Tag Archives: Bitterroot Valley

TOP 7 MEETING PLANNER QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

Meeting planners are looking for new destinations that offer experiential components to drive attendance, engagement and leave a lasting impression. Hello, Montana! I’ve gathered the top seven most frequently asked questions by meeting planners who have never been to Montana, about meeting in Montana, and why choosing Western Montana as a meetings destination is the right decision.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

Q: My attendees/clients are looking for more experiential destinations; what can Western Montana’s Glacier Country offer for offsite experiences?

A: Adding an outdoor adventure to your next meeting agenda in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is easy when you utilize Montana’s most notable and stunning adventure assets—rivers, mountains and lakes—along with the services of professional guides and outfitters. Whether the group wants have their own rodeo at a local arena or take a trail ride by horseback near Kalispell (read more about meetings in Kalispell here), a mountain biking excursion in Whitefish, float the Alberton Gorge near Missoula (learn more about meeting in Missoula here) or take a guided hike through Glacier National Park, Western Montana has professional, experienced and well-equipped guides to make group adventures easy, safe, educational and a whole lot of fun.

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Meeting attendees enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride.

For other experiential adventures, here is a partial list; you choose the fun. When in season, pick sweet Flathead cherries from an orchard. Ride the alpine slide or take a gondola ride for spectacular views at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Cast a line into a blue-ribbon trout stream. Soak in a hot spring. Stand-up paddleboard or kayak on the largest freshwater lake in the West—Flathead Lake. Personalize a Glacier National Park trip with The Glacier Institute. Set up a tour and meet with an actual smokejumper and see what he/she wears when parachuting in to fight a wildfire. Enjoy a historical walking/architecture tour. Take in a small-town rodeo. Mine for sapphires. Experience a Broadway-caliber theater performance. Visit a local Flathead Valley lavender farm and make lavender sachets or lemonade. Meet and listen to a cowboy poet. Learn to line dance. Talk with a wrangler at a chuckwagon dinner. The list goes on. In fact, here are 102 things to do.

Create your own rodeo along with line dancing lessons in a horse arena.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

Chuckwagon dinners where farm to table food is served at every meal.

Q: Montana seems to be a little more difficult to get to; how would my attendees get there, and which airports would they fly into?

A: Traveling to Montana is easier than you might think. There are two airports servicing Western Montana’s Glacier Country – Missoula International Airport (MSO) and Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell—offering 13 direct flights from six major airline carriers. Once on the ground it takes between five and 15 minutes to get to the majority of the convention hotels located in Western Montana—most of them offering free shuttles. Montana also has train service (Amtrak’s Empire Builder) that runs from Chicago in the Midwest to Seattle and Portland on the West Coast with stops at seven stations in Western Montana, Whitefish being the most notable for meetings. If driving or needing car rentals, our well-maintained highway system offers virtually traffic free travel. Interstate 90 runs east and west through our region, and U.S. Highway 93 runs north and south.

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

Q: How expensive is the airfare to fly into Montana?

A: According to the most recent data released from the Bureau of Transportation Services flying into or out of Missoula International Airport based on average ticket prices are the lowest in the state of Montana with an average fare at $406. Flying into or out of Glacier Park International is slightly higher. American Airlines began service to Western Montana last year and, with the increased competition, ticket prices from Delta, Frontier, United and Alaska airlines have decreased substantially.

Fly direct from Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles on American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Q: My clients want four- or five-star properties only; do you have those?

A: The simple answer is YES. We have some of the world’s finest luxury guest ranches that are perfect for retreats, executive board meetings and corporate incentive travel programs offering one-of-a-kind experiences. Triple Creek Ranch, located in Darby, is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux properties and caters to adults only. The Ranch at Rock Creek, located in Philipsburg, is the world’s first Forbes five-star guest ranch resort and offers world-class experiences. The largest guest ranch in Western Montana is The Resort at Paws Up, located on 37,000 acres just east of Missoula in Greenough and offers luxurious riverside glamping along with lavish guest homes and à la carte activities for up to 200 guests. Located in Whitefish, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is the only four-star hotel resort in Montana.

The Ranch at Rock Creek’s Buckle Barn.

Sit fireside at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish.

Glamping and making s’mores around the fire at Resort at Paws Up.

While not rated by Forbes, other notable retreat locations that will give your attendees all the Montana feels include Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, Wilderness Club located in Eureka, Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort located in Paradise, and Dancing Spirit Lodge in Columbia Falls. If a smaller lodge retreat is what you’re after, consider Laughing Horse Lodge in Swan Lake, or Hidden Moose Lodge and Kandahar Lodge in Whitefish. For a more downtown retreat, stay at the new Residence Inn by Marriott at the Mercantile in downtown Missoula, surrounded by boutiques, cafés, breweries, distilleries and fine dining options.

Guests can relax around the stone fireplace at Hidden Moose Lodge.

Private entrances amid the blossoms in the central garden at Laughing Horse Lodge.

Q: How large is the convention center in Western Montana?

A: Western Montana does not have your typical convention center with a hotel attached, however, we do have significant ballroom and flexible breakout space at convention hotels located in our larger cities of KalispellMissoula and Whitefish. Missoula boasts the largest meeting space in the region, with 33,400 square feet of flexible space at the University of Montana along with a full convention services staff to make the conference easy. Missoula’s largest convention hotel, which is a Hilton property has 22,000 square feet of flexible space. Kalispell’s largest convention hotel, again a Hilton property, offers 14,000 square feet of function space, while Whitefish has two convention hotels—The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Grouse Mountain Lodge, with roughly 11,000 square feet of space at both properties. Visit our meetings website to see more options.

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

Q: Montana seems remote; do you have all the modern conveniences we need for a conference?

A: Western Montana has all the modern technology and conveniences without the spendy price tag found in tier one and two cities. Transportation: Most convention hotels offer free shuttle services from the airport and free parking for those renting or driving a car. Uber and Lyft ridesharing services are available. Wi-Fi is offered free in guest rooms and some conference spaces along with affordable rates on AV and video conferencing needs. Attendees don’t have to pay extra for business centers, fitness centers or pools. There is no statewide sales tax in Montana, so that final BEO will only have a service charge not additional taxes on food, AV or meeting services (note: Whitefish has is a 3% resort tax). BONUS: Montana’s lodging tax is 7% currently (8% starting January 2020), which is half of some of our neighboring states.

The food is what surprises people the most about Montana. It is tremendous.

Q: Do you have a DMC (Destination Management Company) in Western Montana to help with my all my meeting planning needs on-site?

A: Yes, we do. MNW Destinations is located in Western Montana but also helps plan conferences all over the country. They have offices in the Flathead Valley (covering Kalispell, Whitefish and Bigfork) and in Missoula. They specialize in helping companies and associations pull off the perfect Montana meeting.

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on pre and post itineraries or if you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,
DP

TOP 9 TOUR OPERATOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

As the Glacier Country tourism sales manager, I travel to trade shows all over the U.S. fielding questions about what to see and do in Western Montana from tour operators. While most product developers have been to Montana to put itineraries together, there are many tour operators who put tours together based on suggested itineraries and the help of the destination experts. When sitting down for an appointment, one of the first questions I ask is “Have you ever been to Montana?” The answers vary, but the three most common responses are “Yes; It was breathtakingly beautiful; I can’t wait to go back. My clients love it.” Or, “I remember going through Montana as a kid, and I need to go back.” Or “No, but it is on my bucket list to see and I wanted to meet with you because our clients are requesting tours to see the region.” I’ve gathered the top nine most frequently asked questions by tour operators about Glacier National Park and Western Montana as a tour destination.

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

Q: What will there be left to see when the glaciers are gone from Glacier National Park?
A: While there are still 25 remaining active glaciers, most are tucked into higher elevations. A few are visible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and a few others from a short hike off the road. What is really stunning to see is the magnificent terrain that the glaciers have carved out and created over a vast expanse of time. The towering peaks, majestic valleys and sparkling waterfalls aren’t going anywhere. So even after the glaciers are gone, believe me, there will be plenty left to see.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Spring day in Glacier National Park.

Q: What are the dates that the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park will be open to motor vehicles?
A: Glacier National Park is open year-round and is beautiful throughout each season of the year. However, the highest point of the Going-to-the-Sun Road where it crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass is at an elevation of 6,647 feet (2,026 m), and Montana does experience a lot of snow at that elevation. Beginning annually around April 1, plows begin to clear the roads of snow in the higher elevations. By mid-May, most of the road is clear and open to hiker/bicycle traffic. The National Park Service takes this time to do any major repairs to the road and then schedules an opening of the entire road to vehicular traffic from mid to late June, and it remains open to mid-October (weather depending). This is a good place to check accessibility of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. https://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm

A Sun Tour cruises along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road takes you past beautiful waterfalls.

Q: If we can’t take the motorcoach on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, how do we see Glacier National Park?
A: It is true, vehicles and vehicle combinations longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are prohibited between Avalanche Campground on the west side of the park and the Rising Sun picnic area on the east side due to rock overhangs and roadway twists and turns. It’s best to park the motorcoach and have everyone climb aboard a tour provided by a Glacier National Park concessionaire—either a red bus tour or Sun Tour. On the red bus tour your group will travel in a vintage 1930s restored bus. The buses seat 17 people and have canvas roll-top roofs. The drivers are called jammers, because, back in the day, they had to jam the gears to get the buses to climb the steep hill grade. You have the choice for your tour to go out and back, or you could deadhead the motorcoach on the other side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road and pick up your clients and continue on your way. The Sun Tour buses travel the same roads but tell the story from the Blackfeet perspective. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the Indigenous people that have called this place home long before it was a national park. Many of the peaks, valleys and waterfalls are named after bygone Blackfeet tribal members, and the start of the tour is blessed by burning sweet-grass.

Tour guests take in the views along the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Sun Tours.

Groups enjoy red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Q: How long should I plan on spending in Glacier National Park, and what is there to do?
A: Most itineraries include driving the main roads, so people only see a very small percentage of the park. However, I understand itineraries are tight, so if you only have one day to spend in Glacier National Park, this blog post addresses it. I recommend two days at a minimum. One day to tour by road and by boat and learn about all there is to see and do. The next day, plan to get off the beaten path and explore trails, waterfalls, wildlife viewing and flora. For the more adventurous, there are professional guides and outfitters for horseback riding, hiking to alpine lakes and whitewater rafting down crystal clear rivers. One of my favorite places is Running Eagle Falls in the Two Medicine Valley. The trail is handicapped-accessible and a good short path for everyone. The spectacular falls are where two separate waterfalls come together in the same location.

Moose sightings in the spring.

Running Eagle Falls, also known as Trick Falls is easy to get to in the Two Medicine Valley.

Q: We know we want to see Glacier National Park, but what other “must-sees and dos” are in Western Montana?
A: The list is long, but here are a few highlights. Explore the Blackfeet and Flathead Indian reservations to learn about American Indian traditions. The Flathead Valley towns of Whitefish and Kalispell are full of shopping, galleries and historical sites. Whitefish Mountain Resort has an abundance of group activities all summer long. Bigfork is a charming village with shops, eateries and live theater. Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—has boat cruises and other adventures like Wildhorse Island, a day-use state park with, yes, wild horses on it. The National Bison Range is an 18,000-acre preserve for driving tours with around 350 bison, plus elk, deer, pronghorn and bears. Missoula—the second largest city in Montana—is a cultural hub with fantastic music, brewery and restaurant scenes. Both the Seeley Swan and Bitterroot valleys draw outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

A horse-drawn wagon ride with Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish is a fun activity.

All smiles at a chuckwagon dinner outside of Missoula.

Q: How can we incorporate an American Indian experience into our tour?
A: There are several American Indian pow wows that take place during the summer months on the Blackfeet and Flathead reservations along with heritage sites. In Browning, visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and the Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery. Stop in at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village to see Blackfeet Indian art, or choose to stay and experience American Indian culture by camping in a teepee and eating a traditional bison dinner. Request a step-on-guide to showcase the Blackfeet reservation including buffalo jumps, teepee rings and medicine lodges. On the Flathead Indian Reservation experience the culture and heritage of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes at The People’s Center in Pablo.

Teepee stays along Lower St. Mary Lake with stunning views of Glacier National Park.

Cultural dancing on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Q: What kind of hands-on, experiential things can our clients enjoy?
A: Here is a partial list; you choose the fun. Pick sweet Flathead cherries from an orchard. Ride the alpine slide or take a gondola ride for spectacular views at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Cast a line into a blue-ribbon trout stream. Soak in a hot spring. Stand-up paddleboard or kayak on the largest freshwater lake in the West—Flathead Lake. Personalize a Glacier National Park trip with The Glacier Institute. Meet a smokejumper and see what he/she wears when parachuting in to fight a wildfire. Enjoy a historical walking/architecture tour. Take in a small-town rodeo. Mine for sapphires. Go with a guide (llama trekking, whitewater or scenic rafting, fishing, horseback riding). Experience a Broadway-caliber theater performance. Visit a local lavender farm and make sachets or lavender lemonade. Meet and listen to a cowboy poet. Learn to line dance. Talk with a wrangler at a chuckwagon dinner. The list goes on. In fact, here are 102 things to do.

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

Q: I keep seeing Missoula highlighted in magazines on all the “best of” lists. Tell me more about Missoula?
A: Missoula is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream surrounded by seven wilderness areas and at the confluence of three rivers. You can kayak, raft or tube through downtown or take a relaxing hike just minutes from your hotel. Missoula is known for its spectacular natural beauty and nearby blue-ribbon trout fishing. Downtown boasts shopping and dining, with an abundance of restaurants, cafés, breweries and distilleries offering something for everyone. Known for its eclectic culture, visitors will find this arts and culture hub filled with nightlife, symphony, theater, film festivals, college sports, ballet, opera, roller derby, weekend farmers markets and daily summer happenings in Caras Park along the Clark Fork River.

Hiking the M trail overlooking Missoula.

Playing on the water at Brennan’s Wave on the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

Q: How do we get to Western Montana? Are there airports, and which one should we fly into?
A: Traveling to Western Montana and getting to Glacier National Park, are both easier than you might think. With two airports to choose from —Missoula International Airport (MSO) and Glacier Park International (FCA) located in Kalispell—train service (Amtrak’s Empire Builder), car rentalsbuses and a well-maintained highway system, it’s pretty simple. Interstate Highway 90 runs east and west anchoring our region, and U.S. Highway 93 runs north and south.

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

11 AMAZING HIDDEN GEMS IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

The fact of the matter is this: Montana is a big place. It’s roughly the geographic size of Germany, with still only one million people that call this massive—fourth largest in the U.S.—state home. What does that mean for groups and international travelers coming to visit? Be ready to experience wide-open prairies, snowcapped mountain peaks, rushing waterways and the biggest sky that you really have to see to believe. The question often comes up, besides Glacier National Park what are your favorite hidden gems in Western Montana? To help, I’ve rounded up the top 11 most amazing places in Western Montana’s Glacier Country (some you’ve probably never heard of). Some are off the beaten path or are considered hidden gems, but, if time allows, they should be added to your Montana travel itinerary.

Views from Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo.

Smokejumper Visitor Center. Located in Missoula, the Smokejumper Visitor Center is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend with regularly scheduled tours, and then by appointment other times of the year. It gives people a glimpse into what it’s like to be a smokejumper (which is a firefighter who parachutes into remote areas or regions that are not very accessible). During early summer (typically late April – early June), visitors to Missoula may see smokejumpers taking practice jumps as they prepare for the upcoming fire season. True heroes.

Learn about professional smokejumpers in Missoula.

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. Located just off U.S. Highway 93 (north of Arlee in Western Montana) is the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. The thing that stands out the most about the garden: it was built as a center for peace. This garden is a celebration of that. It’s a place for inclusivity and where anyone, no matter their thoughts and beliefs, can come to find peace in one of Montana’s most beautiful valleys.

The peaceful grounds of The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas near Arlee.

(The other) Lake Como. Most people when they think of Lake Como, Italy comes to mind, but this is Montana’s Lake Como and one of the state’s most beautiful spots. Situated a short drive northwest of Darby, Lake Como has beautiful snowcapped mountain views, a trail system that allows you to stroll out and back or take a 7-mile (11.2 km) hike around the lake. Relax and enjoy the beautiful sand beach. Yes, a sand beach in Montana!

Sunset at Lake Como.

St. Ignatius Mission.  If you’re cruising through St. Ignatius on U.S. Highway 93, you won’t notice it unless you look to the northeast as you’re coming into town. But make the quick stop to walk the grounds and see the inside of the mission. What makes it so special: The mission has 58 hand-painted murals on its walls and ceiling that were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, the cook and handyman at the mission back in the late 1800s.

Murals adorn the walls in St. Ignatius Mission.

Looking Glass Highway. Located on the east side of Glacier National Park, and also known as State Highway 49, Looking Glass Highway is a seasonal road that connects East Glacier Park to U.S. Highway 89. It also happens to offer incredible views of the Two Medicine Valley and the Blackfeet Nation. Note: It’s not a road for motorcoaches due to its twists and turns, but motorcycle riders LOVE it.

Views from Looking Glass Highway.

Holland Lake and Holland Falls. Another one of my favorite spots in Western Montana is Holland Lake. It’s located in the Seeley-Swan Valley between the stunning Mission and Swan Mountain ranges and is truly one of the most beautiful destinations in Western Montana. A 3-mile (4.8 km) out-and-back hike around the lake’s shoreline ends at cascading waterfalls. Again, off the beaten path, but so worth the drive to find it.

Relaxing and taking in the views at Holland Lake.

Lolo Creek Steakhouse. If you’re visiting Western Montana, steak should be on your itinerary and this is rated one of the best steakhouses in Montana. Located just south of Missoula in Lolo, and housed in a rustic log lodge-style building with a distinct Montana-esque atmosphere (picture every kind of animal mounted on the walls), with an open-flame grill in the middle of the restaurant. You really haven’t had steak until you’ve had one from Lolo Creek Steakhouse. Insider tip: Go to dinner a little early and check out the Lolo Creek Distillery behind the restaurant. I suggest the Rippin’ Lips (a fishing term) or Griz Mule (dedicated to the University of Montana Grizzlies). The steakhouse will call the distillery when your table is ready.

The steaks and atmosphere are amazing. Photo: Lolo Creek Steakhouse

Flathead Lake. A Montana fun fact: Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the West (yes, larger than Lake Tahoe). And due to its sheer size—as in its 185 miles (298 kilometers) of shoreline—Flathead Lake is a fun destination in Western Montana. My best advice: Drive U.S. Highway 93 and State Highway 35 around the lake, stop at The Raven for lunch, visit one of the state parks along the shore of the lake and take a cruise with Far West Boat Tours.

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake. Photo: Far West Boat Tours.

Clearwater Canoe Trail. If you want one of the most peaceful morning experiences you could ever have, plan to paddle the Clearwater Canoe Trail. This 4-mile (6.4 km) trail is on a portion of the Clearwater River (just north of Seeley Lake) that’s closed to motorized boats. Time it right (that is, go in the early morning) and you’ll likely have it all to yourself.

Early morning on the Clearwater Canoe trail.

Kootenai Creek. This trailhead, located in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley just north of Stevensville, is one of the best places to take a hike. Plus, it’s a mecca for rock climbers, and rock climbing spectators (like myself). Insider tip: After hiking in the Bitterroot National Forest, plan to end your day in Stevensville with a visit to the local brewery, birding at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge or strolling the grounds of the Historic St. Mary’s Mission.

Hiking on the Kootenai Creek Trail.

The National Bison Range. This is a place I can visit time and time again and never have the same experience twice. The National Bison Range is a wildlife preserve that is home to 350 head of roaming bison, along with antelope, deer, elk, coyote, bighorn sheep, bear and an astounding amount of birds. Insider tip: What’s the difference between bison and buffalo? Sometimes the term buffalo is used interchangeably especially with the American Indian nations, but the difference is that the American Bison is native to North and South American and Europe, while the buffalo is native to Africa and Asia. In Montana we call them bison.

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

REFLECTING ON 2018 IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

As a new year approaches, it’s always fun to look back and reflect on the past year in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. We have had a wonderful year working with professional businesses from around the globe. It’s been a pleasure to help develop suggested itineraries for motorcoach tours wanting to showcase the history and early settlement of the West in Montana and find that perfect rodeo for their group to attend while in the region. Unique lodging options for the international visitor is a request we often receive. Accommodating with a teepee, treehouse, cabin in the woods, lakeside lodge or luxury guest ranch has been a joy. Introducing that perfect meeting space, offsite venue and activity to meeting planners and hearing them say, “This place is so beautiful, our attendees are going to love the authentic experience here,” is very heartwarming. We’ve held FAMs throughout the region, and when asked what surprised those visitors most about Western Montana—besides our stunning scenery and warm hospitality—it’s our amazing culinary scene that seems to rise to the top. Reflecting back on a great 2018, we’d like to say thank you to all who shared in the fun.

A FAM trip out to Glacier National Park with some of our closest international friends.

Line dancing lessons in a horse arena? Yes please.

Horseback riding with Triple Creek Ranch in the Bitterroot Mountains.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

Introducing fly fishing to these visitors on the Bitterroot River.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Double Arrow Lodge in Seeley Lake with warm blankets followed by hot cocoa.

A perfect golf morning at Wilderness Club resort in Eureka.

Floating down the Clark Fork through the heart of Missoula with River City Brews Rafting Tours.

Our guests are ready for an outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion Museum in Kalispell.

A quick canoe paddle from Apgar Village in Glacier National Park.

Our red bus was ready to take us to see the scenery in Glacier.

Hello, gorgeous Glacier National Park.

The grand Glacier Park Lodge is a must see and/or stay while on the east side of Glacier.

TeePee stays on the Blackfeet Nation along Lower St. Mary Lake with stunning views of Glacier National Park.

Soaking up the sun aboard the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier.

Thanks, 2018, for a beautiful year, and here’s to an amazing 2019. Drop me a line if you need assistance in Western Montanan’s Glacier Country—I am always here to help.

DP

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

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: 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.

AGRITOURISM OFFERINGS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Niche markets are embraced here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, and we welcome visitors looking for new and fresh authentic experiences. We know that clients appreciate when tour operators have options that fit client interests. Agritourism is a niche market made for Montana. It takes the top two industries in the state—agriculture and tourism—and combines them into one of the fastest growing and flourishing markets around. Agritourism allows visitors to participate in a variety of agricultural activities, whether they’re churning cheese at a local cheese factory, herding cattle by horseback with real cowboys at a guest ranch or visiting a community farmers market. We’ve rounded up a few businesses that excel in agritourism offerings here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

The welcoming crew at Rich Ranch in Seeley Lake. Photo: Rich Ranch

Bitterroot Valley
Take a trip down the Bitterroot Valley and visit an emu ranch and learn how 90 percent of this prehistoric bird can be utilized for its oils, feathers, eggs and lean red meat at Wild Rose Emu Ranch. Tak a tour of one of the many dairies. At Huls Dairy learn about a state-of-the-art carousel and anaerobic digester that captures methane gas and produces energy for the dairy and the grid and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Enjoy a farm stay at ABC acres, and learn about the permaculture farmstead where regenerative agriculture is practiced with cows, pigs, goats and chickens. At Hidden Legend Winery, stop in for a tour and taste the mead—an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey.

Grazing cattle at ABC Acres in Hamilton.

Guest accommodations at ABC Acres.

Mission Valley
If your travels take you between Missoula and Kalispell, a must visit is Cheff Guest Ranch—nestled at the base of the Mission Mountains—guests can buck bales of hay, mend a fence or move stock on the ranch’s 15,000+ acres. A little farther north in Polson, stop in at Flathead Lake Cheese Company, a small creamery that creates artisan cheeses using fresh, locally sourced milk pasteurized with solar thermal heat.

Visit the tasting room at Flathead Lake Cheese Co.

Flathead Valley
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western U.S., even creating its own weather at times. While the west side of the lake is more arid, the east side is lush and green, and it’s the perfect climate for cultivating Flathead cherries and other produce offered at local roadside stands. Many orchards including The Orchard at Flathead Lake, invite visitors (by appointment) to walk the grounds. Stop in Lakeside at Purple Mountain Lavender and learn about making lavender oils and sachets. At Purple Frog Farms in Whitefish, learn the art of crop-sharing by lending a hand at pulling weeds from the hearty soil, and join in on a farm-to-table lunch or dinner.

Purple Frog Farms in Whitefish. Photo: Purple Frog Farms

Gorgeous lavender fields at Purple Mountain Lavender. Photo: Purple Mountain Lavender

Glacier Country Region

A tour of the region would not be complete without a visit to the magnificent Glacier National Park. Another must; take time to stop into the local farmers markets throughout the region for the freshest produce, meats, cheeses, breads and flowers. Many of our communities boast local craft breweries, cideries and distilleries utilizing Montana grains, hops, produce and local flavors.

Fresh produce at local farmers markets throughout the region.

Find additional suggestions for your agritourism itinerary here. For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operator website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line—I’m always here to help.

Welcome to Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

DP

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