Category Archives: Whitefish

Tee Up in Western Montana: Top Golf Courses in Glacier Country

In Glacier Country, springtime means swing time. As the snow melts and the greens emerge, we dust off our golf clubs and get ready to play a round (the first of many). From public to semi-private courses, there’s no better place to tee up when you’re looking for a scenic swing, a championship course, and affordability. Golfing is one of those activities that really allows you to take in your surroundings, and here in Western Montana, the vistas are stunning, and you’re bound to catch a glimpse of some wildlife on the sidelines.

Head to Glacier Country for a round (or many) of golf, and you won’t be disappointed. Photo: Wilderness Club

The Flathead Valley alone boasts 10 championship golf courses, all within a 45-minute drive of each other. This golfer’s haven—and exceptionally beautiful part of Montana—has been named one of “the world’s top 50 golf course destinations” by Golf Digest.

Our award-winning courses range from leisurely to challenging, so whether you’re serious about your swing or just out to have fun, there’s a course for you in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, and stay-and-play golf packages are always available. Here are six of our favorite places to sink one.

INDIAN SPRINGS RANCH
Eureka
It’s tee time in the Tobacco Valley at the unique, master-planned recreational community of Indian Springs Ranch. This laid-back links-style public course sits at the foot of the western edge of the Rocky Mountains and offers a challenging experience for all skill levels. The course is designed to blend seamlessly with its natural surroundings, allowing players to immerse themselves in the beauty of the landscape and have a fun, relaxing game.

Indian Springs Ranch in Eureka offers world-class golfing. Photo: Indian Spring Ranch

MEADOW LAKE GOLF RESORT
Columbia Falls
Mere minutes from Glacier National Park—think epic views of stunning peaks and sparkling lakes—this full-service resort and spa boasts an 18-hole, 4.5-star-rated championship golf course. This authentic “mountain golfing” experience offers the Flathead Valley’s most challenging layout. Come test your skills and soak up some of Western Montana’s finest hospitality.

CANYON RIVER GOLF CLUB
Missoula
This Schmidt Curley-designed course was rated No. 9 in the U.S. in 2007 by Golf Digest and No. 1 in Montana in 2008 by Golfweek. Canyon River Golf Club’s course meanders through towering pines and lush, native grasslands. Seven holes incorporate the riparian marshland and pristine mountain lakes on the property. Missoula is also a very explore-worthy small town with a lot of personality to boot.

Golf courses around here are paired with mountain views and blue skies. Photo: Canyon River Golf Club

WHITEFISH LAKE GOLF CLUB
Whitefish
Tree-lined fairways meet awe-inspiring lake views at the only 36-hole golf facility in the region, featuring all the amenities of a world-class resort course, all situated in one of Montana’s hippest towns—Whitefish. Beginners and experienced players alike will find plenty of choices and challenges on the beautiful, treed North and South courses. Tee-Tip: The greens are fast on this one!

DOUBLE ARROW GOLF RESORT
Seeley Lake
This true golfer’s paradise in the heart of the Rockies among towering ponderosa pine trees offers breathtaking views of the Swan and Mission mountains and a premier Montana golf resort getaway experience. The Double Arrow provides a full golf vacation package. Tee-Tip: the 15th hole on this championship course is their signature hole, with an elevated tee and island green.

Double Arrow is a must-stay place, complete it with some tee time.

WILDERNESS CLUB
Eureka
Designed by golf legend Nick Faldo, the Wilderness Club 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 USA by Golf Magazine. For a visually stunning and world-premier luxury golf experience, with all the comforts you’d expect, Wilderness Club delivers, whether you’re a low handicapper or a total beginner.

Visit the Wilderness Club for a seriously luxurious experience. Photo: Wilderness Club

Bike the Big Sky This Spring: 9 Trails In Western Montana to Explore

You may have already figured out that we’re pretty good at divulging our own secrets. That’s because we have so much good Glacier getaway intel to share. For instance, spring is one of the best times to explore Big Sky Country by bike. As the temperatures begin to warm in Western Montana, snow enthusiasts head home, making spring one of our quietest—and most serene—seasons. Experience wildflowers, emerging wildlife, rushing rivers and the always welcome shoulder-season pricing (which pairs well with our warm western hospitality).

Hop on two wheels for a refreshing look at Glacier Country. Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

Pedal the pure mountain air and discover a Montana springtime on two wheels. Here are a handful of our favorite trails.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of our favorite routes. Photo: Whitefish Bike Retreat

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Road Biking  
Length: Varied
Biking this beauty is a pretty epic way to see spring flourish in Glacier National Park, and this season of serenity is the only time you can pedal one of the most scenic roads in America before it opens to vehicular traffic. Additionally, biking is also permitted on all roads in the park, plus three park trails. Side trip, anyone? Weekend spring shuttle service begins May 13. For more information, visit the National Park Service. Also, contact our friends at Glacier Guides for bike rentals, guided bike tours and unforgettable custom Glacier National Park adventures. This is one Glacier Getaway for the books.

2. Whitefish Bike Trail
Level: Beginner Road Biking
Length: Varied
The quintessential mountain town of Whitefish is a mecca of meandering trails. One particular stretch—the paved Whitefish Bike and Pedestrian Trail—follows the Whitefish River through town near Riverside Park. Whitefish is a year-round resort community, and the spring warm-up offers a chance to explore this charmer without the crowds. Make it an overnight adventure with Whitefish Bike Retreat, offering trail-side lodging—and a very authentic Montana experience—just west of town.

3. Lake Koocanusa Loop
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Road Biking
Length: 80 miles
Who doesn’t love a good loop? Add a lake and you’ve got one of the best road rides in Montana. Discover beauty around every bend as you circle Lake Koocanusa between Eureka and Libby. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a flat stretch on this gem, so gear up for the hills. Go the distance on this lake loop and you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and there are breweries in both Eureka and Libby, so no matter which town you end up in, you can treat yourself to a handcrafted big-sky brew after a long ride.      

Missoula via bike is the best way to see this beautiful city.

4. Ron MacDonald Riverfront Trail System
Level: Beginner Road Biking
Length: 7 miles
Explore springtime by bike in one of Western Montana’s cultural hot spots—MissoulaFollow the Clark Fork River and wind through downtown before connecting to the Kim Williams Nature Trail. This university town is very pedal friendly, so, when the trail ends, take to the streets and discover everything this Glacier Country getaway community has to offer, including one of the West’s top 10 farmers market, which begins annually in May.  

See mountains and quaint towns on the Bitterroot Trail. Photo: Saara Snow

5. Bitterroot Trail
Level: Beginner Road Biking
Length: 50 miles
Cycle the sights along the winding Bitterroot River between the jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains and the rolling Sapphire Range. Biking the Bitterroot from Missoula to Hamilton via the paved Bitterroot Trail is a unique and fun way to explore this very scenic valley. You’ll pass through multiple charming communities in “The Root,” with stops ranging from side trails and fishing spots to eclectic shops, coffee houses, breweries and bakeries.

6. Buttercup Loop
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Mountain Biking
Length: 21.1 miles
A little farther down the Bitterroot in Darby, get in gear for the Buttercup Loop. The first 7 miles of this trail are paved, but the Sleeping Child Canyon setting makes it well worth the ride. Then it’s time to climb Black Tail Road, enjoying the Bitterroot Valley views along the way. Bonus: En route to the trailhead, there’s a bike shop housed in an old red barn featuring a collection of classic bikes.

7. Route of the Hiawatha Trail
Level: Beginner – Intermediate Mountain Biking
Length: 15 miles
This Rails to Trails “Crown Jewel” is a Western Montana family favorite. It’s one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country, and is all downhill to boot. Traverse multiple towering trestles in the Lolo National Forest and burrow under the Bitterroot Mountains in the Taft Tunnel. For tickets, reservation dates and bike rental information, visit the official website.  

Route of the Hiawatha opens May 26. Gear up…this trail is one of Western Montana’s best.

8. Clark Fork River Trail #233
Level: Intermediate – Advanced Mountain Biking
Length: 9 miles
Pedal Paradise (literally) to St. Regis on this Sanders Country single-track, navigating lush old-growth forestland and sweeping meadows popping with color—springtime is wildflower season, after all. Soak up the solitude in this hidden heaven, and then literally go for a soak at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort, just a couple miles north of the trailhead—a perfect way to relax after a perfect ride.  

9. Herron Overlook Loops
Level: Beginner – Advanced Mountain Biking
Length: 10.3 miles
Clip in near Kalispell for Foy Lake fun, and wind through Western Montana wildflower country. These Herron Park trail routes to Chase and Notch overlooks offer excellent Flathead Valley views. Both of these single-track climbs are moderate, but be prepared for fast and technical descents. Then, be prepared to enjoy the exceptional food and friendly local vibe in downtown Kalispell.

 

Sparks Fly Under the Big Sky: Romantic Getaways

This probably comes as no surprise, but we’re suckers for romance. That’s because we’re surrounded by natural beauty and breathtaking places go hand in hand with romantic adventures. It’s simple to see why Glacier Country is the perfect spot for new couples to connect and longtime lovebirds to rekindle the romance.

Winter or summer, Western Montana is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway.

Whether you’re looking for a rustic weekend adventure in the woods, a relaxing spa retreat in a mountain lodge, a quiet bed-and-breakfast with personalized service or a luxury hotel in one of our bustling (and quite charming) community downtowns, Western Montana is always ready to make your time together memorable.

Surprise your partner this Valentine’s Day (pssst…it’s just around the corner) and plan a late-winter weekend or spring fling in Glacier Country.

Spend a special weekend in Glacier Country for an adventure, some leisure or both. Photo: Joyce Walkup

Here’s your romantic getaway trip planner for some ideas.

Take your sweetheart to Swan Lake. Nested in the stunning Seeley-Swan Valley, Swan Lake’s Laughing Horse Lodge (open May through October) offers a two-night springtime package for couples, including a four-course gourmet dinner and chef-recommended bottle of wine both nights. During the colder months, find epic snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in Seeley Lake—a winter recreation mecca. Cozy up at Seeley Lake’s Double Arrow Lodge for the perfect evening: enjoy a meal at their delicious Seasons Restaurant, followed by fireside drinks and a nostalgic horse-drawn sleigh ride for two under the big starry sky, including champagne, a buffalo robe to stay warm and hot rocks to keep your feet toasty. How’s that for romantic? And we’re just getting started…

A tad southwest of Seeley Lake, The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough offers luxury lodging, spa packages for couples and 37,000 gorgeous acres with inclusive year-round activities like ice skating, snowshoeing and nature hikes.

The Resort at Paws Up knows fine dining, so treat you and your special someone to a world-class dinner.

Head north for a relaxing escape to the woods at Silverwolf Log Chalets—private designer chalets built for two, just minutes from the western entrance of Glacier National Park. Nearby Coram’s Green Valley Ranch offers fantastic Montana accommodations, breathtaking views of the park and snowmobiling adventures with Swan Mountain Snowmobiling.

Indulge in one-hour massages for two as part of the spa package at Whitefish’s Kandahar Lodge. This authentic mountain lodge offers cozy accommodations and upscale dining—or check out the Tupelo Grille, one of the top eateries in the Flathead Valley. Taste the local spirit and toast to your time together at Spotted Bear Spirits or Great Northern Brewing Co.

Cheers to love and Montana at Spotted Bear Distillery in Whitefish. Photo: Spotted Bear Spirits

Bigfork lays on the charm with fireside steaks and lake views at Terra Steak at Mountain Lake Lodge. The lodge also offers fireplace suites, on-site massages and winter packages. While you’re in town, find time to enjoy Pink Peppercorn Pear Gin cocktails at Whistling Andy Distillery.

Further south on Flathead Lake, Red Lion Ridgewater Inn & Suites is the perfect home base for exploring Polson. Flathead Lake stuns year-round, and Polson offers easy access to surrounding recreation areas.

West of the lake, soak in the healing mineral waters at the local hot springs resort in Hot Springs. Head north and stay in a Jacuzzi suite or cabin on the shores of Noxon Reservoir at Trout Creek’s Lakeside Motel & Resort.

Find Western Montana’s cultural hotspot in Missoula. This lively town is explore-worthy all year long, boasting galleries, museums, theaters, eclectic dining spots, breweries, distilleries and wine bars. Stay at the 1903 Gibson Mansion B&B—where Victorian elegance meets modern convenience—and plan your trip around a show at The Wilma, Missoula Community Theatre or The Top Hat. The Top Hat has amazing food to boot. By day, explore Missoula’s shops, galleries, cafés and coffee shops. Not to be missed: the free Missoula Art Museum.

See art together at the Missoula Art Museum for a romantic and cultural experience. Photo: Slikati Photography

The Bitterroot Valley beckons those looking for a relaxing getaway. Immerse yourself in cowboy culture at Darby’s award-winning, adults-only retreat, Triple Creek Ranch. Embark on a dog-sledding adventure, ride horses and enjoy fine wines. Also in Darby, take a guided snowmobile ride with Rye Creek Ranch or experience true western hospitality at the Bitterroot River Ranch. Just north in Hamilton, ABC acres offers a unique permaculture farm-stay for eco-minded couples looking to experience ecological design and sustainable food, production and healthy living systems.

The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg is the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Guest Ranch. Need we say more? Find downhill skiing nearby or cross-country ski at Georgetown Lake. Stop for treats at The Sweet Palace, or treat your sweetheart to a beautiful piece of Montana jewelry at The Sapphire Gallery and when the weather gets warmer, pan for your own sapphires.

Want to take your relationship to a new level? Book a scenic flight over the jaw-dropping Mission Valley with Blue Goose Aviation (by appointment only and weather dependent).

You won’t want to leave Dancing Spirit Ranch after a stay in one their chic cabins. Photo: Dancing Spirit Ranch

Just outside Glacier National Park, bring your creative spirits to experience the stillness, splendor and simplicity at Columbia Fall’s unique Dancing Spirit Ranch where you’ll have the opportunity to become one with nature (or two, as it were). With winter yoga retreats and activities like Thai bodywork for couples, you’re sure to connect with yourself and with each other. Nearby in Kalispell, enjoy a concert by the Glacier Symphony and Chorale.

There’s no end to the romantic adventures and authentic experiences couples can experience in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Make time to connect under the big sky.   

 

Discover Winter’s Wonder with a Snowshoe in Western Montana

Winter in Montana isn’t only for adventurous powder plungers and downhill dreamers. It’s also for paradise seekers looking for a peaceful escape in an enchanting frosty forest of white. We hike all year here, and taking a walk in the snow is high on our list of things we love—it just requires a little extra gear. Snowshoes make it possible to head onto the trails and into backcountry quiet places that might otherwise not be accessible this time of year. This easy—and family-friendly—snowsport is a must-do winter activity, bound to leave you with some pretty incredible Montana memories.

See Glacier Country on snowshoees for an outdoor experience you won’t forget.

Many facilities around the region rent gear and offer friendly tips and trail advice to eager adventure seekers. Not all snowshoes are the same, and not all trails are either. Our gear shops can help with size and fit and steer you in the right direction. Local outfitters are also available to show you the way if you’re looking for a guided tour.

Here are some tips for the trek.

TRAILS + TERRAIN
Groomed and ungroomed winter trails are a dime a dozen around here, and we tend to brag about our backcountry terrain because it’s just so brag-worthy. That said, here are some of our favorite spots to explore.

Snowshoe the park.
Winter is the most magical time of year in Glacier National Park. The crowds are gone and the landscape is heavenly. The stillness and quiet offer an ideal time to strap on a pair of snowshoes and discover this powder paradise. Take a self-guided tour along the shores of Lake McDonald or up the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Let our resident experts show you the way around the park by snowshoe. Glacier Adventure Guides offers alpine adventures through old-growth forest, past frozen waterfalls and lakes and across meadows blanketed with snow.

Lake McDonald views with Glacier Adventure Guides. Photo: Devin Schmit

You can also take an interpretive ranger-led snowshoe tour of the park’s Apgar area, learning about the park’s topography and wildlife along the way.

Autumn Creek Trail in East Glacier is one of the most popular routes in the area. This 6-mile trail begins at the summit of Marias Pass before entering the park.

Beyond the park.
Whitefish is pretty much winter defined. Whitefish Mountain Resort offers two uphill routes—the Toni Matt and the East Route—and, west of town, you can shoe the dog-friendly Round Meadow trail system. Whitefish’s Sportsman & Ski Haus will set you up with the right gear for your adventure.  

One of the best things about snowshoeing is it’s easy to master. Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell is a great place to try out this beginner-friendly sport for the first time, and Spoke & Paddle can help you with equipment rentals. Nearby Herron Park/Foy’s to Blacktail Trails is another great place to start out.

For fun near Flathead Lake, trek Lakeside’s Blacktail Mountain or Bigfork’s Crane Mountain Snowmobile Trail (Road #498). Contact the friendly folks at Base Camp for gear rentals and trail suggestions.

Head up near “The Yaak” to Troy’s Cougar Ridge for a trek on snow-covered roads that wind in and out of the wintry woods of the Kootenai National Forest.

The Thompson Falls Fitness Trail is a wonderful hike for families, as it’s relatively flat, deer sightings can be frequent and following wildlife tracks in the snow is fun for the kids.

Check trail resources ahead of time to see if dogs are allowed to come along. Photo: Thompson Falls Main Street

Explore Missoula’s Pattee Canyon or Blue Mountain recreation areas for endless trails. You’ll also find snowshoe adventures in the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Missoula’s South Hills. Just east of Missoula, Greenough’s Lubrecht Forest offers a quiet getaway to test your snowshoe know-how. Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area on the Montana/Idaho border offers over 15 miles of groomed trails for snowshoers. You’ll find gear and good advice from the fine folks at Missoula’s Trailhead.

From Lookout Pass, you can snowshoe, ski or snowmobile to Taft, about 10 miles. This route is for well-experienced snowshoers only, due to the nature of the trail.

The Bitterroot Valley boasts stunning winter landscapes, charming small towns with warm western hospitality, and trails abound. Lolo Pass lets you choose your own adventure with multiple snow-covered roads. Four miles from the pass, walk upstream to Snowshoe Falls for the perfectly picturesque winter waterfall scene. Hike the Continental Divide at the Chief Joseph Trail System’s large network of groomed trails, complete with a cozy log cabin at the trailhead for warming up after your trek. Skalkaho Snowpark provides access to Skalkaho Pass in the scenic Sapphire Mountains.

Wandering snowy trails under Western Montana’s winter sun, does it get much better?

Make it an overnight adventure.
Many of Western Montana’s ranches and resorts offer year-round activities, and snowshoeing is no exception. You can also find off-the-beaten-path overnight adventures at lodges, vacation homes and U.S. Forest Service cabins.

Revel in rustic splendor at Sula’s Twogood Cabin, a 6-mile hike from the Warm Springs Creek Trailhead. (Open until October 15th and the month of December.)   

Explore the breathtaking Seeley-Swan Valley from your cabin door at Seeley Lake’s Double Arrow Lodge, where you can borrow a pair of snowshoes or rent a pair at nearby Rocky Mountain Adventure Gear.

The 37,000-acre Resort at Paws Up offers guests two-hour snowshoe tours of the resort grounds, plus luxury Montana lodging in beautiful Greenough.

It’s safe to say, wherever you stay, there’s probably a trail close by and a pair of snowshoes calling your name.

Shoe safely.
Though snowshoeing is a tranquil and fairly simple winter activity, it’s still important to know your snow safety. Be avalanche aware and read snow reports before you head out. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions, pack water and snacks, take a trail map and follow trail signs, and be wildlife savvy.

Wildlife.

Our trails may come with lots of surprises, be prepared for wildlife and changing conditions. Photo: Devin Schmit

See you on the trail, friends.

Cozy Up in Western Montana’s Winter Wonderland

Winter in Western Montana is pure magic, and that’s because we don’t just know how to play in the snow, we know how to stay in the snow. Our secret? Cozy. Get snug fireside in one of our luxury lodges, cabins or chalets. Staying in Glacier Country is part of the beauty of playing in Glacier Country, and warm western hospitality is our specialty. You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic Montana winter getaway experience than what you’ll discover here. We’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite spots to get your cozy on.

Double Arrow Lodge

Warm welcomes are served up all year at the Double Arrow Lodge, and winter is extra cozy at this historic Seeley Lake getaway. The Seeley Swan Valley is known for epic snowmobiling and cross-country trails, plus snowshoeing, ice fishing and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Choose from deluxe lodging and log cabins, and enjoy fine dining and drinks at the on-site Seasons Restaurant and Stirrups Lounge.

The Double Arrow Lodge glows with warmth and we can’t get enough of it.

Izaak Walton Inn

This family-owned and family-friendly retreat in Essex, Montana offers the perfect combination of scenic beauty, comfortable accommodations and ease of access to outdoor activities in and outside of the park. The Izaak Walton Inn features a historic lodge, plus fully-equipped luxury railcars, classic cabooses, ski-in/ski-out cabins and rental homes all nestled right up against Glacier National Park. The Dining Car is a popular stop for inn guests as well as local residents.

The Izaak Walton Inn is the perfect place to lay your head down after a day of winter adventure. Photo: Noah Couser

Snow Bear Chalets

If you’re looking to hit the slopes in under a minute, Snow Bear Chalets is the place for you. Located on Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort’s Hope Slope—yes, literally right on the ski slope—these “treehouse” chalet rentals offer a luxuriously convenient ski-in/ski-out experience with jaw-dropping views, hot tubs and beautiful stone fireplaces. Stay in a Snow Bear Chalet for a very unique and unforgettable Western Montana winter experience.

We love these “treehouse” chalets. Photo: Snow Bear Chalets

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Treat yourself to the ultimate in winter comforts at the only four-diamond resort in Montana. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake offers deluxe hotel rooms, suites, lakefront condominiums and luxury cabins. To boot, every room has a fire place and there’s an on-site spa. The lodge is minutes from downtown Whitefish and the ski slopes of Whitefish Mountain Resort, and only 30 minutes from Glacier National Park, which is heavenly this time of year.

Finding a cozy fireplace after a day of snow play at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, is always a good choice.

Gibson Mansion

Missoula is a magical mountain town with plenty of winter fun to be had, and one of the best places for a snowy stay and play getaway is Missoula’s premiere bed-and-breakfast, the Gibson Mansion. Built in 1903, Gibson Mansion combines the Victorian elegance of the past with the modern conveniences of today. Bonus: they have the most delicious huckleberry scones around, which, paired with a hot cup of coffee, make for a pretty perfect start to a day in the snow.

Kalispell Grand Hotel

Stay in the heart of Kalispell’s historic district with easy access to winter activities in the Flathead Valley—including skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort—and Glacier National Park. The Kalispell Grand Hotel boasts an exceptional atmosphere, plus they bake fresh cookies every afternoon and offer the option for 60 and 90-minute massages. Hello, Kalispell Grand.

Quinn’s Hot Springs

One of our favorite ways to unwind after a day of snow play in Western Montana’s winter wonderland is by soaking in a natural hot spring, and that’s’ why we absolutely love Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort. With multiple mineral pools, one of the finest restaurants in the northwest, a tavern and luxury log cabins, Quinn’s, without question, offers an authentic Montana experience.

Soaking in the pools at Quinn’s Hot Springs in Paradise, Montana is the ultimate way to end a day.

Whatever your stay style—luxury spa retreat, comfy rustic cabin, timbered-lodge grandeur—you’ll find that we don’t mess around when it’s time to get cozy. See you by the fire. We’ll bring the hot chocolate.

Winter Road Trips and Scenic Drives in Western Montana

Road trips are often equated with summertime, or at least with the warmer months (and by warmer we mean no threat of snowy road conditions). But here’s the thing: we recreate outdoors all year here in Western Montana, so we’re always on the road driving from one ski hill, Nordic paradise or snowmobile trail to another, and we’re here to tell you this—the winter panoramas from the pavement here are pretty magical, and the stops along the way are, too. 

Winter views in Western Montana, like East Glacier’s Dancing Lady Mountain, will not disappoint. Photo: Tracey Vivar

A winter road trip in Glacier Country is always good for a snow-season refresh, whether you get out for a few hours or a whole day, or you turn your travels into an overnight adventure. Never-ending bluebird skies against pure white snow sparkling in the sunshine? Yes please.

Here are a few of our favorite winter drives in Western Montana:

RAVALLI TO ST. REGIS – TOUR 200 + ST. REGIS/PARADISE SCENIC BYWAY
53 Miles
Just outside of Ravalli, head west on Highway 200 traveling along with the Flathead River as it snakes through scenic valley vistas. You’ll pass through the small towns of Dixon—famous for their mouthwatering Dixon Melons—and Perma. As this two-lane highway winds down the valley, the mountains continue to get more and more grand. Head south on Highway 135, following the Clark Fork River down the St. Regis/Paradise Scenic Byway. Stop for a soak at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort or a meal at their historic Harwood House Restaurant. Continue south down this picturesque mountain highway until you reach St. Regis. Stop at the St. Regis Travel Center for gas and a huckleberry shake, and don’t miss the free live trout aquarium!

Highway 135 follows alongside the Clark Fork River, making for a gorgeous and fun drive. Photo: Jerrie Bullock

MISSOULA TO SULA HIGHWAY 93
82 Miles
This four-lane highway takes you straight through the always-gorgeous Bitterroot Valley. From Missoula, drive south towards Lolo, admiring the many towering peaks of this picturesque range, like Lolo and St. Mary. Make an appointment with the Holt Heritage Museum for a history lesson on cowboy culture, American Indians and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. From Lolo, head to Florence and on through Stevensville, Victor and finally to Hamilton. Continue south on 93 until you see the right-hand turn for Lake Como Road. Follow that until you reach the Lake Como Group Picnic Site. Check the Bitterroot National Forest website for trail information, or just enjoy the views of Lake Como underneath Western Montana’s El Capitan and West Como Peak.

Jump back on Highway 93 towards the quaint, Old West town of Darby, where you can fuel up on food and gas, or extend your trip with a stay at Alta Ranch—a great place for cross-country skiing. Highway 93 takes you past Lost Trail Powder Mountain and Chief Joseph Pass for more cross-country-country skiing, snowshoeing or winter hiking.

HIGHWAY 12 SCENIC DRIVE
70 Miles
Highway 12 into Idaho is one spectacular drive, especially in the winter. This two-lane highway weaves through the lush Lolo National Forest. Check out Travelers’ Rest State Park for a little Lewis and Clark history. Highway 12 follows West Fork Lolo Creek, and with the density of the trees and slope of the surrounding mountains, this beautiful drive makes you feel far away from it all. Take a much-deserved stop Lolo Hot Springs for a mineral soak, a warm meal or place to rest your head. Lolo Hot Springs is close to easy snowshoe and cross-country trails (Lolo Pass). Head back towards Lolo to enjoy a different view, but take it easy on this winding mountain road. When you’re back in Lolo, treat yourself to a steak dinner.

WHITEFISH TO WEST GLACIER
26 Miles
Thousands travel this route throughout the summer months, but as a winter drive, it’s just as stunning. Begin in Whitefish with views of a winter Whitefish Lake, or take a fat-bike ride around Beaver Lake with Whitefish Bike Retreat. Outside of Whitefish, head south on Highway 93 to Highway 40 toward Columbia Falls. Highway 40 becomes Highway 2 as you drive into the mouth of this breathtaking canyon. Covered in ice and snow, the Flathead River is truly stunning. Stop in Hungry Horse at the Huckleberry Patch for a slice of homemade Montana pie or fudge. Continue on Highway 2, making a stop at Glacier Distilling Company in Coram (be sure to designate your driver). Highway 2 passes through West Glacier, with access to Glacier National Park. For winter access to Lake McDonald, head north to Apgar Village. The Apgar Visitor Center has weekend hours throughout the winter months. Make sure to check their hours online.

Fat bikes are one cool way to sightsee around Glacier Country. Photo: Adam Caira

The National Park Service also offers weekend ranger-guided snowshoe park tours January through March. Make sure to check the Going-to-the-Sun Road status to see how far into the park the road is open.

Lake McDonald’s keeps its stunning allure all year long.

POLSON TO POLSON: FLATHEAD LAKE LOOP
87.5 Miles
See Flathead Lake from all sides. From Polson, head northwest on Highway 93. Stop by the Kwataqnuk Resort & Casino for a little extra fun. Stay on 93 towards Big Arm and Flathead State Park. Wraps around the “big arm” of the lake through Elmo, Dayton, and Rollins. Lakeside Motel & Resort offers relaxing and scenic lakeside lodging, plus delicious food. From Lakeside, continue north to Somers and then take a left on Highway 82, which will take you past Kalispell Bay and over the Flathead River, then turn onto Highway 35 heading south.

Bigfork is a real charmer. Determine your designated driver and stop by Flathead Lake Brewing Company, or check out The Barn Antiques, Consignment & Gifts. Afterwards, travel on to the stellar winter lake views at Wayfarers/Flathead Lake State Park. We recommend taking it easy on this two-lane highway, for safety reasons and because the winter views of Flathead Lake are incredible. Continue on past Woods Bay towards Finley Point, where we recommend sitting down for dinner at Finley Point Grill.

ESSEX TO ST. MARY
72 Miles
Taking the route from Essex to St. Mary is a unique way to see a very wintry Glacier Country. In Essex, start by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing from the Izaak Walton Inn. If you’re looking for a place to spend the night, rent one of their cabins or iconic renovated cabooses. From Essex, head east on Highway 2. This two-lane highway winds through the mountains, including Mt. Furlong, Snowslip Mountain and Calf Robe Mountain. Wintertime in East Glacier is quiet, but you’ll enjoy the view of Glacier National Park’s peaks where they meet the plains of Eastern Montana. Take the more frequently traveled Highway 2 east towards Browning or the less-traveled Highway 49 north towards Lower Two Medicine Lake, which eventually meets Highway 89. In Browning, check out Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post or the Museum of the Plains Indian for fascinating American Indian history. Beyond Browning, jump on Highway 89 heading west, passing through the small towns of Star and Kiowa. Continue north until you reach the junction back into the park to see Saint Mary Lake or Lower St. Mary Lake. Travel into Glacier National Park on the east side is a bit more limited than the west, but always know what’s open by checking road conditions online.

Look to the north on Highway 2 for a view of Calf Robe Mountain. Photo: Tracey Vivar

WINTER DRIVING SAFETY TIPS

  • Check out Montana Department of Transportation’s Travel Map for up-to-date road conditions.
  • Travel with sleeping bags, blankets, extra water and food, extra warm clothes, and look ahead for where cell service may be spotty or nonexistent.  
  • Make sure your vehicle is well-maintained: working headlights and tail lights, coolant, windshield wipers, tire pressure, etc.
  • Take it slow! Road conditions may change quickly.
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife.
  • Assign a designated driver if consuming alcohol.
  • Refuel when you can—in some areas, gas stations can be few and far between.
  • Always check business hours before stopping, in case there are weather-related closings or changes.    

We love our wildlife, so please watch carefully for bighorn sheep or other animals while driving. Photo: Jerrie Bullock

Meat Montana: Top 10 Places to Savor a Steak in Glacier Country

We’re going to come right out and say it: we’re carnivores at heart. When we think of all the things we love about Western Montana (the list is long), savoring a juicy, perfectly cooked, locally raised steak is way up near the top of the list. It’s not just a mouthwateringly delicious meal, it’s a full Montana experience. Raising cattle is a way of life here. It’s a livelihood infused with a rich history of agricultural pride, cowboy culture and—most importantly—a high regard for the land and the livestock. We love everything about a Montana steakhouse, and we’re pretty confident you will, too.

Western Montana’s steakhouses are community fixtures that attract locals and visitors from far and wide, and our steaks are some of the best you’ll ever sink your teeth into. From fine-dining western lodges to log-cabin atmospheres, Glacier Country’s got a steak cooked to your idea of perfection. So, no matter your cut of choice, mosey on up to one of these fine establishments, grab a steak knife and see what all the fuss is about. (Cowboy hat and boots optional.)

Lolo Creek Steak House

Just south of Missoula as you head down the Bitterroot Valley, stop in at Lolo Creek Steak House in Lolo. They take pride in having served “ranchers, hikers, bikers, vacationers, hunters, snowmobilers, fly fisherman, floaters, artists, writers, students and their families for over 27 years,” so, you’ll be in good company. The large log cabin setting with western décor provides a genuine Montana experience and a prime selection of irresistible steak.

Summit Mountain Lodge and Steakhouse

A perfectly seasoned Montana steak at the Summit Mountain Lodge and Steakhouse.

Located in Essex on the southeast corner of Glacier National Park, the historic Summit Mountain Lodge offers exactly what you want in a steak dinner—juicy, perfectly seasoned and seared meat with grilled vegetables. Housed in the iconic Great Northern Train Station built in 1906, Summit Mountain offers stunning park views from its deck, locally crafted beer, specialty cocktails and wine.

Bonus: overnight in one of the 32-acre property’s eight cabins.

Victor Steakhouse

Further on down the valley, you get a lot of beef for your buck at Victor Steakhouse, and it’s delicious too. For dessert, try a deep-fried piece of cheesecake or their famous peanut butter pie, that is, if you’ve got any room left.

Skalkaho Steak House

If you’re lucky, you might spot a bighorn sheep or moose while you’re dining at Skalkaho Steak House. Wildlife makes itself known here inside and out. 15 miles south of Hamilton, the views in this part of the Bitterroot Valley are spectacular. This little gem has won awards for best steak, best atmosphere and best views in the Bitterroot, and one of the things that makes it such a unique spot is the hundreds of hummingbirds that visit the outside patio during the summer months.

The Depot

For more than 40 years, The Depot has been one of Montana’s premiere classic western steakhouses. Located in Missoula, The Depot offers a full bar, 18 beers on tap (including some local favorites) and a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Seafood is flown in daily, so try the Depot Steak, an 8-ounce tenderloin topped with Alaskan king crab and béarnaise sauce. Afterwards, explore Missoula’s lively downtown.

The Montana Club

A perfectly seasoned juicy steak from Montana Club.

Homestyle meets Montana style at The Montana Club, with two locations in Missoula and one in Kalispell. “Montana’s hometown restaurant” serves up scratch-made entrées and mouthwatering steak. Their 10-ounce Montana Club Cattle Company Angus Steak is exclusively selected and specially cut for The Montana Club Restaurants and aged for a minimum of 45 days. There’s something for everyone at the Montana Club, plus both Missoula and Kalispell serve up hearty doses of arts, culture, nightlife and recreation.

Whitefish Lake Restaurant

The New York Times called Whitefish Lake Restaurant one of the best restaurants in the Whitefish area. Tee up for 18 holes at this historic golf-course setting and end your day on the green by heading inside for a prime cut of Montana beef cooked exactly how you like it. Add a side of white truffle macaroni and cheese baked au gratin. Insider Tip: start with the Baked Brie in Puff Pastry or the New Zealand Mussels…or both.

Venture Inn and Restaurant

How does eating a 7-ounce premium choice Angus bacon-wrapped top sirloin filet with roasted jumbo shrimp sound after a beautiful hike in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness? Don’t mind if we do. Venture on over to Libby in Montana’s beautiful Kootenai River Valley and savor a meal at the Venture Inn and Restaurant.

 

Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse

A perfectly rare prime rib steak from Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse in Seeley Lake.

We love a good lake with our steak. That’s why we love Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse in Seeley Lake. Premium Montana steak and stunning views? Yes please. All steaks come with garlic bread, potatoes, salad and sweet pickled watermelon rind. Enjoy the sunset from this beautiful, rustic, cedar-sided steakhouse situated right on the edge of the lake.

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club had us at “special sauce.” Known as one of Montana’s best steakhouses, most outfitters end their Blackfeet Reservation trips with a stop at the Cattle Baron for their famous family recipes, flawlessly cooked steak and a cultural experience provided by the attentive and energetic owners.

What’s one more?

Narrowing the list down to 10 of our favorite steak stops was impossible. We just couldn’t pass this next one up. Plus, it’s in Glacier National Park, and, well, you know how we feel about the park…

BONUS: The Belton Chalet Grill Dining Room and Tap Room

Gourmet steak dinner at the Belton Chalet. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Top off a day in Glacier National Park with a Montana-ranched steak at the 1910 historic Belton Chalet where “the way it was…still is.” Talented chefs prepare world-class meals in a unique outdoor kitchen, and guests watch the sunset from the expansive deck. Do yourself a favor and try one of their cocktails with vodka that’s infused with Montana’s famous Flathead cherries.

DIY: While we love a good night out, we know some of you might enjoy the experience of cooking up a Montana steak yourself. Local butchers and community farmers markets are a great place to buy premium Montana-raised beef.

P.S. If you’re looking for a complete western adventure (we highly recommend it), cowboy up at a Western Montana guest ranch for way more than a prime porterhouse.

Oh Snap! A Montana Spring in Pictures

As you know, a picture is worth a thousand words, and when we get our fans and friends out there capturing Montana moments in Glacier Country, we’re left speechless. These snapshots of our corner of paradise speak for themselves. Do we actually get to live, work and play in this place? Yep, we sure do, and you’d be ahead to come experience the magic and wonder for yourself. There’s a reason why we call it heaven on earth. So, although we love telling you all about our stunning landscapes and unrivaled recreation opportunities, this time we’re going to just show you. (We’re still bragging, but with less words and more pictures.)

Warning: daydreaming for an unspecified amount of time is sure to ensue after you make your way through this post.

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Quinton Tolman (instagram.com/quintontolman)

Wildflowers in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Matthew Mason (instagram.com/mason.art.globe)

Waterworks Hill in Missoula, Montana.

Photo: Sara Schroeder (instagram.com/saraoutside)

Blodgett Canyon near Hamilton, Montana.

Photo: Hunter Day Photo (hunterday.photo/montana)

Horses at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Along the Bull River.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

The forest near Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

A mountain goat at Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Kent Johns (instagram.com/kent_johns)

A wedding in Glacier National Park

Photo: Emil Rajkowski (instagram.com/raj_photo)

Aurora Borealis over the North Fork of the Flathead River.

David Marx Photo (instagram.com/davidmarxphoto)

A peaceful view of Flathead Lake.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

A kayaker rides Brennans Wave on the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

How’s that for inspiring? There’s more where these came from. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for your daily dose of Western Montana beauty.

Want to share your incredible travels in Western Montana? Use #GlacierMT on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a chance to be featured.

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.

A Delicious Visit to Cafe Kandahar in Whitefish, Montana

I’ve got a confession to make: this past weekend I ate an 11-course meal. And let me tell you, that is a lot of food. Luckily for me, they were 11 of the tastiest dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of sending across my palate. But these weren’t just any 11 dishes; each was prepared by Chef Andy Blanton (a multi-time James Beard semifinalist) at Cafe Kandahar, his restaurant inside Kandahar Lodge on Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana.

Chef Andy inside his kitchen in Whitefish.

Chef Andy at his kitchen in Whitefish.

From the moment I stepped inside his restaurant on Saturday night, I knew we were in for a delightful evening. No detail went unnoticed and his staff is some of the best (if not the best) in Montana. But instead of telling you about his mouth-watering dishes, I thought I’d show you.
Warning: viewing these images may cause you to book a trip to Whitefish, Montana ASAP. 

Yellowstone caviar, white truffles and huckleberries?! Yes, please.

Included on the menu: Yellowstone caviar, white truffles and huckleberries.

Quail egg. (I was skeptical, but loved it.)

Quail egg. In one word: delightful.

Halibut lox. (Not my personal favorite, but the crème fraiche sorbet was tasty).

Halibut lox.

Dungeness crab. (No words for how tasty this was.)

Dungeness crab. No words for how tasty this was.

Sablefish. (SO GOOD).

Sablefish. SO good!

Forest mushrooms. (One word: divine).

Forest mushrooms. This girl loved this dish.

Alba White Truffle Risotto. (This dish literally melted in my mouth).

Alba white truffle risotto. This dish literally melted in my mouth.

Foie gras torchon. (Put huckleberry on anything and I'll eat it. But for real, this foie gras was decadent).

Foie gras torchon. PS: put huckleberry on anything and I’ll eat it. But for real, this foie gras was decadent.

Yak carpaccio. (The tomato jam: yum).

Yak carpaccio.

Buffalo tenderloin.

Buffalo tenderloin.

Pork belly confit. (My favorite thing on the menu).

Pork belly confit. Hands down, my favorite dish of the night (though it was close).

Washington rack of lamb.

Washington rack of lamb.

Ending the night: a dessert sampler that included crème brûlée, a huckleberry tart and chocolate.

Me + huckleberries = two Montana BFFs.

Me + huckleberries = two Montana BFFs.

If you plan on dining at Cafe Kandahar, here are a few things to keep in mind:
-Cafe Kandahar is open during summer and winter. Their seasons run from mid-December through the end of March and mid-June through the end of September.
-To ensure a table, make a reservation.
-The Snug Bar (located in the lobby of Kandahar Lodge) is also owned by Cafe Kandahar and serves up tapas and small plates.
-Plan to spend the night at Kandahar Lodge. Sidenote: it was nice to have direct access to my room after dinner. 

Happy dining,
TT