Tag Archives: West Glacier

WINTER FUN IN WESTERN MONTANA WITH GLACIER ADVENTURE GUIDES

Western Montana’s high season for visitors is summer, and our most recent brought record-breaking numbers to Glacier National Park and the surrounding region. We get it—summer splendor in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is an unmatched and unforgettable experience. We do, however, have a little secret to share with you: Winter here is spectacular. If your clients are winter enthusiasts who like to partake in the wonder and awe of unspoiled nature (without the crowds) and commune in a setting unlike any other in the lower 48, we’ve got just the place. Visiting Western Montana in the winter feels a little like you have the whole region—and an entire national park—all to yourself. The best way to experience some of this wonder of winter in Western Montana is with the help of a guide. Glacier Adventure Guides, one of our local outfitters and winter fun providers, has something for everyone year-round, but in the winter they offer up quite the memory-making adventure.

Winter wildlife. Photo: Glacier Adventure Guides

Cross-Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing tours are offered in Glacier National Park and the surrounding wilderness areas. For beginner and intermediate skill levels alike, tours travel along ice-capped streams and incredible frozen waterfalls. Journey to a designated location for lunch and warm drinks. Catch a glimpse of the winter wildlife and relish in a place of solitude and majesty.

A day of cross-country skiing.

 

Ice Climbing
As the premiere ice climbing guides in the Flathead Valley, Glacier Adventure Guides offers an adventure for new and experienced climbers. Based on your ability level, Glacier Adventure Guides will take you out to explore the best ice around. Strap on some crampons, grab an ice axe and your guide will help you have a fun, safe time finding a line to ice climbing success.

Climbing success. Photo: Glacier Adventure Guides

Snowshoeing
One of our most popular (and easiest) winter adventures is snowshoeing. Whether it’s a group tour, affinity group or family outing, Glacier National Park provides a magical experience. Snowshoe among the cedars and western larch, around frozen lakes and crystalized waterfalls to a scenic lunch destination, followed by hot drinks and group photos. Each trip is tailored to your group’s skill and fitness levels.

Snowshoeing fun in Glacier National Park.

Winter Camping
For the client who wants something a little more extreme, try a customizable multiday winter camping trip into Glacier National Park. Travel in by snowshoe or cross-country ski and see the frozen beauty of the park. Sleep in tents on travel days and then build an igloo upon arrival at the campsite. Take day tours of the area based on the itinerary set by your guide. All guides are certified in mountain travel and rescue, along with avalanche training and wilderness first aid.

Winter camping. Photo: Glacier Adventure Guides

Benefits of going with a guide:

  •           Gear available for rent
  •           Winter travel and camping techniques explained
  •           Cross-country techniques can be refined (kick turns, pole use, etc.)
  •           Snowshoeing techniques explained
  •           Avalanche awareness
  •           Trip and route planning
  •           Safety with experienced guides
  •           Leave-no-trace principles explained

For more information on group fun in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country Tour Operators website. Or, if you need help with itinerary planning in Western Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Bundle up in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: 6 AUTHENTIC “WILD WEST” ADVENTURES WITH SWAN MOUNTAIN OUTFITTERS

There you go again, daydreaming about sending your clients on their next getaway to Western Montana’s Glacier Country. How about adding a bucket-list adventure to their itinerary in the great outdoors, plus a little pampering? Swan Mountain Outfitters serves up just that. We’re a full-service, year-round guided outdoor activity company offering a variety of must-try “Wild West” adventures. From one-hour family tours to guided five-day back-country wilderness trips, Swan Mountain Outfitters helps create the Montana experience of your dreams. Come unplug and unwind with us in the beautiful Montana landscape.

HORSEBACK TRIPS
Swan Mountain Outfitters is the largest horseback outfitter in the State of Montana, and we operate the only trail-ride service within Glacier National Park. Our guides and horses are trained to accommodate total beginners to expert riders. Plus, diverse trail-ride options appease the masses, making this a perfect activity for families.

Experience Montana from the saddle with one or two-hour trips, half-day or full-day adventures, Montana cowboy cookout/trail-ride combos or overnight horseback rides and Montana fishing excursions. Several trip options all allow you to see the Montana portrayed in the movies—panoramic vistas of grand mountain ranges and sparkling waters.

Guides and wranglers arrange all trip details and preparations. Trip Tip: If you really love the back-country and want to go the extra miles, check out our multi-day Bob Marshall Wilderness pack trips.

A guest enjoys the scenery from the saddle during a trail ride in Glacier National Park.

LLAMA TREKKING
Llama trekking is an all-around lovable affair and eco-therapy for the soul. Our llama treks enable guests to hike into the mountains or forest without having to carry gear, making hiking with kids and groups logistically easier and more enjoyable. Plus, llamas can travel to back-country places that our horses are not able to go.

These “camels of the clouds” trekking tours allow for a variety of time-frames within different trip options. You can choose a half-day or full-day trek, as well as multi-day backpacking trips to pristine alpine lakes. One of our favorite trip offerings is a three-hour evening “Wine and Cheese Llama Trek.”

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

GLACIER MOPED RENTALS
Mopeds are just plain fun. Imagine cruising around in the open air, with all your senses engaged, while viewing the glacial creeks and towering peaks of Glacier National Park. Moped rentals are a big hit among adventure travelers who have done it all and want a new way to travel. If you’re independent by nature, you will revel in the freedom of a self-guided moped tour and are sure to return with tons of scenic photos from the beauty you’ll find along our tour routes.

Many of our guests take full-day moped trips around the park, while others might indulge in a quick two-hour spin around the area. Glacier Moped Rentals is the only rental option of its kind in the Glacier National Park area.

A new spin on a drive around Glacier National Park.

CROWN OF THE CONTINENT DISCOVERY CENTER
It’s the perfect pit-stop, and the local flair you’ll find here is worth it. The Crown of the Continent Discovery Center offers a variety of Montana made food, drinks, gifts and souvenirs, as well as kids’ activities and educational opportunities. Several maps and interactive displays are placed throughout the Made in Montana gift shop.

With ample parking for large vehicles, public restrooms, family activities and food and drink, all your basic road needs are met here and then some. Our in-house authentic Mexican restaurant receives rave reviews and our to-go lunches satiate the on-the-move traveler. The petting zoo offers more family fun, and an ice cream parlor boasts local favorites like Montana huckleberry. Chill on the covered porch with a Montana-made cocktail or a latte when you’re ready to kick back and relax.

Cool off in the bar with a Montana craft beer, a locally made ice cream or an iced latte.

MONTANA FISHING
At Swan Mountain Outfitters, we simply love fishing in Montana, and we know where the fish live. That’s why we’ve made fishing a big part of our life’s work.

Swan Mountain’s fishing spots get you into places few anglers know about, and we are the only outfitter permitted to guide in some trip locations. Enjoy more serenity and elbow-room on the water compared to other popular spots in the Flathead Valley, which might translate to more fish, and the ultimate authentic Montana fishing experience.

You have options, from all-day river float and fishing trips, to walk-and-wade and overnight guided horseback and fishing combination trips.

Montana is for fishing, plain and simple.

SWAN MOUNTAIN SNOWMOBILING
When winter approaches, we trade-in our trusty steeds for snow machines. Montana is known for its “cold smoke” powder, with record snowfall reaching over 400 inches at high elevations in 2017. Thus, we make the most of our winters by revving up the snowmobiles and teaching our guests how to have some winter fun, Montana style. The adrenaline rush keeps us going from December to April.

Permits in multiple areas throughout the Flathead Valley allow us to offer more groomed trail miles than any other snowmobile guide service in the region. Top-of-the line machines keep you riding in comfort and are easy to operate, even for total beginners. Our guides are entertaining and will teach you what you need to know to ride snowmobiles on our groomed trails.

So, you’re a winter lover, or you just want to find a way to make winter more fun.

Help make your client’s Montana dreams a reality in any season with a little help from Swan Mountain Outfitters.

See you on the trail,
Katie

The author, Katie LeBlanc

About the author: Katie LeBlanc pursues outdoor recreation as a daily lifestyle necessity, and has many stories from personal travel expeditions. As marketing coordinator for Swan Mountain Outfitters, Katie is joyfully employed by a company that shares her love and appreciation for travel adventure and recreation. She lives, works, and plays in one of the many paradise destinations of the world, Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

CANADIAN ROCKIES AND AMERICAN ROCKIES TWO NATION VACATION LOOP TOUR

This year, Montana’s Glacier Country would like to congratulate our neighbors to the north in Canada as they celebrate their 150th birthday. Parks Canada is inviting visitors and locals to celebrate with them by offering free admission to all of their national parks and historic sites with a Discovery Pass for 2017. We’ve put together a seven day loop tour that incorporates northwest Montana along with some of these historic and iconic sites in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, making a great two nation vacation. Here are the highlights if you’d like to come along.

Day 1: NW Montana and Eureka
Fly into Glacier Park International (FCA) in Kalispell. Car rentals are available from the airport. Highway 93 passes through the charming town of Whitefish, where you can grab a quick bite at one of the local eateries on Central Ave. Next stop off Highway 93 is the quaint town of Eureka which sits on the banks of the Tobacco River. Eureka’s small-town hospitality is evident with the welcome signs and flag-lined streets. Stop in at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village—a collection of restored buildings from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Have a picnic at Riverside Park, which hosts a farmers market every Wednesday from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. in the summer months.

Charming downtown Eureka.

Northwest Montana from The Wilderness Club in Eureka.

Day 2: British Columbia, Canada
After crossing the border into British Columbia stop in the town of Fort Steele Heritage Town. Fort Steele was an outpost for the North-West Mounted Police who came to bring law to the itinerant gold seekers from America’s wilder West. Here, over 60 buildings have been restored since the site was designated a Provincial Heritage Site in 1961. Visit the heritage tradesman and women who were essential to daily life including blacksmith, leather workers, dressmakers, tinsmiths and gold panners. See livestock demonstrations, including daily care and feeding of the Clydesdale’s that provided the horse-power back in the day.

Fort Steele Heritage Town.

Continue your travels north through the beautiful sprawling pasturelands of the valley with the jagged Canadian Rockies to the east eventually coming into Canal Flats. Be sure to stop at Canal Flats Overlook for a breathtaking view of the Kootenay River Valley and Columbia Lake. This lake is the originating source of the Columbia River, that eventually flows south through the Columbia River Gorge between Washington and Oregon and empties into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon.

Stop in at one of British Columbia’s legendary attractions, Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada’s largest natural hot springs. There are accommodation options from RV to hotel lodging. Further on up the highway is the ultra-charming village of Radium Hot Springs that greets visitors with a welcome sign that reads “The Mountains Shall Bring Peace to the People.”

Overnight in Radium Hot Springs.

Day 3: Kootenay National Park/Banff National Park
The west gate of Kootenay National Park is located just outside of town. Sinclair Canyon serves as the entry into Kootenay National Park with striking cliffs of colored rocks on either side. Make sure you allow some time this morning to soak in the natural soothing waters of Radium Hot Springs while being surrounded by dramatic cliffs. And don’t worry if you forgot the towels or swimsuits, they are available for rent along with lockers.

Due to all of the wildlife, binoculars and cameras are highly recommended.

The hiking possibilities start immediately after your soak so take your lunch, bear spray, binoculars and enjoy your day in Kootenay National Park. Don’t forget to stop at the many viewpoints that overlook the Kootenay Valley or at the Continental Divide separating the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds. Leaving Kootenay National Park takes you straight into Banff National Park for an evening at Lake Louise.

Stop at overlooks for amazing views.

Overnight in Lake Louise.

Day 4: Lake Louise/Banff

Make this an early morning for the very best views of Lake Louise before the crowds begin to form (before 9 am or after 7 pm). The Victoria Glacier on Mount Victoria forms a dramatic backdrop at the head of Lake Louise for the most photographed location in the Canadian Rockies.

Magnificent Lake Louise.

Take the famed hike to Lake Agnes Tea House, open June 4 – October 10, located 3.5 km (2.1 miles) from the Lake Louise parking lot. The tea house—open since 1905—is set on the shores of Lake Agnes. Together with Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, these lakes are often called the “Lakes in the Clouds”. Choose from more than 100 varieties of teas, along with hearty homemade soup and sandwiches on freshly baked bread.

If not for an overnight, be sure to step into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to see the elegant yet relaxed atmosphere of the 552 room luxury resort. The 125-year-old resort also boasts the finest dining around. Choose from The Walliser Stube or fine dining at The Fairview or Lago Italian Kitchen, or enjoy the tradition of afternoon tea with views of Lake Louise.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Leave enough time to visit the ultra-charming town of Banff. Walk along Banff Avenue and visit boutiques, galleries, museums and eateries along with chateau-style hotels and curio shops.

Strolling downtown Banff.

Overnight in Banff.

Day 5: Waterton Lakes National Park
Today is another recommended early start and a bit of a travel day as you make your way through Alberta on Highway A1 east towards Calgary the largest city in Alberta. Stop and see the cosmopolitan city. Memorial Drive along the Bow River offers views of metropolitan activities from bikers to runners and walkers.

Calgary is the largest city in Alberta.

As you head south look for the interpretive center, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. This archaeological site built right into the cliffs preserves the remarkable history of the Plains People. Due to the native peoples understanding of the bison behavior and regional topography they hunted bison by stampeding them off cliffs.

The visitor center is set into the hillside at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

Continue on to Waterton Lakes National Park and part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park where Montana’s Glacier National Park and Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park meet at the border between the United States and Canada. Designated the first International Peace Park in 1932 to commemorate the bonds of peace and friendship between the two nations.

Local residents of Waterton.

There is plenty of activity options in Waterton Lakes National Park but a “must do” is a cruise from Canada across the border into the United States on Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. Listen to experienced local guides give informative and entertaining commentary for the 2-hour cruise. July through mid-September the boat will stop at Goat Haunt—the northern gateway to the wilderness of Glacier National Park.

Cruising Waterton Lake.

While there are options for your overnight stay, we recommend a room at a true historic icon, the Prince of Wales Hotel. As one of the most photographed hotels in the world, the Prince of Wales hotel sits on a bluff with stunning views of Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park.

The iconic Prince of Wales Hotel.

Overnight in Waterton.

Day 6: Glacier National Park (east side)
There are two border crossings into the U.S. from Waterton Lakes National Park. The most convenient is Chief Mountain border crossing on AB 6 crossing over onto Montana Highway 17. However, it is a seasonal crossing only open May 15 – September 30, from 9 AM – 6 PM. Dates and times may vary. Several miles east utilizing AB 2 and U.S. Highway 89 is the Piegan/Carway border crossing open daily, 7AM – 11PM year-round.

Just beyond Babb is the road to Many Glacier Hotel. Stop in to visit the historic lodge that just received a multi-million dollar renovation including a restored spiral staircase. This would be a good day to combine a boat tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and a day hike to Grinnell Glacier, catching another boat back after the hike.

Mount Grinnell at Swiftcurrent Lake across from Many Glacier Hotel.

Stop at the St. Mary Visitor Center to gather daily information on park activities, open trails, wildlife watch areas. The east side of the park offers wonderful day hiking opportunities and interpretive boat tours on Two Medicine Lake, St. Mary Lake and Swiftcurrent Lake with Glacier Park Boat Company.

If time allows take a trip into Browning, the largest city on the 1.5 million-acre Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Exhibits of cultural artifacts at the Museum of the Plains Indian are among the finest in the West. The Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery and the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village feature traditional and contemporary arts and crafts.

Glacier National Park’s east side.

Travel the park’s southern boundary along Highway 2. Visit Essex, home to the historic Izaak Walton Inn that once housed workers for the Great Northern Railroad. Visit the small town of West Glacier before heading towards the west entrance of Glacier National Park.

Overnight at Izaak Walton Inn, Lake McDonald Lodge or Belton Chalet.

Day 7: Glacier National Park (west side)
You’d 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. Hop aboard a red bus tour of the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road. The red bus drivers, known as Jammers, are your tour guides and provide information about the park’s flora and fauna, history, geology and glaciology.  Another tour option is Sun Tours, which tells the perspective from the Blackfeet Indian and the emphasis Glacier National Park has had on Blackfeet Nation throughout the centuries. NOTE: The Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses a high mountain pass and due to weather is only open from the end of June to the middle of October (weather permitting). Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road is restricted for private vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet.

Red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

If time allows take a scenic boat tour on Lake McDonald or a guided horseback trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters or hike the most popular trails on the west side, Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail. Make a reservation at the historic Belton Chalet (built in 1910) for a gourmet dinner in the lovely dining room.

Overnight in West Glacier or Kalispell before departing your two nation vacation.

Find the full Two Nation Vacation itinerary 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.

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

GUEST POST: TOP 4 SHOULDER SEASON ADVENTURES WITH GLACIER GUIDES AND MONTANA RAFT

Travel is all about the experience. Forget collecting silver-plated spoons from each state—travelers these days are out in the world to create intangible experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, especially in America’s national parks—Glacier National Park in particular. As tour operators, you are challenged by the ever-growing popularity of the parks, and seek help creating the memorable, unique experiences your guests demand. Waiting in long, hot lines does not create happy guests or repeat customers. We can help.

At Glacier Guides and Montana Raft, we’ve been in the business of creating unforgettable adventures since 1983. Our focus is on the quality of the experience, and our mission is to provide one-of-a-kind travel vacations and getaways in and around Glacier National Park, while preserving and protecting the park’s unique ecosystem using the most ecologically sound practices possible.

Glacier National Park in spring.

What we hear from our guests—some of whom we’ve been guiding for over 30 years—is that part of the Glacier Park experience they are looking for is one that includes intimacy, solitude and peace. Even if they are interested in an adrenaline-packed whitewater rafting adventure, they are still looking for an experience that allows the time and space for introspection and reflection. And our guides know how to use our rivers and mountains to do just that, while also educating, entertaining and attending to safety at all times.

For this more intimate experience with Glacier National Park, offer tours in our less crowded times of the year: May, June, September and October. There are many reasons Glacier National Park is so popular in July and August, but there are better times of the year if you are in the business of experiential travel. Here are our top 4 Glacier National Park shoulder-season activities.

1) Spring Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road
The first sign of spring in Glacier Country is the announcement that the snow plows are out, scraping a winter’s worth of snow off the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. As soon as the plows have advanced a few miles up that gorgeous road, we strap on our helmets and go biking. 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. Breathing in the fresh alpine air, watching spring waterfalls cascade off the mountains and catching a glimpse of a new moose or elk calf crossing a greening meadow is an experience travelers will not soon—or ever—forget.

Spring biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

These interpretive, guided bike tours on the closed sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are exclusive to Glacier Guides and Montana Raft. Nearly all ages and abilities can enjoy at least part of this Glacier National Park shoulder-season experience. Our guides will go as far as the group wants to go, and for some groups (especially those with young children) that might not be very far. That’s okay. We think every trip is less about the destination and more about the memories made on the journey, like sitting on a sun-warmed rock on the edge of the cerulean waters of McDonald Creek, relishing one of our homemade, locally sourced, largely organic sack lunches. For other groups, we might bike all the way to Logan Pass, the apex of the road. Either way, it is sure to be a day guests will never forget.

2) Spring Whitewater Rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River
For some guests, adrenaline is a necessary part of the experience. We provide an unmatched whitewater rafting adventure on one of the most stunning rivers in the world. The Middle Fork of the Flathead River is designated a Wild and Scenic River. Its crystal-clear, turquoise waters flow over gorgeous red and green rocks left over from Glacier National Park’s glaciated past. The Middle Fork forms Glacier National Park’s border to the south and the Flathead National Forest to the north.

Adrenaline pumping whitewater adventures.

In the springtime, and particularly in late May when runoff is at its peak, the water is high and the river’s nine named rapids vary from Class II to Class IV. Our impeccably trained guides keep guests thrilled (and safe) as they navigate John F. Stevens Canyon and the fun, splashy Tunnel Rapids, Bonecrusher, Washboard, Big Squeeze, Jaws, Pin Ball, CBT, Repeater Rapids, The Notch and Pumphouse rapids. Following the guide’s simple commands, guests actually become part of the crew that maneuvers the boat. In the spring, this trip is about two and a half hours long. Generally speaking, we do not allow children younger than six on this trip in the spring. Guest safety is our #1 priority. Wetsuits and river shoes are always complimentary.

3) Shoulder Season Scenic Floating on the Border of Glacier National Park
Whether it’s spring or fall, if whitewater rafting is more of an adventure than guests are looking for, but the beauty and peace of a calmer section of the Flathead River appeals to them, then our Scenic Float is perfect. Suitable for nearly any age (ages three and up) and ability, this trip never fails to inspire and relax. The beauty of the Middle Fork is perhaps even more enjoyable when viewed at the slower speed of the Scenic Float trip.

Stunning scenery on this scenic river float.

The trip is approximately two hours long, and guests enjoy glimpses of Glacier National Park from the comfort of a boat as their guide discusses geological, anthropological and ecological matters pertaining to Glacier National Park. Guests also float through the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the Flathead River, which forms the park’s southernmost tip. This trip is mellow in the best sense of the word, offering a peaceful, relaxing experience on one of the world’s most pristine rivers.

4) Fall Day Hiking on the Highline Trail
Around here, we love to hike in every season, but fall is our favorite. By September, all of the high mountain passes and trails have completely thawed out, and most of our visitors have gone back to work and school. Glacier National Park turns to gold with changing tamarack needles and aspen leaves, and Montana’s famous big sky is never bluer. The cool, crisp autumnal air is invigorating. It’s simply an ideal time of year to go hiking.

Hiking in Glacier National Park.

Glacier Guides was chosen as the exclusive backpacking guide service in Glacier National Park. We offer a wide range of adventure hiking options, from day hiking and backpacking, to hut treks and vehicle-supported excursions. All of our trips are ecologically friendly, and family or custom adventures are available. Our friendly, experienced guides take care of every detail, use top-of-the-line equipment and prepare delicious, healthy meals. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier Park is a hiker’s dream, and we provide trips to accommodate all ability levels. We can create a custom trip that’s tailored to your guest’s interests and desired activity level. We’d love to help plan the perfect Glacier National Park experience for your guests. For more information, visit glacierguides.com or call 406.387.5555.

Happy Adventuring,
Courtney Stone

The author, Courtney Stone

About the author: As Marketing Director for Glacier Guides and Montana Raft, Courtney strives daily to meet its mission of providing exceptional active travel vacations and experiences in and around Glacier National Park, while preserving and protecting the park’s unique ecosystem. Otherwise, you’ll find Courtney hiking, backpacking, rafting, skiing or cleaning up the trail of glitter her kids leave in the wake of their own daily adventures.

6 HISTORIC INNS AND LODGES IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

When I talk to tour operators from around the U.S. and Canada, I often get the same request for authentic Montana experiences for their clients. Besides the notable activities like horseback riding, red bus touring, fly-fishing excursions and whitewater rafting, we often talk about how choosing the right type of lodging options can strongly contribute to the types of experiences their group and FIT clients have on one of their tours. If the group is truly looking for a genuine Montana tour, an overnight stay at one of Glacier Country’s historic inns or lodges is a great option. We have many to choose from in the region, especially in the northern tier of Western Montana. Some were constructed as accommodations for railroad workers for Great Northern Railroad in the early 1900s and have been renovated into charming lodging, while other properties were built for early travelers to Glacier National Park.

Stay at the charming Izaak Walton Inn.

Stay at the charming Izaak Walton Inn.

The Historic Tamarack Lodge & Cabins—open year-round and located in Martin City about 10 minutes from the west entrance to Glacier National Park—was originally constructed in 1907 and has undergone numerous renovations over the last century as it added modern amenities, including in-room TVs, while still maintaining a rustic charm. The lodge has a true log cabin atmosphere, with four guest rooms, a great room, saloon and coffee bar. In addition to the main lodge, there are 14 cabins that range from motel units to large family-friendly and couples’ accommodations.

The cozy great room in the Historic Tamarack Lodge. Photo: Tamarack Lodge

The cozy great room in the Historic Tamarack Lodge. Photo: Tamarack Lodge

Built in 1910 to accommodate railroad workers during the construction period of the Great Northern Railroad is the Belton Chalet, located in West Glacier near the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The West Glacier train depot sits across the street from the Belton Chalet, making it convenient to those traveling on Amtrak’s Empire Builder from Seattle or Portland to Chicago. While renovations were completed in 2000, the Belton Chalet has maintained the same charm, ambiance and elegance of the early 1900s. In keeping with the historic era and relaxing atmosphere, no electronic distractions are located in the rooms inspiring guests to take advantage of the exceptionally beautiful views from the many decks built around the perimeter of the lodge. The lodge’s on-site dining room serves gourmet dinners created with local Montana ingredients.

Belton Chalet in West Glacier. Photo: Belton Chalet

Belton Chalet in West Glacier. Photo: Belton Chalet

Elegant dining at the Belton Chalet. Photo: Belton Chalet

Elegant dining at the Belton Chalet. Photo: Belton Chalet

The Izaak Walton Inn is one of Western Montana’s most notable and historic lodges. A year-round retreat built in 1939, the Izaak Walton Inn is located off of Highway 2 on the southern border of Glacier National Park in Essex. Listed as a national historic landmark, the inn has kept with the era in which it was built and is void of TVs, telephones, elevators and air conditioners, however Wi-Fi is available in the main lobby. Guests can choose from guest rooms in the historic lodge, converted railroad cars—including locomotives and cabooses—and cabins near the lodge. The Dining Car restaurant serves exquisite food with a Montana flare and locally sourced products. Essex is noted as a “flag stop” on the Empire Builder route from Seattle to Chicago and will not stop unless ticketed passengers are getting on or off. A fun tradition that has developed over time encourages guest to step out onto the deck of the Izaak Walton Inn and give a wave to the passenger trains as they pass by.

The lobby of the Izaak Walton Inn takes you back in time.

The lobby of the Izaak Walton Inn takes you back in time.

Stay in a caboose. Photo: Izaak Walton Inn

Stay in a caboose. Photo: Izaak Walton Inn

Within the boundaries of Glacier National Park are some of the most notable historic lodges in Montana. Located in the northeast side of Glacier National Park is the park’s largest hotel—Many Glacier Hotel. Open mid-June to mid-September, Many Glacier Hotel was built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1915. Situated on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and offering magnificent views from all of the 205 guest rooms, the hotel is undergoing a major renovation planned to be complete in 2017. In keeping with the era, all guest rooms offer modest amenities—no televisions or air conditioning—and old-world style accommodations. The abundance of outdoor recreation, including red bus tours, boat tours on Swiftcurrent Lake, horseback rides, abundant hiking trails and the valley’s majestic views make Many Glacier Hotel quite popular with guests from all over the world. Early reservations are highly recommended and group reservations are limited.

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

The classic Swiss chalet-style lodge of Lake McDonald Lodge sits on the east shore of Lake McDonald. Open mid-May to the end of September, the historic hotel is located 10 miles inside the west entrance of Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Built in 1913, the lodge has 82 guest rooms (including the main lodge rooms and cabins) and dining options that include Russell’s Fireside Dining Room, Jammer Joe’s Grill and Pizzeria and Lucke’s Lounge. Again, in keeping with the era in which the lodge was built, guest rooms offer modest amenities and TVs, air conditioning and elevators are not available. The lodge offers an abundance of outdoor recreation including ranger-led programs, boat tours that leave from the lodge dock, red bus tours that pick up from the lodge as well as horseback trail rides making Lake McDonald Lodge quite popular with guests from all over the world. Note that early reservations are highly recommended and group reservations are limited.

Beautiful fall day at Lake McDonald Lodge.

Beautiful fall day at Lake McDonald Lodge.

The views from Lake McDonald Lodge.

The views from Lake McDonald Lodge.

If your tour takes you down the Seeley-Swan Valley—one of the prettiest in Montana—a visit to the Double Arrow Resort and the first “dude ranch” in Seeley Lake will add a true Montana retreat experience to any tour. The main lodge was built in 1929 with the focal point being a massive stone fireplace in the great room. Choose to stay in one of the three guest rooms in the main lodge (complete with a bed-and-breakfast Montana lodge feeling) or one of the many log cabins throughout the property. Kick up your heels at Stirrups Lounge or experience gourmet Montana-inspired cuisine at the on-site Seasons Restaurant. Other amenities include an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, outdoor tennis courts and horseshoe pits, as well as seasonal activities from horseback riding to horse-drawn sleigh rides in the winter.

Welcome to Double Arrow Lodge.

Welcome to Double Arrow Lodge.

If you need help planning an itinerary, visit our tour operator page here. If you’d like more information on adding a stay at one of the historic inns or lodges in Western Montana to your itinerary, drop me a line here. I am always happy to help.

DP

TOP 5 WINTER EXPERIENCES IN WESTERN MONTANA

Located in the northern Rocky Mountains, it’s no wonder Western Montana’s Glacier Country is known as a winter destination with great recreation activities. Among Montana’s snow-covered landscapes, your FIT clients can have a different adventure every day of the week as they enjoy 300+ inches (7.6 meters) of snow that fall on our mountain ranges and create powder-filled playgrounds in our valleys, making the region ideal for winter-focused experiences.

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To help with creating custom itineraries for your FIT market, here are the top 5 winter experiences in Western Montana.

1. Snowmobiling. With hundreds of miles of groomed trails for riders of all abilities, snowmobiling is one of Montana’s favorite winter pastimes. There are scenic and well-groomed trails for travelers who prefer a more relaxed experience to mountainsides and rock cliffs for the more skilled and extreme adventure seekers. Experienced guides can also help ensure your clients experience the best of Montana’s snowmobile trails and offerings. Additional resources include local snowmobile clubs and snowmobile dealers,

snowmobiling

2. Downhill skiing and snowboarding. The most popular winter activity in Western Montana is skiing and snowboarding at the region’s six ski areas that include small family-owned ski hills to a world-class resort. No matter which one your clients choose, they will enjoy affordable lift tickets, thousands of acres of terrain, fresh powder and, best of all, no lift lines. In addition to our maintained downhill offerings, Western Montana also has incredible backcountry terrain that is accessible via skinning, snowmobile or snowcat.

skiing

3. Cross-country skiing. Situated among various mountain ranges, your clients will find multiple groomed trails systems throughout the region that are ideal for cross-country, Nordic and skate skiing. Due to our location in the Rocky Mountain West, Glacier Country is known for its reliable snow and has a well-maintained trail system that is fun and challenging for both skate and classic skiers of all ages. Most of the ski trail systems have no user fees but will accept donations.

XCountry Skiing in Glacier Country

4. Snowshoeing. Making a comeback with smaller, lighter and easy-to-use equipment, snowshoeing is an easily-accessible activity in Western Montana. Popular snowshoeing locations include Glacier National Park, where free ranger-led snowshoe walks are offered on weekends during the winter months. In addition, many of Montana’s national forests have trails that are prime for snowshoeing adventures, with snowshoe rentals available in most communities.

snoeshoeing

5. Horse-drawn sleigh rides. Perhaps one of the most tranquil ways to experience winter in Montana is on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through a snow-covered forest.  Several properties offer sleigh rides during the winter months to help their guests experience a quieter side of Montana, one that includes a journey across an open meadow, complete with stunning views and hot chocolate beside a cozy fire.

A cowboy on the Bar W Guest Ranch prepares horses for a winter sleigh ride.

A cowboy on the Bar W Guest Ranch prepares horses for a winter sleigh ride.

For more information on Montana’s top 5 winter offerings, check out more winter itineraries and suggestions here. Or, if you would like more information on how to create a custom winter in Montana itinerary for your clients, contact our Tourism Sales Manager, Debbie Picard.

Come join the fun,

RF

EXPERIENCE WESTERN MONTANA BY RAIL

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

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

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

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

The Cabinet Mountains.

The Cabinet Mountains.

Kootenia Falls near Libby.

Kootenia Falls near Libby.

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

Historic Whitefish Station.

Historic Whitefish Station.

View of the Flathead River from the train.

View of the Flathead River from the train.

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

Breakfast at Belton Chalet.

Breakfast at Belton Chalet.

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

Historic Izaak Walton Inn from the train.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn from the train.

Charming bedroom at the Izaak Walton Inn.

Charming bedroom at the Izaak Walton Inn.

Travelers are greeted with views like this from the train.

Travelers are greeted with views like this from the train.

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

Beautiful mountain views cresting Marias Pass.

Beautiful mountain views cresting Marias Pass.

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

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

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

Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

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

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

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

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

DP