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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

TOP 7 MEETING PLANNER QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

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

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

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

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

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Meeting attendees enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

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

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

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

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

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

The Ranch at Rock Creek’s Buckle Barn.

Sit fireside at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

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

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

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

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

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

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

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

Meet in Montana,
DP

TOP 9 TOUR OPERATOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

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

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

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

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Spring day in Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

Groups enjoy red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

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

Moose sightings in the spring.

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

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

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

All smiles at a chuckwagon dinner outside of Missoula.

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

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

Cultural dancing on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

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

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

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

Hiking the M trail overlooking Missoula.

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

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

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP

THE 5 1/2 FREE THINGS YOU’LL RECEIVE WHEN YOU MEET IN WESTERN MONTANA

Everyone loves the word FREE, but we’ve all been conditioned to assume it’s “too good to be true.” If you’re choosing to hold your meeting or convention in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, let us show you how we do FREE and how it can help the bottom line for both meeting planners and conference attendees.

1. Let’s begin with hotel shuttles from either of our Western Montana airports. Missoula International Airport (MSO) is a short 7-minute drive to downtown Missoula. Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, is a 15-minute drive to both Whitefish and downtown Kalispell. All of our larger branded conference hotels in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish offer FREE shuttles to and from the airport. If you’re traveling into our region on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, shuttles from Whitefish properties are available to pick up and drop off at the depot in Whitefish as well as some Kalispell properties.

Missoula International Airport. Photo: Missoula Airport.

2. Whether you’re driving in for a regional meeting or renting a car from the airport for a pre or post-conference sightseeing adventure in Western Montana, parking is always FREE at our lodging properties. While most of our hotels do not offer valet parking due to the easy parking-lot-to-lobby access, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake—the only 4 diamond hotel property in Western Montana—does offer FREE valet service.

Schedule a horse-drawn wagon ride with Bar W in Whitefish for a conference outing or pre/post vacation activity.

3. Wi-Fi is a necessity for conference attendees, and charging for it does not fit into our western hospitality philosophy here in Montana’s Glacier Country. All of our conference hotels offer FREE Wi-Fi in guest rooms and either FREE or minimal cost in conference spaces. When utilizing AV services, meeting planners will find that conference hotels in Western Montana offer very affordable rates on everything from projector packages to Polycom needs.

State-of-the-art AV services. Photo: SpringHill Suites Kalispell.

4. Staying healthy, focused and connected is critical while attending any meeting. Access to business centers, fitness centers, pools and hot tubs is never an additional charge in Western Montana conference hotels and resorts. So pack those running shoes and that swimsuit without fear of having to pay extra, it’s FREE.

Bring those workout clothes. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Bring those swimsuits. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

5. Montana is one of only five states where there is no state wide sales tax, so we encourage attendees to leave a little space in their suitcases for lots of made-in-Montana items. Meeting planner clients will only see a service charge on a final BEO, not on guest rooms or other meeting services.

Utilize the great outdoor space found in Montana. Photo: Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula.

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

1/2. Bonus: At just 7%, Montana’s lodging tax is half of some neighboring states (10% in Whitefish, which includes their 3% resort tax). Look to Western Montana’s shoulder seasons (spring and fall)—specifically the months of March, April, May, October, and November—for the best availability and rates on guest rooms and conference space.

Spring in Montana is a great time to meet and visit Glacier National Park as a pre or post conference vacation.

Another thing that is FREE, our services! For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect venue for your meeting in Western Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,
DP

GUEST POST: DESTINATION ADVENTURE WITH WHITEFISH BIKE RETREAT

Located in beautiful Glacier Country with access to Western Montana’s wilderness right outside our door, Whitefish Bike Retreat offers adventure like no other. Here, our focus is on the bike and the adventure traveler, whether you’re visiting as part of a larger U.S. biking itinerary or you’re on an international tour. Our proximity to Glacier National Park is a major draw for travelers. We’re just a 30-minute drive from the gorgeous Crown of the Continent, and we’re also close to downtown Whitefish, the charming ski town and summer hot spot. This area boasts endless year-round outdoor recreation and fun.

Aerial view of Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Summer is stunning at WBR. From the aerial photo, you can see our lodge, campground, trails, skills area, pump track, ridge deck, office/camp store and the woods we call home. Book a bunk in our lodge or pitch a tent in our campground, and ride around our trails or venture onto the Whitefish Trail System, encompassing 42 miles of natural surface trails with 12 trail-heads. The WBR crew is here to help you navigate the trails and find your way around this exceptionally scenic part of Montana.

WBR also offers day adventures. Rent a mountain bike trail-side so you can ride the Whitefish Trail without having to transport your own bike to a trailhead. When you’re finished with your ride, feel free to come back and hang out with us, and share your stories from the day. Grab a pint of our favorite local ice cream at Sweet Peaks, and recover in one of our hammocks to top off a day well spent.

Bikepacking on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

For those of you looking to venture further out on a longer ride, plan a bikepacking adventure where you are limited only by the time you have available. We offer mountain bike and bikepacking bag rentals, so all you need to bring is your gear and sense of adventure. We can help you pack a bike, find a route to explore and shuttle you to the trailhead, or pick you up when you’re finished.

Embark on the ultimate adventure. WBR is located near the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which is the longest off-pavement bicycle route in the world, starting from Banff in Alberta, Canada, crisscrossing the Continental Divide and ending in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Riders on the Whitefish Trail.

Fat biking around Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Biking isn’t reserved for the warmer months. Winter offers load of fun. Join us for a snowy winter-wonderland adventure. Our lodge is open year-round, with groomed fat bike trails stretching from the front door out into and around the Beaver Lake area. These winter trails are shared with snowshoers, cross-country skiers and fat bike trail enthusiasts. Our lodge offers guests easy access to winter activities and a comfy place to end the day with family and friends, warming up in the wood-fired sauna.

Wood-fired sauna for guests.

Getting here is easy. For those of you flying into our closest airport, Glacier Park International (FCA) in Kalispell, we offer a shuttle. Amtrak rail service running from Seattle or Portland to Chicago passes right through our region, with a stop in Whitefish, and we are happy to offer a shuttle from the train depot. During our office hours, we offer free town shuttles to get guests back and forth between WBR and Whitefish, where you can take advantage of buses to Glacier National Park or Whitefish Mountain Resort, or enjoy downtown Whitefish—one of the friendliest towns in the West, with an array of shops, galleries and eateries.

Shuttle drop-off for riders.

For more information on biking adventures in Western Montana, visit our website at
www.whitefishbikeretreat.com or give us a call at 406.260.0274.

SLEEP – WAKE – RIDE – FIND ADVENTURE

Cricket

Cricket – owner of Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Cricket Butler moved to Whitefish 2012 and opened the Whitefish Bike Retreat (WBR) in 2013.  She has a long history of cycling and adventuring including long distance hiking and kayaking to mountaineering and knows how to cater to visitors looking for an active vacation.  Her love for Montana and passion for cycling shows in what she has created and helps others find their own adventure in beautiful Northwest Montana.

 

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA

For the fourth year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 10 – 12, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in booth #A1310 and learn more about Montana as a meeting destination. Whether you are looking for the perfect luxury guest ranch for a corporate incentive group, a large branded hotel with a ballroom and breakouts for the association conference or the mountainside hot springs resort for the board retreat, Montana has it all.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Bozeman, Great Falls and Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish—to learn about the variety of meeting offerings in Montana. Without further ado, please meet the meetings experts from Montana that will be attending IMEX America.

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

Returning to the Montana booth this year is Daryl Schliem, the President and CEO of the Bozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau. The hospitality options and outdoor activities that attract meeting planners to the Bozeman area include an abundance of recreation, resorts, shopping, museums, breweries and its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. In town, you’ll find plenty of local flavor in Bozeman’s historic downtown shops, restaurants and galleries. From a casual boardroom meeting to the formal ballroom soirée, Bozeman has plenty of meeting and function space as well as over 2,500 guest rooms. Boasting the largest and busiest airport in Montana, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport offers many direct flights to major cities in the U.S., making Bozeman the perfect mountain meeting setting, providing everything a group needs to get business done by day along with an exhilarating Montana experience waiting just outside the conference room door.

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum is the Executive Director at the Great Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau and will be joining the Montana booth to discuss the alluring landscapes, rugged independence and genuine experiences that create authentic Montana meeting memories in Great Falls. Offering top-notch meeting space along with quality accommodations, Great Falls—the third largest city in Montana—has additional highlights that include the C.M. Russell Museum, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, fine dining and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. With nearly 2,200 guest rooms available and more than 120,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, Great Falls can accommodate groups of more than 2,000 attendees and citywide events of up to 5,000 attendees.

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Representing Discover Kalispell in the Montana booth again this year is Group Sales Manager, Dawn Jackson. As the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell is in the middle of Montana’s most iconic natural places and the ideal environment to increase conference attendance and utilize the city’s venues and modern amenities to conduct effective business. With two new hotels that opened in 2016, and more coming in 2017, Kalispell offers over 1,800 guest rooms and 56,000 square feet of meeting space for citywide groups of up to 4,000 attendees. Kalispell’s community is filled with unique shopping, cultural offerings, fine restaurants, wonderful events and welcoming smiles. Kalispell’s international airport, Glacier Park International, offers year-round direct flights to five major markets and additional seasonal directs to another five markets making access to Kalispell incredibly easy.

Mimi Hall Gustafson, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Group Sales Manager for Destination Missoula, Mimi Hall Gustafson will be at IMEX to talk about meetings in Missoula this year. Missoula is the second largest city and cultural hub of Montana as it provides the perfect blend of business and pleasure for meeting attendees with outdoor adventure, abundant nightlife, unexpected sophistication and a thriving food scene. Whether the meeting is an intimate corporate retreat or a large association conference, Missoula has something for everyone. With nearly 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,400 guest rooms at hotels for every budget level, Missoula is a great destination for meetings up to 2,000 attendees or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Missoula International Airport from 12 major U.S. markets.

Dan Hansen, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Explore Whitefish, Dan Hansen focuses on group travel and will be joining the Montana booth this year. Whitefish creates lasting impressions and earns rave reviews for meetings, events and corporate retreats. With more than 1,100 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 2,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country

The final member of the Montana booth at IMEX America will be Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Debbie works closely with the three regional CVBs of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these three hub cities. Within the western region of Montana is an array of properties that are well-equipped to host meetings and conventions of various sizes, including small events, incentive travel, corporate retreats and large conferences. These properties include luxury guest ranches, hot springs resorts and mountainside lodges. And when you combine these meetings offerings with two international airports, shoulder season prices and team-building activities, it’s easy to see why meeting planners are taking a look at Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you’re coming to IMEX America 2017, let us know. We’d love to meet with you and talk meetings in Montana.

A few things to keep in mind for IMEX:

*To meet with Montana’s Glacier Country, Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minutes appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman and Great Falls are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by booth #A1310 anyway. We welcome drop-ins and will be hosting daily giveaways.

And if you’re a meeting planner not attending IMEX America, we’d still love to help you plan your Montana meeting. All of the contacts listed above are happy to help you find the perfect fit for your meeting needs.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect destination for your meeting in Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP

THE FREE PERKS OF MEETING IN MONTANA

Everyone loves the word FREE, but we’ve all been conditioned to assume it’s “too good to be true.” If you’re choosing to hold your meeting or convention in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, let me show you how we do FREE and how it can help the bottom line for both meeting planners and attendees.

Let’s begin with hotel shuttles from either of our Western Montana airports. Missoula International Airport (MSO) is a short 7-minute drive to downtown Missoula. Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, is a 15-minute drive to both Whitefish and downtown Kalispell. All of our larger branded conference hotels in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish offer free shuttles to and from the airport. If you’re traveling into our region on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, shuttles from Whitefish properties are available to pick up and drop off at the depot in Whitefish as well.

Missoula International Airport. Photo: Missoula Airport.

Whether you’re driving in for a regional meeting or renting a car from the airport for a pre or post-conference sightseeing adventure in Western Montana, parking is always free at our lodging properties. While most of our hotels do not offer valet parking due to the easy parking-lot-to-lobby access, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake—the only 4 diamond hotel property in Western Montana—does offer free valet service.

Wi-Fi is a necessity for conference attendees, and charging for it does not fit into our western hospitality philosophy here in Montana’s Glacier Country. All of our conference hotels offer free Wi-Fi in guest rooms and conference spaces. When utilizing AV services, meeting planners will find that conference hotels in Western Montana offer very affordable rates on everything from projector packages to Polycom needs.

State-of-the-art AV services. Photo: SpringHill Suites Kalispell.

Staying healthy, focused and connected is critical while attending any meeting. Access to business centers, fitness centers, pools and hot tubs is never an additional charge in Western Montana conference hotels. So pack those running shoes and that swimsuit without fear of having to pay extra.

Bring those workout clothes.

Bring those swimsuits.

There’s no sales tax in the state of Montana, so we encourage attendees to leave a little space in their suitcases for lots of made-in-Montana items. Meeting clients will only see a service charge on a final BEO, not on guest rooms or other meeting services.

Utilize the great outdoor space found in Montana. Photo: Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula.

Bonus: At just 7%, Montana’s lodging tax is half of some neighboring states (10% in Whitefish, which includes their 3% resort tax). Look to Western Montana’s shoulder seasons (spring and fall)—specifically the months of March, April, May, October, and November—for the best availability and rates on guest rooms and conference space.

Spring in Montana is a great time to meet.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect venue for your meeting in Western Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,
DP

TRANSPORTATION: GETTING TO MONTANA IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Montana: when you think of this beautiful place, chances are majestic mountains, big blue skies, wildflower-filled meadows, miles of hiking trails and crystal clear rivers and streams come to mind. But you’re also probably wondering, “Is it easy to travel to Montana?” The answer: yes this heavenly place is closer than you think.

transpo-blog

A couple enjoys fishing in Western Montana.

Located in Western Montana, Glacier Country is a vast place and is an ideal option for a scenic meeting or convention and group tours. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is also home to two major international airports, a well-maintained highway system and a passenger train to get you and your clients here with ease.

A 7-minute drive from downtown Missoula, Missoula International Airport (MSO) offers easy access to the southern tier of Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Direct flights arrive daily from Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix/Mesa, Salt Lake City, Portland and Seattle, with seasonal flights arriving from Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. This airport services Delta/SkyWest, United, Alaska/Horizon Air and Allegiant Air.

Situated in the northern tier of the region is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). Located 15 minutes from Whitefish and Kalispell, this beautiful airport is the gateway to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies and  has daily flights from Salt Lake City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas, with seasonal flights from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland and Oakland. Airlines flying into this airport are Delta/SkyWest, Alaska/Horizon Air, United and Allegiant Air.

b2b-map

Map outlining all the flight options for both international airports.

If your group is interested in traveling to Western Montana by train, then Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the answer. Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the Hi-Line of Montana and the northern tier of Glacier Country, where it makes stops in several communities, including Cut Bank, Browning, East Glacier Park, Essex, West Glacier, Whitefish and Libby. This train is an amazing way to travel past Glacier National Park, the Rocky Mountains and all the stunning terrain in between. Amtrak operates daily from Seattle and Portland, as well as Minneapolis and Chicago. This is a great option for large groups wanting to see the beauty of Western Montana’s Glacier Country in a relaxing and comfortable setting.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

If traveling by air or rail isn’t what you are looking for, and you prefer driving to Western Montana, then you’re in luck. Driving in Montana is easy with a well-maintained highway system that’s anchored by Interstate Highway 90 running east and west and U.S. Highway 93 running north and south. The beauty of driving on our highways and roads are that you will always have breathtaking scenery and heart-stopping views, with charming small towns sprinkled along your route.

See you soon,

NG

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

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