Category Archives: Glacier National Park

American Indian Culture + Events in Western Montana

Explore the rich heritage of American Indians and time-honored traditions like pow wows in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, where you’ll find two of the seven Indian reservations that fall within Montana’s borders—the Blackfeet Nation of the Blackfeet Reservation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation. In addition to multiple year-round tribal events, you’ll find museums, galleries, shops and organizations dedicated to preserving the American Indian history and way of life with compelling exhibits and artifacts, and authentic arts and crafts.

Lively dancers, vibrant costumes and rhythmic drumming make a pow wow a can’t-miss event. Photo: MOTBD

BLACKFEET RESERVATION

Encompassing 1.5 million acres in northwestern Montana, the Blackfeet Reservation is bordered by Canada and the gorgeous landscape of Glacier National Park. The Blackfeet Nation—made up of the North Piegan, South Piegan, Blood and Siksika—is the largest American Indian population in Montana. Exploring the Blackfeet Nation gives an intimate look at the culture of the American Indians allegedly named for the dark color of their moccasins.

The Indian Relay at North American Indian Days in Browning offers full-blown excitement. Photo: MOTBD

In Browning, Montana, experience one of the largest gatherings of North American tribes, held annually for four days during the second week of July. North American Indian Days pow wow and rodeo festivities include a parade, traditional and fancy dancing, drumming, customary stick games, and a rodeo with the spectator-favorite Indian Relay races—horse relay races featuring tribal competitors from across the Rocky Mountain West.

Also in Browning, at the Museum of the Plains Indian, pore over historic clothing, weapons, household items and other artifacts from the Northern Plains tribal peoples. Authentic Blackfeet and American Indian arts, crafts and jewelry are on display at the Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery, representing hundreds of tribal artists’ pottery, rugs, beadwork, moccasins, rawhide work, and much more. Don’t miss the popular visitor stop of Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post, a full-service clothing store supporting local tribal artists and craftspeople through the sale of specialty native-made crafts, books, lotions, gifts, souvenirs and beading supplies.

Spend an unforgettable night in an authentic Blackfeet tipi. Photo: Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village

Near Browning at the Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village, spend the night in a tipi or cabin, visit the on-site fine art gallery representing Blackfeet artists, and take a cultural history tour or art workshop. Between Browning and East Glacier Park, visit the Blackfeet Nation Bison Reserve viewing area on U.S. Highway 2. Based out of East Glacier Park, Sun Tours provides an authentic glimpse of Blackfeet Nation culture and heritage via interpretive tours throughout Blackfeet Country, including the jaw-dropping Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

To get a Blackfeet Indian perspective of Glacier National Park, take a trip with Sun Tours. Photo: Sun Tours

Every summer in the park, tribal members share their knowledge of the history and culture of American Indians with park visitors as part of the Native America Speaks program. Don’t miss this important opportunity to learn more about American Indian culture in Montana among the beauty of the Glacier National Park landscape.

FLATHEAD RESERVATION

Home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Flathead Reservation encompasses 1.2 million acres between Missoula and Kalispell, including the southern half of Flathead Lake. This part of the region is known for Mission Mountain scenery and world-class recreation opportunities.

Get a close-up look at American Indian culture by attending a pow wow in Glacier Country. Photo: MOTBD

Annual Flathead Reservation events provide a look into the traditions of the American Indians, including the Arlee Celebration pow wow in Arlee held annually in July; the Standing Arrow Pow Wow in Elmo also held annually in July; and the Kyiyo Pow Wow in Missoula held every April. Witness traditional dancing, drumming and dress, plus games and tribal story sharing. Each pow wow offers something unique.

At the center of the Flathead Reservation, explore the National Bison Range in Moiese, home to roughly 350 – 500 bison, as well as elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and a variety of birds. You’ll find three wildlife drives in the range; West Loop and Prairie Drive are short year-round drives, and Red Sleep Mountain Drive is open mid-May to Mid-October.

The People’s Center introduces visitors to the history and culture of the Flathead Reservation. Photo: MOTBD

The People’s Center in Pablo tells the story of the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes through a museum and exhibit gallery. This unique cultural center offers educational activities, history presentations, beading classes, and traditional gatherings like pow wows.

The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana in Charlo memorializes the history and culture of the Flathead Indian Reservation and early Montana with artifacts, historical photographs, beadwork, guns, bows and arrows and a diorama room filled with mounted wildlife and an American Indian camp. Also take in stunning Mission Mountain views on the museum’s short nature trail.

Set foot in the oldest continually operated trading post in Montana at the Four Winds Indian Trading Post in St. Ignatius, where you’ll find beads, face paint, headdresses, animal hides, genuine sinew, and other authentic American Indian supplies. Another must stop—the Montana American Indian owned and operated Takes Horse Gallery in Polson, offering museum-quality artwork ranging from Western contemporary to abstract.

The Mission Mountains beckon, but be sure to buy a permit before recreating on reservation lands. Photo: MOTBD

Please recreate with respect on tribal lands, and note that a Tribal Conservation Permit is required to recreate on these reservation lands. Learn more about Blackfeet Reservation recreation regulations here and Flathead Reservation recreation regulations here.

Explore the East Glacier Park Area

Glacier National Park covers a staggering 1 million acres, surrounded by some of Western Montana’s charming small communities that serve as gateways to the park. East Glacier Park, located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, is less than 10 miles from the Two Medicine park entrance. This historic community, with its 363 residents, is ready to give you a warm western welcome this summer and is the perfect place to begin a Western Montana adventure.

It took 75 men a year and a half to construct the two main buildings. You won’t want to miss the splendor of Glacier Park Lodge.

It’s easy to get here. Amtrak’s historic Empire Builder train stops (seasonally) at East Glacier Park and convenient car rentals are available to help you get around. The East Glacier Park train depot was built in 1913 and sits directly across from Glacier Park Lodge, built the same year by the Great Northern Railway, beginning its rich and unique history with the railway. The architecture of Glacier Park Lodge will take your breath away; even if you’re not staying the night, be sure to stop in to see the grandeur of the lodge and its lobby. Explore the grounds further and you’ll find a nine-hole golf course—the oldest grass greens course in Montana, where each hole is named after a chief of the Blackfeet Nation. Not-to-be-missed are the lush gardens with breathtaking views of Dancing Lady Mountain.

The exposed beams, gabled roofs, large windows, and decorative moldings of Glacier Park Lodge were designed to resemble Swiss-style architecture.

When it’s time to eat, Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant has you covered. The restaurant building is the oldest house left standing in East Glacier Park. Built in 1909, it has since been updated with modern conveniences. Specializing in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, customers leave bragging about their meal—and come back for more. For a spin on a classic taco, try the locally raised bison taco when offered as a special, or choose a bison burger with green chili and jack cheese—a regular on the menu. Note: this popular restaurant does not take reservations and sometimes has quite a wait—it’s worth it, but plan accordingly.

Saddle up! Horseback riding is one of the most intimate ways to explore Glacier Country. Photo: Visit MT

Once you’ve fueled up on food, saddle up for a guided horseback ride from Glacier Gateway Trailrides. Experience unspoiled beauty riding along the eastern border of Glacier National Park and deep into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. American Indian guides will take you off the beaten path, providing an intimate view of Looking Glass Mountain and the Two Medicine River gorge. Offered June through September, you won’t want to miss this tranquil and unique adventure.

You won’t find a more genuine Western Montana affair than this. Photo: Bear Creek Ranch

You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic ranch experience than Bear Creek Guest Ranch during their Montana Cattle Drive or Horseback Riding Retreats. Immerse yourself in cowboy culture, participate in roping, cattle drives, arena riding, hiking or fishing in Glacier National Park, float trips and more. Choose between staying in the main house with your hosts, the Beck family, or stay in one of the on-site cabins.

The nearby Two Medicine Valley has some of the most spectacular hiking spots. Photo: Josephy Kennedy

Of course, in East Glacier Park—located right outside Glacier National Park—recreation abounds. The surrounding streams and lakes offer world-class trout fishing. Numerous hiking trails dot the area, and wildlife watching commonly delivers sights of moose, deer, elk and mountain goats among spectacular scenery.

Relax, rejuvenate and enjoy the view at The Cottages at Glacier. Photo: The Cottages at Glacier

Still looking for a place to rest your head? The Cottages at Glacier provide luxurious accommodations. The detached two and three-bedroom cottages feature a stone fireplace, a full kitchen, AC, Wi-Fi, and a balcony that serves up unmatched views of Glacier National Park. The newest cabins have a Jacuzzi tub, and, after a full day of exploring, you’ll rejoice from a relaxing soak. Owned by the family that founded St. Mary Village, the original cottages were built it 1929 for the children of the founders. Today those cottages comprise The Cottages at Glacier.

This tightly knit community charms with events like the Glacier Half Marathon, approaching soon on June 22, 2019. Visit East Glacier Park for yourself. Click here for more information on where to eat, stay and play, and to learn about the history of East Glacier Park.

7 Mountain Bike Trails to Explore in Glacier Country

Mountain biking Glacier Country’s extensive trail systems is the perfect way to cover epic ground while breathing in fresh mountain air. Shred a single-track mountain biking trail or visit our family-friendly ski resorts turned downhill mountain bike resorts. There’s no shortage of terrain to pedal; miles of trail systems crisscross the region, and there’s something for every skill level. Explore Western Montana on two wheels. Here are a handful of our favorite trails.

Elevate your mountain biking adventure in Glacier Country.

WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT – WHITEFISH 

Level: Children and Beginners – Advanced

Whitefish Mountain Resort, located 8 miles north of the quintessential mountain town of Whitefish is a mecca of meandering trails. Ski mountains provide some of the best terrain for mountain biking and family fun for riders of every skill level, and Whitefish has it down to an art. At Strider Bike Park aspiring young mountain bikers, ages 2 – 6, practice their riding skills on pedal-less bikes. A bike school is offered for first-timers, while skilled riders can explore 30-plus miles of chair lift-accessed cross-country mountain bike trails. Unbeatable panoramic views of the Flathead Valley can be taken in from the top. Bike rentals are available on site. Whitefish Mountain Resort opens for summer activities May 25, 2019 (weather dependent).

Round Trip Distance: Varies

Western Montana’s alpine forests wait to be explored. Photo: Whitefish Bike Retreat

WHITEFISH BIKE RETREAT AND BEAVER LAKE TRAIL – WHITEFISH

Level: Beginners – Intermediate  

Eight miles west of Whitefish is the Whitefish Bike Retreat, the perfect place to begin your biking adventure. Make it an overnight—trail-side lodging and on-site bike rentals let you sleep, wake and ride. Warm up for the day by taking a lap on the short loop circling the 19-acre property, navigate berms on the pump track or weave through obstacles in the skills park. When you’re ready to explore more, the Whitefish Bike Retreat connects directly to The Whitefish Trail, serving up more than 42 miles of single-track trails. The Beaver Lake Trailhead, located next to the retreat, is a short but fun 3-mile loop. Choose to turn back, or keep exploring The Whitefish Trail system.

Round Trip Distance: 3.5 miles

Take in panoramic views of the Missoula Valley at Montana Snowbowl. Photo: Montana Snowbowl

MONTANA SNOWBOWL – MISSOULA

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Montana Snowbowl, located minutes from downtown Missoula, is a local’s favorite ski mountain in the winter and a mountain bike enthusiast’s dream during the summer. Ride the Grizzly Chairlift to 7,000 feet, taking in the sheer beauty of Lolo National Forest with breathtaking views of sweeping meadows and alpine forests. Challenge yourself to bike to the top of Point Six Trail, an elevation gain of 926 feet, and try to beat the record of 37 minutes, 36 seconds. After a hard but brief push to the top, enjoy mostly downhill trails on the other 25 miles of trail systems, then ride the chairlift back up and do it all again. Cap off the day with a post-adventure bloody mary and delicious wood-fired pizza. Montana Snowbowl opens for summer activities in late June.

Round Trip Distance: Varies

BLUE MOUNTAIN – MISSOULA

Level: Intermediate

Directions: After exploring Missoula—the arts and culture hub of Western Montana—head south for 2 miles on U.S. Highway 93. Turn right onto Blue Mountain Road and the trailhead is on the left where the road makes a 90-degree turn. This popular recreation area boasts more than 41 miles of trails, so be sure to pick up a map. You’ll begin your ride in open meadows, where you can enjoy views of the Missoula Valley and Sapphire and Rattlesnake mountains, before you ascend into forested wilderness. Ride a quick and easy 3-mile loop, or explore much farther.

Round Trip Distance: Varies

Ride to Paradise on the Clark Fork River Trail. Photo: Vo von Sehlen

CLARK FORK RIVER TRAIL – ST. REGIS

Level: Intermediate

Directions: From St. Regis, travel east 11 miles on State Highway 135. The trailhead is at the Ferry Landing fishing access, located on the north side of the highway. The Clark Fork River Trail takes you through Lolo National Forest along the Clark Fork River between Paradise and St. Regis. It’s a smooth single-track trail that winds along lush old-growth forest and sweeping wildflower meadows. The first switchback climbs are the most difficult, but push through them because this ride is well worth it.

Round Trip Distance: 18 miles

There’s plenty of fun to be had at Lake Como.

LAKE COMO TRAIL – DARBY

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Directions: After experiencing the Old West charm of Darby, travel north for 4 miles on US-93 then turn left on Lake Como Road. Follow it for 3 miles until you meet the campground and trailhead on your right. Lake Como Trail is a relatively flat yet technically difficult trail. Discover beauty around every bend as you circle Lake Como, pass by a waterfall and take in the dramatic mountain setting. This is a popular hiking trail in the summer and it’s a bit narrow, so spring is the perfect time to ride it.

Round Trip Distance: 8 miles

BUTTERCUP LOOP – HAMILTON

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Directions: From Hamilton, turn south onto US-93 for 2.8 miles before turning left on State Highway 38 heading east. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto Sleeping Child Road and continue for 4 miles until you reach the junction of Little Sleeping Child Road. Park at the junction where you’ll often see vehicles of fellow bikers, but there is no designated parking lot. This is the beginning of the Buttercup Loop trail. The first 7 miles of the ride are on Sleeping Child Road, but views of the canyon make the short road-riding portion well worth it. You’ll start climbing on Black Tail Road and wind through woodland terrain until it opens up to meadows popping with color. After a bit of a difficult climb, the fresh mountain air and unrivaled views of the Bitterroot Valley are worth it before coasting back down to the car. Go the distance on this loop and you won’t be disappointed.

Round Trip Distance: 21.1 miles

The Crown of the Continent beckons cyclers.

BONUS: GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD – GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

Level: Intermediate Road Biking

You won’t want to miss the opportunity to bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road—an engineering marvel and National Historic Landmark—before the road is fully open to cars. In the spring, hikers and bikers are given first access, and biking one of America’s most scenic roads is a pretty epic way to see spring flourish in Glacier National Park. Take in jaw-dropping views of glacial-carved terrain.

Round Trip Distance: Varies. Check road status here.

Pro-Tip: Catch a shuttle on the weekends between Apgar Visitor Center and Avalanche Creek. Shuttle service begins mid-May and operates until the road is fully open to vehicles. Or, do a guided trip with our friends at Glacier Guides, who provide shuttle, bike rental, helmet and lunch.

GEAR UP

  1. Spring weather is unpredictable. Dress in layers and bring a rain jacket. Wear worn-in and comfortable biking shoes.
  2. It’s important to stay safe in the sometimes remote Western Montana wilderness. Wear a helmet.
  3. Pack a light backpack with water, snacks, a map and a tire pump.
  4. Carry bear spray with you—you never know what wildlife you’ll encounter.

Helpful trail maps can be found at local visitor centers, ranger stations and forest service offices. Bike rentals are available throughout the region.

Top 5 Reasons to Travel to Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Travel matters. It matters to the traveler, and it matters to the destinations and communities where adventure seekers are spending their hard-earned vacation resources. National Travel and Tourism Week is May 5 – 11, 2019, and in Glacier Country we’re celebrating the fact that we’ve got endless once-in-a-lifetime experiences to offer, and so many travelers helping our small towns thrive. We’re grateful for this amazing place we call home, and we’re extending a hearty helping of warm western gratitude to all of our visitors. How can you celebrate? Come visit again. You’ll be glad you did.

Two Medicine Lake reflects a visitor’s appreciation of the grandeur of Glacier National Park. Photo: Brian Powers

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Offering world-class adventures all year long, the Crown of the Continent beckons. One million acres of glacial-carved terrain provides jaw-dropping views from every angle with infinite ways to explore towering snowcapped peaks, cascading waterfalls, aquamarine lakes, alpine forests and the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road—one of the most scenic drives in the country. Added bonus: Western Montana’s sheer beauty and adventure doesn’t end in Glacier National Park. There’s much more to explore beyond the park, too.

The Thompson Falls Dam is a sight to behold. Photo: Andy Austin

CHARMING SMALL-TOWNS + SCENIC TRAVEL CORRIDORS
In Western Montana, every route is scenic. Our 75+ charming communities are connected by wide-open highways lined with mesmerizing beauty. Discover our scenic byways, travel corridors and backroads of discovery, all surrounded by world-class recreation opportunities. Take a scenic drive and explore our charming small towns along the way. From walkable downtowns with breweries, distilleries, farmers markets, live music, and arts and culture, to rich history, quaint Old-West charm and easy access to the great outdoors, come live it up like a local.

A quiet paddle on Western Montana waters will soothe your soul. Photo: Andy Austin

RIVERS + LAKES
Not only is Western Montana home to the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—Flathead Lake—but countless glistening waters grace our landscape. At Flathead Lake enjoy swimming, water skiing, sailing, fishing and so much more. Throughout the region you’ll find places to fly-fish blue-ribbon trout streams, raft, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard one of many rivers, or hike to one of hundreds of hidden alpine lakes. There’s no shortage of ways to play.

ACCESSIBILITY/DIRECT FLIGHTS
Western Montana, to some of you, may seem like a faraway place. It may not even be on your radar as an extraordinary vacation destination. But it’s just that—and getting here has never been so easy. With two major airports—Missoula (MSO) and Glacier Park (FCA)—offering year-round direct flights on six major airlines from multiple metropolitan areas, you’d be surprised how soon you can make the switch to Mountain Time.

YOU WORK HARD FOR YOUR VACATION DAYS
Travel has been shown to increase physical and emotional well-being. It’s educational, eye-opening, soul restoring and downright fun. The change of scenery, the change of pace—they’re necessary. And the thing about traveling in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is that it’s easy to unplug, unwind and embark on the unforgettable among wide-open spaces, fresh mountain air and western hospitality. Do yourself a favor and get away to Glacier Country. You’ve earned it.

Bark Ranger Gracie Teaches Wildlife Safety

Glacier National Park boasts an abundance of wildlife—one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states. The park is home to at least 19 large mammals, including bear, moose and bighorn sheep. These magnificent animals are exciting to witness in their natural setting, however, wildlife is just that: wild. We need to respect their space, for their safety and ours. To help keep wildlife a safe distance from visitors, the park hired an expert on the subject—Gracie the Bark Ranger. Learn how Gracie is keeping you safe this season, and discover best practices when it comes to wildlife safety. Warning, cuteness overload ahead.

Gracie wears an orange vest on duty to let visitors know she’s a working dog. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

BARK RANGER GRACIE

The secret is out, Glacier National Park’s sheer beauty is unrivaled, and as the number of visitors increases each year, so does the likelihood of human-wildlife interactions. To address visitor safety, Glacier National Park hired an employee-owned dog for wildlife shepherding. Bark Ranger Gracie is a professionally trained border collie who moves bighorn sheep and mountain goats out of dense visitor areas. Gracie shepherds wildlife by applying pressure from a distance through standing her ground and the occasional staredown. And no, she does not work on bears!

Once the wildlife is a safe distance away Gracie stops shepherding. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

You’ll often find Gracie working on-leash at Logan Pass. At the crest of the Continental Divide, Logan Pass serves up jaw-dropping views of meadows filled with wildflowers and the occasional mountain goat or bighorn sheep, and, sometimes, a grizzly bear or two. As one of the most popular passes with the highest elevation reachable by car, the parking lot is generally full during the day. Bighorn sheep and other wildlife have been habituated to visit the parking lot to scavenge for litter left behind by visitors.

Gracie looks to Mark for instructions. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

Habituation happens when wildlife are repeatedly exposed to humans and then no longer see visitors as a threat. Wildlife may approach visitors themselves or may allow visitors to come close to them. However, any wildlife in close proximity creates a dangerous situation for both humans and animals. Wildlife can become aggressive at any point if they suddenly feel threatened, and they may kick, bite or gore. Bark Ranger Gracie shepherds animals to stay 30 – 75 yards away from the parking lot, which is still a close enough distance for visitors to watch and get a picture-perfect photo. Wildlife shepherding works because mountain goats and bighorn sheep have an innate fear of predators, and they view Gracie as a predator.

Gracie takes a break to share her love of Glacier National Park. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

Glacier National Park’s ultimate goal for the wildlife shepherding program is to teach mountain goats and bighorn sheep to decide for themselves to avoid dense visitor areas. You’ll also find Gracie educating visitors on wildlife safety and why approaching and feeding wildlife is dangerous. During the winter, Gracie keeps up with her commands by herding deer out of the park’s headquarters and residential areas. Mountain lions will follow their prey, and moving deer out of populated areas also helps reduce the presence of mountain lions.

Gracie reminds you to follow Glacier National Park’s pet regulations. Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

Bark Ranger Gracie is a certified and professionally trained dog who is permitted to go to specific places in Glacier where other dogs cannot. Read the pet regulations for Glacier National Park when planning your trip. For more adorable photos and safety information, follow Bark Ranger Gracie on instagram.

Gracie knows the wildlife safety rules, do you? Photo: National Park Service/A.W. Biel

WILDLIFE SAFETY TIPS

Here are some tips for having a safe, pleasant, and respectful experience when wildlife watching.

View wildlife from the safety of your car or from a safe distance. Stay at least 25 yards away from all wildlife except bears—who you’ll need to give at least a hundred-yard berth. Tip: Bring binoculars and a camera with zoom if you’re looking for close-ups.

Never approach, touch or feed wildlife, even when an animal approaches or doesn’t seem to be threatened by your presence—wildlife may not know better, but you do! Don’t risk injury to yourself or the animal over a selfie. Some wildlife have been habituated to approach visitors for human food, but don’t feed wildlife, and be sure to distance yourself from them. Human food is harmful to wildlife, big and small, and can result in poor nutrition and a shorter lifespan. Learn about Leave No Trace for more information about respect for wildlife and their habitat.

Let wildlife know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to bring a chatty friend, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals. Learn more about specific safety information when camping or recreating in bear country.

Unique Ways to Explore Glacier National Park

The Crown of the Continent beckons outdoor enthusiasts. With more than 1 million acres of towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, wild meadows and sparkling waters—the sheer beauty of Glacier National Park is jaw-dropping from every angle. However, it can be a little intimidating. For those of you who don’t want to bite off more adventure than you can chew, but still want to get out of your car and away from the crowds, here’s an insider’s guide for a low-key introduction to the park.

Glacier National Park is captivating from every angle.

Explore in style by moped, horseback, boat, or a guided walk. These mellow adventures are some of the best ways to cover ground and discover the raw splendor of the park’s glacial-carved terrain. Experience a truly off-grid authentic Montana moment, without breaking a sweat.

Enjoy aquamarine glacial waters on a walk with Glacier Guides. Photo: Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

GUIDED WALKS

Set out on one of the park’s forested footpaths. Glacier National Park has more than 734 miles of maintained trails, including many short walks that provide an intimate tour of the terrain. Glacier Guides and Montana Raft leads hikes for all ages and fitness levels. New this year is a half-day nature walk. Learn about Leave No Trace, forest fire science, river ecology and the history of early settlers, while leisurely strolling on two easy walks—first at Lake McDonald Valley and then in the North Fork Valley. Each walk is about 1.1 miles, with an elevation gain of only 180 feet. 2019 guided walks are available May 30 – August 29. You can also request a custom walk, if you want to go to a different location.

The Sinopah, built in 1926, cruises Two Medicine Lake.

BOAT TOURS

For a different park perspective, step aboard a scenic boat tour by Glacier Park Boat Company. A guided tour of St. Mary Lake, Lake McDonald—the park’s largest lake—Many Glacier or Two Medicine Lake offers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, allowing you to take in 360 degrees of Glacier National Park grandeur. One of the most tranquil ways to explore the park, you’ll also have the option to get off the boat for a short guided walk. Each tour is unique, informative, and, most importantly, the view from the water is always extraordinary. Book a 2019 tour between May 18 and September 22, depending on location.

Saddle up in Glacier Country. Photo: Swan Mountain Outfitters

GUIDED HORSEBACK TRAIL RIDES

Get off the beaten path and take in Glacier National Park from the saddle with a guided horseback trail ride from Swan Mountain Outfitters. Experience unspoiled beauty and aquamarine glacial waters, along with wildlife and wildflowers around every bend. Trail rides vary from one hour long to one and a half days, and accommodate all levels of riders, beginner to expert. Take off from one of three locations—Apgar, Lake McDonald or Many Glacier. No two trails are alike; choose what views you’d like along the trail, from meadows to forests and lookouts to lakes. Tours are offered mid-May through the end of September/early October, weather dependent.

Enjoy an open ride through the fresh mountain air.

MOPED RIDES

Not wanting to stray far from the road? We’ve got you covered. Revel in the freedom of a self-guided road tour on a moped from Glacier Moped Rentals. Why? Because mopeds are exhilarating! You’ll also enjoy open views, plus the sounds and scents of the fresh mountain air. You don’t need a motorcycle license to ride; a helmet, map and safety briefing are all provided. Rent for as little as an hour, or choose a multiday trip. Mopeds make scenic viewpoints and pull-outs a breeze. Don’t miss the chance to ride the more undiscovered areas of the park on roads less traveled, taking in unrivaled, breathtaking views.

 

For more adventure inspiration, itineraries, facts, and safety information, visit glaciermt.com/glacier-park.

Western Montana Wings: Birding in Glacier Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTABLE GLACIER COUNTRY BIRDS

A western meadowlark bursts into song. Photo: Brian Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain bluebirds match the color of Western Montana skies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glacier Country: Road and Trail Races That Can’t Be Beat

The gorgeous Montana landscape inspires runners to get out in the fresh mountain air, and springtime is a major motivator for lacing up and hitting the roads and trails. Many of our charming small towns play host to races that not only bring the community together, but also provide an authentic Montana experience to out-of-town runners.

Like these Missoula Marathoners, you’ll be happy you signed up for one of our road races. Photo: FinisherPix

BUTTERCUP RUN: APRIL 13, 2019

The town of Arlee on the Flathead Indian Reservation puts on one of the first of Western Montana’s springtime races—the Buttercup Run. This is a chance to see the incredible small-town spirit of Glacier Country—the whole community comes out for the wide range of events: a 1 mile, 5K, 10K and half marathon. No matter which run you choose, views of the beautiful Jocko Valley and the Mission Mountains stretch the distance. Serious swag: A long-sleeved T-shirt with wildlife art by a local artist.

BITTERROOT RUNOFF TRAIL RUNS: APRIL 14, 2019

Kick off trail running season in Montana by entering the first race in the 2019 Runner’s Edge Trail Race Series. Both the 5.2 and 9.7 mile runs follow challenging single track trails on Lolo’s forested hillsides in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley. Finishers can replenish their energy with a generous post-race brunch—and beer from Big Sky Brewing Co. Serious swag: A Bitterroot Runoff logo buff and a custom finisher award.

SWEATHOUSE HALF MARATHON: MAY 11, 2019

Run Wild Missoula, the running club that heads up the famed Missoula Marathon, heads south to Victor to put on the Sweathouse Half Marathon. This race has been a late September staple, but moved to May this year; be one of the first to run this course in the springtime! Named for nearby Sweathouse Falls, this race presents a wonderful opportunity to take in 13.1 miles of scenic backroads in the gorgeous Bitterroot Valley. Serious swag: A short-sleeved technical T-shirt and a finisher medal.

Dramatic peaks provide the backdrop for the Whitefish Marathon. Photo: Mountain Life Photography

WHITEFISH MARATHON: MAY 11, 2019

The 2019 edition of the Whitefish Marathon features an all-new blacktop course that skirts the edges of Glacier National Park. Incredible landscapes unfold as you race toward the finish line of the marathon, half marathon or 5K. Piggyback Barbecue serves runners a well-deserved post-race lunch. Serious swag: A finisher shirt, finisher medal and a day pass for The Wave Aqua + Fitness Center.

Run along historic railroad grades during the Trail Rail Run. Photo: Trail Rail Run

TRAIL RAIL RUN: JUNE 8, 2019

All of the Trail Rail Run courses follow old Northern Pacific and Milwaukee Railroad grades through spectacular Lolo National Forest. These wide, forgiving dirt and gravel surfaces never rise above a two percent grade, so this could be your chance to get a PR! In the longest event of the Trail Rail Run, ultra-runners can race 50.5 miles from Mullan, Idaho to St. Regis, Montana. If that’s more than your quads and calves can handle, there are plenty of other distances to choose from: a 50-mile relay, 30K, 12K and 5K. All racers are bussed from St. Regis to their assorted starting points. Serious swag: Patagonia Houdini windbreaker jackets for 50-milers; T-shirts and a used railroad spike with an engraved plate for everyone else.

SKUNK ALLEY RUN: JUNE 8, 2019

Hot Springs Homesteader’s Days celebration includes the Skunk Alley Run, a 10K and a 3K along old logging roads above town. It’s perhaps the only race that starts with a whip crack, and one of the few where runners get to see cowboys and cowgirls working to keep a herd of cattle off the trail. Afterwards, take in an authentic small-town festival and soak your weary legs at Symes Hot Springs. Serious swag: T-shirt.

Challenging hill climbs are part of the fun at the Herron Half. Photo: Burket Kniveton

HERRON HALF: JUNE 9, 2019

The expansive Foy’s to Blacktail Trail system in Kalispell’s Herron Park is the perfect setting for a half marathon, 10K, 5K and kids 1K. After some challenging climbs, the race’s 10K and half-marathon runners will be rewarded with awesome views of the Flathead Valley, while the 5K and 1K kids run provides a fun introduction to the fast-growing sport of trail running. Serious swag: The first 250 race participants receive a hat.

MOUNTAIN TO MEADOW: JUNE 15, 2019

Boasting one of Glacier Country’s highest altitude starting lines—5,223-foot Lolo Pass—Mountain to Meadow offers trail runners an irresistible challenge. Not only is the half marathon an extra half mile (13.6 miles), runners will also get in over 1,200 feet of climbing. Half marathoners and 5K racers have it much easier, with climbs of 300 and 100 feet respectively. What all three have in common is the flat stretch by historic Packer Meadow (Lewis and Clark camped here) where camas wildflowers should be in full bloom, coloring the whole meadow a stunning purple. Serious swag: Mountain to Meadow trucker hat.

The Glacier Half Marathon + a stay in Glacier National Park = the perfect “runcation.” Photo: Lucid Images

GLACIER HALF MARATHON: JUNE 22, 2019

The payoff of this challenging run is the stunning Glacier National Park landscape, at sunrise no less. This course—on the Blackfeet Reservation in East Glacier Park—is unbelievably gorgeous. Climb Looking Glass Hill and take in views of Two Medicine Lake, ending at the iconic Glacier Park Lodge. Then, explore the park! Serious swag: Finisher medals and shirts for all participants.

SEELEY 50, 25 + 10K: JUNE 22, 2019

Test your mettle in a trail race amidst one of Glacier Country’s most beautiful places—Seeley Lake. The courses lead runners through the Rice Ridge burn area, which at this time of year is an eye-catching neon green and black. The Filling Station Bar and Grill hosts the after-party and primitive camping is free for runners. Serious swag: Finisher medals for 50 + 25K runners, and a shirt for all participants.

Almost there! Runners make the final push toward Missoula Marathon’s finish line. Photo: Gameface Media

MISSOULA MARATHON: JUNE 30, 2019

Let’s see. The Missoula Marathon was a named “Top 10 Bucket List Marathon” by Runner’s World in 2018, “#1 Marathon in the U.S.” by BibRave in 2017, the “Top Marathon for Back-of-the-Packers” by Runner’s World in 2017 and “Best Marathon in the U.S.” by Runner’s World in 2010. Need any more incentives to sign up? You’ve got it: There’s also a half marathon, a 5K, a kids marathon, an expo, a free beer run and a finish line flanked by cheering spectators in beautiful downtown Missoula on the banks of the Clark Fork River. Serious swag: Short-sleeved technical T-shirt, medal, on-course, finish line and post-race victory stand photos for all racers; half marathon and marathon finishers also receive a post-race beer from Big Sky Brewing and a post-race meal from the Good Food Store.

 

 

 

Unique and Fun Winter Activities in Western Montana

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

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

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

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

DOG SLEDDING

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

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

ICE FISHING

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

SLEIGH RIDES

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

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

ICE SKATING

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

FAT BIKING

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

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

HOT-AIR BALLOON RIDES

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

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

SNOWSHOEING

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

There is nothing quite as classic as snowshoeing with family.

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

 

 

 

 

Celebrate the Season of Giving With Montana-Made Gifts

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

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

MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS

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

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

CABIN ESSENTIALS

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

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

BATH AND BODY

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

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

JEWELRY

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

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

HOLIDAY ODDS AND ENDS

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

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

GLACIER COUNTRY STORES AND SHOPS

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