Tag Archives: Seeley Swan Valley

LLAMA TREKKING IS ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE HIKING TRIPS YOU WILL EVER TAKE

In September, Glacier Country Tourism hosted several travel bloggers and digital influencers on a press trip through Western Montana’s Glacier Country. One of the activities on the itinerary was a llama trek with Swan Mountain Outfitters. At Glacier Country Tourism we usually do some previewing, or what we call “product verification,” before taking folks out on an excursion we have yet to try ourselves, but we had full confidence in our tourism partners at Swan Mountain Outfitters. With that, we entrusted our group to them for a day trekking in the Seeley Swan Valley. The valley is majestic in nature with the Mission Mountains to the west and the Swan Mountains to the east. Our trek took us into the Swan Mountains in NW Montana—not far from Glacier National Park—and it was a delightful and unique experience we highly recommended for groups of all ages and athletic abilities.

Llama trekking is an all-around lovable affair, and it’s eco-therapy for the soul. When you trek with a llama you get to hike into the mountains or forest without having to carry gear, which makes hiking with kids and groups logistically easier and more enjoyable. Plus, llamas can travel to backcountry places horses are not able to.

Here’s a picture collage of our trek. See why everyone should put this activity on their bucket list.

We met up with our guides at the trailhead and were assigned our llamas.

Our guide explained how to trek with a llama and why they are such great mountainous companions to have on trips into the woods—from their agility to their acute sense of danger.

We all had a great time bonding with our new friends.

Every llama had a lead rope and just walked along behind each of us. This is my llama, Serge.

Our lead llama, Robusto, carried our lunch to a beautiful waterfall destination in the Swan Mountains.

Every once in a while, we stopped for a water or picture break, and the llamas munched on vegetation in the woods.

Once we got to our lunch destination, we all rested and ate.

After we ate our lunch, the llamas got treats. Look at those ears of anticipation!

We hiked back and took our end-of-the-trail photos. The llamas are used to the cameras and had fun posing.

Goodbye, from Robusto.

These “camels of the clouds” trekking tours allow for a variety of time-frames within different trip options. For the most adventurous, choose a half-day or full-day trek, as well as multi-day backpacking trips to pristine alpine lakes. A favorite trip offering is the three-hour evening “Wine and Cheese Llama Trek.” Now doesn’t that sound fun?

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 7 MEETING PLANNER QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

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

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

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

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

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Meeting attendees enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

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

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

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

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

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

The Ranch at Rock Creek’s Buckle Barn.

Sit fireside at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

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

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

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

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

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

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

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

Meet in Montana,
DP

TOP 9 TOUR OPERATOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

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

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

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

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Spring day in Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

Groups enjoy red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

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

Moose sightings in the spring.

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

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

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

All smiles at a chuckwagon dinner outside of Missoula.

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

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

Cultural dancing on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

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

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

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

Hiking the M trail overlooking Missoula.

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

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

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

11 AMAZING HIDDEN GEMS IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

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

Views from Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo.

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

Learn about professional smokejumpers in Missoula.

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

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

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

Sunset at Lake Como.

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

Murals adorn the walls in St. Ignatius Mission.

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

Views from Looking Glass Highway.

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

Relaxing and taking in the views at Holland Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

Early morning on the Clearwater Canoe trail.

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

Hiking on the Kootenai Creek Trail.

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

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

COLORFUL AUTUMN ROAD TRIPS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers up four very distinct seasons. While each has its own special place in our hearts, we have to admit that we are smitten with autumn. The season brings crisp mountain air at night while days are still warm enough for adventuring. The colors of the changing leaves are vibrant with golden hues of the cottonwoods and the western larch that cover the mountainsides along our wild and scenic rivers. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite road trips through Western Montana that showcase fall in all its glory. These routes can be added to any regional itinerary for your FIT clients this fall (winter, spring and summer too).

SCENIC ROAD TRIPS 

Bitterroot Valley
This lush, forested valley nested between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges is prime for leaf peeping. Pull over and explore any one of the Bitterroot’s storybook communities or watch wildlife at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Fall harvest events and happening take place at the Daly Mansion, which boasts 50 kinds of trees offering lots of changing colors. Stop in at Bitterroot cidery for some fresh-pressed deliciousness—the core of fall flavor!

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

Montana Tour 200
Just north of I-90 is scenic Hwy. 200 in Sanders County which travels along scenic river banks brimming with fall colors, active wildlife and ample outdoor recreation opportunities. Stop midway in Thompson Falls for a home-cooked meal at Minnie’s Montana Café. 

Visit the damn at Thompson Falls.

Flathead Lake
Circle the largest natural freshwater lake in the west for fall-foliage lake views, and experience the charm of the Flathead Valley, home to authentic small towns. Make a stop at The Raven Bar & Grill in Woods Bay on the east side of the lake for delicious waterfront dinging—including gluten free and vegetarian fare—craft cocktails, and some of the best views in the region.

The beauty of fall in the Flathead Valley.

Seeley Swan Valley
Between the stunning Swan and majestic Mission mountain ranges, the Seeley-Swan Valley boasts hundreds of pristine alpine lakes and beautiful hiking spots. This exceptionally scenic valley is known for its large population of tamaracks—unique pine trees that lose their golden needles in the fall. Make your stay an overnight with an authentic Montana lodging experience at the Double Arrow Resort, offering four-season recreation, cozy accommodations and incredibly warm hospitality.

 

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Highway 2 – Kalispell to Libby
Running through Western Montana’s northern region, Highway 2 travels along some of the most scenic places in Western Montana and introduces road-trippers to off-the-beaten-path treasures and well-known attractions to the locals. Start in Kalispell, the perfect mix of small-town Montana and old-west charm, and end in Libby, one of the region’s most scenic and quietest corners.

Kootenai Falls near the swing bridge on our way to Libby.

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

Happy fall road tripping,

DP

TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT THIS FALL IN WESTERN MONTANA

Many visitors to Western Montana’s Glacier Country arrive in July and August, but I’d like to let you in on a little secret that you can share with your FIT/Group clients: fall is one of the best times to visit Montana. The changing colors of vibrant red and orange hues are breathtaking. The weather can have a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies one minute and snow the next, but that is what makes autumn in Montana uniquely pleasing. We’ve rounded up some of the top things to add to a fall itinerary under Western Montana’s big blue sky.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Top 10 List:

  1. Glacier National Park – The Crown of the Continent encompasses more than 1 million acres and features the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Pro tip: boat cruises and hiking trails on the east side of the park, are less crowded and lead to stunning views.

    A red bus in Glacier National Park.

  2. Blackfeet Indian Reservation – Visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery to learn about Blackfeet culture and traditions.

    Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

  3. Whitefish – This resort town offers fine dining, boutiques and breweries. An easy 15-minute drive to Whitefish Mountain Resort offers weekend activities on the mountain until the end of September.

    The Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

  4. Kalispell – Make Kalispell your home base for your Western Montana adventure, and explore this charming town’s museums and galleries. Flathead Lake is just a 10-minute drive away and it’s only 30 minutes to Glacier National Park.

    Montana Trolley ride in historic Kalispell.

  5. Flathead Lake – The largest natural freshwater lake in the West is home to ample water-sport activities, boat cruises and six state parks, including Wild Horse Island, which can only be accessed by boat.

    Sunset view of Flathead Lake

  6. Flathead Indian Reservation – Experience the traditions of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at the People’s Center in Pablo.

    Cultural dancing at Ninepipes Lodge.

  7. National Bison Range – This 18,500-acre preserve is home to 350 head of bison, plus elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, black bear and coyote.

    Bison roam the National Bison Range.

  8. Missoula – Home to the University of Montana and known as Montana’s cultural hub, Missoula is full of shopping, dining, breweries and distilleries, and offers Montana’s finest music scene.

    Hikers are able to hike the “M” trail and oversee all of Missoula.

  9. Seely Swan Valley – Considered one of the state’s most scenic drives and an outdoor lover’s haven, the Seeley Swan Valley offers lakes, trails, mountains and state parks. The perfect place to watch the western larch trees (also known as tamaracks) turn the forests and hillsides a vibrant gold.

    Tamarack trees in autumn.

  10. Bitterroot Valley – Discover history at the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville and Daly Mansion and Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum in Hamilton. Chose to hike from over 100 trailheads or bike the 50-mile-long paved Bitterroot Trail.

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

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

 

Happy fall!

DP

5 PERFECT HONEYMOON DESTINATIONS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Trends come and go with honeymoon destinations, but the fact remains that honeymooners want time together to experience authentic adventures and exceptional photo opportunities. Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers everything newlyweds are looking for, whether it’s 5-star luxury at an all-inclusive ranch or a beautiful, off-the-grid campsite under our star-filled big Montana sky. We’ve rounded up some of the top romantic destinations in Montana’s Glacier Country, and we’ll let your honeymoon clients decide which one fits the bill for their Montana honeymoon.

Montana sunsets are awe-inspiring.

Whitefish
For the couple that loves the idea of being in one of Montana’s most authentic mountain towns, Whitefish might be just the right honeymoon destination. If hitting the slopes is a passion, Whitefish Mountain Resort delivers with world-class skiing and snowboarding along with breathtaking views of Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park. In the summer or fall months, relax on Whitefish Lake or bike around the lake on the Whitefish Trail. Peruse downtown Whitefish with all of its cultural opportunities and its hint of metropolitan flair, including several Broadway-caliber theater companies, gourmet restaurants and boutique shopping along Central Avenue—downtown Whitefish’s quaint main street. One of the friendliest communities in Montana, Whitefish will make you feel right at home.

Romantic dinner on the shores of Whitefish Lake. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Seeley Swan Valley
Nestled between the Mission and Swan mountain ranges, the Seeley Swan Valley offers something for everyone year-round, with winter providing a little something extra for couples, whether you enjoy snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing. Bundle up at Double Arrow Lodge for a sleigh ride and a hot chocolate. In the summer and fall, paddle the Clearwater Canoe Trail. The river meanders gently for 3.5 miles before flowing into Seeley Lake. Other activities include golfing, biking and hiking nearby trails in the Lolo National Forest or the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The Seeley Swan Valley is a truly romantic—and fairly undiscovered—getaway destination.

Cabins on Swan Lake make a perfect honeymoon retreat.

Bitterroot Valley
Couples looking for a little exploration and a true western experience complete with warm hospitality should look no further than Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, stretching along Highway 93 through the charming towns of Lolo, Florence, Victor, Hamilton and Darby. The wood-façade buildings in downtown Darby provide an authentic Old West feel. Don’t miss Darby’s signature event, Darby Logger Days, which pays tribute to the town’s logging roots. Recommended stops include the Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum and Lake Como (just a short drive west) for recreation options like water sports, hiking and mountain biking around the lake on well-maintained trails. Take a drive along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River for excellent fishing and a visit to Painted Rocks State Park where picturesque green, yellow and orange lichen covers 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.

Breathtaking views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a honeymooner’s paradise, welcoming couples year-round. Summer is the busiest time, spring and fall see less visitors and winter is one of the quietest times to explore. The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses a mountainside and doesn’t open in its entirety until plows have finished removing the snow up at Logan Pass, around the third weekend in June and closes again in October. However, the road is open to walkers, runners, hikers and bicyclists. Wildlife watching is always an exciting spring activity in the park, as the new offspring begin to emerge. Fall is a favorite, with vibrant changing colors against stunning mountains and crystal clear waters. Additional activities: Red bus tours and Sun Tours, hiking, horseback riding, boat cruising, stand-up paddleboading, all surrounded by stunning scenery.

A couple takes in the view of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

The scenery is stunning from Two Medicine in Glacier National Park on a crisp fall day.

Luxury Guest Ranches
Western Montana is home to some of the most luxurious guest ranches in all of the U.S. Each one offers exceptional service tailor-made for your once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon. Spend time experiencing activities like horseback riding or ATVing at The Resort at Paws Up, hot air ballooning at The Ranch at Rock Creek or enjoying a romantic gourmet dinner by candlelight at Triple Creek Ranch. Lodging options can range from glamping tents to grand honeymoon homes featuring amenities like hot tubs and fully stocked kitchens. These guest resorts will take care of every detail, helping make unforgettable made-in-Montana memories.

Honeymooners love guest ranches in Montana.

For more information on romantic inns and lodges, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and unique lodging 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 Honeymooning,

DP