Category Archives: Missoula

Savor Apple Season + Cideries in Western Montana

Autumn is just around the corner and the fresh mountain air isn’t the only thing that’s getting crisp. Montana’s apple game is strong, and apple season is in full swing. That means it’s time for a few of our core favorites—apple picking, apple festivals, apple cider and hard cider.

Order a flight and taste a range of Montana-made hard cider. Photo: Destination Missoula

FRESH APPLES + LOCAL ORCHARDS

Apple growing has deep roots in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. This apple hot spot is known for family owned and operated orchards boasting several apple varieties as well as natural growing methods, which produce some of the most pristine and delicious apples you’ll ever sink your teeth into.

Fall is the time to get your hands on the freshest apples around. Farm stands, orchards and u-pick operations can be found throughout Western Montana. The best time for apple picking in Glacier Country is usually September through October and even into November, if the weather cooperates. If you’re not up for an apple-picking adventure, look for fresh, locally grown apples at area grocers and farmers markets, where you’re bound to find freshly baked apple pies, too.

Western Cider grows over 50 varieties of apples in its Bitterroot orchard. Photo: Rio Chantel

APPLE EVENTS AND FESTIVITIES

We don’t just savor apples, we celebrate them. Local harvest festivals and autumn events throughout the region highlight this coveted fruit.

McIntosh Apple Day in Hamilton—known as the “Biggest Bake Sale Under the Big Sky”—has been called one of Montana’s Best Fall Festivals by National Geographic Traveler Online and one of the Top Festivals in the United States by Flight Network. On October 5, treat yourself to apple butter, caramel apples and, of course, scratch-made apple pie. This year marks the 40th anniversary of this much-anticipated day, which is followed by the fun-filled Liquid Apple Night—a hard cider festival in Hamilton’s Legion Park featuring cideries from the Rocky Mountain West, plus seasonally inspired food and live music.

Celebrate September 28 through October 5. Cider spirit is high as restaurants, bars, breweries, and cideries step up their cider game on menus and taps throughout the state. Raise a glass!

The gleaming tanks at FireRoot Spirits yield AppleJack, a spirit with early American roots. Photo: FireRoot Spirits

HARD-CORE FLAVOR AT LOCAL CIDERIES

Something else that’s blossoming all over Montana—cideries serving up hard-core Montana craft ciders and spirits made with fresh, local apples. Crisp flavors abound, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a hard cider here that you didn’t like.

It comes as no surprise that award-wining hard cider is coming out of the Bitterroot at Montana CiderWorks. Situated in the iconic Old West town of Darby it was the first commercial cidery in Montana. Backroad Cider in Hamilton is serving up some classic flavors as well as cider with a kick, brewed with jalapeño, habanero and poblano peppers. Wet your whistle at FireRoot Spirits in Florence, serving up farm-distilled spirits like AppleJack apple brandy, and Apple Jill—a smooth whiskey/cider blend that’s perfect on the rocks.

Sample 12 ciders at Western Cider’s tasting room and garden. Photo: Destination Missoula

Missoula is on the cider scene too with Western Cider Co. Try two of their house favorites: Sour Cherry and Whiskey Peach. Head North and you’ll find Big Mountain Ciderworks in Kalispell blending up a unique and mouthwatering apple, cherry, pear fusion. Also in Kalispell, Rough Cut Hard Cider is crafting up some creative concoctions like Bear Food, Rock Powder Rhubarb, Whiskey Rose and the Rough Cut Original. The best time to sample some ciders? Apple season, of course.

 

Dark Skies + Stargazing in Glacier Country

Glacier Country is revered for our big blue skies and seemingly endless views of awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets. But a well-kept secret is that these endless blue skies turn into jaw-dropping starry nights. Glacier National Park is internationally recognized as a Dark Sky Park, but, throughout Western Montana, our skies deliver, night after night. We’ve made it easy to enjoy our starry nights with observatories throughout the region. Lay out a blanket and count the stars in Glacier Country.

Come see the Milky Way in Western Montana. Photo: Nicholas Parker

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK DARK SKIES

Glacier National Park is one of 26 parks to be internationally recognized as a Dark Sky Park and the first park to span an international boarder—the designation extending into the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Glacier National Park received this designation for its minimal light and air pollution, a commitment to prevent light and air pollution, and the broad, unending expanse of sky over the park creates a distinguished quality of starry nights. Camp overnight next to an aquamarine glacial lake, get cozy fireside and enjoy the unmatched view; if you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of a falling star.

You won’t want to miss nighttime in Glacier National Park. Photo: Jacob Frank/NPS

STAR DOME AT ST. MARY

At the east entrance to Glacier National Park sits St. Mary. New this year to the park is the St. Mary Observatory, funded by Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Star Dome is equipped with a 20-inch telescope, one of the largest telescopes in the National Park Service and the largest in Montana, which gives visitors high-resolution views of planets, galaxies and nebulae. If you’re not looking through the telescope you can view the images on one of two 55-inch monitors mounted on the observatory. The Half the Park Happens After Dark program hosts guided viewing and star parties June through September on clear nights at rotating locations.

Our big blue skies appear endless on a starry night. Photo: Ray Stinson

STAR GAZING ROOM: PAYNE FAMILY NATIVE AMERICAN CENTER

The Payne Family Native American Center, located on the University of Montana campus in Missoula, was the first campus facility in the nation built specifically for a Department of Native American Studies and American Indian Student Services. One of the newest additions to the center is the Star Gazing Room, which hosts celestial stargazing shows open to the public. Learn about the constellations, planets and upcoming celestial events. Each show will also cover a unique topic from star lore of different cultures to the evolution of our universe.

Stay cozy inside while exploring the galaxy. Photo: Todd Goodrich

BLUE MOUNTAIN OBSERVATORY

In Missoula, the Blue Mountain Observatory sits atop Blue Mountain at an elevation of 6,300 feet. It’s about a 45-minute drive from the heart of downtown Missoula, a perfect distance from town resulting in minimal light pollution. Attend a public observation night to explore planets, star clusters, distant galaxies and nebulae. You’ll also learn how to spot celestial objects with binoculars or the naked eye. Bring a blanket and bundle up—a treasure trove of stars and sweeping views of the Milky Way await.

Book early to secure your ticket to an observation night at Blue Mountain Observatory. Photo: Ashley Juric

SIGHTING OPPORTUNITIES

Northern Lights: When the earth’s magnetic field has been energized from solar events it will send charged electrons toward the poles. These collide with the upper atmosphere and produce light that we call the northern lights or aurora borealis. You can sometimes view the northern lights from the northern parts of Western Montana. Glacier National Park, the Northwest Corridor and the East Glacier Corridor are prime viewing areas. For a picture-perfect experience head to Glacier National Park, or travel just a bit out of town on one of our scenic corridors. Northern lights are most active between September and March.

Chase the Northern Lights in Glacier Country. Photo: Noah Couser

Harvest Moon: In ancient times it was common to use the phases of the moon to track the year, instead of the solar year, which we now use. Each month’s full moon was given a special name based on the characteristics associated with that month. During the fall equinox, when the harvest moon is full, the moon rises almost as the sun sets. This slight change makes a much lighter night. It is thought that farmers would work later into the night harvesting crops, hence the origin of the term ‘harvest moon.’ Western Montana has deep farming roots; come pay homage to our roots and join us in celebrating the fall harvest and harvest moon.

There’s something magical about an evening spent under the moon in Montana. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Fall Events and Harvest Festivals in Western Montana

When the green landscapes of summer begin to fade into fall, an unmatched tapestry of golden hues comes out, complementing our impossibly big blue sky. Autumn is one of our most vibrant seasons here in Glacier Country, and fall brings a few of our favorite things: scarecrows, pumpkins, the autumn harvest, seasonal microbrews and bugling elk. Breathe in the cool mountain air, put on your coziest flannel and join us for some of our best fall events. Western Montana’s golden season also brings lighter traffic and shoulder season prices.

Fall brings some of our favorite events. Photo: Rio Chantel Photography

KOOTENAI HARVEST FESTIVAL

The Kootenai Harvest Festival in Libby is a family-friendly festival on the banks of the Kootenai River. Celebrate the harvest of locally grown food and land conservation with live music, sample fare from food vendors and discover Montana-made crafts. Kids activities include face painting, sack races, tug-of-war and more. The festival is free to attend, and a garden-to-table meal made entirely with vegetables grown in Libby is served for an additional charge. Festivities occur mid-September.

Happiness abounds at the Kootenai Harvest Festival. Photo: Annie Gassman and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

FALL GATHERING AT THE MOON RANDOLPH HOMESTEAD

The Moon Randolph Homestead is Missoula’s public homestead and a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. The 160 acres of land was purchased in 1889 by Ray and Luella Moon, who built a small claim shack and slowly planted apple and cherry trees on 30+ acres. In 1907 the Randolphs purchased the homestead and added laying hens, dairy cows, and a vegetable garden to the premises. Purchased in 1996, and soon after reconstructed and preserved by the city of Missoula, the homestead is open Saturday for tours of the old outbuildings and the maintained orchard. The Fall Gathering celebrates another year passed on the homestead. Gather under the full harvest moon for live music from local musicians, cider pressing, a harvest feast with fresh local food and homemade pie. This event is ticketed and occurs mid-September.

Cozy up, and bring the whole family. You won’t want to miss the Fall Gathering. Photo: Rio Chantel Photography

HARVEST FESTIVAL AND APPLE DAY AT THE HISTORICAL MUSEUM AT FORT MISSOULA

Also in Missoula, the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has three gallery spaces with exhibits that change throughout the year, and sits on 32 acres of land covered with more than 20 preserved Montana buildings and structures. The Harvest Festival and Apple Day is the perfect excuse to head to the museum with family in tow. First visit the Hayes Homestead Cabin to learn how homesteaders would begin to prepare for winter in autumn. Then take the full tour of the outside buildings, make cider with an old-fashioned apple press, or get artsy with fall-themed crafts for the kids. Admission is free with a nonperishable food item for the local food bank, and lunch from local food trucks is available for purchase. This event takes place annually near the end of September.

Crush apples to make fresh cider at the Harvest Festival and Apple Day. Photo: Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

GREAT NORTHWEST OKTOBERFEST

Glacier Country continues to be a haven for beer enthusiasts, with more than 30 breweries in the region. So, of course, one of the ways we celebrate autumn is with an epic Brewfest. The Great Northwest Oktoberfest, in Whitefish, is chock-full of delicious German beer, food, music and unique contests like keg hurling, log sawing and stein holding. Test your skills or cheer on competitors from the sidelines. There is a small admission fee, and food and beer are an additional cost. Prepare to wet your whistle and chicken dance your heart out at the beginning of October.

Savor the sip at the Great Northwest Oktoberfest. Photo: Whitefish Chamber of Commerce

STEVENSVILLE SCARECROW FESTIVAL

Grab a pumpkin spice or vanilla chai latte then head to one of our favorite fall festivals. You’d be hard pressed to find a more unique, family friendly event than the Stevensville Scarecrow Festival. Locals craft the cutest, scariest and most creative scarecrows to be viewed and voted upon by you. After you’ve voted, head to downtown Stevensville for music, food, a farmers market, the Scarecrow Festival Brewfest and more. Children will enjoy the straw bale maze, giant slide and bouncy house, and can compete in a pumpkin-carving contest. This festival takes place annually in early October.

Vote on your favorite piece at the Stevensville Scarecrow Festival. Photo: Visit MT

Fall in Western Montana is a magical season filled with authentic Western Montana events. Find more here.

Air Adventures in Glacier Country

Western Montana boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. Lush alpine forests, sweeping valleys and mountain meadows full of wildflowers create jaw-dropping views from every angle—but a bird’s-eye view of our spectacular scenery is a view you won’t forget. An aerial tour is a one-of-a-kind adventure, from tranquil hot air balloon rides to the adrenaline rush of skydiving. Take to the skies in Glacier Country. You’ll be glad you did.

Make a treasured memory in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Photo: Mountain Butterfly

HOT AIR BALLOONING

Soar up, up and away on a hot air balloon flight. Be carefree in the crisp mountain air and enjoy the sheer beauty of Glacier Country from above—there’s not a bad seat in the basket! The panoramic views from high up in our big blue sky are unforgettable. A mellow sunrise or sunset flight is an unbeatable way to explore from above, whether you’re on a romantic getaway or looking for a once-in-a lifetime family adventure. Mountain Butterfly takes flight year-round throughout Glacier Country, with liftoffs from Whitefish to the Bitterroot Valley and points in between. Or, float over the Flathead Valley with 2FlyUs between June and September.

Float over our sweeping valleys. Photo: Mountain Butterfly

 AIRPLANE TOURS

Taking flight in Glacier Country is one of the best ways to explore our vast terrain. See the expanse of land dotted with backcountry glacial lakes you’d otherwise spend a day hiking into, survey many of our charming small mountain towns, take in our stunning peaks amidst sweeping valleys and try to catch a glimpse of wildlife, all from an aerial perspective. Bluegoose Aviation and Montana Air Adventures offer scenic aerial tours over the Mission Mountains, Flathead Valley and Flathead Lake.

Our professional and experienced guides will ensure your comfort. Photo: Montana Air Adventures

BONUS: Take to the skies in a float plane with Backcountry Flying Experience and glide across Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—Seeley Lake, Lake Koocanusa and other lakes across northwest Montana.

Waterfalls abound in Glacier Country. Photo: Montana Air Adventures

SKYDIVING

If you’re looking for an adventure that’ll get your adrenaline pumping, skydiving in Western Montana is not to be-missed. Skydiving is an epic adventure anywhere, but Glacier Country sets the scene for a picture-perfect jump. Soak in the 360-degree grandeur of mountain peaks, sparkling lakes and sweeping meadows during the 40 second freefall—you’d be hard pressed to find a more immersive aerial tour. Skydive Whitefish offers tandem jumps from an altitude of 10,000 feet, above the quintessential mountain town of Whitefish between June and October.

Fall in love with skydiving. Photo: Skydive Whitefish

You’d be hard pressed to find a better view. Photo: Skydive Whitefish

MUSEUMS

For those of you hesitant to jump in a small plane—or out of one—here are a few options to satisfy your curiosity of Western Montana’s aerial adventures, while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground. The Smokejumper Visitor Center in Missoula is the nation’s largest smokejumper base. Displays give you a glimpse into the life of a smokejumper. You’ll learn about smokejumper gear, cargo and aircraft, and you can explore the reconstructed lookout tower. The Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center is open Memorial Day to Labor Day, then by appointment only. The Museum of Mountain Flying, also in Missoula and very near to the Smokejumper Visitor Center, focuses on the history of mountain flying in the Northern Rockies. Displays include multiple vintage aircraft, clothing, photographs and personal narratives and diaries.

If you visit in the spring you may even see smokejumpers taking practice jumps. Photo: Smokejumper Visitor Center

Late Summer Outdoor Concerts in Western Montana

Summertime and outdoor music go hand in hand in Western Montana. With multiple outdoor venues and one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the West—in Glacier Country’s arts and culture hub of Missoula—it’s no surprise that we get our groove on under the big blue sky late into the season. Here’s where you can catch late-summer 2019 live tunes and local vibes in our corner of Montana.

Big Sky Brewing Amphitheater brings big name performers to Missoula. Photo: Loren Moulton

MUSIC FESTIVALS

In the charming community of Libby, sit along the Kootenai River for “blue, brews and BBQs” at the Riverfront Blues Festival August 9 – 10. For scenery and sounds on the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, don’t miss the Flathead Lake Blues & Music Festival in Polson August 16 – 17. Farther south, the beloved River City Roots Festival is a Western Montana favorite and Missoula’s signature event. Locals and visitors take to the streets for art, live music and family fun in the heart of this vibrant community. The event is free and takes place August 23 – 24.

KettleHouse Amphitheater hosts top-notch acts on the banks of the Blackfoot River. Photo: Logjam Presents

OUTDOOR VENUES

Western Montana boasts some of the most unique and exciting outdoor music venues in the region, offering shows through the end of September. At the KettleHouse Amphitheater in Bonner, sit along the banks of the beautiful Blackfoot River, catching a national act—like the B-52s on August 8—as boaters float by behind the stage. Another venue that pairs music with local beer, Missoula’s Big Sky Brewing Co. Amphitheater offers an impressive summer concert series lineup—The Steve Miller Band and Marty Stuart play August 17—in a big backyard-like setting. Also in Missoula, when the Osprey baseball team’s not on the field, you can catch big league concerts at the state-of-the-art Ogren Park stage. Mumford & Sons with Portugal. The Man play a sold-out show August 11—at this concert venue in the heart of Missoula on the banks of the Clark Fork River.

Arrive early! Missoula’s Symphony in the Park always draws a huge crowd. Photo: Destination Missoula

OUTDOOR SYMPHONY

Summer strings set quite the tone along the Clark Fork River at the Missoula Symphony in the Park. This free family-friendly event—in Caras Park near Dragon Hollow and A Carousel for Missoula—takes places August 18. There’s no better way to spend a Sunday evening in Missoula. Pack a picnic dinner and a blanket, and take in the classical sounds.

MUSIC AT THE FAIR

If there’s one thing you should know about Western Montana, it’s that we know how to have big, boot-stompin’ fun at a small-town fair. The Western Montana Fair in Missoula August 7 – 11 hosts multiple musicians—among a sea of cowboy hats—and all shows are free. Also don’t miss country favorite Gretchen Wilson at the Northwest Montana Fair in Kalispell August 14.

Big Sky Mudflaps play Hamilton’s Tuesday at Twelve, now in its 30th season. Photo: Russ Lawrence

RECURRING OUTDOOR CONCERTS

Weekly concerts really round out a Western Montana summer. Through August 20, catch Picnic in the Park Tuesday evenings in Kalispell with live music and food from local vendors, or spend your Tuesday lunch hour on the lawn at the Ravalli Country Museum in Hamilton for Tuesday at Twelve. Admission to both events is free. The storybook village of Bigfork hosts Riverbend Concerts on Sundays (through the end of August) at the scenic Riverbend Stage in Sliters Park. Admission is $5, and free for children 12 and under. Mountain sounds are flowing regularly out of Missoula’s Caras Park on Wednesdays at Out to Lunch, where you’ll also find plenty of local Montana flavors, and Thursdays at Downtown ToNight featuring live music, family activities, food vendors, and a beer and wine garden. Both of these events run through August. The Missoula City Band plays Wednesday evenings through August 14 in Bonner Park’s idyllic university neighborhood setting. All three Missoula events offer free admisison.

A musician shares his talent during Kalispell’s signature Picnic in the Park concert series. Photo: Discover Kalispell

Small Town Rodeos in Western Montana

The mention of Western Montana often conjures up visions of the Old West, like cowboys and horses, and with good reason—they’re a part of both our past and our present. One way we recognize that is through rodeos, which are an authentic western tradition, paying homage to our heritage with events based on the duties of actual working cowboys. Next time you’re in Glacier Country, pull on your boots, grab your cowboy hat and head to a local rodeo.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic Western Montana experience. Photo: Missoula Fairgrounds

Steeped in tradition and history, many of our communities host rodeos beginning in spring and continuing through fall. Communities come together for competition, entertainment and some boot-stomping, good old-fashioned fun. Enjoy the cowboy culture and marvel at the athleticism as participants compete in challenges like calf roping, barrel racing, and bronc riding.

CALF ROPING

Calf roping, also know as tie-down roping, is an event featuring one rider mounted on a horse, and a free-roaming calf. The goal of this event is to have the shortest time lassoing the calf, dismounting the horse and tying three legs of the calf together. A similar event to this is breakaway roping, another timed competition where the rider who ropes a calf in the quickest time wins. Old-time cowboys often had to rope calves to administer medicine or to brand them, and cowboys would boast to one another about their roping skills. This soon turned into a good spirited competition in which the winner won bragging rights.

Announcers keep you entertained and updated on each competitor’s performance. Photo: Michael Rosling

BARREL RACING

The goal of this rodeo event is for a horseback rider to make a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time. This event combines the horsemanship skills of a rider with the natural and trained athleticism of the horse. Precision is the key to winning because if a rider or horse touches or knocks down a barrel their time is penalized. This event was originally developed for women to assist them in breaking into the rodeo scene, and is now one of the most popular events.

Competitors spend hours each week practicing for these two minutes in the arena. Photo: Josh Homer

BRONC RIDING

Originally based on the necessity of training wild horses, bronc riding is one of the wildest rodeo events and bound to get your adrenaline pumping. Bronc riding can either be bareback bronc riding or saddle bronc riding. The goal of this event is for a rider to stay on the back of an untamed horse (often bred for strength, agility and bucking ability) for eight seconds, using only one hand to hold on while the horse tries to buck him off. Half of a rider’s score is based on his or her performance, the other half on the horse’s bucking, diving and twisting.

Competitors test their grit and try to stay horseback for eight seconds. Photo: Burning Ember Photography

LIVESTOCK SHOWING

A livestock show is not a rodeo event, but often the two events are paired together. At a livestock show, pigs, cattle, sheep and other animals are judged in an arena on certain breed traits such as muscle, frame size and balance. The animals are judged, then awarded ribbons or trophies for Best of Breed, then owners have the option to sell their rated livestock. Teenagers often show livestock through clubs like FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4-H, and children participating in these clubs can raise and show rabbits, or chickens—which are also judged.

The ideal lamb weighs between 110 and 120 lbs. Photo: Glacier Gazette

WESTERN MONTANA FAIR

Often, a rodeo will take place with a local fair. Many of our charming communities have a local fair, where you can expect games, rides and delicious fair food. Sampling the fare at the fair is not to be missed, as fair food consists of local favorites like fried cheese curds, kettle corn, elephant ears and famous vikings (a meatball on a stick, seasoned in batter and deep fried). The largest fair in Glacier Country is the Western Montana Fair in Missoula, which boasts a petting zoo, rodeo, livestock showing, art and baking competitions, monster truck show, and many rides and games.

A summer evening at the fair is a must. Photo: Missoula Fairgrounds

UPCOMING RODEOS

For more upcoming events, visit glaciermt.com/events.

Summer Fun: Top 7 Kid Friendly Activities

For generations Western Montana’s authentic way of living has drawn families to vacation here, where adventure comes in many forms and simple pleasures such as floating a river, picking cherries off a tree or seeing wildlife on Wild Horse Island are plentiful. Try kayaking on Flathead Lake, learning to ride a horse, or taking a zip-line tour at a ski resort. Summer fun abounds in Glacier Country.

Relax and refresh in Glacier Country.

KAYAKING

Whether you’re getting the whole family out on one of our numerous lakes or floating casually down a river, Western Montana is a prime kayaking destination. Our waters make up some of the most serene parts of our region and offer an intimate way to explore our landscape and catch a glimpse of wildlife. Rentals are available throughout the region, or hire a guide who can customize a float to your comfort level and age of kids.

Saddle-up for fun! Photo: Bar W Guest Ranch

HORSEBACK RIDING

Saddling up in Western Montana is a part of the western experience, and with thousands of miles of horseback riding trails to explore, there are options (and lessons) for every experience level. Riding on horseback is a great way to see the countryside inaccessible to motorized vehicles, and kids can find their inner cowboy or cowgirl. Experienced guides can take you out for a lesson in the arena, a ride on a creekside trail, or a daylong journey into Glacier National Park or the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Either way, your family’s Western Montana vacation is sure to be memorable from the vantage point of a saddle.

Imagine the magical moments you can have on Wild Horse Island. Photo: Explore Flathead Lake

WILD HORSE ISLAND

Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—is one of Glacier Country’s biggest playgrounds, and a summer recreation hot spot. Multiple islands dot the lake, the largest of which is Wild Horse Island. Accessible only by boat, this 2,160-acre island serves as a day-use state park. Wild Horse Island is sure to delight kids of all ages. Not only is the island breathtaking, it’s a prime wildlife-watching destination, home to wild horses (hence the name), bighorn sheep, coyotes, deer and a variety of birds. While hiking on one of the island’s short trails, you can tell your kids the legend of Wild Horse Island. The Kootenai American Indians were reported to have used the island to pasture their horses and to keep them from being stolen by neighboring tribes. The horses on the Island today are, if legend is believed, descendants of those horses. To access the island you can rent a boat, or book a private charter service with a guide such as Explore Flathead Lake.

If you can’t decide which horse to ride, just ride them all. Photo: Destination Missoula

CAROUSEL

A Carousel for Missoula is not-to-be-missed and delights children and adults alike. The carousel has more than 38 horses, 14 gargoyles and two chariots; each was hand-carved and painted. The carousel is housed inside, but on warm days the shuttered walls are opened. A band organ plays while the carousel spins around, and is the largest band organ (with 400 wooden pipes) in continuous use today in the U.S. Directly next to the carousel is Dragon Hollow Park. This magical park was constructed by volunteers and envisioned by children. It’s complete with a three headed dragon, an obstacle course and a tiny tots area.

Swing, climb and navigate your way through the Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT

Whitefish Mountain Resort is one of our premium destinations for kid-friendly fun; with unique adventures from novice to expert, there’s an activity for everyone in the family. This skier’s paradise turns into a full-swing summer resort once the snow melts, and serves up fun on the Aerial Adventure Park, zip line, alpine slides, new tubing slide and much more. Rising above the town of Whitefish, sweeping views of the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park are jaw dropping from the mountain. With on-site lodging and food, it’s easy to play the entire day.

It’s not hard to find a delicious treat at a farmers market. Photo: Destination Missoula

FARMERS MARKETS

A farmers market is the perfect way to spend a Western Montana morning, and with more than 20 in the region it’s easy to plan one into your trip. Not only will kids get an authentic glance of life in our charming small towns, but they’ll have the chance to sample local fare. From elephant chai ice cream to baked goods or fresh fruits, the markets are chock-full of locally grown and handmade food. Treats are not the only thing to delight in; often you can find a vendor who does face painting or balloon animals.

Savor the flavor of our locally grown fruits and vegetables.

U-PICK FARMS

You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic experience than a u-pick farm. U-pick farms let kids get their hands dirty, and play a role in picking out their food, both of which kids love. The Flathead Valley boasts more than 120 growers of our famous Flathead cherries. Western Montana’s warm days and cool evenings make the perfect growing conditions for this beloved fruit, and it’s hard to find a sweeter tasting cherry. The cherry harvest begins late July, and many u-pick orchards will place signs out welcoming you to stop by. In many of our towns you’ll be able to find a u-pick farm to pick a sampling of local fruit, vegetables and farm fresh eggs.

Western Montana Fruitful Summers + Farmers Markets

One of many things that makes Montana special is that we have four seasons, and each season is beautiful and unique in its own right. Springtime brings blooming wildflowers and sets the stage for the harvest of summer’s distinctly Montana fruits—Flathead cherries, Dixon melons, and wild huckleberries are our favorite flavors of a Glacier Country summer. Whether you attend a festival, pick your own fruit, or stop by a local farmers market, you’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic, and tasty, Western Montana experience.

Cherry trees line the shore of Flathead Lake. Photo: Donnie Sexton

FLATHEAD CHERRIES

Some of the world’s best cherries grow right here in Montana’s Flathead Valley. The Flathead Valley offers ideal growing conditions for cherries, with warm days and cool evenings that extend the growing season, deepening the cherries in color for a sweeter taste. When driving along Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—you’ll pass many cherry orchards. Pop-up fruit stands line the main roads, and it’s easy to pull over and purchase a bag of cherries. The harvest begins in late July, so plan a trip to a u-pick orchard—a fun activity for the whole family that lets you pick out the ripest and best-looking cherries. Hockaday Orchards on the west side of the lake is open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily beginning late July, Getmans’ Orchard & Vineyard on the east side requires you to call ahead before stopping by. You’re likely to see other u-pick orchards with signs out welcoming you, so don’t hesitate to stop—you’ll be greeted by warm western hospitality.

You can never get enough of Flathead cherries!

Festival: The annual Polson Main Street Flathead Cherry Festival puts on a family-friendly, mouthwatering good time that’s not to be missed. See, eat and splurge on Flathead cherries, cherry-infused treats, local artwork and handcrafted goods. Test your grit in a cherry pit-spitting contest or cherry pie eating contest. On Main Street in Polson, July 20 – 21, 2019.

Delicious Flathead cherries are a staple fruit in Western Montana.

HUCKLEBERRIES

Huckleberries are a small, dark purple, sweet berry that grow in Western Montana. This beloved berry is a real Montana prize. While visiting, you’re sure to see it infused into everything from honey and vodka to huckleberry pie topped with huckleberry ice cream. Treat yourself to this Montana taste and you’ll understand why this berry is unrivaled. While sampling the fare is sure to delight, you can also pick wild huckleberries, which grow well on slopes between 3,500 and 7,200 feet, with minimal tree coverage. However, a good huckleberry picking spot is like a good fishing hole; some secrets are best discovered on your own. Bears love huckleberries as much as we do, so it’s always a good idea to pick huckleberries in groups and carry bear spray.

These small berries pack a flavorful punch. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Festival: The Trout Creek Huckleberry Festival, located in Trout Creek, is celebrating its 40th year in 2019. More than 100 arts and crafts vendors will be selling their wares, and events include a parade, huckleberry pancake breakfast, 5k fun run, auction, horseshoe tournament, huckleberry dessert contest and much more. Food vendors offer a range of huckleberries in a variety of desserts to cap off your day. At the Trout Creek Park, August 9 – 11, 2019.

When it comes to huckleberries, the flavor combinations are endless and sure to delight. Photo: Donnie Sexton

FARMERS MARKETS

Our very popular outdoor community markets are a big part of Western Montana’s charm, and they provide the perfect opportunity to explore our lively small towns. Imagine strolling through a farmers market on a warm summer morning, coffee carts and baked goods in abundance, fresh produce, locally sourced food, and locally-made arts and crafts like pottery, paintings, jewelry, woodcarvings and more for sale. You’re likely to find our beloved huckleberries and Flathead cherries for sale here, too. Glacier Country’s market scene boast gatherings big and small, each one truly unique. Head to a farmers market for a quintessentially Western Montana experience, and take the time to talk with locals—these vendors are some of the friendliest folks around.

Farmers markets are a treasure trove full of vegetables, baked and canned goods, flowers and more.

Pro-Tip: Look for the Dixon Melon truck. The best melons in Montana are a market favorite from this vendor, serving up honeydews, crenshaws and cantaloupes right from the truck.

Savor the flavor of a delicious Dixon melon. Photo: Destination Missoula

GLACIER COUNTRY 2019 FARMERS MARKETS:

Tuesdays: Darby, Missoula, Whitefish

Wednesdays: Bigfork, Arlee, Cut Bank, Trout Creek

Thursdays: Alberton, Columbia Falls, Libby, Eureka (second Thursday of the month)

Fridays: Plains, Polson, West Glacier

Saturdays: Troy, Florence, Hamilton, Kalispell, Missoula, Noxon, Stevensville, Superior

Sundays: Florence, Seeley Lake

For the Love of the Forest: Celebrating Montana’s Heritage

There are 154 national forests in the United States, and Montana is home to 12 of them. Five of those cover ground in Glacier Country—Lolo, Bitterroot, Flathead, Kootenai and part of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests—and claim more than 8 million acres of national forestland comprised of some of the most pristine terrain in America. Dramatic mountain peaks and soft rolling foothills; lush and diverse woodlands; sparkling lakes and rivers; and remote wilderness areas make up these beloved forestlands, all a vital part of Montana’s prized landscape. And thanks to the help of the U.S. Forest Service, and their efforts and partnerships with local organizations to conserve the land, we plan to keep it that way.

You can explore the rich history of our forests and the U.S. Forest Service’s legacy at various events and attractions throughout Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

EVENTS

Darby Logger Days thrills onlookers with competitions in axe throwing, pole climbing and cross cut sawing.

A few of our charming small towns celebrate forest heritage with lively timber-sports events. The beautiful Bitterroot Valley creates a happy ruckus with Darby Logger Days in July, celebrating the skill and bravery of those who work in the time-honored tradition of logging with logging competitions and live music, plus plenty of family fun for your little lumberjacks. Missoula joins in on the festivities with Forestry Days at Fort Missoula every April with everything from logging competitions to antique sawmill and horse logging demonstrations. The community of Libby showcases its forest stewardship heritage every June at Libby Logger Days, with educational exhibits, displays and demonstrations reflecting the rich history of forest management over the last two centuries.

ATTRACTIONS

Big Pine
The largest known ponderosa pine tree in Montana and third-largest in the United States stands tall near Alberton, less than 5 miles off Interstate 90 at one end of the Big Pine Campground. Make sure to pay a visit to this almost 400-year-old giant.

How would you like to spend the night in a fire lookout? Photo: Brian Savage

Forest Service Fire Lookout + Cabin Rentals
One of Western Montana’s best-kept secrets is that our Forest Service cabins and fire lookout towers can be rented. Cabins range from mountaintop lookouts to historic log cabins alongside blue-ribbon trout streams. These rustic accommodations offer a fun and affordable Western Montana adventure.

Haugan Savenac Historic U.S. Forest Service Nursery
Overnight at this former forest service nursery, offering a visitor center as well as a bunkhouse, cookhouse and cottage available for rent in Haugan, 90 miles west of Missoula in the scenic Clark Fork Valley. Walk the interpretive trail, and explore displays, artifacts and memorials. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Climb to the top of a historic fire tower lookout. Photo: Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
Explore Missoula County history at Fort Missoula, where you’ll find a teepee burner—once plentiful in the Missoula Valley and used by sawmills to burn waste from milling operations. Also on display, the Forestry Area Sawmill, representing the portable sawmills once used throughout the region; Miller Creek Guard Station, once used to house “fire watchers” posted throughout the region after the devastating fires of 1910 destroyed 3 million acres of Western Montana forestland; and the Sliderock Lookout, a tower used in the 1930s to spot fires in Montana’s vast landscape, similar to those still used today.

The Jack Saloon
Don’t miss “The Best Bar in America,” located on Graves Creek between Lolo and Lolo Hot Springs. The Jack—built from rough-hewn cedar logs by a local lumberjack legend—provides an authentic glimpse of Montana logging history. Enjoy the bar and grill, live music, cabin rentals and RV parking, and, most importantly, the history—loggers have etched and burned their names and sentiments into the wooden bar and timber walls for decades.

Tour the Smokejumper Visitor Center to see these real-life heroes at work. Photo: MOTBD

Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center
One of the most popular visitor attractions in Missoula is a working smokejumper facility that educates folks on firefighting procedures, smokejumper history and fire-related information with murals, videos, a reconstructed lookout tower and exhibits of men and women fighting wildfire throughout history. Learn about jump gear, parachutes, cargo, training and aircraft. Tours last about 45 minutes. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Through the winter, tours are available by appointment.

Watching a demonstration at the pack corral. Photo: National Museum of Forest Service History

National Museum of Forest Service History
Learn about early efforts to protect America’s forests, and discover heroes in conservation like Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot—the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service—the evolution of America’s alpine ski areas, and the smokejumper/WWII paratrooper connection. The visitor center is a restored ranger cabin housing exhibits and a gift shop. On the museum grounds, walk the interpretive Forest Discovery Trail through a “Champion Grove,” trees that share the DNA of similar groves around the nation and planted in honor of champions of the cause, and explore the pack corral and knot-tying station as well an L-4 Fire Lookout Tower replica. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Ninemile Remount Depot and Historic Ranger Station
This Frenchtown Visitor Center offers a self-guided tour of the history of the place that provided experienced packer animals and firefighters and their animals to fight fires and help with backcountry work projects. Enjoy Cape Cod architecture, a pasture and a mountain landscape. Located on the Ninemile Ranger District campground near Frenchtown. In 1930 the Forest Service secured a lease of the Ninemile Property to set up a central depot to supply pack stock, to serve as a training base for packers and to standardize packing practices in the forests.

Seeley Lake Ranger District + Gus the Tree
Stop by this local visitor center and don’t miss the world’s largest larch tree. Near the western shore of Seeley Lake, a mile-long nature trail winds through the Gerard Grove to a 1,000-year-old western larch, locally known as Gus.

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.