Tag Archives: Hot Springs

STAY AND PLAY IN WESTERN MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, I am often asked about our hidden gems or the undiscovered places in the region. Without hesitation, I think of one of my favorite places, the Bitterroot Valley. If your clients are looking for that perfect balance of outdoor recreation, culture and history—not to mention some of the most charming lodging options in Montana—then I suggest an itinerary that includes some time for them to stay and play in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

Located just south of Missoula on Highway 93 is Lolo, home to Travelers’ Rest State Park—the campsite where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery rested and prepared for their journey to and from the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago. It is home to the only archaeologically verified campsite of their journey and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Recreational options abound including biking, running or walking the Bitterroot Trail—a 50-mile-long paved path that runs from Missoula to Hamilton and is a fun way to see the valley. Just a short drive east outside of Lolo on Highway 12 is The Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs. Rejuvenate in the mineral hot springs after a day spent hiking or biking in the region.

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

A little farther south on Highway 93 is the town of Florence. Travel east on the East Side Highway with a stop at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. A naturalist’s paradise, look for tundra swans, woodpeckers, bald eagles and white-tailed deer from the comfort of your vehicle or walk the 2.5-miles of nature trails near the Bitterroot River.

Birding at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.

Birding at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.

Continue south on the East Side Highway and you’ll come to the community of Stevensville. Take a quick detour for a little history at Fort Owen State Park—one of the most important commercial centers in the northwest for many years in the mid-1800s. Stevensville is home to the historic St. Mary’s Mission—the first permanent pioneer settlement in Montana. Walk through history and see first-hand the fascinating chapter of Montana’s beginning.

For overnight stays, try the The Stevensville Hotel or Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast. Built in 1910 and located one block from Main Street, The Stevensville Hotel is an award-winning property that’s on the National Historic Register. Meanwhile, the charming Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast sits along the Bitterroot River and offers four beautifully appointed rooms and a scrumptious breakfast.

St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville. Photo: St. Mary’s Mission

St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville. Photo: St. Mary’s Mission

A little further south just outside of Hamilton is the Daly Mansion. The summer home of Copper Baron and millionaire Marcus Daly, his wife Margaret and their four children has evolved from a two-story farmhouse into a 24,000-square-foot mansion with 25 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms on 50 stunning acres in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley.

Hamilton—the largest town in the Bitterroot Valley—is home to a buzzing art scene with many galleries and shops full of work from local artisans. Depending on the time of year, catch live art with the Bitterroot Performing Arts Series, a Montana A Cappella Society Concert or the Hamilton Players live theater. Other great activities include sapphire mining for that perfect gem at Sapphire Studios in Hamilton, fly-fishing on one of Western Montana’s most pristine rivers—the Bitterroot River—or hiking the popular Blodgett Canyon Overlook Trail for stunning views into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Lodging in Hamilton is comfortable and cozy at the Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center or Hamilton’s TownHouse Inn.

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

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

Impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

Impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

For travelers looking to explore a western town, travel a bit farther south through Montana’s Bitterroot Valley on Highway 93 to the charming town of Darby. Darby’s wood façade buildings provide a real western feel as you stroll through downtown and their signature event—Darby Logger Days—pays tribute to the town’s logging roots. Recommended stops include the Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum or make the short drive north and west to Lake Como for a plethora of recreational options that include water sport activities, hiking or mountain biking around the lake on well-maintained trails. Take a drive along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River for great fishing and a visit to Painted Rocks State Park where green, yellow and orange lichen cover the rock walls and granite cliffs. For some of the best winter skiing in Western Montana, visit Lost Trail Powder Mountain at the top of Lost Trail Pass on the border of Montana and Idaho.

The lodging options in Darby range from quaint to luxury: in town lodging includes Travellers Rest Cabins and RV Park, while additional properties in picturesque settings and a little father out of town include Alta Ranch and Rye Creek Lodge. For those clients looking for a luxury guest ranch, enjoy the rustic elegance—and amazing culinary offerings—at the all-inclusive Triple Creek Ranch.

A beautiful day at Lake Como.

A beautiful day at Lake Como.

Singing cowboy at Triple Creek Ranch. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

Singing cowboy at Triple Creek Ranch. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce has more information on staying and playing in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. If you need help planning an itinerary, visit our tour operator page here, or drop me a line here. I am always here to help.

DP

MAY IN MONTANA – AN INTERNATIONAL FAM TOUR

In early May, Glacier Country Tourism will join the Real America Region in welcoming a few of our international tour operator colleagues from France, Germany, Italy and Australia for Roundup, an annual conference that brings tour operators to explore the #RealAmericaUSA—a region made up of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. After Roundup, we’ll set out on a familiarization tour (FAM) from Cody, Wyoming to Kalispell, Montana. This FAM tour will be showcasing some of the wonderful things to see and do on an itinerary between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, two of Montana’s icons.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

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

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

To kick things off, we are offering a sneak preview of this FAM tour here on the blog. But that’s not all. We also want you to join us for a first-hand experience of the attractions and stunning scenery on this two-state itinerary by following along using #MayInMontanaUSA on Instagram and Twitter from May 7 – 12, 2016.

As an added bonus, this itinerary through Wyoming and Montana would be a perfect route for tour operators to package, especially as an FIT route for travelers who want to explore some of the region’s most scenic places.

Day 1
Today we leave Cody, Wyoming and head into Yellowstone National Park through the east entrance on Highway 14. Inside the park, we will follow along the Yellowstone River with a stop at Canyon Overlooks and Visitor Center. Since it is spring, we hope to see baby wildlife including bison, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, pronghorn antelope and, if we’re lucky, a grizzly or black bear. We’ll round out our stay in Yellowstone with a stop at Mammoth Hot Springs and the iconic Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana. This is the original entrance to the park and the only entrance that is open year-round.

Any day is a good day spent in Yellowstone National Park.

Any day is a good day spent in Yellowstone National Park.

As we head north through Paradise Valley, we will pass the town of Emigrant, Montana.  Home to Chico Hot Springs, a world-renowned bed-and-breakfast regarded for its exceptional dinners and soothing hot spring pools.

Gorgeous views in Paradise Valley.

Gorgeous views in Paradise Valley.

Continuing our journey north on Highway 89, we’ll follow the Yellowstone River as we arrive in Livingston, one of southwest Montana’s most charming towns. Over the last several decades, Livingston has become an arts mecca, with many artists and writers living in the area. The downtown boasts more than 15 art galleries, along with an eclectic blend of shops, museums, live theater and music, as well as tasty restaurants.

Heading east on Interstate 90, our next stop is the fastest growing city in Montana— Bozeman. One of the most diverse small towns in the Rocky Mountain West, Bozeman has an eclectic mix of ranchers, artists, professors, ski enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who are drawn here by world-class outdoor recreation and easy accessibility. Bozeman is home to Montana State University as well as the Museum of the Rockies—a Smithsonian affiliate and federal repository for fossilsOur time in Bozeman will include a stop at the museum to see one of the largest and most famous dinosaur collections in the world, as well as  a planetarium and displays of dinosaurs and dinosaur eggs unearthed in Montana.

Sunset views outside of Bozeman.

Sunset views outside of Bozeman.

Overnight in Belgrade.

Day 2
After leaving Belgrade, we’ll travel north on Highway 287 along the mighty Missouri River for Helena—the capital city of Montana. Helena became the “Queen City of the Rockies” with the boom brought on by the 1864 gold strike. A one-hour tour on The Last Chance Tour Train (season begins May 15) provides interesting, entertaining and colorful insights into Helena’s history.

Capitol building in Helena.

Montana’s capitol building in Helena.

As we head north out of town on Interstate 15, we will pass by the Gates of the Mountains area on the Missouri River. Insider tip: the Gates of the Mountains are what we call a “must visit” in Montana. Both group tours and FIT travelers are well-advised to take the two-hour boat tour along the towering walls of limestone and past stunning scenery to see American Indian pictographs painted on the rock walls by Montana’s First Nations centuries ago.

From our boat tour on the edge of Helena, we’ll head to Rocking Z Guest Ranch, one of Montana’s many guest ranch experiences. Rocking Z has one of the best equine vacation experiences in the state and is deeply rooted in Montana tradition, welcoming horsemen from advanced riders to the novice. Additional highlights: comfortable accommodations, great home-cooked meals and a welcoming family atmosphere.

Heading west on Interstate 90 (and a 2-hour drive from Helena), our final stop of the day is Missoula—Montana’s Garden City. The second largest city in Montana, Missoula is home to the University of Montana, as well as nine historic districts, funky boutiques, live theater and a thriving music scene. The city of Missoula sits at the convergence of five valleys and three rivers, making it a prime launching point for outdoor recreation.

Overnight in Missoula.

Day 3
One of Montana’s most active cities, this morning we’ll embrace the outdoor culture Missoula offers. Overlooking the city of Missoula and donning the letter M is Mount Sentinel. The trail to the “M” is one of the most popular hikes in Montana and with 11 switchbacks to the top, hikers are rewarded with stunning panoramas of the Missoula Valley. After taking in the view of the city, we’ll explore it on a walking tour of the numerous art galleries located downtown, with a final private guided tour of the Missoula Art Museum.

Mount Sentinel and the Clark Fork River.

Mount Sentinel and the Clark Fork River.

Our last stop in Missoula:  the Smokejumper Visitor Center . Here, we’ll take a guided tours (available regularly in the summer and by appointment year-round) and see a first-hand look at  the brave men and women—known as smokejumpers—who fight fires deep in the country’s wilderness areas.

Following our tour, we hit the road and travel north on Highway 93 to the Flathead Indian Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Within the boundaries of the reservation are the National Bison Range, Mission Mountains and the Mission Mountain Wilderness, along with several communities, including Arlee, Charlo, Ronan and Polson.

Just a little further north (about 45 minutes from Missoula), we’ll make our first official stop on the reservation at Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana in Charlo. Nestled under the Mission Mountain Range and named after Joseph Ninepipes, a Salish Chief, the museum offers a look into more than a century of life on the Flathead Indian Reservation, as well as homesteading in early Montana with artifacts, antiques and early photos.

As we continue north to the town of Polson, we’ll travel Highway 35 up the east side of Flathead Lake. The largest freshwater lake in the western United States, Flathead Lake is 48 kilometers long (30 miles), 24 kilometers wide (15 miles) and 91 meters (300 feet) deep in some places and is ideal for water recreation like fishing, sailing and kayaking.

Bigfork is our next stop and sits on the northeast corner of Flathead Lake. One of the top 100 best small arts towns in the U.S., Bigfork boasts 50 shops, 16 galleries and fantastic restaurants. Plus, the Bigfork Summer Playhouse offers live plays six nights per week in the summer months.

Charming town of Bigfork.

Charming town of Bigfork.

Overnight in Bigfork.

Day 4
After a delicious breakfast in downtown Bigfork, today we travel through the beautiful Flathead Valley to the mountain town of Whitefish and a visit to the Bar W Guest Ranch. Sitting on Spencer Lake, Bar W has  3,000 acres of terrain that are perfect for horseback riding and outdoor activities like skeet shooting, archery, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, cattle penning and square dancing.

Wagon loads of fun at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Wagon loads of fun at Bar W Guest Ranch.

After getting a taste of the West, we’ll unwind with a free afternoon of exploring shops, galleries and watering holes in downtown. Whitefish is home to Whitefish Mountain Resort—a world-class ski resort and summer recreation hub that offers zip lining, Walk in the Treetops, an Aerial Adventure Park, hiking, mountain biking and an alpine slide.

Overnight in Whitefish.

Day 5
The last day of our trip will be spent in the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park. Encompassing more than 1 million acres, the park is open year-round and has 762 lakes, 25 glaciers and the 80-kilometer-long (50 miles) Going-to-the-Sun Road. Established in 1910, Glacier National Park is home to historic lodges, two backcountry chalets and motor inns. Activities include hiking, boat tours and horseback trail rides, along with a number of ranger-led activities throughout the year.

Great photo opportunities on the boat tours in Glacier National Park.

Great photo opportunities on the boat tours in Glacier National Park.

While we are in Glacier National Park, we will board a vintage 1930’s red bus for a guided tour from Apgar Village to Lake McDonald Lodge. The bus drivers are the guides—also known as jammers—(back in the early days they had to “jam” the buses into gear to get them to climb the Going-to-the-Sun Road) who tell about the history of the park, the building of the road and the flora and fauna seen throughout the park.

Red bus tour stop at the top of Logan Pass.

Red bus tour stop at the top of Logan Pass.

After a day spent in Glacier National Park, we’ll head to the Flathead Valley’s largest community, Kalispell. Known for offering great shopping options for both big box stores and charming downtown boutiques, it also has a handful of historic museums and one of the best local breweries in Montana, Kalispell Brewing Company.

Our FAM tour comes to and end with a farewell dinner—along with a stop at the famous Moose’s Saloon—before heading to bed for early flights out of Glacier Park International the next morning.

If you would like more information on any of the attractions on this itinerary or need help planning an itinerary for your own group, visit our tour operator page here, or drop me a line here. I am always here to help.

Remember to follow along at #MayInMontanaUSA on Instagram and Twitter during the week of May 7 – 12 to see real-time images and comments from our international FAM guests.

I hope you enjoy May in Montana,

DP

TOP WINTER MEETING RETREATS IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Awe, winter: the time of year when Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers crisp refreshing air and the opportunity for great winter recreation. Why not combine that with some amazing corporate retreat locations and meeting venues that provide warmth and relaxation, along with some inspiration in the colder months? Pack up your best sweaters, throw in your mittens, hats and wool socks—along with your favorite pair of boots—and let us help spice up that winter board meeting or plan that exceptional corporate retreat in Western Montana.

Scenic Montana highway drive in winter

Scenic Montana highway drive in winter

About an hour northwest of Missoula and surrounded by lush forest lands is a quaint retreat that sits on the banks of the Clark Fork River. Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort, located just outside of Paradise—yes you read that right, Paradise, Montana—is a little slice of heaven. Choose to stay in the beautiful 15-room Glacier Lodge or one of the resort cabins that range from standard accommodations to deluxe riverside suites with luxury bedding, leather furniture, kitchen amenities and beautiful views of the Clark Fork River. Meetings can be held in Quinn’s new 9,000 square foot Paradise Hall event space on the banks of the Clark Fork River and can host up to 300 attendees. Catering options include their outstanding on-site restaurant Harwood House Restaurant. After your meeting, relax in Quinn’s six hot spring pools: two for swimming and four for soaking. The natural mineral water—high in calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and iron—is chemical-free and flows continuously, offering excellent health benefits.

Quinn’s natural mineral hot springs

Quinn’s natural mineral hot springs

Harwood House Restaurant at Quinn’s

Harwood House Restaurant at Quinn’s

Double Arrow Resort, located in Seeley Lake and surrounded by the Mission and Swan mountains, is a meeting destination that is great year-round, with winter offering a little something extra special. Outdoor winter recreation abounds for visitors, whether your group is interested in snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing. Your meeting can take place in the Blackfoot Conference Center or the Great Hall in the historic Double Arrow Lodge. Finish the retreat with a winter sleigh ride and then cozy up to the large stone fireplace with a hot toddy of choice. Lodging choices range from cozy rooms in the historic main lodge (built in 1929) to log cabins and houses.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Double Arrow Resort

Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Double Arrow Resort

Hot beverages by the fire in the historic lodge

Hot beverages by the fire in the historic lodge

Another great winter destination is Mountain Lake Lodge. This impressive lodge overlooks  magnificent Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the West, and is located only 5 miles from one of the 100 best small art towns in the U.S.—Bigfork. The 30 well-appointed suites at the lodge offer cozy fireplaces and signature bedding in each room, with meeting space in the Fireplace Room or Jest Gallery. Leave time in your schedule to visit the picturesque community of Bigfork that’s home to world-class art galleries, fine dining and live theater.

Guest suites at Mountain Lake Lodge

Guest suites at Mountain Lake Lodge

Evening lights and décor in downtown Bigfork

Evening lights and décor in downtown Bigfork

Daytime shopping in Bigfork

Daytime shopping in Bigfork

Located in the charming mountain town of Whitefish, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake will greet your retreat attendees with a roaring fire in the stone fireplace as you pull up to the front entrance. Check into your lake view or mountainside rooms, all adorned with elegant furnishings. Once you and your meeting attendees have checked in, take a few minutes to prop your feet up in front of the cozy fireplace in your guest room and relax.  Meetings can be held in the 10,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and their banquet staff can accommodate any catering needs. Retreat amenities include a full-service day spa and indoor pool and hot tub. Attendees can also slip outside to the year-round lakeside hot tub. Only 15 minutes away at Whitefish Mountain Resort is world-class skiing and snowboarding with 3,000 acres of downhill terrain and 105 marked runs for a variety of skill levels. Be sure to carve out some time to dine and shop in downtown Whitefish, as well as  check out the town’s kick-up-your-heals nightlife.

Festive entrance to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Festive entrance to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Lakeside relaxation awaits

Lakeside relaxation awaits

For more information on the winter retreat meeting locations above or to explore other options, visit our Glacier Country Meetings website or drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP