Category Archives: Montana

Big Fun at Small-Town Ski Hills in Western Montana

We continue to live up to our nickname here in the Treasure State. Montana is chock-full of hidden gems, and when it comes to adventure, Glacier Country is a treasure trove of discovery. One of our best-kept secrets is our handful of small-town ski hills, where fresh powder delivers and local vibes prevail. What you won’t find on these hills? Crowds, high-priced lift tickets and long lift lines.

Skiers delight in the impeccably groomed trails at Lookout Pass. Photo: Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area

Here’s the inside scoop on where to find some of the country’s best undiscovered skiing and snowboarding.

Discovery Ski Area is a true local’s hangout, offering beautiful views and the perfect combination of uncrowded slopes, tree skiing, expert bowl skiing, groomed trails and mogul runs. You’ll find some of the steepest lift-served terrain in the region here, while the variety of beginner and intermediate runs call to all abilities. Discovery—known locally as “Disco”—is a must-experience for anyone, and the lodge’s famous shortbread chocolate chip cookies alone are worth the visit. National Geographic magazine featured Philipsburg in a 2013 write-up of the Best Secret Ski Towns of North America that “deliver some of the most unspoiled skiing North America has to offer.” Downhill Detail: 2,200 acres + 67 runs + 2,388 ft. vertical drop.

Lookout Pass receives epic amounts of snowfall. Photo: Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area

Straddling the Montana/Idaho border west of Missoula, Lookout Pass sees the heaviest snowfall in Western Montana at 400 inches per year. The season starts early at this family-friendly resort offering bargain prices for big snow and an adventurous mix of easy, intermediate and expert runs as well as a full-service lodge with food, drinks, rentals and lessons. Lookout Pass also offers two terrain parks with huge banks, mounds, launches, rails and an 1,111-foot quarter pipe. Downhill Detail: 540 acres + 35 runs + 1,150 ft. vertical drop (with a planned expansion to 1,023 acres and 1,650 ft. vertical drop).

Feeling on top of the world on a bluebird day at Lost Trail Powder Mountain.

Also straddling the Montana/Idaho border on top of the Continental Divide, Lost Trail Powder Mountain is well-known for its reliable snowfall and consistently good snow conditions. From the slopes, take in breathtaking views of the Bitterroot Range of the Northern Rockies. Lost Trail is family-owned and operated and offers plenty of room for all types of skiers and boarders, whether you’re a beginner or expert. Downhill Detail: 1,800 acres + 69 runs + 1,800 ft. vertical drop.

One of Montana’s newer ski hills, Blacktail Mountain caters mostly to beginner and intermediate skiers, making it the ideal downhill destination for a memorable family ski vacation. At this unique ski area you actually start out at the top of the mountain and take the chairlift back up. The well-groomed intermediate runs here are perfect for long, carved turns with a few steep sections to mix things up. Just 17 miles from the charming town of Lakeside on Flathead Lake, take in jaw-dropping views of the lake, Glacier National Park and the Mission Mountains. Downhill Detail: 1,000 acres + 24 runs + 1,440 ft. vertical drop.

Call yourself King of the Hill on the wide-open slopes at Turner Mountain. Excellent snow conditions and beautiful scenery make for a successful day on the slopes at one of Montana’s most under-the-radar ski areas, once described as having some of the “best lift-assisted powder skiing in the U.S.” by SKI magazine. Just north of Libby, Turner boasts an impressive vertical drop—2,100 feet—and 60 percent of its terrain is rated black diamond, though there’s plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain to be explored. Fun fact: The entire ski area is available for private rental. Downhill Detail: 400 acres + 22 runs + 2,110 ft. vertical drop.

Riding high at Montana Snowbowl, only minutes from downtown Missoula. Photo: Larry Turner Photography

You’ll also find epic downhill and ski-town charm at Montana Snowbowl, 12 miles from Missoula. This extremist’s dream known for deep powder bowls and expert runs is also a local’s favorite, with plenty of terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers. The lodge’s wood-fired pizza and famous bloody marys are irresistible, too. Downhill Detail: 950 acres + 37 runs + 2,600 ft. vertical drop.

For downhill adventures at our most well-known ski area, make your way to Whitefish Mountain Resort in the quintessential winter mountain village of Whitefish.

Luxurious Girls Getaway in Glacier Country

There are few things better than taking a trip with friends and discovering the beauty of a new place together. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing spa retreat, a rustic adventure in the woods or a bluebird day on the slopes, Western Montana has something for you. Our charming small towns, luxury guest ranches and limitless adventures are ready to make your time together memorable. Come reconnect with friends in one of the most gorgeous places in the world.

We love Snow Bear’s “treehouse” chalets. Photo: Trevon Baker

EXPLORING WESTERN MONTANA’S SMALL TOWNS

Whitefish: The quintessential mountain town of Whitefish, located in Glacier National Park’s backyard, is a popular destination that’s getaway worthy any time of year. This resort town has delectable food, fine craft beer, quaint shops and funky boutiques. Find downhill skiing at nearby Whitefish Mountain Resort; during the summertime the resort offers mountain biking, zip line tours and scenic lift rides. If you are looking to hit the slopes in under a minute, stay at Snow Bear Chalets for an unforgettable trip. These luxury “treehouse” chalet rentals come with jaw-dropping views and beautiful fireplaces. Minutes from downtown, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is Montana’s only four-diamond resort. Sit in the lakefront hot tub or pamper yourself with a relaxing facial and body scrub at the full-service day spa.

Bigfork is seriously charming. See it for yourself.

Bigfork: The storybook village of Bigfork lays on the charm. Spending a weekend here is what Hallmark movies are made of. Fill your weekend shopping at the eclectic shops and boutiques along Electric Avenue. Set aside time to enjoy live theater, fabulous food and art galleries featuring Western Montana artists. In addition to exploring all of the indoor fun, outdoor recreation abounds here during the warmer seasons. Situated on Flathead Lake, water play options are in abundance. Bridge Street Cottages offers luxurious cabins along the Swan River, or, for something more spacious, choose between a two- or three-bedroom condo at Marina Cay Resort where you can enjoy a waterfront cocktail at the Tiki bar.

Triple Creek knows fine dining, so treat yourself to a world-class dinner. Photo: Triple Creek

UNFORGETTABLE GUEST RANCH EXPERIENCES

Indulge your senses at Darby’s award-winning, adults-only retreat, Triple Creek Ranch. Immerse yourself in gourmet food and premium wines. The exquisite dining experiences will delight your palate and a seven-course Chef’s Table tasting dinner will be the highlight of your trip. Each course is presented by the chef who shares the inspiration behind the dish. Work up your appetite during the day with dog sledding in the winter or horseback rides in the warmer seasons. After dinner, soak in a private hot tub and enjoy breathtaking views of the West Fork Valley.

With thousands of acres to explore, riding on horseback is a classic way to see the countryside.

Find your inner cowgirl at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough during their annual Cowgirl Spring Roundup April 25 – 28, 2019. Bring your friends or meet new ones—you’ll be surprised by how quickly friendships form here. The weekend will feature Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees who will lead trail rides and cattle drives, and share their stories around roaring campfires. Cowgirls still expect the best; your days will be enhanced by luxurious accommodations and exceptional cuisine.

Reach a new level of tranquility in Western Montana. Photo: The Ranch at Rock Creek

The Ranch at Rock Creek near Philipsburg is the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Guest Ranch. Now through March 31, 2019, they offer an exclusive après ski and spa package—need we say more? Enjoy unlimited downhill skiing at nearby Discovery Ski Area then cap off the day with a relaxing blend of reflexology and massage. Take a recovery day and explore the historic town of Philipsburg with stops at the Philipsburg Brewing Company and The Sweet Palace candy emporium.

Golf courses here are paired with mountain views and breathtaking skies. Photo: Wilderness Club

AN ADVENTUROUS GETAWAY

If you’re planning a trip during our warmer seasons, golfing in Western Montana is a must. From championship courses to public and semi-private, there’s no better place to tee up. Our vistas are stunning, and every hole offers a scenic swing. Dynamic fairways and awe-inspiring views are found at courses throughout the region. One of our favorites—the Wilderness Club—was ranked No. 1 golf course in Montana by Golfweek. They offer exceptional resort lodging with all the comforts you’d expect.

GETTING HERE

Flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) or Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is convenient, serviced by six airlines with direct flights regularly arriving from eight cities across the U.S. and five additional direct flights arriving seasonally. In addition to air travel, you can get here by train on Amtrak’s Empire Builder or drive in on our very scenic highway system.

What’s New in Brew, Food and Fun in Western Montana

In a place with so much room to roam, there’s always space for more awesome. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is continually expanding its offerings, because there can never be too many breweries and food hot spots here, and we can always accommodate more adventure.

Here’s what’s new in our neck of the woods.

BRAND NEW BREWS UNDER BIG BLUE SKIES
Missoula continues to be a haven for beer enthusiasts, now with two more spots to savor the sip: Gild Brewing—a brew pub on Missoula’s coolest block, the Hip Strip—boasts craft brew, epic Sunday brunch and a basement arcade. Conflux Brewing offers a convergence of delicious beer, a unique menu with a Southern twist and sustainable brewing practices all in the heart of downtown. Not far from Missoula, KettleHouse Brewing Company has opened its latest tap room adjacent to the the KettleHouse Amphitheater on the banks of the famous Blackfoot River in Bonner.

New breweries keep pouring into Western Montana.

Kalispell also boasts two new places to wet your whistle with local, finely crafted beer. Bias Brewing taps a few mainstay brews, but really gets creative with seasonals and rotators. Their diverse selection includes Crooked Cookie Stout, Chaotic Good Ginger Beer and Equinox Blood Orange Gose, and their corner kitchen features food from a popular local restaurant, Food for the Soul 2. Kalispell’s Sacred Waters Brewing pays homage to Montana’s wild places crafting good beer and hosting events like yoga and live music.

A little closer to Glacier National Park, pull up a barstool at the Gunsight Saloon in Columbia Falls. This old-school saloon-style establishment channeling the Old West features two bars, a gorgeous patio, casual food, 20 beers on tap, a small wine and cocktail selection, and live music throughout the week.

FRESH FOOD FINDS
Wake up to a smoked brisket omelet or banana caramel French toast at Little Montana in the scenic Mission Valley community of Ronan. For lunch, the quintessential western mountain town of Whitefish is dishing up flavor at The Wich Haus, keeping it simple and savory with sandwiches a la braised short ribs and roasted vegetables.

Innovative Asian-fusion cuisine is on the menu at the new Missoula location of Saketome Sushi, and menu items are well paired with wine or sake from their extensive collection. Also in Missoula, Michi Ramen is serving up Asian-inspired dishes like ramen and authentic Japanese noodles.

Stop by Josephine’s for tasty eats and buzz-worthy (and buzz-inducing) cocktails. Photo: Josephine’s Bar & Kitchen

Coram’s Glacier Distilling Co. is now home to Josephine’s Bar & Kitchen, featuring a dinner menu and specially curated cocktail list using house liquors and options from other local distilleries. Think fried green tomatoes, bison gyro, smoked trout cake po’boy, and buttermilk fried chicken in a fireweed cherry bourbon barbecue sauce. Open seasonally.

Rebel Roots Kitchen is keeping things healthy in Whitefish with vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options for the health-conscious consumer. Fuel up on nutritious food that tastes delicious, too.

Get your farm-to-table gourmet food fix at Lakeside’s Beargrass Bistro featuring menu items like schnitzel, stroganoff and local steaks. The culinary creations at this Flathead Lake gem are not only mouth-wateringly delicious, they’re crafted with ingredients from the region’s community of farmers, ranchers, gardeners and growers.

ADVENTURE IN ABUNDANCE
For some authentic Montana recreation and a winter adrenaline rush, Whitefish Vertical Adventures is now offering custom ice climbing excursions and gear rentals.

Experience an ice climbing adventure with Whitefish’s newest outfitter. Photo: Tyler Brower, omni-living.com

For camping and lodging adventures, West Glacier RV Park & Cabins is set to open in 2019. Quietly tucked behind West Glacier Village, these fully-equipped RV sites feature 50-amp power, full hookups, fire pits and green space. The cabins sleep up to four and feature a full kitchen, a private bedroom and a standard bathroom. The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough has expanded their luxury camping or “glamping” with the addition of another campsite bringing the total number of luxury camping tents to 30. Additionally, they will be adding a resort within the resort called The Green O, with nine new one-bedroom homes for couples to reconnect with nature and disconnect from everyday life with unobstructed views of the forest canopy and custom-tailored service.

Trade screen time for green time at The Green O. Photo: Stuart Thurlkill, The Resort at Paws Up

The much-anticipated Missoula Mercantile project opens in 2019, too. The first floor of the Mercantile Hotel will feature bars, restaurants and retail space, and a new art program, where hundreds of pieces of local art will be on display.

Film Festivals and Historic Theaters in Western Montana

Montana’s cinematic landscapes have provided the settings for legendary films like “A River Runs Through It” and “The Horse Whisperer,” and these scenic locations make the perfect spot for film festivals. Here’s a list of renowned film festivals and well-preserved historic theaters in Western Montana’s charming small towns.

A screening at the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest draws a full house. Photo: Steven Pickel

Flathead Lake International Cinemafest in Polson is coming up Jan. 25 – 27, 2019. FLIC 2019 will feature special guests, including award-winning artist and writer Tim Ryan Rouillier and Montana native Gerald Molen. Molen is a well-known producer with a long list of top Hollywood films like “Rain Man,” “Jurassic Park,” “Minority Report” and “Schindler’s List.” On Sunday, Jan. 27, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Mr. Molen will present “Schindler’s List” and chair an audience Q&A following. Adam Yenser, comedian and writer for the Ellen DeGeneres show will also attend FLIC 2019, delivering some of his comedic genius and cultural insights. Get your FLIC 2019 All Access Pass—they’re on sale now.

Film festivals give movie lovers a chance to listen to filmmakers discuss their craft. Photo: Big Sky Film Institute

Celebrating 19 years in 2019, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Feb. 15 – 24, is one of the West’s premier venues for a wide-range of nonfiction films. In addition to screenings, this five-day industry event includes panels, master classes, workshops, and the popular Big Sky Pitch session. BSDFF is an Academy Award qualifying festival in the Shorts and Mini-Doc categories. This much-anticipated event draws an audience of 20,000 and presents an average of 150 films from around the world in the unique and authentic mountain-town of Missoula—the arts and culture hub of Montana. Events take place in Missoula’s historic theater, The Wilma, as well as the newly restored Roxy Theater, and the MCT Center for the Performing Arts. Get your tickets today.

Missoula’s venerable Wilma Theatre hosts the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Photo: Big Sky Film Institute

The storybook village of Bigfork has a story to tell at the annual Bigfork Independent Film Festival April 5 – 7, 2019. The Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts keeps it local by showing a variety of short, feature, documentary and student films that were either made by Montana filmmakers or were made right here in Montana. For each film block, a live introduction will be provided and filmmakers will be included in a Q&A session. Buy your tickets now.

With our abundance of wildlife and wild places, it’s no wonder Western Montana plays host to the annual International Wildlife Film Festival. In its 41st year, the festival is the first and longest running event of its kind. Held in the retro Roxy Theater in Missoula, April 13 – 19, 2019, emerging filmmakers showcase the finest in wildlife and environmental filmmaking. Take in stories that promote awareness, knowledge and an understanding of the world around us. Passes and tickets for the IWFF are on sale now.

One more reason why autumn is one of the best times to visit Western Montana—the Montana Film Festival. This Missoula-based event offers a fresh perspective on film fests, with a diversity of films and filmmakers dedicated to the community of filmmaking. This convergence of creativity takes place at the funky and fun Roxy Theater. 2019 event dates to be announced; check back soon.

Cinephiles will dig The Roxy Theater’s retro marquee and well-curated selection of films. Photo: The Roxy Theater

As mentioned above, the beloved 80-year-old Roxy Theater was recently renovated. Downtown Missoula’s hip-strip theater now boasts a new art-deco marquee and Dolby surround sound. The Roxy hosts screenings and events seven days a week including new releases nightly and a monthly calendar of independent, foreign and classic films, theater and community events.

Showing movies and hosting live concerts by local musicians, theater performances and comedy events, the historic Rex Theatre on Main Street in Thompson Falls is a lively community treasure.

Libby’s Dome Theater offers a classic, small-town movie theater vibe. Enjoy films, concerts and performing arts with a state-of-the-art sound system and updated concessions area, all in one of Kootenai Country’s most cherished towns.

Other not-to-be-missed historic theaters in Glacier Country—Glacier Cinemas in Cut Bank and the Entertainer Theater in Ronan.

Unique and Fun Winter Activities in Western Montana

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

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

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

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

DOG SLEDDING

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

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

ICE FISHING

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

SLEIGH RIDES

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

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

ICE SKATING

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

FAT BIKING

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

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

HOT-AIR BALLOON RIDES

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

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

SNOWSHOEING

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

There is nothing quite as classic as snowshoeing with family.

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

 

 

 

 

Skijoring: Winter in Glacier Country Just Got Even Cooler

Imagine you’re waterskiing, but you’re being pulled by a horse and rider through the snow. That’s how many participants describe skijoring, an outrageously entertaining winter activity that’s rapidly gaining in popularity in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Cheer on the racers at Skijoring at Rebecca Farm in December. Photo: Tommy Diegel Photography

The word skijoring comes from the Norwegian skijøring, which means “ski driving,” a testament to the fact that it originated in Scandinavia as a form of transportation. This once practical mode of travel has morphed into an exciting—and usually pretty rowdy—competitive sport. Here’s a quick guide to the action:

Each team consists of a horse and rider pulling a skier by a 30- to 50-foot-long rope. The skier sails over jumps, speeds through slalom gates and captures rings. Skiers may hit speeds of up to 60 mph during acceleration. Each team takes two runs through the course, which may be straight, U-, J- or L-shaped, and ranges from 600 to 1,000 feet long. The skier must cross the finish line in an upright position, on at least one ski and holding the rope. Both run times are combined to get the team’s final score, minus time penalties for missing jumps, gates and rings.

Ride ’em cowboy! A skijoring team tackles a jump at Rebecca Farm. Photo: Green Kat Photography

Races take place throughout Glacier Country from December through February, so put on your long underwear, stuff some hand warmers in your pockets and go watch—or even try your own hand at—one of winter’s wildest competitions alongside die-hard skijoring fans.

Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, best known for its annual July equestrian extravaganza of dressage, cross country and showjumping, is a natural fit to host a major skijoring event. Eighty teams and thousands of spectators made their inaugural race in 2017 a roaring success. Held the last weekend in December, skijoring at Rebecca Farm kicks off the Skijoring America racing season. It’s also a great way to spend the last weekend of the year. Downtown Kalispell is a short 5.5 miles away from the event, making lodging, dining and shopping a breeze.

Whitefish Winter Carnival’s two-day skijoring competition in late January ranks as the oldest and most storied of Montana’s skijoring competitions. In the 1960s, skijorers raced through downtown Whitefish. Legend has it that one competitor almost went through a store window, and spectators had to watch out for runaway horses. Times have definitely changed. Nowadays, the event takes place at Big Mountain Ranch, a working cattle operation with gorgeous views of Big Mountain. The J-shaped track is great for spectators, and the costume division is particularly entertaining. The ranch is just 3 miles from town, so plan to eat, shop and overnight in Whitefish. You could also tack on an extra day or two to ski fresh powder on the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Now that’s some horsepower! Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

The Wilderness Club, a luxury ranch in Eureka, will hold its first-ever skijoring competition in early January. Close to the Canadian border and Lake Koocanusa, Eureka will be in breathtaking winter wonderland mode. After the races are over, settle in fireside at the Wilderness Club Lodge, or warm up in the hot tub.

Mid-February will bring Skijor Columbia Falls’ inaugural “Soldiers, Saddles and Skis: The Race for Valor,” a fundraiser for Valor Equine Therapy. Combine your support for the skijorers and their noble cause with a trip to nearby Glacier National Park for an even more unforgettable weekend of alpine adventures.

Find out what it’s like to “waterski on snow.” Photo: Stuart Thurlkill, The Resort at Paws Up

Not content to sit on the sidelines? Book a stay at The Wilderness Club in Eureka, The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough or Triple Creek Ranch in Darby. Along with top-notch accommodations, they all include skijoring on their lists of guest activities. If you’ve already got other lodging planned, both The Wilderness Club and The Resort at Paws Up offer skijoring activities to the public.

Holiday Charm in Western Montana

Winter in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is pure magic; we really know how to deck the halls and celebrate the season of giving with all things merry and bright. It’s also true that winter’s the time of year when it’s pretty easy to get a little stir crazy, which is why we fill the season with holiday events and celebrations galore.

Deck the halls! Bigfork, Montana shows off its western holiday spirit. Photo: Bigfork Chamber of Commerce

HOLIDAY STROLLS AND PARADES OF LIGHT

You would be hard-pressed to find a more authentic Western Montana evening than a Christmas stroll. Wander the streets and enjoy the perfect combination of wagon rides, chestnut roasting and vendors selling Montana-made goods and artisan crafts. The holiday celebration doesn’t end there. Experience the splendor of a Parade of Light and prepare to be swept up in the magic of the holidays. Sightings include Santa, reindeer and floats adorned in lights galore.

Glacier Country gives family time a whole new meaning. Photo: Chelsea Culp

HOLIDAY CHEER AT THE THEATER

If you are ready to cozy up inside for a unique and unforgettable winter experience you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that the state’s rugged exterior belies a highly developed artistic sensibility. Musicals, symphony concerts, ballets and more dot the region during the holiday season and are a Western Montana specialty. Attend the timeless performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” (University of Montana’s Adams Center), enjoy a buttered popcorn and a soda or adult beverage while watching classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Roxy Theater), or listen to This Sacred Season and “Messiah” with the Glacier Symphony (Whitefish Performing Arts Center). Here are many ways you can add a splash of culture to the holiday season.

The grace and tradition of Missoula’s Nutcracker performance will be the highlight of your holiday season. Photo: Garden City Ballet – Neil Chaput de Saintonge

HOLIDAY BAZAAR

One of the things Western Montana does best is put on a good holiday bazaar. Embrace the spirit of giving this season with gifts from locally sourced and canned foods, hand-crafted jewelry, pottery, woodworking, handmade soaps and other Montana artisan goods and wares. While you’re browsing, be sure to enjoy a cup of cocoa and mingle with the locals—we’re known for being some of the friendliest folks around.

So many different and amazing choices for children and adults alike. Photo: HandMADE Montana -Carol Lynn Lapotka

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Glacier Country Montana is always ready to make your trip memorable, but there is a special atmosphere around New Year’s Eve. Whether you are looking for a night out dancing, a fireworks send-off under the vast night sky, or a low-key night downtown without the big-city crowds—we’ve got the best place to close out the holidays and make your 2019 resolutions.

Send off 2018 with a bang. Photo: Flathead Beacon – Lido Vizzutti

MUST-STOP TOWNS BURSTING WITH HOLIDAY CHARM

Bigfork: Located on the bay of Flathead Lake, the storybook town of Bigfork gets a little magical around the holidays. The community “elves” come together every year to adorn the town with wreaths, ribbon, garland and lights, creating authentic Western Montana holiday charm.

Whitefish: The quintessential mountain resort town of Whitefish goes all out creating an enchanting winter wonderland. A stroll through downtown will yield bells, wreaths, boughs and lights ornamenting each business and weaving through the streets.

Ovando: Another stop-worthy town is Ovando. This quaint (and beyond adorable) town lays on the charm for the holiday season. Downtown, the 100-year-old buildings create the atmosphere of an authentic Old West holiday.

Not many places celebrate the holidays like Whitefish, Montana. Photo: Brian Schott

You can also check out a full listing of holiday events at glaciermt.com/events.

Come See St. Regis: A Small-Town Gem in Western Montana

The charming crossroads community of St. Regis is a road-trip must-stop. Travelers on the Interstate Highway 90 corridor between Missoula, Montana and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho never miss the chance to pull over and stretch their legs in this treasured town nestled at the confluence of the Bitterroot, Coeur d’Alene and Cabinet Mountain ranges.

St. Regis is a convenient stop on I-90. Pull in for a small-town Montana experience! Photo: St. Regis Travel Center

The family-owned St. Regis Travel Center is known far and wide as a place to stop and stay a little while. It’s more than just a convenient spot to fill your gas tank. Fuel up on great food and famous huckleberry milkshakes at Huck’s Grill, plus Dolly V’s ice cream, fudge and espresso. There’s a live trout aquarium, too and Montana’s largest gift shop, where you’ll find souvenirs in abundance and free popcorn to boot.

Enjoy a sweet treat at Dolly V’s Ice Cream + Espresso inside St. Regis Travel Center. Photo: St. Regis Travel Center

Head off the interstate and onto the St. Regis-Paradise Scenic Byway—state Route 135—winding 22 miles through gorgeous national forest land including rolling flats and steep canyon walls. This route is part of the Clark Fork Scenic Drive through the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, beginning in Alberton and hooking up with Montana’s Tour 200 scenic route. Stop along the way for fishing, hiking, camping and wildlife viewing, or a soak in the healing mineral waters of Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort.

The views from St. Regis reveal Western Montana at its finest. Photo: Trail Rail Run

Recreation abounds in the St. Regis area. In addition to St. Regis Community Park’s half-mile interpretive nature trail, playground and pond—perfect for a pit stop picnic—authentic outdoor adventure is all around. Fly-fish the Clark Fork River, ski Lookout Pass (about 30 minutes west of St. Regis) and discover plenty of places to hike and bike in Lolo National Forest.

Don’t look down! Bicyclists cross one of seven repurposed railroad trestles on the Route of the Hiawatha

The Route of the Hiawatha provides pedaling fun the whole family will enjoy. This 15-mile Rails-to-Trails adventure, not far from St. Regis, traverses 10 tunnels and seven high trestles along breathtaking stretches of scenic Montana landscapes, and a shuttle is offered for those who prefer to skip the up-hill trek. Mountain bikers can find 18 miles of epic single-track on one of the best trails in all of Glacier Country—the Clark Fork River Trail (also a great hiking spot—try the Cascade Falls spur trail). This smooth ride follows the river through pristine, lush forestland, and the trailhead is not far from Quinn’s.

Head for the hills and a little history on the Crystal Lake Trail. This 3.8-mile uphill hike can be moderate to difficult at times, but worth experiencing the sparkling Crystal Lake 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Stop along the way for berry picking, fishing and viewing the remnants of a historic abandoned mining town and Deer Creek Mining Company, including the ruins of several cabins and a sunken mine shaft.

Swing your golf clubs against the backdrop of the Bitterroot Range at the beautiful, family-friendly Trestle Creek Golf Course. Tee times are usually available on short notice and golf clubs can be rented on-site—perfect when you feel like a spontaneous stop for some time on the green.

The St. Regis River flows east to meet the Clark Fork in the city of St. Regis. Photo: Trail Rail Run

St. Regis hosts the largest flea market in Montana every Memorial Day weekend at Community Park. For three days from dawn to dusk, vendors peddle their wares. Find a true Montana treasure to take home with you, plus breakfast, lunch and snacks.

This tightly knit community charms with events like an annual Easter egg hunt, scarecrow contest, Christmas lighting, Trail Rail Run, Fourth of July parade and fireworks. Come on over and see St. Regis for yourself.

On the Trail of Art and Culture in Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Montana’s main draw is its natural beauty and world-class outdoor recreation, so it can be a quite a pleasant surprise to find out the state’s rugged exterior belies a highly developed artistic sensibility. Many of Western Montana’s communities boast big-city-worthy galleries and artists with talent galore. Local art makes a lovely souvenir, so take some time to browse and shop.

The cultural experience doesn’t end there. Western Montana has a fascinating backstory, filled with tales of American Indians, adventurers, “black robes,” ranchers, homesteaders and soldiers. Uncover intriguing details about Montana’s history by exploring the state’s many museums.

Here’s a sampling of communities that can add a splash of culture to your Montana travels.

A tour of the Daly Mansion includes the family’s showy music room.

HAMILTON

Although you don’t really need an excuse to visit the charming small towns nestled at the base of the Bitterroot Mountains, the Daly Mansion—the 24,000 square foot home of copper baron Marcus Daly—may motivate you to visit Hamilton. A fascinating tour details Daly’s rise from penniless immigrant to captain of industry and shows off his extravagant digs.

Now that your interest in history is piqued, stop at the Ravalli County Museum and Historical Society to further delve into the Bitterroot Valley’s past.

STEVENSVILLE

Stevensville is honored to be Montana’s oldest existing settlement. The humble but pivotal St. Mary’s Mission figures prominently in its history. Tour the mission complex and its grounds to learn about the history of the Salish Indians and the Christian missionaries known to the Salish as the “Black Robes.”

Combine that with a visit to the Stevensville Historical Museum to complete the picture of life in mid-1800s “Stevi,” as the town is commonly referred to these days.

LOLO

Just up the road in Lolo lies one of Montana’s most renowned historical sites, Travelers’ Rest. This Corps of Discovery landmark can brag that it’s the only known campsite where archaeological evidence of early explorers has been found. Now a state park, visitors can walk along Lolo Creek in the footsteps of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. A visitor’s center and museum will fill you in on the historical details of their adventure.

The nearby Holt Heritage Museum focuses on those perennial favorites of the Old West: cowboys and Indians. The museum is open by appointment only, so give the Holts—a longtime Montana rodeo family—a call, and feast your eyes on their western treasures.

MISSOULA

One of the first things you’ll notice upon entering Missoula is the abundance of public art. Over 50 traffic signal boxes have been painted by local artists, so you can see a work of art at almost every intersection. Pick up a free Missoula Public Art Guide at the Missoula Art Museum to discover more of the Garden City’s creative side, from murals to large-scale sculptures.

There’s almost always something new on exhibit at the Missoula Art Museum. Photo: Taylar Robbins

Of course, there’s plenty of opportunity to see art on display in a curated environment as well, starting with the aforementioned Missoula Art Museum, which offers free admission. The always thought-provoking exhibits at this contemporary art museum are just as likely to feature internationally renowned masters as they are regional artists. After you’re done browsing, be sure to check out the rotating exhibit of sculptures in the adjacent Art Park.

A stroll through downtown Missoula will yield galleries galore, including Radius Gallery, which frequently offers exhibits, artist talks and other events. The best time to gallery-hop is on the first Friday of every month from 5 – 8 p.m., when practically every downtown business hosts an art exhibit and lays out a spread of hors d’oeuvres and drinks.

Radius Gallery offers a feast for the eyes. Photo: Radius Gallery

Missoula’s history comes to life at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. Learn about Fort Missoula’s role in the Indian Wars, the African-American 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, and the World War II internment camp that held Italian and Japanese nationals. Wander the grounds to view over 20 historic buildings and structures, including a train engine, tipi burner and fire tower (you can get a pretty nice view of Missoula from up there, too).

THOMPSON FALLS

Continue your journey into Montana history at Thompson Falls’ intriguing Old Jail Museum. Inside this 100-year-old former jail, learn about the exploits of the town’s namesake—Canadian explorer and fur trapper David Thompson—the horror of the devastating forest fires of 1910, and the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

CHARLO

Views of the Mission Mountains will leave you awestruck as you drive north along Interstate Highway 93. Pull over and gape from the Ninepipes Museum in Charlo, where the history of the Flathead Reservation is on display. The indoor exhibits and museum grounds are complemented by a handicapped-accessible nature trail.

POLSON

Just before you reach the shores of Flathead Lake, swing by the Miracle of America Museum in Polson. Anyone into Americana will get a charge out of the immense quantity of nostalgia-inducing items on display there. Another must-stop, the Polson Flathead Historical Museum offers educational exhibits of the pioneer days, homesteaders and the Native Americans who inhabited the region, plus, it’s the home of the famous Flathead Lake Monster!

BIGFORK

Driving up the east side of the lake will bring you to Bigfork, a storybook town excelling in charm. The gallery-rich environment will have art enthusiasts in a daze. ARTFusion, Bjorge Gallery, Brett Thuma Gallery, Electric Buffalo Gallery, Eric Thorsen Sculpture Gallery and Riecke’s Bayside Gallery are all Electric Avenue must-sees.

A century-old schoolhouse continues to educate those who walk through its doors. Photo: Kelly Nelson

KALISPELL

Get a lesson in history at Kalispell’s Museum at Central School. This restored 1894 schoolhouse is packed with the compelling artifacts and records of Northwest Montana and the Flathead Valley. For another close look at the city’s past, tour the Conrad Mansion Museum, once home to the founder of Kalispell, Charles E. Conrad.

Headed to or coming from Glacier National Park? Visit the Hockaday Museum of Art to see the popular permanent exhibition “Crown of the Continent,” which features works celebrating the grandeur of the park.

WHITEFISH

Whitefish is definitely in the running for having the most galleries per capita of any Montana town. A whopping 13 galleries participate in the seasonal First Thursday Gallery Nights. One mainstay of the art scene, The Purple Pomegranate, tempts shoppers with functional and decorative art from over 150 artists and craftspeople.

Stunning American Indian headdresses and clothing impress visitors at the Museum of the Plains Indian

BROWNING

Travelers are drawn to Montana’s rich American Indian culture, and one of the best places to experience it is at the Museum of the Plains Indian on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning. Clothing, weapons and many other artifacts from regional tribes wow visitors with their beauty and functionality. Special exhibits often feature contemporary American Indian artists.

Continue your exploration of American Indian art at Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village, which showcases the work of several Blackfeet artists, including the gallery’s talented owner, Darrell Norman.

CUT BANK

Just east of the reservation, pull into Cut Bank, where an oil derrick, a 1917 schoolhouse and a Burlington Northern caboose are just a few of the curiosities that adorn the 14-acre grounds of the Glacier County Historical Museum and Archive. On summer weekends, costumed interpreters act out the lives of early homesteaders at a replica homestead cabin and farm.

Hours and prices vary, and some museums are open seasonally. Check the links above for more information about visiting museums and galleries in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

An oil derrick stands sentinel at the Glacier County Historical Museum. Photo: Racene Friede

Lovely Lakeside: Exploring Small-Town Charm on Flathead Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toast to Lakeside at the Beargrass Bistro.

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

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

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

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