Author Archives: Nicole Gonzalez

Top 6 Best Fall Hikes in Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Autumn has arrived in Western Montana and one of our favorite things to do during this magical time is hike. Home to thousands of miles of hiking trails that take visitors through more scenic beauty than imaginable, Western Montana’s Glacier Country is prime hiking country. Our hiking trails range from easy day hikes to multi-day backcountry treks which allow visitors the experience to see untouched beauty, breathe in fresh mountain air and explore our stunning mountain lakes and waterfalls.

If you’re not sure where to start for finding some amazing, easy and stunning day hikes, don’t worry, we’ve compiled our top 6 best fall hikes. These hikes are sure to provide your clients with an unforgettable Montana moment.

Blodgett Canyon

Blodgett Canyon is known for its incredible overlook and relatively easy hike to the summit. Photo courtesy of Hunter Day Photography (hunterday.photo/montana)

This stunning hike is located in the Bitterroot Mountains and is only a total of 3 miles round-trip. The trailhead is to the right of the parking area and easily accessible. Several benches are placed along the hike up. Stop and take in the incredible views, but keep going—you’re in for a treat at the top!

Mount Sentinel

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

Hike “the M” for a breathtaking view of the Missoula Valley. Named for the large whitewashed rock “M” placed on the mountainside in 1908, this trail starts at the eastern edge of The University of Montana campus. This steep, zigzag path includes 11 switchbacks-with gains 620 feet of elevation in under a mile- is a little difficult but the views make it all the worthwhile.

Morrell Falls

Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail leads to the stunning Morrell Falls.

If you’re looking for a quick hike to a stunning waterfall, than look no further than Morrell Falls. Located at the base of the Swan Mountain Range, Morrell Falls is a jaw dropping waterfall at the end of a great hike with amazing views. Be sure to bring your camera for this one, you’ll want to capture all of the beauty.

Ross Creek Cedars

You will stand in awe of these cedars. Photo courtesy of Donnie Sexton.

Located in the Kootenai National Forest is a grove of western red cedars. Stroll along the trail for a truly awe-inspiring experience. Walk among the over 400-year-old western red cedars and enjoy all of information along this interpretive walking tour.

Holland Falls Nature Trail

The view of Holland Falls will be sure to take your breath away.

This popular and breathtaking hike follows along the shoreline of Holland Lake and gradually climbs to the base of the falls. The trail starts at the end of the parking area and continues straight for 1.6 miles. It’s great for groups in the Glacier National Park area that are looking for an easy hike with unforgettable views.

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake is at the end of the 2 mile hike and the view is absolute perfection.

The trailhead is located a few miles east of Lake McDonald Lodge along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is a serene and breathtaking trail that winds through lush forest, along a pristine stream and inland through a northwest rain forest to a stunning alpine lake boasting sheer cliffs and waterfalls.

 Pro tips:

  1. It’s always a good idea to wear layers and comfortable, broken-in hiking shoes or boots. The weather can be a little fickle in the fall, and can change quickly. It’s best to be prepared with a rain jacket, just in case.
  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?

If hiking is something your clients love to do, then they are in for a treat in Western Montana. We hope they are ready for an unforgettable experience, we promise they won’t be disappointed.

Happy Trials!
NG

5 UNEXPECTED SPRING EXPERIENCES IN WESTERN MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY

It’s that time of year we love: spring in Montana. One of our favorite seasons, spring offers FIT/Group clients an exceptional Western Montana experience. The days start to lengthen, the skies erupt with beautiful blue hues and visitation is lighter than in our busier summer months. Spring is one of the best, most underrated times to visit our region. To add to your spring itinerary, we’ve put together a list of a few of the best and most unexpected experiences to be had in our beautiful Bitterroot Valley.

Pedal the Valley: Bike the Bitterroot Trail

This paved 50-mile path connects Missoula and Hamilton, taking travelers through some of Western Montana’s most charming small towns and jaw-dropping scenery. Learn more about this historic trail at bitterroottrail.com.

Biking the scenic Bitterroot Trail. Photo: bitterroottrail.com

Sip Local Spirits: Visit a Brewery or Distillery

Within the last few years, the microbrew and distillery industries have exploded onto the scene in Montana. With more than 25 distilleries and breweries in Glacier Country, adding a brew or spirit tasting to your itinerary is simple and fun. The valley is home to some of those great breweries. Check out Lolo Peak Brewing Company in Lolo, Bandit Brewing Co. in Darby, Blacksmith Brewing Company and Wildwood Brewery in Stevensville, and Higherground Brewing and Bitterroot Brewing Company in Hamilton. Visit glaciermt.com/breweries.php to learn more.

Friends enjoy some brews at Blacksmith Brewing in Stevensville.

Birder’s Delight: Bird-Watching in the Bitterroot Valley

Spring is a fantastic time to check out migratory birds in our region, and Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is just the place to do it. A 30-minute drive south of Missoula and a few minutes from Stevensville, Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,800-acre refuge that’s home to a variety of wildlife and birds. Trails are easily accessible and the Bitterroot Mountain views offer a gorgeous backdrop. Visit glaciermt.com/wildlife-refuges.php to learn more about the refuges in Western Montana.

A group sees a baby bald eagle through the scope.

Local Flavor: Dining in Montana

When you think of Montana, you likely think of mountains and big blue skies, so it might be surprising to hear that our culinary scene is top-notch. The Bitterroot Valley is home to some of our delicious culinary offerings. We suggest heading to the Lolo Creek Steak House in Lolo or head farther south to Nap’s Grill or Red Rooster Artisan Bakery in Hamilton. Click here for more dining options, and let the mouthwatering commence.

The Bitterroot Valley is home to many delicious culinary offerings.

Market Season: Experience a Western Montana Farmers Market

If you find yourself in the Bitterroot Valley this spring and summer you must check out one of the many Farmers Markets in the area. These markets are great for a genuine Western Montana experience. You will find some amazing Montana-made goods, local produce, organic items, baked goods and fresh flowers, not to mention friendly locals and talented musicians. Check out the full list of community farmers markets in the Bitterroot Valley right here.

Hamilton’s Farmers Market is a must. Photo: asideofsweet.com

You can find more information on where to stay and play in the Bitterroot Valley here or if you are looking for more information about Western Montana, visit our tour operators website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our Tourism Sales Manager, Debbie Picard.

Cheers!
NG

How Group Tour Operators Can Utilize Social Media

In today’s world, social media plays a significant roll all-around us and there are some amazing benefits that come along with utilizing this type of marketing. FACT: your target audience is using social media and most likely using it on a daily basis. It’s also a fact that social media influences consumers when trying to decide where they want to visit and what they want to see and do on their travels.

A group tour visiting Glacier National Park.

As a tour operator, utilizing social media on a group tour can be simple and fun. It allows you to create and share the story that you want and connect with your audience through the stories being told by the attendees on your tour. It’s a great way for potential clients to see exactly what they will be experiencing. Using social media on your tour and having your attendees engage with social media will allow you to show your audience that experiencing a place on one of your tours is the absolute BEST way to travel.

Taking a tour on an iconic red bus in Glacier National Park.

We’ve rounded up a few of the best ways to utilize social on your group tours…

Encourage social media sharing. Share your business handle and the social media icons that you are currently using on all marketing collateral. This allows you to have direct connection between you and your tour guest. Be sure that you have clear signage encouraging your group attendees to engage and share their experiences in real time by tagging your business in their photos. By having your clients post for your business it gives you another platform to highlight your tour offerings and showcase your expert knowledge of the region you are visiting.

Create a hashtag. It’s always beneficial to have a hashtag that is associated with your business allowing you another way to monitor how your business is performing on social media. Another way to utilize hashtags is to create a specific hashtag that focuses on a particular tour, trip or product that are unique for your business. Having your client’s use your hashtag turns them into ambassadors for your brand and creates exposure for your business.

Engage. Once your group tour attendees share their experiences on their personal social channels you need to like their photos, comment on their posts or share their photos with your business pages. Engaging is key to creating conversation about your business and gives you the opportunity to showcase your expert knowledge. Tip: If you plan to share their content, be sure to have clear messaging that states once they use your hashtag or tag your business in their photos this gives you (the tour operator) permission to share their photos on your own business page.

Monitor the conversation. Now that your group tour attendees have utilized social media while on your tour and tagged your business, it’s important to monitor the conversation and keep checking back on the posts to see if there are questions from others about your offerings. You don’t want to implement this system and then do nothing with it. In order to get it right, you need to commit time and effort in maintaining each social channel to keep your engagement strong. Update your channel regularly and keep the conversation going.

Now go out there and start implementing social media on your group tours and watch the magic happen. If you have specific questions about social media we are always here as a resource. Oh, and be sure to follow Western Montana’s Glacier Country at @GlacierMT on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or follow our hashtag, #GlacierMT on all social media channels.

Happy hashtagging!

NG

TRANSPORTATION: GETTING TO MONTANA IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Montana: when you think of this beautiful place, chances are majestic mountains, big blue skies, wildflower-filled meadows, miles of hiking trails and crystal clear rivers and streams come to mind. But you’re also probably wondering, “Is it easy to travel to Montana?” The answer: yes this heavenly place is closer than you think.

transpo-blog

A couple enjoys fishing in Western Montana.

Located in Western Montana, Glacier Country is a vast place and is an ideal option for a scenic meeting or convention and group tours. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is also home to two major international airports, a well-maintained highway system and a passenger train to get you and your clients here with ease.

A 7-minute drive from downtown Missoula, Missoula International Airport (MSO) offers easy access to the southern tier of Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Direct flights arrive daily from Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix/Mesa, Salt Lake City, Portland and Seattle, with seasonal flights arriving from Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. This airport services Delta/SkyWest, United, Alaska/Horizon Air and Allegiant Air.

Situated in the northern tier of the region is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). Located 15 minutes from Whitefish and Kalispell, this beautiful airport is the gateway to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies and  has daily flights from Salt Lake City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas, with seasonal flights from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland and Oakland. Airlines flying into this airport are Delta/SkyWest, Alaska/Horizon Air, United and Allegiant Air.

b2b-map

Map outlining all the flight options for both international airports.

If your group is interested in traveling to Western Montana by train, then Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the answer. Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the Hi-Line of Montana and the northern tier of Glacier Country, where it makes stops in several communities, including Cut Bank, Browning, East Glacier Park, Essex, West Glacier, Whitefish and Libby. This train is an amazing way to travel past Glacier National Park, the Rocky Mountains and all the stunning terrain in between. Amtrak operates daily from Seattle and Portland, as well as Minneapolis and Chicago. This is a great option for large groups wanting to see the beauty of Western Montana’s Glacier Country in a relaxing and comfortable setting.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

If traveling by air or rail isn’t what you are looking for, and you prefer driving to Western Montana, then you’re in luck. Driving in Montana is easy with a well-maintained highway system that’s anchored by Interstate Highway 90 running east and west and U.S. Highway 93 running north and south. The beauty of driving on our highways and roads are that you will always have breathtaking scenery and heart-stopping views, with charming small towns sprinkled along your route.

See you soon,

NG