Tag Archives: Missoula

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.

Slop 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

GUEST POST: TOP 4 REASONS TO MEET IN MISSOULA’S NEWEST HOTEL

1) Location
In Western Montana’s Glacier Country, flowing out from the lush green edge of the Rocky Mountains is the serene Clark Fork River carving its way through the middle of historic downtown Missoula. Here you’ll find architecture from the 1800s, more parks than parking lots, modern-day troubadours filling your ears with sweet melodies, and a welcoming smile upon the faces you pass by. Missoula is the dream destination for your next conference, board meeting or company retreat.

The Clark Fork River runs through the middle of Missoula.

In the heart of downtown Missoula is the brand-new Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown. Built at the site of the historic Missoula Mercantile, this is not your ordinary Residence Inn, and a small history lesson goes a long way to fully appreciate and understand this one-of-a-kind, custom hotel. Back in 1885, the Missoula Mercantile was established and, in true wild-west fashion—after some real-life Hatfield and McCoy like rivalry—it grew to be the largest department store between Minneapolis and Seattle. Through the years and with several different owners, the department store, affectionately called “The Merc,” remained in use until 2010. It sat deserted and deteriorating for seven more years before being deemed unsalvageable. It was then deconstructed piece by piece to save as much as possible of the beloved historic monument. On February 28, 2019 the Residence Inn opened its doors, welcoming guests to step inside its warm, modern industrial design that so elegantly represents Missoula, from the American Indians to the Mercantile, and the industrial drive that built the town to the love of arts that cultivates the culture here. Pieces of the original Mercantile were designed into the hotel throughout the lobby and the Mews: a hallway connecting the hotel to various tenants’ shops‑from gift and clothing boutiques to a beauty spa and art bars to multiple restaurants. Curated by Radius Art Gallery, spectacular art created by Montana artists adorns the halls, incorporating the story of the Mercantile, Missoula and Montana.

Welcome to the Residence Inn Missoula Downtown.

The new hotel is located in the heart of downtown Missoula .

The art installations curated by Radius Gallery, all have a historical aspect.

With new airlines and flights being added regularly to the Missoula International Airport, traveling to Missoula has never been easier. Upon landing, our convenient and complimentary “Suite Ride” shuttle will pick you up for the easy 10-minute drive to the hotel.

2) The Hotel
The Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown is a full-service, extended-stay hotel featuring:

  • 175 guest room suites each with a full kitchen, desk, living space, comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms with walk-in showers
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi in guest rooms and throughout the hotel
  • Complimentary grocery shopping and delivery service
  • Complimentary full hot American buffet breakfast daily
  • Onsite guest laundry
  • Evening bar services
  • A breathtaking rooftop patio with outdoor seating, fire pits, yard games, and a BBQ grill for guests, with gorgeous views of the city and surrounding mountains
  • Indoor swimming pool
  • Room service provided by various on-site restaurants
  • Complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport
  • Valet parking for an additional fee of $17 per day
  • Access through the Mews to a variety of on-site restaurants and shopping
  • Walking distance to dozens of cafés, bistros, restaurants, shops, galleries, entertainment and more

The Residence Inn Missoula is the desired home away from home for all guests wanting to experience the vibrant culture of downtown Missoula with access to the Clark Fork River, hiking trails, the University of Montana, downtown entertainment and so much more.

The lobby boasts elements of the Merc, and is a gathering place for guests.

The front desk and lobby offer a sense of old and new always with a warm welcome.

3) Meeting Space
Our beautiful meeting space is 1,500 square feet, which can easily and evenly be split into two rooms via an air wall. Gorgeous, artful photos of items found in the deconstruction of the Mercantile hang on the walls. Each end of the room has an 80-inch smart TV that can be connected to your device for presentations. House sound is also available in the meeting space, all at no additional cost. Our occupancy for the room:

  • 160 people – Theater
  • 104 people – Banquet
  • 80 people – Classroom
  • 50 people – Crescent Rounds of 5
  • 48 people – Hollow Square
  • 42 people – Conference
  • 30 people – U Shape

And don’t forget about the amazing rooftop patio that can be rented for your private event.

The meeting space offers state of the art technology.

The meeting space is perfect for board and corporate meetings.

The rooftop deck can be reserved for events as well.

4) Catering
One of the unsung heroes of Missoula is the amazing food. Treat your attendees to some of the delicious catering that is allowed to be brought into the meeting space. We also offer a limited menu of beverage service as well as some snack foods. Our onsite restaurants offering catering services include:

  • Basal – available for breakfast and dinner – offering fresh organic options for clean eating, including smoothies, wraps and sandwiches, gourmet salads, hearty bone broth soups, espresso, herbal teas and more.
  • Zoo Thai – available for lunch and dinner – offering quality street food from Thailand.
  • The Camino – available for lunch and dinner – offering fresh, house-made modern-inspired authentic Mexican dishes perfect for sharing, as well as a specialty tequila bar.
  • 1889 – available for lunch and dinner – a steak and seafood fine dining restaurant with a full bar.

Need a change of scenery between sessions? We also offer suggestions for off-site venues that can cater receptions or meals for your event. In addition to on-site restaurants, we are happy to suggest catering or dining from one of the many local breweries, distilleries, cafés and other delicious options within walking distance.

I would be happy to offer more information or provide a proposal for your next meeting in Montana. In the meantime, our website can offer a great overview of the new Residence Inn By Marriott Missoula Downtown.

Meet in Missoula,
Lacy DeQuattro

About the author: Lacy is the Director of Sales at the Residence Inn By Marriott Missoula Downtown and joined the Aimbridge Hospitality team in September 2018 to open the Residence Inn in historic downtown Missoula. Before that she was the Director of Sales at the Holiday Inn Bozeman. When she’s not at work she enjoys playing in the out of doors with family, friends and farm animals.

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

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

11 AMAZING HIDDEN GEMS IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

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

Views from Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo.

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

Learn about professional smokejumpers in Missoula.

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

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

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

Sunset at Lake Como.

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

Murals adorn the walls in St. Ignatius Mission.

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

Views from Looking Glass Highway.

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

Relaxing and taking in the views at Holland Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

Early morning on the Clearwater Canoe trail.

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

Hiking on the Kootenai Creek Trail.

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

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

GUEST POST: 5 HIDDEN GEMS AT THE HISTORICAL MUSEUM AT FORT MISSOULA

Located in Western Montana’s Glacier Country and just a few miles from downtown Missoula, the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula welcomes nearly 50,000 visitors annually. It’s a spacious site with stunning views of the Montana landscape, great educational exhibits, and community-centered special events. In addition, the museum has many features that make it unique. Below are the Top 5 hidden gems for groups experiencing Fort Missoula’s rich history.

Glacial Lake Missoula: You’ve traveled several hours by bus, and everyone is going a bit stir crazy. All your travelers want is to pull over and get some fresh air. Why not stop at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula? You can stretch your legs on the museum’s 32 park-like acres, enjoying panoramic views of the beautiful Missoula Valley, and you may even see evidence of glacial lake Missoula.

During the Ice Age, what is the Missoula Valley today was once all under water. Glacial Lake Missoula drained suddenly, multiple times, as the glaciers retreated, sculpting the landscape of the Northwest. Today, evidence of Glacial Lake Missoula can be seen on the hillsides surrounding the Missoula Valley.

WWII Alien Detention Center: One of the least-known stories of Fort Missoula, but one that holds the most international significance, is that of the men who were interned at Fort Missoula during WWI. Fort Missoula was home to an Alien Detention Center that held 1,200 Italian and 1,000 Japanese foreign nationals. The Italians were merchant seamen, World’s Fair workers, and others trapped in the United States at the dawn of WWII. They were held at Fort Missoula from 1941 – 1945 out of the fear that if they were to return to Italy, they would fight against the U.S. allies in Europe.

The Japanese men held at Fort Missoula were a very different story. They were prominent West Coast community, business and religious leaders. As resident aliens, they were not permitted to apply for US citizenship due to the laws of the time. During their internment in Missoula, they were subjected to a series of loyalty hearings that were conducted in a now-restored courtroom on the museum grounds. The museum staff are happy to arrange private tours for groups to visit the courtroom and its related exhibit to learn more about this very dark time in American History.

Fort Missoula Alien Detention Center 1941-1944

The Teepee Burner: At one point during Western Montana’s past, Teepee Burners dotted the landscape. Teepee burners were used to burn waste from the many sawmills in the West. During the evenings, the teepee burners glowed, illuminating the valley.

Today, they have disappeared from Missoula as the waste from sawmills has been repurposed. One of the few that remains resides on the campus of the Historical Museum. Come out to rediscover this beautiful, yet controversial, artifact of the past.

The Teepee Burner sits within the Museum’s Forestry Interpretive Area

The Trolley Barn: Have you ever set foot on a streetcar trolley? Now is your chance. The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has a fully restored interurban streetcar. Housed in the museum’s trolley barn, along with a restored stagecoach and Missoula’s first firetruck, group tours can arrange to not only view the streetcar up close, but climb aboard and experience what life was like for residents of Missoula in the 1920s.

The Trolley Barn houses the museum’s interurban streetcar 

The Collection: One of the little-known, but most interesting aspects of all museums are their collections. Currently, the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula houses over 45,000 objects, photos and documents from Missoula’s past. Artifacts range from furniture to postcards. In recent years, the Historical Museum has taken steps to raise awareness of this important aspect of all museums. The Historical Museum staff is happy to provide tours of “behind the scenes” areas allowing visitors to interact with the collection.

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is located at 3400 Captain Rawn Way, Missoula, MT, 59804. Please visit www.fortmissoulamuseum.org for more information or to book your group tour.

Guest post by Matt Lautzenheiser the Executive Director for the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

 

REFLECTING ON 2018 IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

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

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

Line dancing lessons in a horse arena? Yes please.

Horseback riding with Triple Creek Ranch in the Bitterroot Mountains.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

Introducing fly fishing to these visitors on the Bitterroot River.

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

A perfect golf morning at Wilderness Club resort in Eureka.

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

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

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

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

Hello, gorgeous Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

DP