Category Archives: Rexford

Road Trip: Explore Western Montana’s Northwest Corridor

Western Montana’s Kootenai Country and the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness are a treasure trove of breathtaking vistas, glistening waters and hidden gems. Some of our wildest and most remote backcountry can be found here in Montana’s northwest corner. The Northwest Corridor offers a scenic travel route that you can easily drive through, with plenty to see and do in some of our quietest country and most charming communities.

Wilderness Club was named “Montana’s #1 Golf Resort” by Golf Weekly in 2019. Photo: Wilderness Club

Begin your trip in Eureka, nestled in the lush Tobacco Valley right off U.S. Highway 93 north. Step back in time at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village—a collection of restored buildings, including a general store, schoolhouse, library, church, two log cabins, a hand-hewn house, railway depot, caboose, and fire tower. Then, hit up the local brewery for beer-brined ribs and some of the best brews and views in Montana. Overnight at the elite Wilderness Club, which boasts the No. 1 rated golf course in Montana, a Nick Faldo signature course, or spend the evening at Indian Springs Ranch, a unique recreational community where you’ll find a relaxing home away from home in a peaceful, natural setting as well as golf, swimming and boating.

Ask Rexford artist Dave Clarke to create a unique chainsaw-carved souvenir for your home . Photo: Dave Clarke

Next up, drive 7.8 miles on US-93 north and State Highway 37 to Rexford, a recreation lover’s paradise and your starting point for the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway. Before you begin the drive, stop by and see Dave at Chips and Critters for a wooden, chainsaw-carved Montana souvenir. Trip Tip #1: If you’re into rock climbing, nearby Stone Hill makes the perfect side jaunt. 

The 422-foot tall Libby Dam rises out of the Kootenai National Forest. Photo: Libby Dam Visitor Center

From Rexford, start your journey along the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway (MT-37) for 62 miles to Libby. This stunning route follows Lake Koocanusa—a sparkling 30,000 acre lake created by the Libby Dam on the Kootenai River. Enjoy quintessential Montana river, lake and mountain views. If there’s time, take to the water for fishing or boating, and picnic along the lake. At the south end of the lake, visit the Libby Dam and Libby Dam Visitor Center.

Libby, the “City of Eagles,” boasts 40 metal eagles sculpted by resident Todd Berget. Photo: MOTBD

After a day exploring, it’s time to get comfy with some fine food, brews, local conversation and live tunes at Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co. Housed in a historic building in Libby’s quaint downtown district, grab some street tacos and a Yaak Attack IPA—the perfect way to end the day.

Libby boasts multiple overnight options, all offering cozy accommodations and authentic western hospitality. Book a room at the Country Inn, Evergreen Motel (as seen one HGTV’s Hotel Impossible), Sandman Motel, or “Libby’s Finest” Venture Inn, featuring a heated pool and hot tub as well as an on-site restaurant where you’ll find a Montana steak and huckleberry milkshake you can’t leave the region without trying.

The Yaak River Tavern makes a perfect stop for motorcycle touring. Photo: Yaak River Tavern

From Libby, take Montana Secondary Highway 567 north 30 miles to the Yaak—one of Montana’s most remote locations. Hit up the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon for “the best fries in Lincoln County.” Don’t forget to take a selfie with the sasquatch at Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile before heading south on Montana Secondary Highway 508 to Yaak Falls. This road-trip hot spot is right off the highway. Witness not only a pristine cascading falls, but some of the oldest rocks in the world, dating between 800 million and one and a half billion years old.

A charming chainsaw-carved sign welcomes travelers to the Troy Museum and Visitor Center. Photo: Dave Clarke

From MT-508, take State Highway 2 for 40 miles south to Troy and don’t miss the City of Troy Museum and Visitor Center where you’ll find Troy-related historical items and a frisbee golf course. Trip Tip #2: If you have the time and are up for a side trip 29 miles south of Troy, walk among giants at the Ross Creek Cedar Grove. You’ll find a paved nature trail and 1,000-year-old western red cedars up to 12 feet in diameter.

See the largest undammed falls in Montana from the Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge. Photo: Brian Chorski

From Troy, follow MT-2 east to Kootenai Falls and the famous swinging bridge. The falls serve as the largest undammed falls in the state and represent a rich heritage site for the Kootenai Tribe. The swinging bridge is a traveler’s favorite, and also provides access to excellent fishing on the Kootenai River.

You’ll be taking photos every few minutes as you road trip along Lake Koocanusa. Photo: MOTBD

Head back to Libby on State Highway 228—a Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway side loop along the lake’s west side. Cross the Koocanusa Bridge—Montana’s longest and highest—before making your way back to Eureka through Rexford. There’s a parking and viewing area at the bridge, if you want to get out, stretch your legs, and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

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

Off-Road Adventures: 5 ATV Trails to Explore in Western Montana

We have plenty of hidden treasures here in Western Montana, and sometimes the best—and only—way to discover them is to go off-road into our beautiful backcountry and heavenly high country. You can cover quite a bit of ground when you get off the main roads and explore our pristine alpine lakes, lush forests and mesmerizing mountain meadows. From technical to family-friendly rides, alpine all-terrain vehicle (ATV) adventures abound in Glacier Country.

It’s time to revel in the rugged—here’s a handful of our favorite rides.

New to ATVing? Go with a guide! Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

ASHLEY LAKE ATV TRAIL #812
Open: June – October
This local’s favorite west of Kalispell is popular in the summertime, but if you’re looking for a quieter ride, venture over in the late spring or early fall before big-game hunting season begins. The trailjust north of Ashley Lake—offers 7 miles of scenic ATV terrain, and the lake itself provides off-trail recreation like swimming, fishing and camping. Pitch a tent on one of three campgrounds and reel in one of the huge rainbow-cutthroat trout hybrids the lake is known for. GETTING THERE: From Kalispell, take U.S. Highway 2 west for 4 miles, turn onto Ashley Lake Road (Forest Service Road #912) for 15 miles, then turn onto Forest Service Road #10236 for about 4 miles. The trailhead is marked with signs.

BLUE MOUNTAIN ROAD
Open: May – November
For picture-perfect views of the Missoula Valley as well as the Sapphire and Rattlesnake Mountains, Blue Mountain Recreation Area boasts about 15 miles of motorized vehicle trails, four of which are open to ATVs. There’s a fire lookout tower in service from July – August, and you can climb to the top for stunning views of Lolo Peak, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the Mission Mountains. Be sure to pick up an off-road sticker (available at the Missoula County Courthouse) before hitting Blue Mountain on your off-highway vehicle (OHV). GETTING THERE: From Missoula, head south on U.S. Highway 93 for about 2 miles, making a right (north) onto Blue Mountain Road for 1.4 miles. Turn left onto Forest Service Road 365 for 1.2 miles, and the staging area will be on your left. 

Every season in Western Montana lends itself to an ATV adventure. Photo: Kurt’s OffRoad

HUNGRY HORSE MOTOCROSS TRACK
Open: Year-round (weather dependent)
Just east of Columbia Falls in Hungry Horse, Montana, this natural terrain track is open to ATVs and packs a punch with steep and challenging elevation gains. You’ll also find camping and other adventures at nearby Hungry Horse Dam. Time your trail trip right and you’ll get to see a race event held by the High Country Motocross Association. GETTING THERE: From Columbia Falls, take U.S. Highway 2 east for about 6 miles. When you see the Forest Service station on your right, turn south onto Colorado Boulevard for about 1.25 miles. Look for a gravel road on the left and turn there. The track is about a half mile down on the right. 

KOOCANUSA SAND DUNES AND TRAIL SYSTEM
Open: Year-round (weather dependent) 
Sand dunes in Montana? Don’t mind if we do. Mix things up off trail in the dunes and play pits of this large open area at the northeast corner of the Koocanusa Reservoir, best accessed late March through late June when the water levels are low. You’ll also find 20 miles of trails that lead into the woods surrounding the reservoir. Fun Fact: This is the original site of the city of Rexford. You’ll discover American Indian burial grounds in the area, which are well marked and closed to riding. GETTING THERE: From Eureka, take U.S. Highway 93 north for 5 miles to State Route 37. Take a left on MT-37 for 2.2 miles, then veer right onto Douglas Hill Road for half a mile, turn right onto Sophie Lake Road for 1 mile, veer left onto Iowa Flats Road for .1 miles, and then turn right onto Sophie Lake Road for 3.5 miles toward the lake.

ATV trails are often shared with hikers and bikers. Photo: Kurt’s OffRoad

OVERWHICH FALLS TRAILS 182 + 248
Open: December 2 – October 14
South of Darby past Painted Rocks Lake, this “destination ride” offers a scenic 8-mile excursion to Overwhich Falls. This easy ride does have a few steep, rocky sections to be aware of, and encounters with horses, hikers and mountain bikers are possible, but the views—and the falls—are worth it. GETTING THERE: From Darby, head south for 4.3 miles. Turn right onto West Fork Road, heading south past Painted Rocks Lake to Forest Service Road #5703, where you’ll head east for about 2 miles to Forest Road #5706. Turn north and follow this road to the trailhead. There is a good turnaround and parking for vehicles and trailers about 7 miles from the trailhead in NW Section 17, west of Gentile Creek. 

Cover ground in Western Montana, through sage, pine and fresh mountain air. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

BONUS: DARBY TRAILS – BITTERROOT NATIONAL FOREST
Just last summer, the Bitterroot National Forest opened 50 miles of trails to ATVs, including two loops—#1, a 28-mile loop and #2, a 15-mile loop—on the old Darby Lumber Lands, also south of Darby. This new trail system is popular with beginner and intermediate riders, and, as always, the views are spectacular. GETTING THERE: From Darby, head south on U.S. Highway 93 for about 4 miles and take a left on Rye Creek Road. For Loop #1, take Rye Creek Road for 4 miles to North Fork Rye Creek Road/North Fork Road, where you’ll take a left and drive for about 6 miles until you reach Road #1127 and the trailhead. For Loop #2, take Rye Creek Road for 6 miles. Before the Rock Creek Road divide, you’ll see a parking area on the left with signage for Loop #2. 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO, and ride safely. For information on road designations, conditions and closures, as well as registration (resident and nonresident), permits, maps and off-roading laws, visit Montana State Parks.

TRIP TIP: Did you know? It’s legal to drive ATVs on roads and highways, as long as they’re equipped with “street kits.” This means that all public-land roads are open for riding!

 

Best Day Hikes in Western Montana: Part II

Last week in Part One of this series, we explored some of our favorite day hikes in the southerly region of Glacier Country (if you missed it, you should definitely go take a peak). This week, we’re finishing the list by heading up the map toward Highway 200, the Jewel Basin, Tobacco Valley and the Crown of the Continent: Glacier National Park.

If you’ve already read Part One, skip ahead. For our friends new to the blog, we have a couple pointers to help keep you safe and happy:

Rules of the Trail:

  1. It’s always a good idea to wear layers and comfortable hiking shoes or boots. It gets a little cold around here (in case the name “Glacier Country” didn’t tip you off), though temperatures still reach into the 80s and 90s during summer. Wear broken-in hiking footwear so uncomfortable feet don’t distract you from our breathtaking views.
  2. Be bear aware! Make noise and carry bear spray. You’re in bear country, and no matter how wild you think you might be, we can assure you the wildlife have you beat. (It’s also never a good idea to try to feed the wildlife).
  3. Make room in your pack for water, snacks and a camera. It’s good to stay hydrated, and good to have a camera ready to capture your Montana moments.
  4. Always stay on the trail. Wandering Montana’s splendor is easy to do, but it’s important not to lose your way. We promise you won’t miss out on anything.
  5. Ask the locals. Montana is full of secrets and who better to ask than a Montanan?

Now that we’ve got our safety suggestions out of the way, here’s your much-awaited Part Two:

Huckleberry Mountain Lookout

Photo courtesy of Kristal Martin (IG: @kriszm_)
The hike to Huckleberry Mountain Fire Lookout is on the west side of Glacier National Park. After getting back from this beautiful hike, venture into Apgar Village or West Glacier in search of huckleberry pie. The search is half the fun.

DIRECTIONS: Head to Glacier National Park from West Glacier and Apgar Visitor Center. About two miles into Going-to-the-Sun Road you’ll take a left onto Camas Road. Find the trailhead six miles in on the left. The trail is six miles in, six miles out and climbs 3,400 feet in elevation. If this trek sounds like more than you bargained for, keep driving up Camas Road to find the much tamer 1/2 mile Huckleberry Nature Trail.

ROUND-TRIP: 12 miles
PERMIT: National Parks Pass
HIGHLIGHTS: When “huckleberry” is in the name, it means there could be bears nearby. Bring friends and make noise so you don’t get into trouble.

Gable Pass

The Gable Pass trail system takes you through a beautiful alpine meadow with views of Mount Cleveland, Gable Mountain and Chief Mountain (pictured). Photo courtesy of Glacier Guides and Montana Raft.

DIRECTIONS: Gable Pass is northwest of Babb on the east side of Glacier National Park and begins at the Lee Ridge Trailhead. To get here, take Highway 17 (Chief Joseph Highway) north. You’ll find the trailhead about half a mile before Chief Mountain Trailhead at the International Border Crossing (you should see a sign that says “Customs 1/2 Mile Ahead”). Find parking for the trail in the pullout about 150 yards north at the top of the hill.

ROUND-TRIP: 12 miles
HIGHLIGHTS:  View Mount Cleveland, Gable Mountain and Chief Mountain from this lush alpine meadow.

Ross Creek Cedars

DIRECTIONS: For a truly awe-inspiring stroll, head to Ross Creek and walk among the over 400-year-old western red cedars. If you’re coming from Thompson Falls, take Highway 200 northwest to Highway 56. You can also reach Highway 56 from Highway 2 heading east from Troy or west from Libby. South of Bull Lake on Highway 56, turn east onto Forest Service Road 398 (locally known as Bull Lake Road). Drive this paved road 4 miles to a parking area.

ROUND-TRIP: 1 mile
HIGHLIGHTS: Drive 2 miles farther up Bull Lake Road for a scenic view of the Cabinet Mountains and Bull River Valley.

Mount Aeneas

The view from Mount Aeneas on a bluebird sky day. Photo courtesy of Glacier Guides and Montana Raft.

DIRECTIONS: From Highway 83 north of Bigfork, take Echo Lake Road north and take a right onto Foothill Road. Follow Foothill until the road turns into Jewel Basin Road. Continue about 11 miles up Jewel Basin to Camp Misery Trailhead. Follow the old service road behind the gate 1 mile before the trail narrows and turns into trail #717. Follow the signs half a mile and stay on #717. From here, the trail takes quite the elevation gain. Follow the switchbacks up the mountain to get to the ridgeline for views of Glacier National Park, Flathead Valley and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

ROUND-TRIP: 6 miles
HIGHLIGHTS: This is a great mountain goat viewing area.

Little North Fork

DIRECTIONS: From Rexford, travel 7 miles south past the Koocanusa Bridge. Take Road 336 and follow for 1 mile to the marked trail.

ROUND-TRIP: Under 1 mile
HIGHLIGHTS: This short hike takes you past a sparkling waterfall.

Powerhouse Loop Trail

Thompson Falls is adding 1.5 miles of ADA-friendly trails to Powerhouse Loop in the summer of 2017. The additions will lead visitors to Thompson Falls State Park. Photo courtesy of the Sanders County Community Development Corporation

DIRECTIONS: After exploring Thompson Falls, head west on Main Street (Highway 200). Turn left on Pond Street, and take another left on Maiden Lane. Here you’ll find the PPL Montana Power Park and a great parking spot. Walk into the park and head to the powerhouse gates. To the left of the gate, you’ll see signs pointing to the trail. The signs will take you in a nice loop leading you back to Main Street and your car.

ROUND-TRIP: 2.3 miles
BONUS: Dog-friendly

Swift Creek Trail

DIRECTIONS: North of Whitefish Lake, Swift Creek has multiple trailheads perfect for a variety of visitors. To get here from Whitefish, drive north on Baker Avenue and continue on as the road turns into Wisconsin Avenue. Then head east on East Lakeshore Drive around the west side of Whitefish Lake. You will pass Big Mountain Road and continue another 5.9 miles before reaching the trailhead.

ROUND-TRIP: 3 – 6 miles
BONUS: The Swift Creek area includes an ADA accessible trail leading to the Swift Creek overlook.