Tag Archives: Blackfeet Nation

ONE DAY IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, one of the questions that I get asked quite often is “I only have one day to spend in Glacier National Park, how should I spend the day?” While I highly recommend visitors take at least two or three days to really see the park, I know that they are usually on a tight itinerary so here are some of the top “must-dos” with limited time in Glacier National Park.

Wild Goose Island, Saint Mary Lake.

Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road
If you only have one day in Glacier National Park, you’re well-advised to spend it exploring the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you are entering the park from the west entrance be sure to stop in West Glacier for gas, a souvenir and any snacks you might want for the day. (If entering from the east side, get your provisions at St. Mary before entering the park.) Once you’re inside the park, make a stop in Apgar Village, peruse the various offerings at the Montana House (open year-round) before taking in the view from the southern end of Lake McDonald (aka, the most photographed spot in the park). After dipping your toes in the lake, travel along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to St. Mary. Take advantage of the various pull-outs and scenic view points along the way. Recommended stops include Trail of the Cedars, Logan Pass Visitor Center, Jackson Glacier Overlook, Sunrift Gorge and Sun Point.

Lake McDonald splendor.

Take a Red Bus Tour or Sun Tour
If you don’t have your own car to drive or just want to receive a fun and informative history lesson, reserve a seat on a historic red bus tour. It’s a fantastic way to take in the sights and sounds of the park. The driver is your tour guide and is called a Jammer. Back in the 1930’s the drivers would have to jam the gears to get the reds to climb the hills on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. All the reds have been upgraded, but the drivers have kept the name and dress in historic clothing and can tell you all about the flora and fauna in Glacier National Park. The reds are operated by and can be reserved through Glacier National Park Lodges. If you reserve seats on the most popular morning tour called Western Alpine, you will be back in time for lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge. Another option and a truly memorable experience, is Sun Tours where you will get the Blackfeet Indian perspective on what Glacier National Park meant to the Blackfeet Nation, and the beautiful land known as The Backbone of the World.

Red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Dining at Lake McDonald Lodge
After your return trip from your Going-to-the-Sun experience, visit Lake McDonald Lodge. Built in 1913, the 82-room historic lodge sits on the edge of Lake McDonald. The front of the lodge—which actually faces the water—was built this way to greet the tourist that would come via rail and then steamship up the lake back in the early 1900’s. Step inside the Swiss Chalet designed lodge and choose to eat at Russell’s Fireside Dining Room or Jammer Joe’s Grill and Pizzeria.

Lake McDonald Lodge.

Take a Historic Boat Ride
After lunch, grab a seat on the DeSmet (advance reservations highly recommended) with Glacier Park Boat Company. Climb aboard the historic vessel just steps below Lake McDonald Lodge. Cruise the pristine water and listen to the captain or one of the Park Rangers provide commentary on the scenic tour. Boat tours are offered on five lakes in Glacier National Park including St. Mary Lake, Lake Josephine, Swiftcurrent Lake and Two Medicine Lake.

Cruise among the peaks in Glacier National Park.

Take a Hike
Known as a hiker’s paradise, your time in Glacier National Park would not be complete without a hike into the forest. The park offers 730 miles of trails for every age and fitness level from the novice to the highly skilled back-country hiker. One of the most popular hikes is the mile-long Trail of the Cedars (which is ADA accessible) followed by the 4.5-mile round-trip hike to Avalanche Lake. If going with a guide is more your style, Glacier Guides offers well trained guides to lead the way and explain the geology, history and more.

Pro tip: If hiking in Glacier, always be bear aware and never hike alone, make noise, never leave food out, observe bears from a safe distance and carry bear spay as a precaution.

A portion of over 730 miles of hiking trails.

Additional Options For the more adventurous take a horseback trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters from their Apgar or Lake McDonald corrals. For a thrilling adventure in late spring and early summer—at the height of mountain runoff—take a whitewater rafting trip with one of the many outfitters in Glacier Country.

For more information 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 Exploring,
DP

EXPERIENCE WESTERN MONTANA BY RAIL

Traveling by train has been a popular mode of transportation for years in Europe and Canada and is gaining in popularity in the U.S. That’s great news to us here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, especially as one of the most scenic segments of Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the northwestern corner of Montana. Tour operators can create itineraries where their clients can choose to travel the entire route of the Empire Builder, with flexible stops along the way to see what nearby towns have to offer. Or they can have clients travel sections of the route, then bus or rent a car for the remainder of their itinerary. No matter which option is chosen one thing is for sure: Montana by rail is an easy way to travel.

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

Running from Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon to Chicago, Illinois, Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the northern tier of Montana with stops in seven of Western Montana’s communities, including Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning and Cut Bank.

Libby is the first stop in Western Montana and is located at the base of the breathtaking Cabinet Mountain Range and along the winding Kootenai River where travelers will find the largest undammed falls in the state and the backdrop to famous films including “The River Wild” and most recently “The Revenant.”

The Cabinet Mountains.

The Cabinet Mountains.

Kootenia Falls near Libby.

Kootenia Falls near Libby.

The next stop is Whitefish–Western Montana’s most authentic mountain town and home to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Known for its world-class skiing in the winter, Whitefish Mountain Resort also offers fun-filled adventures in the summer including mountain biking, an Aerial Adventure Park, an alpine slide and Walk in the Tree Tops. Plus, your clients will see some of the most breathtaking views of the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park from the top of Big Mountain. Downtown Whitefish boasts gourmet restaurants and boutique shopping along the quaint main street, Central Avenue. Unique lodging options abound in Whitefish from a 4-star hotel, to mountainside lodges and bed-and-breakfasts.

Historic Whitefish Station.

Historic Whitefish Station.

View of the Flathead River from the train.

View of the Flathead River from the train.

A popular stop to disembark is West Glacier, due to its close location to the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The train depot sits across the street from the Belton Chalet, the first lodge built by the Great Northern Railroad at Glacier National Park. Opened in 1910, the Belton Chalet has been fully restored and is one of the most charming accommodations in West Glacier. Plus, their on-site dining room serves gourmet meals made with local Montana ingredients.

Breakfast at Belton Chalet.

Breakfast at Belton Chalet.

Leaving West Glacier, the train travels east along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park as it passes jaw-dropping scenery out every window. The next town is Essex and features the Izaak Walton Inn. Once a railroad bunkhouse, the Izaak is now a historic inn that sits trackside and has lodge rooms, as well as train cabooses and a luxury locomotive that have been converted into adorable lodging options. The Izaak Walton Inn is quite popular with international visitors, cross-country skiers and snowshoeing enthusiast, as well as train historians. Essex is noted as a “flag stop” on the Empire Builder route and will stop if ticketed passengers are getting on or off at the Inn.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn from the train.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn from the train.

Charming bedroom at the Izaak Walton Inn.

Charming bedroom at the Izaak Walton Inn.

Travelers are greeted with views like this from the train.

Travelers are greeted with views like this from the train.

Once the train passes Essex it crests the Continental Divide at Marias Pass and then continues east to its next stop at East Glacier Park. Across from the station is Glacier Park Lodge, an impressive lodge made of timbers that are estimated to be 600 years old. The lodge was originally built by the Great Northern Railway to promote train travel and attract visitors to the region. The East Glacier Park station is open mid-spring through mid-fall.

Beautiful mountain views cresting Marias Pass.

Beautiful mountain views cresting Marias Pass.

East Glacier Park Station with Glacier Park Lodge in the background.

East Glacier Park Station with Glacier Park Lodge in the background.

The next stop is Browning, the headquarters of the Blackfeet Indian Nation. A stop in Browning gives travelers easy access to The Blackfeet Heritage Museum and Museum of the Plains Indians both offering great information on the history and culture of the Blackfeet. Keep in mind that the Amtrak station in Browning is open from mid-fall to early spring (typically October – April).

Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

The last stop in Western Montana’s Glacier Country on Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the town of Cut Bank. The town started as a Great Northern Railway camp with workers who were there to build a train trestle over Cut Bank Creek. Today, it boast abundant outdoor opportunities including fishing, guest ranches, birding, hiking and incredible views of the Rocky Mountain Front.

A few things to note about the Empire Builder and train travel:

  • The scenery is spectacular during every season and the train runs year-round.
  • From April to September Amtrak welcomes volunteers from the National Park Service, Trails & Rails program to offer educational information from the observation car.
  • Each coach seat provides reclining options and a leg rest with a free pillow.
  • Sleeping accommodations range from roomettes to full bedrooms with private baths.
  • Some train travel can be up to half the price of a plane ticket to get to the same destination.
  • Amtrak often gives discounts to children, military, students, seniors and AAA members.
  • The train is eco-friendly and more energy efficient with less emissions than cars or planes.

If you need help planning an itinerary visit our tour operator page here, or want more information on adding Amtrak’s Empire Builder to an itinerary drop me a line here. I am always happy to help.

DP