Author Archives: Debbie

COLORFUL AUTUMN ROAD TRIPS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers up four very distinct seasons. While each has its own special place in our hearts, we have to admit that we are smitten with autumn. The season brings crisp mountain air at night while days are still warm enough for adventuring. The colors of the changing leaves are vibrant with golden hues of the cottonwoods and the western larch that cover the mountainsides along our wild and scenic rivers. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite road trips through Western Montana that showcase fall in all its glory. These routes can be added to any regional itinerary for your FIT clients this fall (winter, spring and summer too).

SCENIC ROAD TRIPS 

Bitterroot Valley
This lush, forested valley nested between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges is prime for leaf peeping. Pull over and explore any one of the Bitterroot’s storybook communities or watch wildlife at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Fall harvest events and happening take place at the Daly Mansion, which boasts 50 kinds of trees offering lots of changing colors. Stop in at Bitterroot cidery for some fresh-pressed deliciousness—the core of fall flavor!

Stop at the Daly Mansion in Hamilton for this stunning fall foliage scene. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Montana Tour 200
Just north of I-90 is scenic Hwy. 200 in Sanders County which travels along scenic river banks brimming with fall colors, active wildlife and ample outdoor recreation opportunities. Stop midway in Thompson Falls for a home-cooked meal at Minnie’s Montana Café. 

Visit the damn at Thompson Falls.

Flathead Lake
Circle the largest natural freshwater lake in the west for fall-foliage lake views, and experience the charm of the Flathead Valley, home to authentic small towns. Make a stop at The Raven Bar & Grill in Woods Bay on the east side of the lake for delicious waterfront dinging—including gluten free and vegetarian fare—craft cocktails, and some of the best views in the region.

The beauty of fall in the Flathead Valley.

Seeley Swan Valley
Between the stunning Swan and majestic Mission mountain ranges, the Seeley-Swan Valley boasts hundreds of pristine alpine lakes and beautiful hiking spots. This exceptionally scenic valley is known for its large population of tamaracks—unique pine trees that lose their golden needles in the fall. Make your stay an overnight with an authentic Montana lodging experience at the Double Arrow Resort, offering four-season recreation, cozy accommodations and incredibly warm hospitality.

 

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Highway 2 – Kalispell to Libby
Running through Western Montana’s northern region, Highway 2 travels along some of the most scenic places in Western Montana and introduces road-trippers to off-the-beaten-path treasures and well-known attractions to the locals. Start in Kalispell, the perfect mix of small-town Montana and old-west charm, and end in Libby, one of the region’s most scenic and quietest corners.

Kootenai Falls near the swing bridge on our way to Libby.

For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operators website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Happy fall road tripping,

DP

TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT THIS FALL IN WESTERN MONTANA

Many visitors to Western Montana’s Glacier Country arrive in July and August, but I’d like to let you in on a little secret that you can share with your FIT/Group clients: fall is one of the best times to visit Montana. The changing colors of vibrant red and orange hues are breathtaking. The weather can have a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies one minute and snow the next, but that is what makes autumn in Montana uniquely pleasing. We’ve rounded up some of the top things to add to a fall itinerary under Western Montana’s big blue sky.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Top 10 List:

  1. Glacier National Park – The Crown of the Continent encompasses more than 1 million acres and features the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Pro tip: boat cruises and hiking trails on the east side of the park, are less crowded and lead to stunning views.

    A red bus in Glacier National Park.

  2. Blackfeet Indian Reservation – Visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery to learn about Blackfeet culture and traditions.

    Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

  3. Whitefish – This resort town offers fine dining, boutiques and breweries. An easy 15-minute drive to Whitefish Mountain Resort offers weekend activities on the mountain until the end of September.

    The Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

  4. Kalispell – Make Kalispell your home base for your Western Montana adventure, and explore this charming town’s museums and galleries. Flathead Lake is just a 10-minute drive away and it’s only 30 minutes to Glacier National Park.

    Montana Trolley ride in historic Kalispell.

  5. Flathead Lake – The largest natural freshwater lake in the West is home to ample water-sport activities, boat cruises and six state parks, including Wild Horse Island, which can only be accessed by boat.

    Sunset view of Flathead Lake

  6. Flathead Indian Reservation – Experience the traditions of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at the People’s Center in Pablo.

    Cultural dancing at Ninepipes Lodge.

  7. National Bison Range – This 18,500-acre preserve is home to 350 head of bison, plus elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, black bear and coyote.

    Bison roam the National Bison Range.

  8. Missoula – Home to the University of Montana and known as Montana’s cultural hub, Missoula is full of shopping, dining, breweries and distilleries, and offers Montana’s finest music scene.

    Hikers are able to hike the “M” trail and oversee all of Missoula.

  9. Seely Swan Valley – Considered one of the state’s most scenic drives and an outdoor lover’s haven, the Seeley Swan Valley offers lakes, trails, mountains and state parks. The perfect place to watch the western larch trees (also known as tamaracks) turn the forests and hillsides a vibrant gold.

    Tamarack trees in autumn.

  10. Bitterroot Valley – Discover history at the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville and Daly Mansion and Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum in Hamilton. Chose to hike from over 100 trailheads or bike the 50-mile-long paved Bitterroot Trail.

    Once the summer home of Marcus Daly, now the Daly Mansion Museum.

For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operators website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

 

Happy fall!

DP

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA 2018

For the fifth year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 9 – 11, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in at the MONTANA booth get your photo taken with a real live Montana Cowboy and learn more about Montana as a meeting destination. Whether you are looking for the perfect luxury guest ranch for a corporate incentive group, a large branded hotel with a ballroom and breakouts for the association conference or the mountainside hot springs resort for the board retreat, Montana has it all.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Bozeman, Big Sky and Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish—to learn about the variety of meeting offerings in Montana. Without further ado, please meet the meetings experts from Montana that will be attending IMEX America 2018.

Daryl Schliem, Visit Bozeman – Bozeman CVB

Returning to the Montana booth this year is Daryl Schliem, the President and CEO of the Bozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau. The hospitality options and outdoor activities that attract meeting planners to the Bozeman area include an abundance of recreation, resorts, shopping, museums, breweries and its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. In town, you’ll find plenty of local flavor in Bozeman’s historic downtown shops, restaurants and galleries. From a casual boardroom meeting to the formal ballroom soirée, Bozeman has plenty of meeting and function space as well as over 2,500 guest rooms. Boasting the largest and busiest airport in Montana, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport offers many direct flights to major cities in the U.S., making Bozeman the perfect mountain meeting setting, providing everything a group needs to get business done by day along with an exhilarating Montana experience waiting just outside the conference room door.

Candace Carr Strauss, Visit Big Sky – Big Sky Chamber of Commerce

Joining the Montana booth this year is Candace Carr Strauss the CEO of Visit Big Sky, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. Candace will discuss with planners the inspiration that comes from alluring landscapes, fresh mountain air and unlimited outdoor adventure creating an authentic Montana meeting memory. Big Sky offers a variety of lodging and venue options from family friendly hotels to 5-star luxury penthouses and private homes to fine dining and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. Winter is king in Big Sky with ski-in ski-out properties at Big Sky Resort offering 5,800 acres of skiing terrain. Summer offers more availability for meetings and retreats along with easy access to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park only 40 miles away. Big Sky is located an hour south of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport with easy transfers.

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Representing Discover Kalispell in the Montana booth again this year is Group Sales Manager, Dawn Jackson. As the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell is in the middle of Montana’s most iconic natural places and the ideal environment to increase conference attendance and utilize the city’s venues and modern amenities to conduct effective business. With two new hotels opening in 2018, Kalispell offers over 1,800 guest rooms and 56,000 square feet of meeting space for citywide groups of up to 4,000 attendees. Kalispell’s community is filled with unique shopping, cultural offerings, fine restaurants, wonderful events and welcoming smiles. Kalispell’s international airport, Glacier Park International, offers year-round direct flights to five major markets and additional seasonal directs to another five markets making access to Kalispell incredibly easy.

Mimi Hall Gustafson, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Director of Sales and Services for Destination Missoula, Mimi Hall Gustafson will be returning to IMEX to talk about meetings in Missoula this year. Missoula is the second largest city and cultural hub of Montana as it provides the perfect blend of business and pleasure for meeting attendees with outdoor adventure, abundant nightlife, unexpected sophistication and a thriving food scene. Whether the meeting is an intimate corporate retreat or a large association conference, Missoula has something for everyone. With nearly 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,400 guest rooms at hotels for every budget level, Missoula is a great destination for meetings up to 2,000 attendees or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Montana’s second busiest airport, Missoula International Airport from 13 major U.S. markets.

Dan Hansen, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Explore Whitefish, Dan Hansen focuses on group travel and will be joining the Montana booth this year. Whitefish creates lasting impressions and earns rave reviews for meetings, events and corporate retreats. With more than 1,200 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 2,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism

The final member of the Montana booth at IMEX America will be Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Debbie works closely with the three regional CVBs of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these three hub cities. Within the western region of Montana is an array of properties that are well-equipped to host meetings and conventions of various sizes, including small events, incentive travel, corporate retreats and large conferences. These properties include luxury guest ranches, hot springs resorts and mountainside lodges. And when you combine these meetings offerings with two international airports, shoulder season prices and team-building activities, it’s easy to see why meeting planners are taking a look at Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you’re coming to IMEX America 2018, let us know. We’d love to meet with you and talk meetings in Montana.

A few things to keep in mind for IMEX:

*To meet with Montana’s Glacier Country, Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minutes appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman and Big Sky are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by our booth anyway. We welcome drop-ins and will be hosting daily giveaways.

And if you’re a meeting planner not attending IMEX America, we’d still love to help you plan your Montana meeting. All of the contacts listed above are happy to help you find the perfect fit for your meeting needs.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect destination for your meeting in Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP

MEET IN MONTANA – A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP

We all know that the best—and quite frankly the only way—to really know if a destination is right for your next meeting, conference or corporate retreat is to experience it firsthand. With that in mind, the first week of June, Western Montana’s Glacier Country invited four professional meeting planners from around the U.S. to Montana for a familiarization (FAM) tour to visit our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, where we showcased meeting facilities, off-site venues, farm-to-fork offerings and authentic Montana experiences that seemed custom-made for meetings.

After flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) the group took a scenic 30-minute drive to The Resort at Paws Up an authentic working cattle ranch and one of Western Montana’s luxury guest ranches. The ranch has varying accommodations from lavish guest homes to riverside glamping tents that include a camp butler who’s dedicated to your group’s needs. The glamping tents were a hit with the planners and we took a few minutes to relax around the fire along the Blackfoot River—one of Montana’s premiere blue-ribbon fly-fishing trout streams.

Relaxing around the campfire at Paws Up.

After the site tour we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and cultural hub—and met up with Mimi Hall Gustafson from Destination Missoula—the official convention and visitors bureau—and took a short walk along the Clark Fork River to Caras Park to watch river surfers on Brennan’s Wave. After tasting and touring Montgomery Distillery we ventured to one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. We had a restful night’s sleep at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, (featuring 200 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. feet of meeting space) considered one of Missoula’s leading convention hotels. The next day started with a site tour and breakfast at DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater (featuring 171 guest rooms and nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space) before visiting some of Missoula’s meeting and event spaces including The Wilma Theater, Missoula College and the unique and expansive meeting space at the University of Montana followed by lunch overlooking the U of M Grizzlies stadium.

Colorful drinks from Montgomery Distillery.

The view from the Canyon Club overlooking University of Montana’s stadium.

The drive from Missoula to Bigfork north on Highway 93 happens to yield some of the most scenic vistas in Montana, including the National Bison Range and the Mission Mountain Range. With Montana’s spring wildflowers on full display, the drive through the Jocko and Mission valleys was stunning.

Our next stop on the FAM tour was an overnight at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. Family owned and operated for over 65 years, the 2,000-acre resort sits on the east shore of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—where it offers both horse and water recreation, as well as accommodations that vary from small cabins to rustic lodges and 5,000 square feet of meeting space. While the resort hosts families for week-long vacations from mid-June through Labor Day, it can be reserved for groups the months of May, early June, September and October making it the ultimate spring or fall retreat destination.

Tour of Flathead Lake Lodge.

Fun ride home from Steak Fry via an old fire truck.

After a hearty ranch breakfast, we meet up with Dawn Jackson from Discover Kalispell—the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau. After several site tours we ventured out to Purple Mountain Lavender, and owner Deb took us on a tour of her farm where she grows, cultivates, drys and manufactures everything lavender from sachets to lavender lemonade and shortbread cookies. The afternoon took us to downtown Kalispell and a lunch dine-around featuring DeSoto Grille, 406 Grill and Slit Rock Café. After some down time the planners enjoyed an insightful historical tour on the Montana Trolley, a service that’s used to transport groups on specialty tours and events throughout the Flathead Valley. The trolley dropped us at the Conrad Mansion—once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad—for a tour and delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions.

Group or spouse outings to Purple Mountain Lavender.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the conveniently located Red Lion Kalispell in the heart of downtown Kalispell (featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space).

Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish where we were greeted by Dan Hansen with Explore Whitefish—the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Our first stop was to visit the newest boutique property in downtown Whitefish—The Firebrand Hotel (featuring 86 guest rooms, a small meeting room and board room). We headed up to Big Mountain and stopped in at Whitefish Mountain Resort and lodging options including the option to buy out the mountainside Kandahar Lodge for groups of 10 to 50 in the spring and fall months. We had lunch at Casey’s in downtown and enjoyed the rooftop lounge and the beautiful views of the mountains and valley.

Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. Upon entering the park, we stopped for a photo at the Glacier Park sign, then continued on to Lake McDonald Lodge were we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the DeSmet on Lake McDonald. It was a perfect afternoon in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park, ladies and gentlemen.

Having some fun on the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Our final evening was spent touring Grouse Mountain Lodge and dining at one of the local favorites, Abruzzo Italian Kitchen one of Whitefishes newest additions before heading to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space) on the shore of Whitefish Lake for a restful night’s sleep.

Good morning from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

After a delightful breakfast, the planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA) (a 15-minute drive from downtown Whitefish) for home.

It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana’s meeting options.

If you would like more information about Western Montana’s Glacier Country as a meetings destination (feel free to check out our week at #MeetInMontana on instagram or if you are interested in participating in the next meeting planner FAM highlighting our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, drop me an email here.

Meet me in Montana,

DP

MOTORCYLE TOURING IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Motorcycle touring around the Western United States is becoming increasingly popular. Home to uncrowded byways, back-roads galore and more scenic beauty than you can imagine, Western Montana’s Glacier Country is prime motorcycle riding country. Traveling along our open roads gives bikers the experience to see untouched beauty, breathe in fresh mountain air and explore our charming small towns along the way.

Open roads of Montana beckon.

If you are looking for the most stunning ride of your life, traveling on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is a must. This 50-mile-long road takes riders through the heart of the park, driving through glacial-carved terrain, jagged peaks and pristine wilderness and crests the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.

Ride alongside the historic red buses in Glacier National Park.

Other off-the-beaten-path rides include the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway, one of the most scenic wild roads in northwest Montana. This scenic byway travels around the west side of the lake and is heavily forested terrain with an abundance of wildlife.

Scenic byways along the water are perfect touring roads.

Another favorite motorcycle route is the State Route 35, along the east shore of Flathead Lake. This scenic route offers riders breathtaking scenery, roadside fruit stands (try the locally grown Flathead cherries, they are to die for) and some spectacular riding.

Gearing up at Grizzly Harley-Davidson in Missoula.

We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for the perfect Montana motorcycle tour, or give us a shout, we’re always here to help or look here for more inspirations.  Grab your bike or rent one from one of or dealers and head out into Western Montana for the ride of your life-you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Riding,
NG

INSPIRATION IS ONLY THREE HOURS AWAY: DALLAS, MEET MONTANA

Planning your next board retreat, association meeting, corporate event or group tour just got easier, Texas. American Airlines now offers nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Missoula International Airport (MSO) located in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Here are five reasons why you and your attendees or clients should leave the humidity behind and head north to Montana’s heavenly mountain air.

The magnificent big sky over Glacier National Park. Photo: Hunter Day

BIG SKY INSPIRATION

We’re just going to come right out and say it: Montana is incredibly amazing, and our big sky never ceases to inspire and energize. We provide authentic Montana experiences in breathtaking landscapes, majestic mountains, wide-open spaces and wild rivers that get the creative juices flowing. Plus, we provide everything you need for an unforgettable adventure, from lodging and accommodations to planning, meeting venues, technology, transportation and, of course, fun.

The Milky Way illuminated in Montana’s big sky.

MOUNTAIN MEETING VENUES

No matter the size of your group, we can accommodate. From hotels and conference centers to resorts, sprawling guest ranches, B&Bs and other uniquely Montana locales, our lodging options combine warm welcomes, comfortable meeting spaces, cozy accommodations, cutting-edge technology and ease of access to adventure.

Chuck wagon dinners, offered Montana style.

WESTERN HOSPITALITY

Your neighbors up north offer the same incredibly warm hospitality you’re used to. You’ll fit right in here, Texas. Whether you’re looking to accommodate 3, 30, 300 or 3,000+, we’ll move mountains for you. We specialize in exceptional hospitality and convention support, plus fine, fun and creative dining options from Montana-raised steak and bison burgers to ethnic cuisine, food trucks, comfort food and vegetarian fare. We offer meeting and trip support any way we can—service referrals, arrivals and departures, visitor information, photographs and marketing materials, welcome letters, itineraries and activity planning. Our goal is to ensure you not only have a positive Montana meeting experience, but one you’ll never forget.

Food trucks at Caras Park along Missoula’s waterfront, provide something for everyone.

ACTIVITIES + ADVENTURE

Whether you’re bringing your group to a large hotel or considering a more intimate retreat at a lodge or ranch, group and team-building activities abound here. Nothing brings people together like the wild rush of a guided whitewater rafting adventure, a hike in Glacier National Park, a festival or small-town fair, a music event on the banks of a sparkling river, or fly-fishing hiking, biking, skiing and stand-up paddleboarding. Take a brewery or distillery tour, or just explore downtown Missoula. Groups come together in Montana because our mountains inspire and our recreation is second to none.

Rafting the whitewater in Western Montana is a great team-building activity.

LOCATION IS EVERYTHING

There’s an endless list of reasons why Missoula, Montana makes for one incredible mountain meeting and group tour destination, but one of the top reasons is Missoula’s access to all things Western Montana. This arts and cultural hot spot and big-venue hub with all the amenities of a big city is just a stone’s throw from Glacier National Park, multiple wilderness areas and national forests, countless rivers and lakes, two Indian reservations, wildlife-viewing areas and dozens of incredibly charming small towns with museums, galleries, good food and plenty to drink. Here, you’ll find endless options for day trips and side excursions that let you take in everything Western Montana has to offer, making your meeting, convention or group tour an extraordinary adventure.

Hiking the M trail provides beautiful views of the Missoula Valley.

So, grab your cowboy hats, Texas, and head up north to big skies, cool temps and low humidity. We’ll see you in just under three hours. Let’s do lunch.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: 5 GREAT PLACES TO EXPLORE MONTANA BY BICYCLE

Western Montana’s Glacier Country has seen an increase in unique and niche markets that love the open roads, stunning scenery and local hospitality. Cycling is definitely one of them. If you are a tour operator offering cycling adventures we’ve asked the experts and our friends from Adventure Cycling Association, located right here in Missoula Montana, to share their top 5 destinations in Montana for adventure cycling.

Bikers enjoy the Bitterroot Mountains.

The Adventure Cycling Association’s route network has 3,500 miles of mapped bicycle routes in Montana, and more than 42,000 around the country. We encourage you to explore Montana by bicycle, where you can take in the smells, sights, locals, communities and culture at a pace that allows you to appreciate all Montana has to offer.

TransAmerica Bicycle Trail
With the incomparable Madison Range as a backdrop, cyclists explore the backroads, farmers markets and small towns of Big Sky Country using pedal power alone.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Northern Tier Route
A trio of riders explores a wild and remote section of the Northern Tier Bicycle Route from Libby to Whitefish.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here. 

Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail
Thousands of cyclists travel in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark every year. Here’s a small piece of that route, featuring the stunning plateaus and winding river bottoms of north-central Montana.

The Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail was created to celebrate the anniversary of the Corps of Discovery’s 1804 – 1806 historic journey and offers cyclists the opportunity to follow the path of the intrepid explorers, captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. It includes seven map sections detailing the 1804 – 1805 westbound trip, roughly following the Missouri and Columbia rivers, and one map section showing Clark’s 1806 eastbound return along the Yellowstone River in Montana, totaling 3,562.5 miles.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
Crisscrossing the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico, Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the longest mapped off-pavement cycling route in the world. Along its 2,768-mile course, it cuts through some of Montana’s most wild and spectacular country. See it here through the eyes of two young travelers from faraway lands.

There is an excellent opportunity to view wildlife such as bear, deer, wild horses, pronghorn antelope, eagles, osprey, sandhill cranes and other animals and birds. The route is rich in history, with ghost towns, deserted mines, wagon routes and old Spanish land grants, and is near or passes through several national parks, including Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Adventure Cycling Headquarters
Every summer we enjoy the parade of bicycle travelers who drop by our office here in Missoula, Montana. These cyclists come from all over the world. Last year we had over 1,400 visitors! Their variety of style, equipment, route and purpose is endless. In 1982, Greg Siple began recording our visitors on film and asking them to tell their stories, creating Adventure Cycling’s National Bicycle Touring Portrait Collection. The Open Road Gallery features selections from this collection in Adventure Cyclist magazine and on our website.

We invite you to visit the Adventure Cycling HQ, meet the staff, take a free tour, grab an ice cream from the visiting cyclists’ lounge and check out some of the portraits hanging on the walls that are featured in our Open Road Gallery collection.

Lisa McKinney is Adventure Cycling’s communications director.

GUEST POST: MONTANA’S NOT-SO-OFF SEASON

5 Reasons to Schedule Your Next Meeting in Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Ah, the spring melt! One day the snow drifts are so high we are unsure if spring will ever arrive, and the next day we are sad to see it melting so fast, and we’re left wanting for more turns on the ski hill. The changing of the seasons is something we Montanans often take for granted. It’s one of those things that just sort of happens. When I moved to San Francisco in my mid-twenties, I was so excited to experience the city, even though I knew I would miss the mountains of my hometown, Missoula. To my surprise, it wasn’t the mountains I missed the most, but the four distinct seasons.

Spring sunset over Missoula

I will admit, for the individual traveler, a Montana  summer with warm nights and daylight hanging on until well after 10 p.m., and a winter with epic vertical and no lift lines are both too enticing. However, as a meeting planner and destination professional, I realize Montana’s “off” seasons or what we refer to as shoulder season (spring and fall) are not only spectacular, but perfectly aligned with the desired months for conferences and meetings.  Determined to avoid the travel-heavy summer months and the winter holiday chaos, annual meeting and conference planners often schedule events in spring, early summer and fall. As a self-described Treasure State expert and longtime resident, I’d argue there are no better times to host your event in Western Montana than during these seemingly “off” months. Here are five reasons why:

The Vistas Are Always There
Montana is beautiful year-round. Many locals will refer to this time of year as mud season. Sure, the need for a car wash is real, but the peaks of Glacier National Park are still spectacular and the sunsets on Whitefish Lake are still postcard perfect. Even an early fall thunderstorm rolling across Flathead Lake will take your breath away. The scenery never gets old and never disappoints—that, I  can guarantee. Often we hear that the panoramic views and clear mountain air serve as inspiration for quality discussions and out-of-the-box thinking. Clear skies or not, Montana seems to spark creativity and innovation.

A picture perfect day at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

So Much to Do
My expertise is in Western Montana’s Glacier Country (as it’s called), so I will focus there. Imagine you have a half day to wow conference attendees with an array of activities. You’d love to consider Montana because, let’s face it, you’ve heard so many awesome things, but your conference is in late March. Surely, you think, that’s too early for Montana. Think again. Even in Western Montana, spring will start to show in late February. The days are getting longer and the nights are not as cold. This often results in bluebird days with spring emerging in town, but winter lingering in the mountains—a beautiful contrast. By late March, your list of potential activities could include hiking to the “M” overlooking Missoula, world-class spring skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort, fly-fishing on the Blackfoot River (think A River Runs Through It), snowmobiling to Garnet Ghost Town, wildlife viewing at the National Bison Range, or snowshoeing in Glacier National Park (local secret: Glacier National Park has no crowds in the spring, fall and winter, but these are some of the most magical times to visit). Where else can you find this many diverse outdoor activities in late March? Heck, if you are up for it, you could raft the whitewater of the Lochsa River (full wetsuits, of course).

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

We’ve Got You Covered
Event planners live and die by their backup plans. Montanans are no different, as being prepared is a way of life. We’ll move that trail ride inside for an arena ride, if lightning threatens. Is snow forecasted during your rafting trip? We’ll gear you up or offer a lake cruise in a heated tour boat instead. It’s raining on the ski hill—let’s do a local distillery or creamery tour instead. We’re flexible folks and, while we love being outdoors, the indoor activity options are truly endless and truly Montana. Country jitterbug lessons, anyone?

Under Budget
Many venues that are too expensive or too booked “in season” may be discounted and available.  Imagine treating your attendees to a Montana dude ranch or luxury lodge. The discounts don’t end with accommodations. Many airlines have specials on flights to major Montana cities in the spring and fall.  Also, as the summer and winter crowds begin to dwindle, many of the area vendors will run specials just to stay competitive. Even the convention and visitor bureaus offer incentives for conferences and meetings during the shoulder seasons. Take advantage of these deals and your Montana meeting will be the one nobody forgets.

Unique, Local Events
Montana is no longer the well-kept secret it used to be. That’s great news for local and unique cultural events that can accompany your conference or meeting. If April is your month, attendees could participate in the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula. September features the Dragon Boat races on Flathead Lake. How about a pow wow or rodeo in late May, or a concert at a local brewery or riverside amphitheater? As destination meetings struggle to stay relevant in our digital world, making an authentic connection with a place is essential to the success of your meeting and ensures your attendees will return year after year.

Glacier peaks watching over Flathead Lake.

Meetings Northwest and MNW Destinations
Do you need a sixth reason to plan your conference, meeting or event in Montana? Meetings Northwest and MNW Destinations is now here to help. We plan conferences all over the country, but we’ve added a full service Destination Management Company to our portfolio. We have offices in the Flathead Valley (covering Glacier National Park, Whitefish and Flathead Lake), Missoula and Bozeman (covering Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky). We specialize in helping companies and associations pull off the perfect Montana meeting.

For more information on Meetings Northwest or MNW Destinations contact Amy at alucke@meetingsnorthwest.com

Amy Lucke, Conference & Event Planning/Destination Management

About the author: Amy has been lucky to call Montana home for almost her entire life.  Growing up in Missoula fostered her love for hiking mountains and floating rivers.  Her best memories are summer days spent just north on Flathead Lake and one of the reasons she now calls the Flathead Valley home.

She simply loves sharing the secrets of Northwest Montana’s mountain towns, outdoor adventures and of course the magic of Glacier National Park.  She started in events as a recruiter and admissions representative for The University of Montana and has now worked for clients all over the country as an event planner with Meetings Northwest.  Her favorite events are the ones in her neck of the woods.

GUEST POST: A FEW REASONS TO VISIT ABC ACRES IN WESTERN MONTANA

Amid towering mountain panoramas, alpine lakes and endless wilderness, ABC acres—a vacation farmstead in Western Montana’s Glacier Country—has been named a Top 6 Place to Take the Kids for a Farm Stay by the Travel Channel, and is honored to be part of the Great American Farm Tour 2017 hosted by Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture.

There are many reasons to set your vacation sights this way, but here are just a few.

Views of ABC Acres Farmstead.

Agritourism at Its Finest
Our guests join us on the adventure of growing and raising healthier food options while regenerating the world around us.

ABC acres has created an exciting agritourism service geared toward farm-stay vacations, complete with educational and participatory components for guests to learn about the farmstead’s ongoing regenerative agriculture systems and how that directly benefits the local and global community. Such services include customized farm tours and workshops, self-guided walking maps, strategically located informative kiosks, plus the occasional movie night and Friday social. Guests can accompany farm staff on livestock feeding chores (a kids’ favorite), or experience an even more hands-on “work-along,” for those wanting to get their hands a little dirty.

ABC acres strives to offer visitors a glimpse into an agricultural operation that heals the land, grows strong livestock and provides truly clean and healthy food choices.

Feeding the animals leaves a lasting impression on kids.

Kids will find new best friends on the farm.

Farm Stays, Farm Store and Concierge Services
ABC acres offers two newly-built and very well-appointed homes for their Farm Stays and vacation rentals, with plans in the works to increase lodging capacity. Both homes were constructed with health and wellness in mind. They were built without VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and incorporate non-toxic spray foam insulation, HEPA filtration for high-quality interior air all season long and “alive water” systems to reinvigorate and re-energize water at all points of use, all contributing to the underlying theme of healthy environments, which pervade throughout the farmstead.

While visiting the farm, you may witness things like elk and deer grazing the pastures at dusk, osprey fishing for trout in the waterway and farm staff running pasture irrigation—or any number of the processes that go into the design and earthwork of a fully-functioning permaculture system. It is these on-farm experiences that give staying at ABC acres its uniqueness and charm.

As an additional service, ABC acres’ Farm Stay manager remains available (before and during visits) to answer any questions guests have, assist with local information and planning, and coordinate off-farm activities considering where and what to explore. Beyond a place to simply rest your head, the hospitality of ABC acres is here to enhance the experience for our guests and help them create lasting memories.

ABC acres’ latest announcement is the construction of a new farm stand and gift shop, due to open this spring. Dine on farm-raised goods, purchase farm-related books and toys, take home gifts and apparel for family and friends, or a souvenir to remember your time in Montana.

Pick up fresh goodness like this pickled garlic.

The label says it all about these eggs.

Heart of the Bitterroot Valley
Conveniently located just a few miles south of Hamilton, a short walk to the Bitterroot River and bordered by picturesque farms and public lands, ABC acres provides an idyllic combination of wide-open spaces, wildlife and outdoor adventure, just minutes from this thriving valley’s small-town happenings and city amenities.

Whether you’re looking for mountain biking deep in the forest, hiking any of the numerous trails, canyons and creeks spread throughout the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges, world-class fly-fishing, skiing, hunting, birding, you name it (not to mention charming mountain towns, historical sites, and local festivals), the Bitterroot Valley has more than its share of adventure and opportunity.

Conveniently located just north of the valley, and within an hour’s drive of ABC acres, is Montana’s second largest city, Missoula, ready to receive travelers from all sides of the globe at its international airport. Missoula is a vibrant city, home to cutting-edge restaurants and breweries, along with a lively nightlife and music scene.

Guests enjoying the view of the Bitterroot Valley from the farmstead.

Enjoy fly fishing or bird watching along the Bitterroot River.

Proximity to Other Regional Wonders
Some people say no Montana vacation is complete without a trip to Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park is a must-see as well. ABC acres happens to be situated between the two, roughly equidistant from both (a four or five-hour drive to either). This offers an excellent opportunity to cover the region, experiencing the best of all worlds.

Montana is known for its many lakes, and just a few hours’ drive north from ABC acres (and en route to Glacier National Park) are two of its finest. Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, surrounded by many small towns and public access points. Picturesque Whitefish Lake sits at the base of Big Mountain, and the resort community of Whitefish boasts an exciting downtown, waterfront hotels and some of the best skiing in the state.

Experience ABC acres and reconnect with the wonders of nature that Montana so abundantly provides.

Greetings from the cattle.

About ABC acres
ABC acres is a Permaculture Farmstead in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Permaculture is a design science that looks to incorporate elements found in natural ecosystems such as diversity, resiliency and stability, and place them into an agricultural system for healthier and more productive results.

Established in the fall of 2012, this family-owned and operated farmstead focuses on sustainable food production, healthy living systems and regenerative ecological design. Our cattle, chickens, goats, turkeys and pigs are out on open pasture, eating, resting and living the way nature intended.

As visitors and Farm Stay guests take in all that ABC acres offers, we hope to stir emotions that create conversation for global change. We are certainly trying to do our part by walking a new walk, and we welcome one and all to our little slice of Montana heaven so that you too can be amazed by the wonder and magic of our natural world.

13 NONSTOP FLIGHTS TO WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Getting to Montana has never been easier. With the increase in passenger demand for the treasure state and some of the larger airlines now offering direct-flight access into Western Montana as a travel destination from their main hubs, the time is right to visit and see for yourself why they call it Big Sky Country.

Fly direct from Dallas and Chicago to MSO on American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers ease of accessibility via two bustling regional airports, Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, and Missoula International (MSO), located in Missoula. Whether you are a meeting planner looking for a relatively undiscovered mountain destination or an association needing convention space near an international airport, we’ve got you covered in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish. For tour operators with clients who have Glacier National Park on their bucket list, cut your clients’ time on a motor coach and consider flying into one of our regional airports before jumping on a coach to see the sites.

A picture perfect day at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

Historic red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Six major airlines (United, Delta, Alaska, American, Allegiant and Frontier) provide service between these airports, with a combined 13 nonstop flights (some seasonal) to major cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Phoenix/Mesa, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle, offering flight schedules that make planning your next conference or tour in Western Montana’s Glacier Country a breeze.

Enjoy western hospitality. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

If attendees or clients are not located in one of these direct flight markets, not to worry; it’s a short flight from most hubs on these major airlines. To learn how simple it is to get to Western Montana, find out more.

Come see the Milky Way in big sky country.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,

DP