Category Archives: FIT

TRIBAL NATIONS IN WESTERN MONTANA

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

Teepee at Chewing Black Bones Campground in Babb.

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

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

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

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

Cultural dancing at powwow celebrations.

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

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

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

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

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

Drive the range to see bison and other wildlife roaming.

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

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

Slop in at the People’s Center in Pablo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Views from the Blackfeet Nation Bison Reserve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DP

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 3 REASONS VISITORS LOVE FALL IN WESTERN MONTANA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun fall day on a red bus tour.

Fun fall day on a red bus tour.

Mountain goats like the people trails too.

Mountain goats like the trails too.

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

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

Beautiful fall colors in the Bitterroot Valley.

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

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

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

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

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

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

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

Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake.

Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake.

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

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

McIntosh Apples make the best pies.

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

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

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

DP

5 TOWNS IN THE BITTERROOT VALLEY TO ADD TO YOUR MONTANA ITINERARY

One of our hidden gems and relatively undiscovered destinations in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, is the beautiful Bitterroot Valley. A visit to this scenic valley will find the Sapphire Mountain range to the east and the Bitterroot Mountain range to the west with the Bitterroot River flowing through the middle of the valley. If your clients are looking for an off the beaten path from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park or for that perfect balance of outdoor recreation, culture and history—not to mention some of the most charming lodging options in Montana—then I suggest an itinerary that includes some time for them to stay and play in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

Darby
For travelers looking to explore a truly western town, begin with the charming town of Darby. Or for those fans of the new series Yellowstone staring Kevin Costner, this is where the Dutton’s ranch is located. The towns wood-facade buildings provide a real western feel as you stroll through downtown. Recommended stops include the smallest brewery in Montana; Bandit Brewing, Old West Candy and Antiques Gallery and the Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum or make the short drive north and west to Lake Como for a plethora of recreational options that include water sport activities, hiking or mountain biking around the lake on well-maintained trails. Take a drive along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River for great fishing and a visit to Painted Rocks State Park where green, yellow and orange lichen cover the rock walls and granite cliffs. For some of the best winter skiing in Western Montana, visit Lost Trail Powder Mountain at the top of Lost Trail Pass on the border of Montana and Idaho. The lodging options in Darby range from quaint to luxury: in town lodging includes Travellers Rest Cabins and RV Park, while additional properties in picturesque settings and a little father out of town include Alta Ranch and Rye Creek Lodge. For those clients looking for a luxury guest ranch, enjoy the rustic elegance—and amazing culinary offerings—at the all-inclusive, adult only, Triple Creek Ranch.

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

Take a horseback trail ride at Triple Creek Ranch.

A beautiful view from the hike around Lake Como.

Hamilton
The largest town in the Bitterroot Valley is home to a buzzing art scene with many galleries and shops full of work from local artisans. Catch live art with the Bitterroot Performing Arts Series, a Montana A Cappella Society Concert or the Hamilton Players live theater. Other great activities include sapphire mining for that perfect gem at Sapphire Studios in Hamilton, fly-fishing on one of Western Montana’s most pristine rivers—the Bitterroot River—or hiking the popular Blodgett Canyon Overlook Trail for stunning views into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Stop in at Higherground Brewing Co. for stone fired pizza, salads and handcrafted beers. Lodging in Hamilton is comfortable and cozy at the Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center or Hamilton’s Quality Inn.

Just outside of Hamilton is the Daly Mansion. The former summer home turned museum of copper baron and millionaire Marcus Daly, his wife Margaret and their four children has evolved from a two-story farmhouse into a 24,000-square-foot mansion with 25 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms on 50 stunning acres in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley.

A day hike with impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

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

Stevensville
Following the East Side Highway north is the community of Stevensville.  Take a quick detour for a little history at Fort Owen State Park—one of the most important commercial centers in the northwest for many years in the mid-1800s. Stevensville is home to the historic St. Mary’s Mission—the first permanent pioneer settlement in Montana. Walk through history and see first-hand the fascinating chapter of Montana’s beginning. Dine at the French inspired Mission Bistro and try one of the seasonal beers at Blacksmith Brewing Company.

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

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

Birding at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.

Lolo
Located on the north end of the Bitterroot Valley on U.S. Highway 93 is Lolo, home to Travelers’ Rest State Park—the campsite where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery rested and prepared for their journey to and from the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago. It is home to the ONLY archaeologically verified campsite of their journey and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Recreational options abound including biking, running or walking the Bitterroot Trail—a 50-mile-long paved path that runs from Missoula to Hamilton and is a fun way to see the valley. Just a short drive east outside of Lolo on U.S. Highway 12 is The Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs. Rejuvenate in the mineral hot springs after a day spent hiking or biking in the region. Another favorite brewery in the Bitterroot Valley is Lolo Peak Brewery. Or plan dinner at Lolo Creek Steak House, one of Montana’s finest steakhouses. Catch happy hour at their new Lolo Creek Distillery, located behind the steakhouse.

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

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

DP

THE BEST GUIDED TOURS IN WESTERN MONTANA

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

Climb aboard Sinopah for spectacular views of Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiking in Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier Guides

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

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

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

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

Fishing the Bitterroot River with Grizzly Hackle.

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

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake. Photo: Far West

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

Peddle pub tour by Thirst Gear.

Brewery tours with Montana Adventure Shuttle.

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

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

TOP 9 TOUR OPERATOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

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

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

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

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Spring day in Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

Groups enjoy red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

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

Moose sightings in the spring.

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

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

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

All smiles at a chuckwagon dinner outside of Missoula.

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

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

Cultural dancing on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

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

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

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

Hiking the M trail overlooking Missoula.

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

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

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

11 AMAZING HIDDEN GEMS IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

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

Views from Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo.

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

Learn about professional smokejumpers in Missoula.

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

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

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

Sunset at Lake Como.

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

Murals adorn the walls in St. Ignatius Mission.

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

Views from Looking Glass Highway.

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

Relaxing and taking in the views at Holland Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

Early morning on the Clearwater Canoe trail.

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

Hiking on the Kootenai Creek Trail.

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

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fort Missoula Alien Detention Center 1941-1944

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

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

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

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

The Trolley Barn houses the museum’s interurban streetcar 

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

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

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

 

REFLECTING ON 2018 IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

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

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

Line dancing lessons in a horse arena? Yes please.

Horseback riding with Triple Creek Ranch in the Bitterroot Mountains.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

Introducing fly fishing to these visitors on the Bitterroot River.

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

A perfect golf morning at Wilderness Club resort in Eureka.

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

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

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

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

Hello, gorgeous Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

DP

YELLOWSTONE TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, I spend a significant amount of time traveling around the U.S. attending trade shows to promote the western region of Montana to domestic group tour operators, international tour operators and travel agents. One question that often comes up, “What’s the best route to take between Montana’s two national parks, Yellowstone and Glacier?” While each route offers its own scenic beauty and not-to-be-missed attractions along the way, one of the most direct routes is through Butte and Missoula. On this park-to-park trip, you’ll stick mainly to interstates and U.S. highways, but in Montana, even the freeways are scenic. You’ll also travel along some of this corridor’s coolest offerings—like the richest hill on earth in Butte and Lewis and Clark Caverns in Whitehall.

Day 1: West Yellowstone to Missoula
After adventuring in Yellowstone National Park, it’s time to head north. Leaving West Yellowstone, travel north on U.S. Highway 191 and then west on U.S. Highway 287 along the beautiful shores of Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake, both created in 1959 when an earthquake hit the Madison Canyon River Area. Stop in at the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center to see remembrances of the event.

Goodbye Yellowstone, headed to Glacier National Park.

Next up is the charming town of Ennis in the heart of heavenly trout fishing in Southwest Montana located on the banks of the Madison River. After leaving Ennis, give yourself enough time (two hours) to stop and see the Lewis and Clark Caverns, Montana’s first and best-known state park.

Ennis is one of Montana’s most popular fishing towns.

Montana’s largest state park, Lewis and Clark Caverns.

Head north again and meet up Interstate Highway 90. Follow the signs to Butte. History, personality and charm are part of the walkable “uptown” district, and it’s the perfect place to stop and eat lunch. Local favorites include a Wop Chop or a pasty (pronounced pass-tee). Then jump on a trolley tour to learn about the characters, famous folks, miners and scoundrels that lived and worked in Butte.

Farther west on I-90 (1.5 hours) is Missoula—the cultural hub of Montana. Spend the afternoon exploring the city’s downtown, including boutique shops, a thriving culinary scene, breweries and live music venues. Be sure to stroll over to the Brennan’s Wave overlook, where you are likely to see a kayaker (or several) playing on the man-made whitewater wave on the Clark Fork River. No visit to Missoula is complete without a stop at the Smokejumper Visitor Center, located near the Missoula International Airport. As the nation’s largest training base for smokejumpers, the visitor center showcases displays, dioramas and videos related to the lore of America’s legendary parachute wildfire fighters. Take a guided tour of the parachute loft and see the brave men and women that face these wildfires.

Shop the boutique stores in downtown Missoula.

Kayaker on Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula.

Overnight in Missoula

DAY 2: Missoula to Kalispell
Head north on U.S. Highway 93 out of Missoula and you’ll soon be on the tribal lands of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The reservation encompasses 1.3 million acres and is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

At Ravalli, (30 minutes from Missoula) travel west on state Route 200 and north on U.S. Highway 212 to the National Bison Range—one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. With more than 18,000 acres, the range is home to 350 – 500 head of bison, as well as black bear, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk and white-tailed deer.

Over 350 bison roam the National Bison Range.

After leaving the National Bison Range, continue north on U.S. 212 to the town of Charlo, and stop at Allentown Restaurant (located in Ninepipes Lodge) for lunch and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Mission Mountains from the dining room. Following lunch, stroll over to the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana to experience a treasure trove of information, including exhibits, artifacts and displays from early settlers. Take a quick peak in at Great Gray Gifts for the perfect made in Montana souvenir.

Views from Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant.

From here, travel 20 minutes north on U.S. 93 to the community of Pablo and stop in for a visit at The People’s Center. Self-guided tours of the museum are available, but we suggest you schedule a tour with a guide for a truly memorable experience.

As you continue north on U.S. 93 and drop into the town of Polson, you’ll capture a breathtaking view of Flatead Lake—the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. Attractions in Polson include the Miracle of America Museum and its amazing collection of Americana curiosities.

Continue north around the west side of Flathead Lake to Kalispell, the commercial hub of the Flathead Valley. Stop in the Conrad Mansion Museum and visit the historic home of Kalispell’s founding family built in 1895.

Overnight in Kalispell

Day 3: Kalispell to Glacier National Park
Kalispell is located just 45 minutes from the west entrance to Glacier National Park. A wilderness of lakes, towering peaks and remnants of glaciers is readily accessible. Stop in West Glacier and get your provisions for the day. Include snacks and water, as those are scarce once you head into the park. Apgar Village offers watercraft rentals and spectacular views of Lake McDonald. Stop into Eddie’s for some delicious ice cream and a souvenir before heading over to the Apgar Visitor Center.

Views from Apgar Village in Glacier National Park.

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. Travel to the hand-hewn, grand Lake McDonald Lodge (20 minutes from West Glacier) where you can hop aboard a red bus for a tour of the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road (various tour lengths available; reservations required). There are vehicle length restrictions on Going-to-the-Sun Road, so leave the driving to someone else. The historic canvas-top tour buses were introduced in the 1930s and have since been restored and outfitted with propane engines—gift from the Ford Motor Company. Additionally, Sun Tours offers tours on the Going-to-the-Sun Road including narrative from the Blackfeet Indian perspective.

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

Narrated boat tours on historic wooden boats with Glacier Park Boat Company are offered several times a day on Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake, St. Mary Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The St. Mary Visitor Center is also definitely worth a stop while you’re in Glacier National Park. Hike more than 700 miles of trails including short hikes to waterfalls,  extended backcountry hikes to unnamed lakes, and everything in between. Glacier National Park has something for everyone.

Imagine yourself sitting here on this boat cruise on Lake McDonald.

For this complete itinerary and other itinerary suggestions visit our tour operators site. If you need further assistance in itinerary planning feel free to drop me a line, I’m always here to help.

Happy Adventuring,

DP