Category Archives: Glacier National Park

Beyond the Park: Explore Western Montana’s Glacier Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
Cabinet Mountains Wilderness
Mission Mountains Wilderness Complex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildlife and Water Safety in Western Montana

Montana: wild, magical and unapologetically undiscovered. This beautiful state is home to wide-open spaces, national parks, rugged backcountry terrain, glacial rivers, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.

From massive bison in the National Bison Range to grizzly and black bears in Glacier National Park, Montana is home to a variety of wildlife. In order to help all of us have positive encounters with Montana’s wildlife and wild landscape, we’ve rounded up a few tips and guidelines to keep in mind when exploring the great outdoors.

Wildlife is wild. While bison may seem like gentle giants and bears may look a little playful and cuddly, just remember this: it’s not the case! Do not approach wild animals, or try to pet or touch them. Keep this in mind not just in Glacier National Park, but in our refuge systems as well, and always follow the rules of the area you are visiting. For instance, when traveling along designated roads at the National Bison Range, you are not permitted to exit your vehicle. These rules are in place not just to keep visitors safe, but also for the safety of wildlife.

Follow the recommended wildlife viewing guidelines. Let’s be honest, we’ve ALL been tempted to get just a little bit closer to snag that perfect photo. And while moving in 10 feet closer may help you land that perfectly framed Instagram photo, just don’t do it. Park regulations state that all visitors should stay at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) away from bears and at least 25 yards away from other large animals, including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes.

A black bear in Western Montana. Photo courtesy: tonybynum.com

Don’t trap them. Videos have been published showing bears and other wildlife pinned on bridges or feeling trapped on trails. If an animal feels trapped, it will become agitated. Try not to put yourself in a situation where you are more focused on taking photos or videos than you are on safety, and recognize when a situation can be handled more cautiously.

Let bears know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to hike with a buddy, stay on trails and make noise. Feel free to bust out show tunes or just say “hey bear” loudly as you make your way along the trail. Trust us when we tell you that bears don’t want to see you on the trail just as much as you don’t want to see them there.

Always give bears plenty of room and never approach. Photos: GlacierNPS Flickr (Tim Rains)

Water safety should be a priority. Did you know that water is the number one cause of fatalities in Glacier National Park? Swift, cold glacial streams and rivers, moss-covered rocks and slippery logs all present dangers. Rapid, frigid streams and deep glacial lakes are absolutely stunning, but need to be recognized as a possible threat. Avoid wading in or fording swift streams. Also be aware of signs of hypothermia when cautiously wading through calm streams, hiking trails or swimming in lakes.

Be sure to be safe around beautiful icy blue glacial water.

Stay safe, and happy exploring!

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.

 

Sparks Fly Under the Big Sky: Romantic Getaways

This probably comes as no surprise, but we’re suckers for romance. That’s because we’re surrounded by natural beauty and breathtaking places go hand in hand with romantic adventures. It’s simple to see why Glacier Country is the perfect spot for new couples to connect and longtime lovebirds to rekindle the romance.

Winter or summer, Western Montana is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway.

Whether you’re looking for a rustic weekend adventure in the woods, a relaxing spa retreat in a mountain lodge, a quiet bed-and-breakfast with personalized service or a luxury hotel in one of our bustling (and quite charming) community downtowns, Western Montana is always ready to make your time together memorable.

Surprise your partner this Valentine’s Day (pssst…it’s just around the corner) and plan a late-winter weekend or spring fling in Glacier Country.

Spend a special weekend in Glacier Country for an adventure, some leisure or both. Photo: Joyce Walkup

Here’s your romantic getaway trip planner for some ideas.

Take your sweetheart to Swan Lake. Nested in the stunning Seeley-Swan Valley, Swan Lake’s Laughing Horse Lodge (open May through October) offers a two-night springtime package for couples, including a four-course gourmet dinner and chef-recommended bottle of wine both nights. During the colder months, find epic snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in Seeley Lake—a winter recreation mecca. Cozy up at Seeley Lake’s Double Arrow Lodge for the perfect evening: enjoy a meal at their delicious Seasons Restaurant, followed by fireside drinks and a nostalgic horse-drawn sleigh ride for two under the big starry sky, including champagne, a buffalo robe to stay warm and hot rocks to keep your feet toasty. How’s that for romantic? And we’re just getting started…

A tad southwest of Seeley Lake, The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough offers luxury lodging, spa packages for couples and 37,000 gorgeous acres with inclusive year-round activities like ice skating, snowshoeing and nature hikes.

The Resort at Paws Up knows fine dining, so treat you and your special someone to a world-class dinner.

Head north for a relaxing escape to the woods at Silverwolf Log Chalets—private designer chalets built for two, just minutes from the western entrance of Glacier National Park. Nearby Coram’s Green Valley Ranch offers fantastic Montana accommodations, breathtaking views of the park and snowmobiling adventures with Swan Mountain Snowmobiling.

Indulge in one-hour massages for two as part of the spa package at Whitefish’s Kandahar Lodge. This authentic mountain lodge offers cozy accommodations and upscale dining—or check out the Tupelo Grille, one of the top eateries in the Flathead Valley. Taste the local spirit and toast to your time together at Spotted Bear Spirits or Great Northern Brewing Co.

Cheers to love and Montana at Spotted Bear Distillery in Whitefish. Photo: Spotted Bear Spirits

Bigfork lays on the charm with fireside steaks and lake views at Terra Steak at Mountain Lake Lodge. The lodge also offers fireplace suites, on-site massages and winter packages. While you’re in town, find time to enjoy Pink Peppercorn Pear Gin cocktails at Whistling Andy Distillery.

Further south on Flathead Lake, Red Lion Ridgewater Inn & Suites is the perfect home base for exploring Polson. Flathead Lake stuns year-round, and Polson offers easy access to surrounding recreation areas.

West of the lake, soak in the healing mineral waters at the local hot springs resort in Hot Springs. Head north and stay in a Jacuzzi suite or cabin on the shores of Noxon Reservoir at Trout Creek’s Lakeside Motel & Resort.

Find Western Montana’s cultural hotspot in Missoula. This lively town is explore-worthy all year long, boasting galleries, museums, theaters, eclectic dining spots, breweries, distilleries and wine bars. Stay at the 1903 Gibson Mansion B&B—where Victorian elegance meets modern convenience—and plan your trip around a show at The Wilma, Missoula Community Theatre or The Top Hat. The Top Hat has amazing food to boot. By day, explore Missoula’s shops, galleries, cafés and coffee shops. Not to be missed: the free Missoula Art Museum.

See art together at the Missoula Art Museum for a romantic and cultural experience. Photo: Slikati Photography

The Bitterroot Valley beckons those looking for a relaxing getaway. Immerse yourself in cowboy culture at Darby’s award-winning, adults-only retreat, Triple Creek Ranch. Embark on a dog-sledding adventure, ride horses and enjoy fine wines. Also in Darby, take a guided snowmobile ride with Rye Creek Ranch or experience true western hospitality at the Bitterroot River Ranch. Just north in Hamilton, ABC acres offers a unique permaculture farm-stay for eco-minded couples looking to experience ecological design and sustainable food, production and healthy living systems.

The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg is the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Guest Ranch. Need we say more? Find downhill skiing nearby or cross-country ski at Georgetown Lake. Stop for treats at The Sweet Palace, or treat your sweetheart to a beautiful piece of Montana jewelry at The Sapphire Gallery and when the weather gets warmer, pan for your own sapphires.

Want to take your relationship to a new level? Book a scenic flight over the jaw-dropping Mission Valley with Blue Goose Aviation (by appointment only and weather dependent).

You won’t want to leave Dancing Spirit Ranch after a stay in one their chic cabins. Photo: Dancing Spirit Ranch

Just outside Glacier National Park, bring your creative spirits to experience the stillness, splendor and simplicity at Columbia Fall’s unique Dancing Spirit Ranch where you’ll have the opportunity to become one with nature (or two, as it were). With winter yoga retreats and activities like Thai bodywork for couples, you’re sure to connect with yourself and with each other. Nearby in Kalispell, enjoy a concert by the Glacier Symphony and Chorale.

There’s no end to the romantic adventures and authentic experiences couples can experience in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Make time to connect under the big sky.   

 

Discover Winter’s Wonder with a Snowshoe in Western Montana

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

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

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

Here are some tips for the trek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildlife.

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

See you on the trail, friends.

Winter Road Trips and Scenic Drives in Western Montana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WINTER DRIVING SAFETY TIPS

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

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

One Trip, Two National Parks: Glacier to Waterton Lakes

Western Montana is gorgeous, and is undoubtedly a vacation all its own, but on the 150th anniversary of Canadian Parks we know you might want to scoot across the border for free park entry. The locals refer to Waterton Lakes National Park as “where the mountains meet the prairies” and Glacier National Park as “the backbone of the world.” These majestic lands have inspired many writers and world travelers, and will certainly inspire you too. From Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road to Waterton’s Red Rock Canyon, you’ll be glad you decided on a two-nation vacation.

We want you to get the most enjoyment from your adventure as you possibly can, so we’ve gathered up some trip tips to ensure your vacation expectations are far exceeded.

Ports of Entry

There are four ports of entry near Glacier National Park. Two of them can only be reached by hiking into the backcountry or by taking a boat from Waterton Lakes. The easiest ways to visit Canada from northwest Montana are:

  • Port of Roosville U.S. Customs and Border Protection:
    Visit Eureka on your way to British Columbia Kootenay National Park/Banff National Park.
  • Chief Mountain Border Crossing on AB 6 crossing over MT HWY 17:
    Waterton Lakes and Glacier share a border, and there are two other ports of entry within the parks.

*Crossing only available by Waterton Lake boat tour or hiking trails.
**Crossing closes at the end of September and reopens mid-May.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

In 1932, the park was designated the first International Peace Park. It commemorates the bonds of peace and friendship between the two nations. The Peace Park is accessible from the U.S. by backcountry hike and from Canada by boat. Take a two-hour stunningly scenic cruise from Waterton across the border to Goat Haunt July through mid-September. The Prince of Wales Hotel is one of the most beautiful hotels in the Rocky Mountain West. Book early to secure a stay and soak it all in.

An incredible view of Lake Louise.

Lake Louise + Banff

If you’re taking this trip, you’re likely excited about seeing some glaciers. Just four hours north of Waterton Lakes National Park, you’ll find Banff’s Lake Louise. One of the most photographed locations in North America, this perfectly framed glacial lake is breathtaking. Enjoy the turquoise waters in the summer and skate across the smooth frozen surface during the winter. Lake Louise was named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter. However, the lake was known as Ho-Run-Num-Nay, meaning “the Lake of Little Fishes” in the language of the Stoney Nakoda First Nations.

TIP: Passports

Don’t let legal details ruin your trip. Be sure to check the status of your passport before heading up. For more tips and helpful information about legal border travel, visit our International Crossings page. Before leaving your home base, look up border hours of operation and seasonal closures.

Driving through the West Tunnel on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Glacier National Park + Going-to-the-Sun Road

Wind through glacier-carved peaks and valleys on the Going-to-the-Sun Road for an awe-inspiring experience. Find waterfalls and wildlife around every bend. Book a red bus tour or an adventure with Sun Tours for an American Indian perspective. Boat tours are also available on Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake.

TIP: Glacier National Park Crowds

Glacier National Park encompasses more than 1 million acres and receives nearly 3 million visitors annually. If all 3 million visited at the exact same time, there would only be three people per acre. Luckily, we don’t all visit at the same time, so crowds are manageable even during peak seasons. Visit during one of our shoulder seasons to find the park at its most peaceful, or explore one of the many other roads or hiking trails listed above.

This view during spring can only be seen by hikers and bikers on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Glacier National Park + More Paths to Explore

Venture beyond the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road to find over 175 mountains, 762 lakes and 563 streams. If that sounds crazy to you, picture this: there are more than 200 named waterfalls and 25 named glaciers in the park. “NAMED,” meaning there are more that may not even be on the map. Cruise up to Polebridge for a freshly baked treat on your way to Inside North Fork Road. This is the best way to get to Bowman Lake, a relatively remote camping spot with easily accessible hiking and kayaking. There are five other main roads available for your exploration. Check their status here.

The fall color on the trees and underbrush was starting to really change, so we took a short hike down from Wild Goose Overlook.

TIP: Weather Watch

The absolute best times to visit the parks are spring and fall. Though the weather can be fickle at the tail ends of these seasons, the vibrant colors and cooler temperatures make it well worth the wait. Spring arrives in early May and fall in early September. The tamarack and aspen trees draw autumn color chasers to this area every year. Don’t miss out.

 

For a more detailed 7-day itinerary visit our Business to Business blog.


2017 Two-Nation Vacation Giveaway

Win a Park Pass for access to any U.S. or Canadian Park

To congratulate Canadian Parks on their 150th anniversary, we’re giving away free park passes for both park systems. Enter here:

Two-Nation Vacation

Meat Montana: Top 10 Places to Savor a Steak in Glacier Country

We’re going to come right out and say it: we’re carnivores at heart. When we think of all the things we love about Western Montana (the list is long), savoring a juicy, perfectly cooked, locally raised steak is way up near the top of the list. It’s not just a mouthwateringly delicious meal, it’s a full Montana experience. Raising cattle is a way of life here. It’s a livelihood infused with a rich history of agricultural pride, cowboy culture and—most importantly—a high regard for the land and the livestock. We love everything about a Montana steakhouse, and we’re pretty confident you will, too.

Western Montana’s steakhouses are community fixtures that attract locals and visitors from far and wide, and our steaks are some of the best you’ll ever sink your teeth into. From fine-dining western lodges to log-cabin atmospheres, Glacier Country’s got a steak cooked to your idea of perfection. So, no matter your cut of choice, mosey on up to one of these fine establishments, grab a steak knife and see what all the fuss is about. (Cowboy hat and boots optional.)

Lolo Creek Steak House

Just south of Missoula as you head down the Bitterroot Valley, stop in at Lolo Creek Steak House in Lolo. They take pride in having served “ranchers, hikers, bikers, vacationers, hunters, snowmobilers, fly fisherman, floaters, artists, writers, students and their families for over 27 years,” so, you’ll be in good company. The large log cabin setting with western décor provides a genuine Montana experience and a prime selection of irresistible steak.

Summit Mountain Lodge and Steakhouse

A perfectly seasoned Montana steak at the Summit Mountain Lodge and Steakhouse.

Located in Essex on the southeast corner of Glacier National Park, the historic Summit Mountain Lodge offers exactly what you want in a steak dinner—juicy, perfectly seasoned and seared meat with grilled vegetables. Housed in the iconic Great Northern Train Station built in 1906, Summit Mountain offers stunning park views from its deck, locally crafted beer, specialty cocktails and wine.

Bonus: overnight in one of the 32-acre property’s eight cabins.

Victor Steakhouse

Further on down the valley, you get a lot of beef for your buck at Victor Steakhouse, and it’s delicious too. For dessert, try a deep-fried piece of cheesecake or their famous peanut butter pie, that is, if you’ve got any room left.

Skalkaho Steak House

If you’re lucky, you might spot a bighorn sheep or moose while you’re dining at Skalkaho Steak House. Wildlife makes itself known here inside and out. 15 miles south of Hamilton, the views in this part of the Bitterroot Valley are spectacular. This little gem has won awards for best steak, best atmosphere and best views in the Bitterroot, and one of the things that makes it such a unique spot is the hundreds of hummingbirds that visit the outside patio during the summer months.

The Depot

For more than 40 years, The Depot has been one of Montana’s premiere classic western steakhouses. Located in Missoula, The Depot offers a full bar, 18 beers on tap (including some local favorites) and a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Seafood is flown in daily, so try the Depot Steak, an 8-ounce tenderloin topped with Alaskan king crab and béarnaise sauce. Afterwards, explore Missoula’s lively downtown.

The Montana Club

A perfectly seasoned juicy steak from Montana Club.

Homestyle meets Montana style at The Montana Club, with two locations in Missoula and one in Kalispell. “Montana’s hometown restaurant” serves up scratch-made entrées and mouthwatering steak. Their 10-ounce Montana Club Cattle Company Angus Steak is exclusively selected and specially cut for The Montana Club Restaurants and aged for a minimum of 45 days. There’s something for everyone at the Montana Club, plus both Missoula and Kalispell serve up hearty doses of arts, culture, nightlife and recreation.

Whitefish Lake Restaurant

The New York Times called Whitefish Lake Restaurant one of the best restaurants in the Whitefish area. Tee up for 18 holes at this historic golf-course setting and end your day on the green by heading inside for a prime cut of Montana beef cooked exactly how you like it. Add a side of white truffle macaroni and cheese baked au gratin. Insider Tip: start with the Baked Brie in Puff Pastry or the New Zealand Mussels…or both.

Venture Inn and Restaurant

How does eating a 7-ounce premium choice Angus bacon-wrapped top sirloin filet with roasted jumbo shrimp sound after a beautiful hike in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness? Don’t mind if we do. Venture on over to Libby in Montana’s beautiful Kootenai River Valley and savor a meal at the Venture Inn and Restaurant.

 

Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse

A perfectly rare prime rib steak from Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse in Seeley Lake.

We love a good lake with our steak. That’s why we love Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse in Seeley Lake. Premium Montana steak and stunning views? Yes please. All steaks come with garlic bread, potatoes, salad and sweet pickled watermelon rind. Enjoy the sunset from this beautiful, rustic, cedar-sided steakhouse situated right on the edge of the lake.

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club had us at “special sauce.” Known as one of Montana’s best steakhouses, most outfitters end their Blackfeet Reservation trips with a stop at the Cattle Baron for their famous family recipes, flawlessly cooked steak and a cultural experience provided by the attentive and energetic owners.

What’s one more?

Narrowing the list down to 10 of our favorite steak stops was impossible. We just couldn’t pass this next one up. Plus, it’s in Glacier National Park, and, well, you know how we feel about the park…

BONUS: The Belton Chalet Grill Dining Room and Tap Room

Gourmet steak dinner at the Belton Chalet. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Top off a day in Glacier National Park with a Montana-ranched steak at the 1910 historic Belton Chalet where “the way it was…still is.” Talented chefs prepare world-class meals in a unique outdoor kitchen, and guests watch the sunset from the expansive deck. Do yourself a favor and try one of their cocktails with vodka that’s infused with Montana’s famous Flathead cherries.

DIY: While we love a good night out, we know some of you might enjoy the experience of cooking up a Montana steak yourself. Local butchers and community farmers markets are a great place to buy premium Montana-raised beef.

P.S. If you’re looking for a complete western adventure (we highly recommend it), cowboy up at a Western Montana guest ranch for way more than a prime porterhouse.

Day Hike in Glacier National Park: Avalanche Lake

Hiking in Glacier National Park is a beautiful and wondrous thing, and we recently had the opportunity to hike one of the more popular routes in the park—the Avalanche Lake Trail. This serene and breathtaking trail winds through lush forest, along a pristine stream and inland through a northwest rainforest to a stunning alpine lake boasting sheer cliffs and waterfalls.

The hike begins with the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Creek. From there, the trail leads to Avalanche Lake. It follows the creek up a frothing gorge and meanders through a cedar and hemlock forest, giving the feeling that you’re walking among giants. After two miles, the trail opens up to the lake, which is fed by the waterfalls at the lake’s far end.

Here are some photos from our journey.

Our starting point: Avalanche Lake Trailhead.

Early on, we’re greeted with some beautiful icy blue water.

We found absolute perfection all along the trail.

As the trail turns inland…

We found ourselves walking among the giants.

Honestly, the views were ridiculously breathtaking.

After 2 miles, we made it to Avalanche Lake and the view was absolute perfection.

Pro tip: Carry bear spray (we saw a bear on the trail near the lake), use bug spray and make sure to apply sunscreen (although the trail has a forest canopy, there are some super sunny areas, so just be prepared).

Happy Trails,

Nicole