivers offers thousands of miles of trails, millions of acres of stunningly beautiful wilderness and a hopping and eclectic downtown bustling with cafés, coffee shops, breweries, distilleries, galleries and museums. Dining ranges from fine to downright fun. Explore festivals and farmers markets—one of the best markets in the West, actually. Take in the performing arts, theater and live music scenes, including an outdoor amphitheater hosting national music acts on the banks of the scenic Blackfoot River.

Missoula has something for everyone. From gorgeous views to amazing food, you’ll love it up here.

There’s plenty to see and do in Missoula, and it also makes a pretty perfect base camp for exploring the rest of Western Montana, including the jaw-dropping beauty of Glacier National Park. Drive the famously gorgeous Going-to-the-Sun Road and discover the history and allure of one of the country’s most breathtaking places. Explore the largest natural frewshwater lake in the West, Flathead Lake, visit one of our Indian reservations, cowboy up at a dude ranch mountain-style, ride rapids, bike trails, hike canyons, fly-fish blue-ribbon trout streams or ski an epic powder paradise.

It’s about time you mosey on up to our neck of the woods and see what all the buzz is about. Whatever your preference: a huckleberry milkshake or whiskey made from glacial waters, we’ve got one waiting for you. From heavenly summers and winter wonderlands to undiscovered spring splendor and golden autumn abundance, you’re bound to love it up here in the mountain air.  

It’s no wonder Glacier National Park is called “The Crown of the Continent.” Photo: Hunter Day

Warning: This flight may become habit-forming. Side effects may include an increased itch to travel to Montana.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hidden History Gems: Meet Montana’s Off-The-Beaten-Path Museums

History buffs + eager explorers—this one’s for you. Western Montana is home to several museums, some of which are a little off the beaten path, making them all the more explore-worthy. These hidden gems display everything from American Indian beadwork to homesteader history to storied lake monsters, and each one offers a celebration and preservation of Montana’s rich heritage, coupled with a unique adventure in small-town discovery.

The eclectic Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

TROY MUSEUM & VISITOR CENTER
Troy, Montana
Open: Memorial Day – Labor Day
Step back in time and experience the cultural and natural heritage of Troy Learn about Troy’s homesteading days, mining and logging life, and the 1910 fire, and play a round of folf (frisbee golf) at the museum’s on-site course. If you time it right, you can attend the Arts on the Grass event on the museum lawn, where local artists and craftspeople sell their handmade work, perfect for taking something home to remember us by.

OLD JAIL MUSEUM
Thompson Falls, Montana
Open: Memorial Day – Labor Day
Visit one of Sanders County’s oldest buildings, now honoring the pioneers who settled our corner of Big Sky Country. The Old Jail Museum was formerly the county jail, and sheriff’s office and residence. View historical artifacts, maps and photographs taken from original glass negatives giving a glimpse into the early days of mining, logging, farming and ranching in Sanders County. Also, the town of Thompson Falls is a hidden gem in and of itself, offering Clark Fork River access and pristine national forestland recreation.

NINEPIPES MUSEUM OF EARLY MONTANA
Charlo, Montana
Open: Memorial Day – Labor Day
Nestled in the breathtaking Mission Mountains, this Mission Valley treasure protects and preserves the history and culture of the Flathead Indian Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. You’ll find American Indian artifacts (including a large collection of beadwork); a life-size diorama of wildlife in an early camp scene complete with elk-hide tipis; vintage photographs; a collection of weaponry; and a gallery of Old West art. Ninepipes offers tours and a nature trail, plus it’s close to the National Bison Range and bordered by Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, so be prepared to spend some time in the area.

Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana display’s the history and culture of the Flathead Indian People.

MUSEUM OF THE PLAINS INDIAN
Browning, Montana
Open: Year-Round
This permanent exhibition gallery displays a diverse and bountiful collection of historic art created by tribal people of the Northern Plains, as well as contemporary work by American Indian artists and craftspeople. You’ll find traditional, detailed costumes on life-size figures. Other displays exhibit the social and ceremonial aspects of the region’s tribes. Help support individual artists and craftspeople by taking home a meaningful souvenir. The museum galleries offer oil paintings, watercolors, sculptures, beadwork and traditional crafts for sale.

Blackfeet exhibit at Museum of the Plains Indian. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

TOBACCO VALLEY HISTORICAL VILLAGE
Eureka, Montana
Open: Memorial Day – Labor Day
Sitting along the Tobacco River, this unique, volunteer-run village houses a collection of historic buildings from the 1880s and early 1900s. Explore a schoolhouse, church, library, general store, fire tower, railroad depot, caboose and several log cabins, all outfitted with era-appropriate artifacts. Interpretive programs are also offered on site. Bring a picnic lunch, and explore the adjoining Eureka Riverwalk Trail or the Eureka Kootenai Rails to Trails/Tobacco River Memorial Trail.

LARUE-HOT SPRINGS MUSEUM
Hot Springs, Montana
Open: Memorial Day – Labor Day
Paying homage to the Hot Springs homesteader days, this little gem showcases a gathering of artifacts from local tribes and homesteader families, plus a large doll collection and the trophies and ribbons won by local resident Fay Hayne, a local trick rider and barrel racer. Also on display, 120 years of VFW uniforms and memorabilia, antique farming equipment and trucks, plus artifacts from local merchants, craftsmen and ranchers. Explore a historic cabin and the original Hot Springs concrete jail.

GLACIER COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM & ARCHIVE
Cut Bank, Montana
Open: Year-Round
This museum includes a captivating collection of historical artifacts, buildings and memorabilia on display, as well as a comprehensive early history of the people of the region, including a vast Blackfeet Indian collection. The 14-acre site is home to two museum exhibit buildings, an oil worker’s house, oil derrick, 1917 schoolhouse, 1980’s caboose and a living-history interpretive replica homestead house and farm. History buffs can also find educational and interactive exhibits on Lewis and Clark, local artists, community businesses, oil and Cut Bank’s early days.

The Glacier County Historical Museum has numerous displays and exhibits of the county’s diverse past.

POLSON FLATHEAD HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Polson, Montana
Open: Memorial Day – Labor Day
Home of the Flathead Lake Monster—a 7.5-foot, 181-pound sturgeon caught in Flathead Lake in 1955—the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum offers firsthand examples of the trials of surviving the harsh conditions of the region’s homesteading days. Exhibits include a trading post, stagecoaches, a chuck wagon and buggies, a pioneer kitchen, Calamity Jane’s saddle from her “Last Ride,” firefighting equipment and antique trucks that still work!

SEELEY LAKE HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Seeley Lake, Montana
Open: Year-Round
The old Double Arrow Ranch barn is now the site of the Seeley Lake Historical Museum and Visitor Center, recalling the past of the Seeley Lake region. Outside displays include a horse-drawn log-haul wagon, a gravel haul and spread wagon, a Lewis and Clark Botanical Garden, Blackfoot Indian Lodge, a dugout canoe and a forthcoming 100-year-old canoe. The grounds also include seven double (two-horse) stalls featuring locally-themed displays named after the horses who occupied them, such as Nip & Tuck: Old Time Logging; Ace & Joker: Norman Maclean Fire and Fish Display; and Popcorn & Peanuts: Cabin Fever Cures.

BRAND BAR MUSEUM
Ovando, Montana
Open: Year-Round
Formerly a saloon once referred to as the “Bucket of Blood,” the Brand Bar Museum today houses Ovando memorabilia and stories of days gone by. This collection of local history and unique antiques also has a hoosegow—a jail for visitors—where you can overnight in a bunk (or you can camp out on the lawn). The Brand Bar Museum is always open. Just ask one of the nearby local businesses for the key. You’ll find it.

A Blackfoot Valley gem: The Brand Bar Museum. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

RAVALLI COUNTY MUSEUM & HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Hamilton, Montana
Open: Year-Round
Blending art with local and natural history, this cultural venue provides rare historical collections honoring our American Indian heritage, life in the West and the travels of Lewis and Clark. Educational programming includes lectures, tours and workshops for children. The museum serves as a hub for community events, including McIntosh Apple Days, A Cowboy Christmas and Bitter Root Day, and is situated at the confluence of the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, the Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Discover Winter’s Wonder with a Snowshoe in Western Montana

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

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

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

Here are some tips for the trek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildlife.

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

See you on the trail, friends.

Cozy Up in Western Montana’s Winter Wonderland

Winter in Western Montana is pure magic, and that’s because we don’t just know how to play in the snow, we know how to stay in the snow. Our secret? Cozy. Get snug fireside in one of our luxury lodges, cabins or chalets. Staying in Glacier Country is part of the beauty of playing in Glacier Country, and warm western hospitality is our specialty. You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic Montana winter getaway experience than what you’ll discover here. We’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite spots to get your cozy on.

Double Arrow Lodge

Warm welcomes are served up all year at the Double Arrow Lodge, and winter is extra cozy at this historic Seeley Lake getaway. The Seeley Swan Valley is known for epic snowmobiling and cross-country trails, plus snowshoeing, ice fishing and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Choose from deluxe lodging and log cabins, and enjoy fine dining and drinks at the on-site Seasons Restaurant and Stirrups Lounge.

The Double Arrow Lodge glows with warmth and we can’t get enough of it.

Izaak Walton Inn

This family-owned and family-friendly retreat in Essex, Montana offers the perfect combination of scenic beauty, comfortable accommodations and ease of access to outdoor activities in and outside of the park. The Izaak Walton Inn features a historic lodge, plus fully-equipped luxury railcars, classic cabooses, ski-in/ski-out cabins and rental homes all nestled right up against Glacier National Park. The Dining Car is a popular stop for inn guests as well as local residents.

The Izaak Walton Inn is the perfect place to lay your head down after a day of winter adventure. Photo: Noah Couser

Snow Bear Chalets

If you’re looking to hit the slopes in under a minute, Snow Bear Chalets is the place for you. Located on Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort’s Hope Slope—yes, literally right on the ski slope—these “treehouse” chalet rentals offer a luxuriously convenient ski-in/ski-out experience with jaw-dropping views, hot tubs and beautiful stone fireplaces. Stay in a Snow Bear Chalet for a very unique and unforgettable Western Montana winter experience.

We love these “treehouse” chalets. Photo: Snow Bear Chalets

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Treat yourself to the ultimate in winter comforts at the only four-diamond resort in Montana. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake offers deluxe hotel rooms, suites, lakefront condominiums and luxury cabins. To boot, every room has a fire place and there’s an on-site spa. The lodge is minutes from downtown Whitefish and the ski slopes of Whitefish Mountain Resort, and only 30 minutes from Glacier National Park, which is heavenly this time of year.

Finding a cozy fireplace after a day of snow play at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, is always a good choice.

Gibson Mansion

Missoula is a magical mountain town with plenty of winter fun to be had, and one of the best places for a snowy stay and play getaway is Missoula’s premiere bed-and-breakfast, the Gibson Mansion. Built in 1903, Gibson Mansion combines the Victorian elegance of the past with the modern conveniences of today. Bonus: they have the most delicious huckleberry scones around, which, paired with a hot cup of coffee, make for a pretty perfect start to a day in the snow.

Kalispell Grand Hotel

Stay in the heart of Kalispell’s historic district with easy access to winter activities in the Flathead Valley—including skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort—and Glacier National Park. The Kalispell Grand Hotel boasts an exceptional atmosphere, plus they bake fresh cookies every afternoon and offer the option for 60 and 90-minute massages. Hello, Kalispell Grand.

Quinn’s Hot Springs

One of our favorite ways to unwind after a day of snow play in Western Montana’s winter wonderland is by soaking in a natural hot spring, and that’s’ why we absolutely love Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort. With multiple mineral pools, one of the finest restaurants in the northwest, a tavern and luxury log cabins, Quinn’s, without question, offers an authentic Montana experience.

Soaking in the pools at Quinn’s Hot Springs in Paradise, Montana is the ultimate way to end a day.

Whatever your stay style—luxury spa retreat, comfy rustic cabin, timbered-lodge grandeur—you’ll find that we don’t mess around when it’s time to get cozy. See you by the fire. We’ll bring the hot chocolate.

Winter Road Trips and Scenic Drives in Western Montana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WINTER DRIVING SAFETY TIPS

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

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