Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

 

Glacier Country’s Garnet Ghost Town

When we refer to Montana by its nickname “The Treasure State,” we’re usually thinking of all the beauty and wonder that makes this place extraordinary—stunning landscapes, charming small towns, and world-class recreation. But Montana has been a place of rich mineral reserves, and, in 1852, gold was discovered here. This revelation not only led to Montana’s nickname, but to an immediate boom in mining, which became an economic stronghold in the region.

Garnet’s relatively short-lived boom in the in late 1800s is a history buff’s paradise today.

Mining towns began popping up all over the state, but as the minerals diminished, the towns did too. This “boom and bust” phenomenon left once-thriving mining towns abandoned—seemingly overnight. Today, these ghost towns offer a unique, authentic glimpse of homesteader life in the Old West. Step back in time to a place where miners dreamed of riches and better days.

Garnet has been named one of the coolest and best preserved ghost towns in America.

Montana’s best-preserved ghost town is right here in Glacier Country. Garnet Ghost Town was named one of America’s Coolest Ghost Towns by Travel + Leisure. Just 30 miles east of Missoula in the Garnet Mountain Range, Garnet was named for the semi-precious ruby-colored stone and gold-bearing quartz scoured from the mountains here.

Garnet’s buildings date back to the late 1800s, when mining was booming and the town boasted 1,000 residents.

By the end of the 19th century, nearly 1,000 people called Garnet home—a population large enough to warrant four stores, four hotels, two barber shops, a butcher shop, a candy store, and a whopping 13 saloons. But precious ore dwindled over time, and in 1912 a fire destroyed much of the area. By the 1940s, Garnet was a ghost town. Thirty historic buildings remain today—including cabins, a saloon and part of a hotel—all offering a fascinating look at what life was like during the Montana gold rush.

A visit to Garnet Ghost Town will spark the imaginations of family members old and young. Photo: MOTBD

Garnet Ghost Town is open year-round with limited winter access, and there are two winter rental cabins available on-site. The cabins are accessed by cross-country ski, snowmobile and snowshoe only, offering a unique winter wonderland experience. Visit garnetghosttown.org or call the BLM Missoula Field Office at 406.329.3914 for directions and information.

Hand tools from days gone by serve as reminders that Garnet was once a thriving community.

In addition to exploring the ghost town itself, the Garnet area is a treasure trove of outdoor fun, including hiking, biking, fishing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Multiple hiking trails begin at the Garnet Parking Lot, and traverse through beautiful, steep timbered drainages climbing to nearly 7,000 feet. You’ll also find more that 30 miles of backcountry trails for mountain biking and off-highway vehicle (OHV) use. If you’re keen on catching rainbows—trout that is—bring your fly rod. Elk Creek, just two miles northeast of Garnet Ghost Town is flush with brook, cutthroat and rainbow trout and empties into the Blackfoot River nearby—the perfect setting for an idyllic angling adventure.

The Garnet Mountains offer recreational opportunities galore.

Bike the Route of the Hiawatha in Western Montana

The crown jewel of America’s Rails to Trails is right here in Glacier Country—just one more reason why Western Montana is the perfect place for an adventure on two wheels. The Route of the Hiawatha bike trail is part of the Olympian Hiawatha route and is noted as one of the most breathtaking scenic stretches of railroad in the country. USA Today called it a Rails to Trails “Top Ten Pick.” Biking this beauty is one way to experience an authentic, family-friendly adventure in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

The Route of the Hiawatha offers spectacular views of the Bitterroots. Photo: Andy Austin

ABOUT THE TRAIL

The Route of the Hiawatha offers a scenic, easy ride through 10 tunnels and over seven high trestles, crossing the beautiful Bitterroot Mountains between Montana and Idaho. The Taft Tunnel at St. Paul Pass is a highlight of the route, burrowing under the crest of the Bitterroots. You’ll find an interpretive sign—one of 47 along the entire route—midway through the 1.66-mile tunnel, showing the Montana/Idaho line. There’s also a waterfall at the West Portal of the tunnel—a great spot to commemorate your adventure with a photo.

This Rails to Trails adventure allows you to coast downhill and ride the shuttle back. Photo: Andy Austin

GETTING HERE

Lookout Pass Ski Area operates the Route of the Hiawatha. Located adjacent to Interstate Highway 90 on the Montana/Idaho state line at Exit 0, the ski area is just 30 miles west from the St. Regis Travel Center. If you haven’t already bought tickets online, Lookout Pass is where you can purchase trail and shuttle passes and pick up rental bikes and helmets, bike racks and tagalongs/Burley trailers. It’s important to note that Lookout Pass is not where the trailheads are located; riders will need to drive from Lookout Pass to one of the trailheads. If you already have your gear, you can skip Lookout Pass and purchase a ticket at the trailhead or online.

Most folks start at the top of the trail—Taft Tunnel’s East Portal—and take the shuttle back up from the Pearson Trailhead. This is the most-popular option and is great for kids because it offers an easy, gradual downhill ride. If you can ride a bike, you can pedal this trail, as there’s no uphill required. To get there, park at and access the trail off I-90 at Exit 5. After exiting I-90, follow the signs for 2 miles to the trailhead. From the East Portal you’ll enter the Taft Tunnel and then continue the 15-mile ride on a slight downgrade to the Pearson Trailhead. For those who want to bypass the Taft Tunnel, the bike trail can be accessed south of the tunnel at the Roland Trailhead. For advanced riders who’re ready for a 30-mile round-trip adventure, it’s best to start at the bottom of the trail—at the Pearson Trailhead—so your ride back is all downhill. Parking is available at all trailheads. Please note, passes are not available for purchase at the Pearson Trailhead.

Riders will cross seven high trestles over the course of the 15 mile ride. Photo: Andy Austin

SHUTTLES

Shuttle buses run between the Pearson and Roland trailheads only; they do not shuttle riders from Pearson back to the Taft Trailhead or to/from Lookout Pass Ski Area. Shuttle seating is first-come, first-served once you reach the Pearson Trailhead, and shuttle buses fill up quickly. Trip Tip: Start your Hiawatha ride early to avoid afternoon shuttle wait times.

The Route of the Hiawatha is one unforgettable bike ride. Photo: Andy Austin

RIDING SEASON

The Route of the Hiawatha—including the trail, trailheads and facilities—is open daily 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. from late May through late September. Shuttle buses operate every day the trail is open. Group rates and season passes are also available. For a unique spin on this bucket-list bike ride, experience one of the Full Moon Night Rides on the Route of the Hiawatha. Reservations are required for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. See more Route of the Hiawatha events here.

Lights are required for the pitch black Taft Tunnel. Photo: Andy Austin

WHAT TO PACK

Bring your own headlamps/lights and helmets, which are required for biking the trail.  Both are also available to rent at Lookout Pass Ski Area. Make sure to carry snacks, drinks and extra clothing on the ride. Even though it’s summer, the Taft Tunnel runs 47 degrees year-round, so layers are encouraged.

Bicycle across a backdrop of endless green. Photo: Andy Austin

LODGING, DINING AND ATTRACTIONS IN THE AREA

For an overnight adventure, there are multiple lodging options in Western Montana. Relax after your ride with a mineral soak at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort in Paradise, Montana, just about an hour’s drive from the trail. And don’t miss the famous 50,000 Silver Dollar in Haugan, a unique family-friendly stop offering a restaurant, gift shop, motel, gas and a convenience store.

Food is available at both the Taft and Pearson trailheads on most days. You’ll find items like sandwiches, bottled water, soft drinks and Gatorade. You can purchase a picnic lunch at Lookout Pass Ski Area, too. Also at the Taft Trailhead, you’ll find the perfect souvenir, like Route of the Hiawatha T-shirts, sweatshirts, backpacks, magnets and more.

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.

Hidden Gem Golf Courses in Western Montana

With wide-open vistas and room to roam, it should come as no surprise that Western Montana’s Glacier Country is a golfer’s paradise. Come spring, we gleefully trade our ski poles for golf clubs. Here, we have the perfect blend of breathtaking landscapes, renowned courses and affordability. Pair that combo with small-town charm, and teeing up in Montana is a real treat. Get on the green in Glacier Country, where you’ll find some of the most stunning and enjoyable golf experiences, and get to know our scenic travel corridors while you’re at it.

Sunset bathes hole 12 of the Nick Faldo-designed course at the Wilderness Club. Photo: Wilderness Club

NORTHWEST CORRIDOR

Along Montana’s quiet Northwest Corridor, you’ll find three courses all offering something special. Eureka may be small but it boasts not one, but two golf hot spots. At Indian Springs Ranch play the links-style, 18-hole championship course that’s pure fun. Bask in the beauty of the Tobacco Valley at this unique, master-planned recreational community. Also in Eureka, the stunning Wilderness Club—designed by golf legend Nick Faldo—was ranked the No. 1 golf course in Montana by Golfweek and Golf Magazine and the No. 2 Best New Private Golf Course in the U.S. by Golf Magazine. In Libby, the aptly named Cabinet View Golf Club offers just that—a great game of golf among gorgeous Cabinet Mountain views.

BITTERROOT VALLEY

The beautiful Bitterroot Valley beckons all year long, but any season you can swing a golf club here is extra special. The unique Whitetail Golf Course in Stevensville is located within the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, so it’s the perfect place to find an authentic Montana golfing experience…and spot some wildlife on the green. Further down U.S. Highway 93 in Hamilton, the Hamilton Golf Course offers a fabulous round of golf and some of the best views in the valley.

Playing the 14th hole at Meadow Lake Golf Resort. Photo: Meadow Lake Golf Resort, Inc.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK SURROUNDING AREA + EAST GLACIER CORRIDOR

If your trip to Glacier National Park isn’t complete without a round of golf (we don’t blame you), here are four places in and around the park to swing your clubs. Meadow Lake Golf Resort in Columbia Falls is a must-play, and Golf Magazine agrees. Golf Digest gives this treasured course 4.5 stars and named it one of the top four public courses in Montana. Within the park itself, Glacier View Golf Course in West Glacier blends natural beauty with a polished game of golf. Along the East Glacier Travel Corridor in East Glacier Park, tee up at Glacier Park Lodge Golf Course. This historic course on the Blackfeet Reservation is the oldest grass greens golf course in Montana, and all 9 holes are named for former Blackfeet chiefs. At the Cut Bank Golf and Country Club a mile west of Cut Bank, enjoy small-town golf at its finest with an exceptional game and down-to-earth vibes.

TOUR 200

The laid-back Wild Horse Plains Golf Course in Plains is a family favorite along Montana’s scenic Tour 200 just north of Paradise. From there, drive the length of this scenic byway and end up in the quaint town of Thompson Falls for another round at Rivers Bend Golf Course, where every third hole finds you back at the clubhouse.

The Mission Mountain Golf Club offers gorgeous views of its namesake. Photo: Mission Mountain Golf Club

FLATHEAD CORRIDOR

The Flathead Valley has been named a “Top 50 Golf Course Destination” by Golf Digest. There’s no denying the beauty of the region and the caliber of its courses. At the southern tip of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—the Polson Bay Golf Course in Polson offers beautiful mountain views and fairways adjacent to the lake. South of that, in Pablo, the 9-hole executive Silver Fox Golf Course winds its way through lush trees, serene ponds and a wildlife corridor on the Salish Kootenai College campus. Even farther south, take in exceptional Mission Mountain views and a challenging game of golf at the Mission Mountain Golf Club in Ronan.

I-90 CORRIDOR

Experience good old-fashioned Montana hospitality 10 miles west of Missoula at King Ranch Golf Course in Frenchtown, where you’ll find 18 holes on wide fairways along the scenic Clark Fork River. Another I-90 Corridor favorite along the Clark Fork, and one of Western Montana’s hidden gems, is Trestle Creek Golf Course in St. Regis—known for some of the finest greens.

The Double Arrow Lodge features a spectacular golf course plus lodging and dining in Seeley Lake.

SEELEY-SWAN CORRIDOR

The recreation opportunities in the Seeley-Swan Corridor are some of Montana’s best, and golf is no exception. In the storybook village of Bigfork on the north shore of Flathead Lake, the semi-private Eagle Bend Golf Club offers a championship 27-hole course. In Seeley Lake, the pristine ponderosa pine setting of the Double Arrow Golf Course offers resort golfing nestled between the Swan and Mission mountain ranges. Watch wildlife as you make your way around water features and bunkers, and don’t miss the No. 15 signature hole, featuring an elevated tee and island green.

The list goes on—Western Montana is dotted with golf courses, from small-town favorites to large championship and semi-private golf clubs and resorts. Go green under our famous blue sky. For more inspiration, visit the Northwest Montana Golf Association, and read more about Glacier Country’s larger golf courses here.

Added Bonus: In addition to stunning scenery and incredible terrain, golfing in Western Montana won’t break the bank; it’s part of the warm western hospitality we’re known for.

7 Mountain Bike Trails to Explore in Glacier Country

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

Elevate your mountain biking adventure in Glacier Country.

WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT – WHITEFISH 

Level: Children and Beginners – Advanced

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

Round Trip Distance: Varies

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

WHITEFISH BIKE RETREAT AND BEAVER LAKE TRAIL – WHITEFISH

Level: Beginners – Intermediate  

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

Round Trip Distance: 3.5 miles

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

MONTANA SNOWBOWL – MISSOULA

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

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

Round Trip Distance: Varies

BLUE MOUNTAIN – MISSOULA

Level: Intermediate

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

Round Trip Distance: Varies

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

CLARK FORK RIVER TRAIL – ST. REGIS

Level: Intermediate

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

Round Trip Distance: 18 miles

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

LAKE COMO TRAIL – DARBY

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

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

Round Trip Distance: 8 miles

BUTTERCUP LOOP – HAMILTON

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

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

Round Trip Distance: 21.1 miles

The Crown of the Continent beckons cyclers.

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

Level: Intermediate Road Biking

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

Round Trip Distance: Varies. Check road status here.

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

GEAR UP

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

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

Wildlife Viewing Areas in Western Montana

One of the things that makes Montana so special is that we share the land with an abundance of beautiful, wild creatures. There are plenty of undesignated places to watch wildlife in Western Montana, but some pretty amazing spots are set aside specifically for Montana’s mammals, birds and reptiles. Glacier Country’s year-round wildlife refuges and viewing areas boast a diversity of habitat and offer a look at some of the region’s most majestic inhabitants.

A drive through the National Bison Range offers a look at these majestic mammals. Photo: Andy Austin

The beloved National Bison Range in Moiese is not only an excellent place to view bison (250 – 300 head of bison call this area home), but deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions and the occasional black bear also roam the area, along with 200+ species of birds. The range consists of a diverse ecosystem of grasslands, fir and pine forests, riparian areas and ponds. Open dawn to dusk daily, the range includes three wildlife drives. The West Loop and Prairie Drive are short year-round drives. Red Sleep Mountain Drive is open mid-May to mid-October. It’s a two-hour 19-mile loop with switchbacks and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Make sure to bring your camera and binoculars or spotting scope. Plan your visit with seasonal visitor center hours in mind.

Keep an eye out for muskrats, waterfowl and deer while riding along Wildfowl Lane in the Lee Metcalf NWR.

In the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge—2 miles north of Stevensville—is one of the most popular refuges in Montana. Open dawn to dusk daily, walk along the 2.5-mile Wildlife Viewing Area Trail and 1.25-mile Kenai Nature Trail. Drive or bike Wildfowl Lane, a county road that runs through the refuge and provides a close look at ponds packed with migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall. More than 240 species of birds have been observed in the area, and mammals in the refuge include white-tailed deer, yellow-bellied marmots, porcupines, beavers and gophers, among others. Plan your visit with time to stop by the year-round visitor center.

Dusk is a great time for wildlife watching at Ninepipe. Photo: Dave Fitzpatrick/USFWS

Stunning Mission Valley views accompany the scenic Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, a pristine wetland complex in Charlo. Photographers flock here to capture the evening grandeur of the reservoir’s Mission Mountain backdrop. In addition to 200+ species of birds, you’ll find nationally acclaimed winter raptor viewing and mammals like white-tailed deer, the occasional grizzly bear and wetland creatures like muskrats, skunks, mice and voles. Explore the interpretative site for interesting information about the refuge.  Directly across the highway from the refuge, explore the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Established to accommodate nesting birds, access to the refuge changes with the seasons, and there are no amenities or facilities of any kind at the refuge itself, so plan your visit accordingly. Driving on Ninepipe Road is available year-round. Walking is limited on the refuge as water comprises more than 80% of the area and much of the land is very wet during the spring.

Wild Horse Island/Flathead Lake State Park is a true Montana treasure, featuring old-growth ponderosa pine forestland and prairie grasslands with scenic trails and ample wildlife viewing. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the wild horses for which the island is named. Accessible only by boat, the biggest island (3 miles long) on the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi—Flathead Lake—abounds with wild adventures like hiking, swimming, sailing and boating. Other island inhabitants include bighorn sheep, deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, falcons and bears. (Note: store food in bear-safe containers on your boat.) Also, a joint state/tribal fishing license is required for anglers at this Flathead Indian Reservation site. For a fun paddling adventure, kayak to the island from Dayton. It’ll take you about 45 minutes.

Two miles south of Polson—and also within Flathead Indian Reservation boundaries—the Pablo National Wildlife Refuge provides a unique glimpse at pothole wetlands and offers hiking, biking, fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. This serene setting is the site of the trumpeter swan release during the 1996 reintroduction to the Mission Valley, and continues to be an important release site. Vehicles can access the refuge along roads across the dam and along the north side of the refuge. The wetland habitat supports abundant waterfowl species and common wetland-friendly mammals, like muskrats, striped skunks, mink, field mice and meadow voles. There are no amenities or facilities of any kind here, and portions of the refuge are closed in the spring to minimize human disturbance to nesting birds, so plan your visit accordingly.

Seeing a moose in the wild is an unforgettable experience. Photo: tonybynum.com

The Swan River National Wildlife Refuge is situated between the breathtaking Swan and Mission Mountain ranges south of Swan Lake, offering a scenic wildlife viewing adventure. The refuge provides wetland and grassland habitat for 171 bird species, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose, plus beavers, muskrats and raccoons. Visitors enjoy hiking and snowshoeing this picturesque refuge from east to west via Bog Road. You’ll find a viewing platform and information kiosk with interpretive panels, but there are no significant facilities on the refuge, so plan your visit with that in mind.

Lost Trail’s Dahl Lake draws animals looking for a drink or a swim. Photo: Beverly Skinner

Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge lies in the tranquil Pleasant Valley mountain drainage area northwest of Marion. Prairie grasslands, riparian and wetland areas and aspen groves serve as important habitat for a variety of wildlife including elk, deer and moose. Although elusive, wolverines, Canada lynx, fishers and grizzly bears have all been documented here as well. This remote refuge offers a secluded authentic Montana experience. Please note, GPS navigation to the refuge is not always perfect and cell phone service can be spotty, so plan your visit accordingly.

As always, remember that wildlife is just that—wild. Respect their space, keep your distance and stay safe when recreating in wild places. Read more about Western Montana wildlife safety here.

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.