Tag Archives: Glacier National Park

2020 Brings New Tourism Products in Western Montana

Happy New Year from Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Ringing in the new year in Montana makes us appreciate all the new tourism products we have to offer to our meeting planners, group tour operators, wedding planners and FIT visitors. Here is just a sampling of what’s been rolled out recently and what’s coming up in 2020.

Paddling Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK UPDATES
For those who have visited the Many Glacier area over the past several years, you may have noticed that the road into Many Glacier is in need of repair. We would like to share some exciting news. Beginning in April 2020, a two-year road construction project will commence. For those tour operators with a block of rooms at the Many Glacier Hotel, please take note: The road to Many Glacier will be closed April 1 through May 17 and September 21 through December 16, 2020. May 18 through September 20 visitors should expect travel delays up to 40 minutes, so plan accordingly on your itineraries. During this time, day-hike visitors are encouraged to explore other areas of Glacier National Park to help reduce traffic congestion. Road status in Glacier National Park can be found here.

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Visitors will notice that the red buses in Glacier National Park will be getting quieter and eco-friendlier. This multiyear project will upgrade the reds with a hybrid gas-electric engine. The new 6.2-liter V8 engines will have battery-assist power, which will reduce noise and fuel consumption. The battery system will be charged by deceleration on the downhill runs over Logan Pass. There will be no disruption in tours, as the upgrades will be handled in the off season and over time.

Red bus on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

While the most popular time to visit Glacier National Park is summer, the most peaceful time to visit is winter, where visitors feel like they have the park to themselves. For the more active, spend the day cross-country skiing or snowshoeing with Glacier Treks or go backcountry with Glacier Adventure Guides. On weekends during the winter, park rangers lead guided two-hour snowshoe walks from the Apgar area.

Winter trekking in Glacier National Park.

RESORT, CAMPGROUND + LODGING NEWS
Flathead Valley has seen a significant increase in lodging properties over the past couple of years. Located in Kalispell, and adjacent to Glacier Park International Airport, is the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson offering 100 rooms in rustic-elegance, lodge-style accommodations. Two new extended-stay properties opened with My Place Hotel Kalispell offering kitchen suites. The TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Whitefish offers 81 suites featuring an outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center along with complimentary breakfast.

In Missoula County, Residence Inn Missoula Downtown is located in the heart of downtown Missoula and boasts 175 rooms and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. The Marriott also houses four new restaurants—1889, Zoo Thai, The Camino and Basal—plus retail space. Downtown Missoula will also welcome the new AC Hotel by Marriott in 2020. The European-inspired boutique hotel will have 105 guest rooms, a speakeasy off the adjacent alley and a rooftop bar. Renovations are underway on a project called The Wren, remodeling an older motel into a retro hotel with 73 guest rooms and a retail center including an Airstream trailer ice-cream shop and a new Black Coffee Roasting location. Additionally, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel-Missoula Edgewater has renovated their meeting space, restaurant and guest rooms. The lobby and guest rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn have been renovated and the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown has a renovated lobby and fourth-floor guest rooms and will be working on meeting space, restaurant and additional guest rooms renovations in 2020.

The lobby of the new Residence Inn Downtown Missoula.

Looking for that perfect retreat location we have a couple to add to your RFP list. Opening summer of 2020, and a great corporate incentive location, The Resort at Paws Up will be adding a resort within the resort called Green O. These newly constructed one-bedroom homes allow couples to reconnect with nature and disconnect from everyday life with unobstructed views of the forest canopy and custom-tailored service. In Ovando, and located on the shores of the Blackfoot River (from the famed movie A River Runs Through It), The Cliff Ranch will be opening in June of 2020 and is a perfect fit for groups of up to 24+ people looking for a personalized, luxury, guest ranch experience all year-round.

The Cliff Ranch is opening June 2020.

Quietly tucked behind the hustle and bustle of West Glacier Village—at the west entrance to Glacier National Park—is the new West Glacier RV Park & Cabins. These fully-equipped RV sites opened last summer and feature 50-amp power, full hookups, fire pits and green space and can accommodate RVs up to 70 feet in length. The cabins sleep up to four and feature a full kitchen, a private bedroom and a standard bathroom.

New cabins at the West Glacier RV Park and Cabins. Photo: Pursuit Collection

ACTIVITIES NEWS
Skiing at Western Montana’s seven ski resorts has never been better. Whitefish Mountain Resort was recently named the No. 3 Best Resort in the West by readers of SKI magazine and has completed the renovation of its Summit House. Located at the summit of Big Mountain, the Summit House now has an additional 1,700 square feet of dining space, as well as unparalleled views into Glacier National Park. Montana Snowbowl, just north of Missoula, has completed the new Snowpark chairlift, which doubles the ski terrain of the resort with 2,200 acres, opening more begginer and intermediate runs. The famed bloody marys at Snowbowl remain the same. Discovery Ski Area has a new way for shredders and skiers to get to the resort with the opening of the road from Philipsburg and delivers skiers to a small base area at the backside of the mountain.

Ski through the snow ghosts at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Noah Couser

Recent trail expansions make Glacier Country a prime destination for hikers and bicyclists, particularly in the spring and fall. New in Glacier National Park, e-bikes are now allowed anywhere traditional bikes are allowed, so biking in Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road prior to the road opening to vehicular traffic in mid-June will be more popular than ever before—and the inclines a bit easier to handle. For bike and e-bike rentals or guided tours, contact Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Co. South of Missoula, the 50-mile-long Bitterroot Trail connects the towns between Hamilton and Missoula along the Bitterroot River. The Whitefish Trail now connects with the bike trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort, offering 42 miles of terrain accessed by 12 trailheads for biking and hiking in Whitefish.

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

ARTISAN BREWS AND SPIRITS
Western Montana has seen major growth in the local brewery and spirits industry and is home to 32 breweries, 9 wineries and 11 distilleries and five cideries. New to the list includes Conflux Brewing and GILD in downtown Missoula, Lolo Creek Distillery just south of Missoula in Lolo and Old Bull Brewing west of Missoula in Frenchtown. Kalispell welcomes SunRift Beer Company, Bias Brewing, Sacred Waters Brewing Company, Vilya Sprits, MontaVino Winery and Rough Cut Hard Cider along with the new 1st Avenue Taphouse in downtown.

Sample artisan brews at our craft breweries.

Hop aboard the Montana Brew Bus to experience the local craft breweries in the Flathead Valley or reserve the bus for your group of 14 or less.

MUSEUMS AND HISTORY
Undergoing a new name, but still the same great museum, Northwest Montana History Museum (formerly the Museum of Central School) located in Kalispell, tells the story of the evolution of the northwest corner of Montana and takes note of historical markers such as the Great Northern Railway, the logging industry and the history of downtown Kalispell.

AIRPORT AND AIRLINE NEWS
United Airlines has extended their service from Chicago to Glacier Park International (FCA) December through March along with a direct flight from San Francisco, which is great news for winter recreationists. A direct daily from Los Angeles in the summer has been added as well.

Alaska Airlines beginning March 2020 will add a new daily nonstop flight from Missoula International Airport (MSO) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and will offer larger aircraft, almost doubling the seats available between Missoula and Seattle (SEA).

American Airlines offers year-round daily nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth and daily seasonal (June through September) from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Missoula International Airport. American Airlines will offer seasonal (June through September) daily nonstop flights to Glacier Park International in Kalispell from Dallas/Fort Worth International, Los Angeles International and Chicago’s O’Hare International airports, and, new for the summer of 2020, American will be offering a once a week (Saturday) direct flight to New York’s La Guardia Airport.

Direct flights into Western Montana.

For the coming year and beyond, stay up to date on all the happenings in Western Montana’s Glacier Country by subscribing to our B2B blog. If you need assistance with itineraries, meeting space or venues, feel free to drop me a line. I’m always here to help.

Happy New Year!

DP

Reflecting on 2019 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 the travel trade and meeting planner professionals from around the world. It’s been a pleasure to help develop suggested itineraries for motorcoach tour operators wanting to showcase the history of Montana and find that perfect experiential addition that meets the needs of their groups. We have seen an increase in requests from international tour operators looking for unique lodging options for their clients and we can accommodate with a teepee stay, treehouse overnight, cabin in the woods, historic hotel, lakeside lodge, branded hotel and dude or luxury guest ranch experience. Meeting planners have visited looking for that perfect meeting space, offsite venue and activity that will resonate long after the meeting in Montana is over. It’s been a joy to hear them say, “This region is so beautiful, our attendees are going to love the authentic experiences found here.” We’ve held familiarization tours throughout the region, and when asked what surprised these business professionals the most about Western Montana—besides our stunning scenery and warm hospitality—it’s Montana’s amazing culinary scene that seems to rise to the top.

Reflecting back on a great 2019, we’d like to say thank you to all who shared in the fun.

Glacier National Park on a cool spring day from Apgar Village.

Meeting Planner FAM, with a quick stop at the Glacier National Park sign (it’s a must with first-time visitors).

Horseback riding at Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish.

Stunning dinner on the grounds at Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Touring Purple Mountain Lavender in Lakeside.

Exploring downtown Missoula and dinner in the wine cellar at Plonk.

Fall hiking in Glacier National Park is highly recommended. Pro Tip: Go guided with Glacier Guides.

Watching the sunset from downtown Whitefish with Whitefish Mountain Resort in the background.

RiverView Ranch offers a great place to retreat in Alberton.

Swan Mountain Llama Trekking is a fantastic group activity (aren’t they the cutest animals?).

The Ranch at Rock Creek’s Art in Nature program is a must during a stay.

Cheers to corporate retreats at The Resort at Paws Up.

Relaxing by the new pool at Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, after a horseback ride.

Enjoying a summer day at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Watching bison roam on the Blackfeet Nation with Glacier National Park in the background.

Biking the Route of the Hiawatha through retired train tunnels and over trestles.

Red bus fun in Glacier National Park.

Glacier Park Boat Company offers stunning lake tours in Glacier National Park.

Warning: if you come on a FAM tour to Western Montana you might go home with a new tattoo. (For those wondering, they’re not real.)

Thanks, 2019, for a beautiful year in Western Montana, and here’s to an amazing 2020. Drop me a line if you need assistance with an itinerary or a meeting venue in Western Montana’s Glacier Country—I am always here to help.

Debbie Picard

Tribal Nations in Western Montana

Located in Western Montana are two Tribal Nations, the Blackfeet Nation of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation. Tribal history and culture can be added to any existing itinerary incorporating a Tribal Nations experience into your time spent in Glacier County. If you have a motorcoach tour, please be sure to call entities in advance to schedule your tours with a docent or tribal member.

Teepee at Chewing Black Bones Campground in Babb.

Missoula
Begin your day in Missoula—known as the Garden City—with a visit to the Payne Family Native American Center on the University of Montana campus. Built on the site of a historic Salish Indian encampment, the building is designed to reflect the legacy, heritage and culture of all Montana tribes. Housed in the building is a planetarium open to public and private offers shows that focus on star lore of different American Indian cultures. Please check with the university for showtimes.

The University of Montana’s Payne Family Native American Center houses a planetarium.

Flathead Indian Reservation
Heading north on U.S. Highway 93 from Missoula, enter the Flathead Indian Reservation, encompassing 1.3 million acres and the south end of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West. The reservation is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes made up of the Bitterroot Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai peoples.

Arlee
This small town is named after Salish Chief Alee, with a population of just over 600 people. Arlee sits in the beautiful Jocko Valley with views of the Mission Mountains. The Arlee Powwow Esyapqeyni is a premier celebration held annually, the first weekend in July. Experience traditional dancing, singing and drumming along with hand-made beaded crafts and authentic food. Stop into the Huckleberry Patch Alpine Grill and Gift Shop for all things huckleberry (a berry that grows wild in the mountains of Montana) and the favorite berry of the region.

Cultural dancing at powwow celebrations.

Just north of Arlee is the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. While not tribal in nature, this Tibetan Buddhist garden is a site to see. Seated in the center of the one thousand Buddhas is a 24-foot figure of Yum Chenmo who represents the union of wisdom and compassion. Open year-round, visitors of all faiths spend time walking the garden and reading the Buddhist inscriptions on the rocks.

Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is open year-round for visitors of all faiths.

St. Ignatius
Heading north on US-93 on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the next town is St. Ignatius, with a population near 900 people. Stop to see its main attraction—St. Ignatius Mission. Built in the early 1890s, this Catholic mission has 58 hand-painted murals that adorning the walls and ceilings. The murals were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, an Italian Jesuit who was the handyman and cook at the mission in the early 1900s. Open year-round the mission offers Sunday mass, a museum, gift shop and a log home that was the original sisters’ residence when they first arrived in 1854.

The St. Ignatius Mission has 58 hand-painted murals inside.

Charlo
As you leave St. Ignatius, look out to the west. You will see the National Bison Range sitting on 18,500 acres. The self-driving range is open year-round, while one of the two scenic drive is open May – October, weather permitting. Today, the preserve is home to approximately 350 head of bison that are decedents of the herd that roamed the area in 1870s. In addition to bison, the National Bison Range is home to elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, mountain lions and black bears. ($5 private vehicle, $25 bus or tour group).

Drive the range to see bison and other wildlife roaming.

A must-stop attraction is the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. The museum gives a glimpse of early Montana homesteading and life on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Enjoy lunch at the Allentown Restaurant located next door at Ninepipes Lodge or grab a coffee and shop for Montana-made gifts at Great Gray Gifts.

Pablo
Headquarters for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is located in Pablo along with the Salish Kootenai College and a notable attraction—The People’s Center. The museum highlights the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai Tribes’ history, culture and traditions. Schedule a personal guide or use the audio presentation to understand life in the West from their perspective. Shop the shelves of beadwork, paintings, photos and jewelry in the gift shop.

Stop in at the People’s Center in Pablo.

Polson
As you head farther north on US-93, you will be stunned by the views of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West. Sitting on the southern tip of Flathead Lake is the charming community of Polson with a population of 5,000 residents. Stop in downtown and peruse its antique shops, art galleries and live theater. Stop in at the Miracle of America Museum to see an eclectic collection of curiosities. Get off the beaten path with a visit to Salish-Kootenai Dam called Seli’s Ksanka Qlispe’, formerly known as the Kerr Dam. Located on the Flathead River, this 204-foot structure has a viewing platform offering amazing canyon views and is open year-round from dawn to dusk. Stay at the tribally owned Kwataqnuk Resort and Casino in Polson and tour on Flathead Lake aboard The Shadow offering daily, sunset, dinner, brunch and specialty cruises.

The 204-foot dam is an impressive site to see built into the rock walls along the Flathead River.

Take a boat ride to Wildhorse Island State Park, a landmark as the largest island in Flathead Lake and where the Kootenai Indians were reported to have pastured horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes. Whitewater raft or take a kayak tour with Flathead Raft Company. For the ultra-adventurous, participate in their overnight trip where you spend time with an elder or local tribal member and learn the history, culture and heritage while crafting dream catchers, medicine wheels or tanning hides. Sleep under the stars in a teepee after listening to stories of the past.

Blackfeet Indian Reservation
The 1.5 million acres of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation are home to over 17,000 enrolled members nationally—with roughly 10,000 living on the reservation today. This is one of the 10 largest tribes in the U.S. It’s located east of Glacier National Park bordering the Canadian province of Alberta. The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is easy to incorporate into an itinerary traveling on Interstate 15, north of Great Falls or traveling east on U.S. Highway 2 near Glacier National Park.

The Blackfeet were historically a hunting and gathering tribe that followed bison and moved their camps accordingly. The land that is now Glacier National Park was vital to their culture and still is today. You would be hard pressed to find a more scenic drive in the lower continental United States than the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. A wilderness of lakes, towering peaks and remnants of glaciers is readily accessible. One of the best ways to experience Glacier National Park from the Blackfeet perspective is to take a tour with Sun Tours and learn insights and cultural significance and history about what Glacier National Park has meant to the Blackfeet Nation. Known by local tribal people as the Backbone of the World, the Blackfeet guides excite visitors with tales about the history and cultural connections to the local area and national park.

Views from Looking Glass Road on the Blackfeet Reservation overlooking Glacier National Park.

Browning
Headquarters for the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is Browningon U.S. Highway 2, home to the Museum of the Plains Indian. The museum offers a comprehensive collection of cultural artifacts and exhibits including clothing, horse gear, weapons, household implements and children’s toys. The museum represents the Blackfeet, Crow, Sioux, Arapaho, Shoshone, Norther Cheyenne, Nez Perce, Flathead, Cree and Chippawa tribes. If accessing Browning from Glacier National Park on US-2, be sure to keep an eye out for the Blackfeet Nation Bison Reserve roaming in their natural habitat.

Views from the Blackfeet Nation Bison Reserve.

Stop in at The Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery to see dioramas of Blackfeet culture. Shop the variety of arts and crafts at Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post for moccasins or beaded bracelets and earrings. Visit the Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village to purchase one of their beautiful paintings, and then spend the evening sleeping in an authentic teepee under the big Montana sky.

Each summer, usually the second weekend in July, Browning hosts the North American Indian Days—one of the largest gatherings of U.S. and Canadian tribes. The pow wow includes dancing, drumming, traditional games, an Indian relay and rodeo.

Smaller towns on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation include Babb (stop at Two Sisters Café for huckleberry pie), Starr School, Heart Butte, and East Glacier Park home to Glacier Park Lodge and the East Glacier Park Amtrak Train Station for visitors coming by train on the Empire Builder.

The grand Glacier Park Lodge is a must see and/or stay while visiting Blackfeet Nation or Glacier National Park.

If group tours would like a step-on-guide, contact Blackfeet Cultural History Tour to accompany your tour to historical sites including a buffalo jump, tipi rings and medicine lodges, all making the history of Native American Indians come alive.

*To recreate (hiking, fishing, hunting, rafting etc.) on tribal lands a Tribal Conservation permit is needed and can be purchased at any convenience store on the reservations.

For additional information on touring Western Montana’s Glacier Country drop me a line or visit touroperators.glaciermt.com, I’m always here to help.

DP

Top 3 Reasons Visitors Love Fall in Western Montana

One of the most frequently asked questions by tour operators and travel agents is, “When is the best time for my clients to visit Western Montana’s Glacier Country?” Without hesitation, I always answer, “The fall.”

While every season in Montana is notable and offers its own distinct offerings, there’s something special about fall in Glacier Country, especially when it comes to creating a memorable visit for your clients. To help plan the perfect fall itinerary, here are my top three reasons to visit Western Montana in autumn.

Glacier National Park
As Montana’s top attraction, Glacier National Park offers stunning scenery year-round, with fall colors adding an additional “wow” factor.

More benefits to a fall visit: Our national park is less crowded than the peak summer months of July and August, and the average temperatures are comfortable with daytime highs in the low 70s F (21 C). Plus, many of the activities available during the summer months are still offered in the fall, including interpretive tours with Sun Tours and the iconic red bus tours provided by Glacier National Park Lodges. Both companies take visitors over the Going-to-the-Sun Road until mid-October, weather permitting. Travelers can enjoy a leisurely cruise on one of the parks historic wooden boats with Glacier Park Boat Company through mid-September.

Remember Glacier National Park is open year-round (even after the closing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in October) and welcomes visitors to explore the flora and fauna and see local wildlife, like elk, moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep as well as black and grizzly bears.

Check out additional suggestions for fall activities in Glacier National Park and Western Montana here.

Beautiful fall colors along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Beautiful fall colors along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Fun fall day on a red bus tour.

Fun fall day on a red bus tour.

Mountain goats like the people trails too.

Mountain goats like the trails too.

Spectacular Fall Colors
With wide open spaces, minimal traffic and well-maintained highways in Montana, taking a fall drive is a must. If your tour is part of a larger regional itinerary and you have the chance to get off the main interstates and take the road less traveled along our scenic highways, do it. Just pick one of the scenic byways or scenic travel corridors and sit back and enjoy the views.

A couple of my favorites and not to be missed include, the Bitterroot Valley framed by the Bitterroot Mountains to the west and the Sapphire Mountains to the east, with beautiful fall foliage in every direction. As you cruise along Highway 93, stop in and visit the charming Montana towns of Darby, Hamilton, Victor and Stevensville. Stroll through their idyllic main streets and experience western hospitality as you browse through boutique stores and art galleries. Afterwards, please your palate with a stop at one of the local restaurants or breweries.

Beautiful fall colors in the Bitterroot Valley.

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

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

The northwest corner of Montana is a bit off the beaten path, but with its expanse of old-growth forests and wilderness it’s a showstopper when it comes to fall foliage. The spectacular hues of the western larch—also known as the tamarack—are stunning. Take State Highway 37 along Lake Koocanusa with a stop at the Libby Dam Visitor Center and experience the power and beauty of the Kootenai River. Another spectacular drive is State Highway 2 between Libby and Troy. Be sure to stop to see Kootenai Falls and the swinging bridge. Also of note: This is where the movie The River Wild was filmed with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.

Meet up with the locals in Libby, Troy and Yaak for a taste of small-town Montana. Don’t forget these additional scenic fall drives on these travel corridors that might be incorporated into your Western Montana itinerary.

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Notable Fall Events
Events are often the best way for group tours and international visitors to get to know the flavor of the place they are visiting. There is no shortage of fall events to choose from in Western Montana. A few to note: Montana Dragon Boat Festival, Great Northwest Oktoberfest, McIntosh Apple Day and Liquid Apple Night and In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival.

Held in Bigfork on the shores of Flathead Lake, the Montana Dragon Boat Festival takes place every September and welcomes teams from around the world. In addition to teams racing on the water, this event is fun for spectators and includes live music and vendors selling unique Montana-made products.

Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake.

Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake.

Great Northwest Oktoberfest runs over two weekends in Whitefish—the last weekend in September and first weekend in October. This festival is all about fun and includes traditional food, music and quirky competitions like keg hurling, log sawing and stein holding.

McIntosh Apple Day and Liquid Apple Night take place in Hamilton in October. This festival is all about apples, with highlights including live entertainment and a giant bake sale featuring homemade apple pies, caramel apples and apple butter.

McIntosh Apples make the best pies.

Good old-fashioned bake sale and McIntosh Apples that make the best pies.

Last but not least is the In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival, a literary festival held in Seeley Lake and Missoula Montana, celebrating the work of outstanding western authors, including the works of Norman Maclean and his notable writing of A River Runs Through It.

For additional itinerary suggestions, visit our tour operators website or feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to help plan your next fall itinerary in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

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 third week of June Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism invited four professional meeting planners from around the U.S. to Western 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 culinary offerings and authentic Montana experiences custom-made for meetings. Come along for a recap.

A beautiful day in Missoula overlooking Brennan’s Wave on the Clark Fork River.

Tuesday
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 ring.

Relaxing at The Resort at Paws Up.

Luxury camping or GLAMPING.

Restful sleep inside a luxury tent. with en suite bathroom.

After the site tour, we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and the cultural hub of Western Montana. We toured several meeting venues including the new Residence Inn Missoula Downtown—a Marriott, that feels more like a boutique property, in the heart of downtown Missoula featuring 175 guest rooms and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. Next was the Historic Wilma Theater, a great off-site venue for dinner, theater or a concert within walking distance to several downtown hotels. We finished with a visit to the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, boasting the largest meeting space in the downtown core with 15,000 square feet and 198 guest rooms. After a short walk along the Clark Fork River—stopping to watch the kayakers and surfers on Brennan’s Wave—we tasted and toured Montgomery Distillery before heading off 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 DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater—featuring 170 newly renovated guest rooms and 9,000 square feet of meeting space—on the shores of the Clark Fork River.

Caras Park in downtown Missoula.

Colorful drinks from Montgomery Distillery.

A remarkable five-course meal paired with delicious wines at Plonk in Missoula.

Wednesday
The next day started with a site tour of the unique and expansive meeting space (33,000 square feet) at the University of Montana followed by the Hilton Garden Inn, Missoula’s largest convention hotel space with 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and 146 guest rooms with plenty of overflow guest rooms within walking distance.

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

Our next stop on the FAM tour was Purple Mountain Lavender located in Lakeside, where owner Deb took us on a tour of her farm where she grows, cultivates, dries and manufactures everything from sachets to lavender lemonade and shortbread cookies, offering a great spouse outing or off-site venue activity. Next, we climbed aboard Far West Boat Tours for a cruise on Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—offering leisure excursions daily throughout the summer and charters for special events up to 150 people.

Purple Mountain Lavender offers something for everyone.

Far West Boat Tours on Flathead Lake.

Wild Horse Limousine provided our transportation in style on a historical tour through downtown Kalispell on our way to the Conrad Mansion Museum, once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad. After a tour of the mansion, several Kalispell ambassadors joined us for a delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions and dinners.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the Hilton Garden Inn Kalispell featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, one of Kalispell’s premier meeting venues along with Red Lion Hotel Kalispell with 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space.

Thursday
Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. We made a quick stop for boxed lunches at Josephine’s Bar and Kitchen in Coram and headed to Lake McDonald Lodge. Once we finished our leisurely lunch taking in the atmosphere of the lodge, we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the historic DeSmet on Lake McDonald. To round out our afternoon in the park, we enlisted the guide service of Glacier Guides to take us on a nature walk. Our guide explained all about the flora and fauna in the park as we hiked. It was a perfect day spent in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park.

A red bus tour offers a great way to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

The rain made the forest smell so good on the nature hike.

Friday
Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish. Our first stop in Whitefish was the boutique property of The Firebrand Hotel featuring 86 guest rooms, 1,100 square feet of meeting space and third floor board room. We headed up to Big Mountain and stopped in at Whitefish Mountain Resort to see their on-mountain lodging options and meeting space including a gondola ride to the Summit House. Their on-site teambuilding activity options include the multicourse aerial adventure park, alpine slide and zip lines. The afternoon had us horseback trail riding at Bar W Guest Ranch, which offers glamping tents, cabin suites and a main lodge for roughly 30 – 40 guests at capacity, great for corporate retreats.

Horseback ride through the glamping tents at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Our best cowgirl impersonation.

Our final evening was spent touring The Lodge at Whitefish Lake featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space and dining at the Boat Club Restaurant on the shores of Whitefish Lake. The planners were surprised with a float-plane tour over Glacier National Park and the surrounding area by Backcountry Flying Experience to end the evening. What a thrill.

Hello from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Backcountry Flying Experience takes off from the docks at Whitefish Lake.

A good-night’s sleep was provided at Grouse Mountain Lodge featuring 11,000 square feet of meeting space and 143 guest rooms.

Logan’s Bar & Grill at Grouse Mountain Lodge.

Saturday
The meeting planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA)—a 20-minute drive from downtown Whitefish (or Kalispell)—for home. It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana as a meetings destination.

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

Be Inspired in Montana: Say Hello to Kalispell and Whitefish

Planning your next board retreat, association meeting, corporate event or group tour just got even easier. Beginning today, American Airlines is offering nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), and Chicago (ORD) to Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell, in addition to nonstop flights from nine other cities throughout the U.S.  Access to Kalispell, Whitefish and Glacier National Park has never been easier. Here are five reasons why you and your attendees or clients should head to Western Montana’s Glacier Country for a fresh perspective and some fresh mountain air.

Oh, Montana. You are beautiful.

MOUNTAINS OF INSPIRATION

Montana’s wide-open spaces and endless blue skies are nothing short of inspiring. Mesmerizing natural landscapes of towering mountain peaks, vast wildflower meadows and famous winding rivers really spark creativity. Combine all that with charming small towns, exceptional lodging and amenities, meeting planning assistance, unique venues, state-of-the-art technology, transportation and, of course, adventure, and we’ve got everything you need for an unforgettable time.

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

UNIQUE MEETING VENUES

From mountain-side hotels and conference centers to lake-side resorts, authentic  and luxury 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 world-class adventure for groups big and small.

Sit fireside, or poolside at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish.

WESTERN HOSPITALITY

We’re known for warm welcomes, and whether you’re looking to accommodate three, 30, or 300+ we’ll move mountains for you. You’ll find exceptional hospitality along with surprisingly incredible culinary and entertainment scenes. We offer meeting, convention and trip support like service referrals, 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, or tour through the region, but one you’ll never forget.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

ACTIVITIES + ADVENTURE

Book a group stay at a national hotel chain, or, for a quintessentially Montana retreat experience, consider a lodge or guest ranch. Team-building activities abound here, too. Gather your group for a guided whitewater, floating or fly-fishing excursion; a hike in Glacier National Park; a local festival or a live music event; a bike, fat bike, ski or snowshoe adventure; or a brewery, distillery or cidery tour. Groups come together in Montana because our recreation opportunities are second to none.

Excited for their bus tour in Glacier National Park.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

There are many reasons why Kalispell and Whitefish make a spectacular mountain meeting or group tour destination, but one of the top reasons is their proximity to what makes Western Montana so exemplary. Both are bustling communities, Kalispell has a historic downtown district that pairs Old West charm with a lively arts and culture scene, and is centrally located between Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—and the Crown of the Continent—Glacier National Park. Whitefish is one of Montana’s most charming mountain towns—located at the base of Whitefish Mountain Resort—full of boutiques shops, art galleries, cafes and eateries offering fresh local foods. Both have unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities beckoning from every direction. Explore wilderness areas, national forests, countless rivers and lakes, two Indian reservations, wildlife-viewing areas, museums, galleries and let’s not forget the local micro brew and distillery scene. You’ll find endless options for day trips and side excursions that let you take in everything Western Montana’s Glacier Country has to offer, making your meeting, convention or group tour extraordinary.

The ultimate board meeting location overlooking Flathead Lake.

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

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

The Best Guided Tours In Western Montana

How many of you would rather see or experience a destination with a guide? Visitors usually say they get more out of a destination with a local expert. In Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we also know—especially for the international traveler—Montana can be a little intimidating as a destination. You’ve seen pictures of the expansive landscapes and viewed videos of the wildlife—yes, we have bears. And that big sky we talk about? During the day it’s stunning, and at night it produces a vast amount of stars (and a whole lot of darkness). Not to worry. We have experts to make your trip fun, exhilarating, experiential, informative and, most of all, memorable. Here in Western Montana the best way to explore is with an expert in the field. We’ve rounded up some of our most utilized guided tours in Western Montana’s Glacier Country to make your visit to Montana seamless and absolutely unforgettable.

Climb aboard Sinopah for spectacular views of Glacier National Park.

Hands down our most well-known tour is on an iconic red bus through Glacier National Park. Travel the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road—an engineering marvel and historic landmark—in a vintage 1930s restored bus. The buses seat 17 people each and have canvas roll-top roofs. The tour guide driver is called a Jammer, because, back in the early days, they used to have to jam the gears to get the buses to climb the steep hill grade. Tours depart from locations on the east and west side of the park and offer different tour times and lengths. Advance reservations are highly recommended in July and August.

Red bus tours are ready to show off the scenery in Glacier National Park.

Are you curious about American Indian culture? Take advantage of a tour with Sun Tours in Glacier National Park and the adjacent Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Sun Tour guides are all enrolled members of the Blackfeet Nation and tell the story from the Blackfeet perspective, explaining what the lands—now known as Glacier National Park—have meant to them and their culture. Many of the peaks, valleys and waterfalls are named after bygone Blackfeet tribal members.

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

Your trip to Glacier National Park is not complete without a tour from Glacier Park Boat Company on one of the many lakes within the park. Climb aboard a historic wooden vessel, cruise through pristine glacial water, and listen to the captain or a park ranger provide commentary. Boat tours are offered on five lakes in Glacier National Park including Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, Lake Josephine, Swiftcurrent Lake and Two Medicine Lake.

All aboard the DeSmet with Glacier Park Boat Company on Lake MacDonald.

For the animal lovers, Swan Mountain Outfitters offers guided llama trekking and horseback riding. Llama trekking adds something unique and novel to your Montana vacation plans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an experienced hiker, Swan Mountain llama trekking offers several options from two-hour treks to multiday adventures. Many agree that there is no better way to view Glacier National Park than to see the sites while horseback riding. For those visitors, Swan Mountain Outfitters guided horseback tours are a Glacier National Park vacation highlight.

A guest enjoys the scenery from the saddle during a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters.

Trekking with llamas is one of the most unique hiking trips you will ever take.

Spring runoff is the perfect time to ride the rapids with Great Northern Whitewater Raft on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River or with Montana River Guides in the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork River just west of Missoula. Many of Montana’s rafting companies start offering rafting trips in May and June when spring runoff is at its peak and offer scenic rafting tours later in the summer. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, you will have a blast with these two guides. Find additional options on our outfitters and guides page.

Ride the rapids with Great Northern. Photo: Great Northern Whitewater Raft

Montana River Guides offers fun in the Alberton Gorge. Photo: Montana River Guides 

Glacier Guides was chosen as the exclusive backpacking guide service in Glacier National Park. They offer a wide range of adventure hiking options. All trips are ecologically friendly, and family or custom adventures are available. New this year they are offering guided half-day nature walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays, May through September. With more than 700 miles of trails, Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream.

Hiking in Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier Guides

Prior to the seasonal opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to vehicular traffic, it’s open to cyclists. Biking in Glacier National Park is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Montana. The plowed portions of the road are open only to biker and hiker traffic until mid to late June, and pedaling a bike up the nearly empty, quiet, Going-to-the-Sun Road is nothing short of spectacular. Glacier Guides offers guided biking tours providing visitors with a bike, helmet, backpack, lunch, and a guide to explain all there is to see and hear along the way.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Thanks to the film “A River Runs Through It,” with scenes filmed in Montana, this part of the country has become well-known for its blue-ribbon trout streams and rivers. Whether you are a beginner or have been fly-fishing for years, it’s a great idea to enlist one of our expert fly-fishing guides to take you down one of those picturesque winding rivers in search of your next trophy catch. Glacier Anglers offers lessons and trips near Glacier National Park on the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Grizzly Hackle offers float and wading trips on Rock Creek and the Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers.

Fly fishing with Glacier Anglers near Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier Anglers

Fishing the Bitterroot River with Grizzly Hackle.

Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, capturing the title from Lake Tahoe by a few miles of shoreline. What better way to see this beautiful lake and the magnificent Mission and Swan mountain ranges than by boat? Cruise past the natural islands in the lake, the largest being Wild Horse Island—now a day-use state park—and witness where the Flathead Indians were reported to have pastured their horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes. There are still a few wild horses on Wild Horse Island, along with bighorn sheep, mule deer and bald eagles. Far West Boat Tours allows you to book a charter for groups or take advantage of the daily summer schedule departing at 1:00 p.m. from the dock at the Lakeside Marina on the northeast side of the lake. The daily cruise is narrated by the Far West crew who will explain how the natural lake was carved out by glaciers and how it is rated the cleanest lake in the U.S. Plus, they’ll tell you what kind of water species call the lake home. Find additional boating opportunities here.

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake. Photo: Far West

The microbrew industry is more than alive and well in Montana with 30 breweries in Western Montana’s Glacier Country alone. Tour Missoula’s finest breweries by jumping on Thirst Gear (a bike with 15 seats) and use pedal power. If you are looking for a less strenuous way to visit our breweries, book a brewery tour with Montana Adventure Shuttle. They will escort you to the largest brewery in Montana, Big Sky Brewing, to taste their famous Moose Drool. Another stop includes the local-favorite KettleHouse Brewing Company for a taste of their famous Cold Smoke® Scotch Ale. River City Brews Rafting Tours lets you fill up a growler with your favorite brew and enjoy either the Blackfoot or Clark Fork rivers while sipping suds with 12 of your friends, or strangers who will become friends by the end of the tour. Big Sky Brews Cruise offers tours to the expanding brewery scene in Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish.

Peddle pub tour by Thirst Gear.

Brewery tours with Montana Adventure Shuttle.

Gearing up with River City Brews Rafting on the Clark Fork River.

For more information on additional tours, guides and outfitters we’ve got you covered 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.

Happy Adventuring!

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

The 5 1/2 Free Things You’ll Receive When You Meet in Western Montana

Everyone loves the word FREE, but we’ve all been conditioned to assume it’s “too good to be true.” If you’re choosing to hold your meeting or convention in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, let us show you how we do FREE and how it can help the bottom line for both meeting planners and conference attendees.

1. Let’s begin with hotel shuttles from either of our Western Montana airports. Missoula International Airport (MSO) is a short 7-minute drive to downtown Missoula. Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, is a 15-minute drive to both Whitefish and downtown Kalispell. All of our larger branded conference hotels in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish offer FREE shuttles to and from the airport. If you’re traveling into our region on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, shuttles from Whitefish properties are available to pick up and drop off at the depot in Whitefish as well as some Kalispell properties.

Missoula International Airport. Photo: Missoula Airport.

2. Whether you’re driving in for a regional meeting or renting a car from the airport for a pre or post-conference sightseeing adventure in Western Montana, parking is always FREE at our lodging properties. While most of our hotels do not offer valet parking due to the easy parking-lot-to-lobby access, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake—the only 4 diamond hotel property in Western Montana—does offer FREE valet service.

Schedule a horse-drawn wagon ride with Bar W in Whitefish for a conference outing or pre/post vacation activity.

3. Wi-Fi is a necessity for conference attendees, and charging for it does not fit into our western hospitality philosophy here in Montana’s Glacier Country. All of our conference hotels offer FREE Wi-Fi in guest rooms and either FREE or minimal cost in conference spaces. When utilizing AV services, meeting planners will find that conference hotels in Western Montana offer very affordable rates on everything from projector packages to Polycom needs.

State-of-the-art AV services. Photo: SpringHill Suites Kalispell.

4. Staying healthy, focused and connected is critical while attending any meeting. Access to business centers, fitness centers, pools and hot tubs is never an additional charge in Western Montana conference hotels and resorts. So pack those running shoes and that swimsuit without fear of having to pay extra, it’s FREE.

Bring those workout clothes. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Bring those swimsuits. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

5. Montana is one of only five states where there is no state wide sales tax, so we encourage attendees to leave a little space in their suitcases for lots of made-in-Montana items. Meeting planner clients will only see a service charge on a final BEO, not on guest rooms or other meeting services.

Utilize the great outdoor space found in Montana. Photo: Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula.

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

1/2. Bonus: At just 7%, Montana’s lodging tax is half of some neighboring states (10% in Whitefish, which includes their 3% resort tax). Look to Western Montana’s shoulder seasons (spring and fall)—specifically the months of March, April, May, October, and November—for the best availability and rates on guest rooms and conference space.

Spring in Montana is a great time to meet and visit Glacier National Park as a pre or post conference vacation.

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

Meet in Montana,
DP