Tag Archives: Darby

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 and their signature event—Darby Logger Days—pays tribute to the town’s logging roots. 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

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

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

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

GUEST POST: 4 WAYS TO CELEBRATE FALL AT TRIPLE CREEK RANCH

Located right here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country sits Triple Creek Ranch an all-inclusive guest ranch voted as the Best Hotel in the World by readers of Travel & Leisure, 2014. Fall is the perfect time to visit Triple Creek Ranch, where we offer some exciting complimentary programs that extend the value of our all-inclusive rates. If you can’t make it for 2017, be sure to put it on your calendar for 2018.

One of the many sculptures that greet you at Triple Creek Ranch.

Klicks for Chicks (October 11 – 16, 2017)
As the aspens turn gold and cover tremendous swaths of the mountainside with their shimmery glow, we know it is time to welcome our cowgirls for the annual Klicks for Chicks event. Join a high-spirited posse of gals for days in the saddle traversing the Montana wilderness that meet a fitting end with hearty fare, good-natured camaraderie and the plush comfort of a downy bed. For every “klick” (kilometer) ridden by every cowgirl, the ranch donates a dollar to Summit for Parkinson’s.

Klicks for chicks cowgirls.

Artist Workshop Weekend (October 19 – 23, 2017)
How better to spend a lovely autumn afternoon than learning how to paint or sculpt in a relaxed setting – tucked away on a Montana mountainside with friends and splendid inspiration? We provide the art supplies and our artist partners provide instruction. Featured artists for the fall workshop are Brent Cotton, Carol Hagan and Greg Kelsey.

Learn from featured artists at Artist Workshop Weekend 

Autumn Birding in the Bitterroot (October 26 – 30, 2017)
The Bitterroot Valley is a birder’s paradise. Wide ranges of species reside or migrate through this richly varied terrain. Celebrated birder Greg Miller will lead guests on daily outings over the mountains, through the woods, across the prairies, and along the rivers in search of favorite birds, wherever they may be. Greg’s specialties include identifying birds by their songs, and his charismatic personality was genially portrayed in the book and movie The Big Year. October days in Montana often offer brilliant blue skies and warm sunshine, perfect conditions for optimal birding!

The Bitterroot Valley is a birder’s paradise.

Tamber Bey Vintner Thanksgiving (November 22 – 26, 2017)
Acclaimed Napa Valley winery Tamber Bey showcases its vintner craftsmanship at Sundance Ranch, the world-class equestrian facility in Calistoga that is home to the winery. Vintners Barry and Jennifer Waitte will feel right at home when they join us to welcome guests for our Thanksgiving celebration. The familiar, rich array of Ranch activities will be available, along with holiday-themed cooking classes and wine tastings.

Holiday-themed cooking classes and wine tasting.

About Triple Creek Ranch
Experience the legendary hospitality and enchanting beauty of the World’s Best Hotel (Travel + Leisure, 2014) set in the heart of the Montana Rockies. Triple Creek Ranch offers an all-inclusive luxury guest ranch experience of refined rustic elegance and five star service amidst the romance of a forested mountain retreat.

Private log cabins feature wood-burning fireplaces, original Western art from the owners’ private collection, king beds, and a private or nearby hot tub. Nightly cabin rates are all-inclusive: all meals, house wine, spirits and beer, on-ranch activities. Guests ages 16 and older are welcome, ensuring that adult travelers enjoy a relaxed and romantic setting with incomparable scenery, an endless menu of outdoor activities and the option of adding on exhilarating off-ranch Western adventures. Featured Montana activities include sapphire panning, horseback riding and ORVIS guided fly-fishing.

Revel in a retreat from the everyday and relax in world-class accommodations, experience the thrill of the Montana wilderness from the back of a horse, dine on the freshest contemporary cuisine and sample the world’s finest wines while our seasoned staff attends to every desire.

Come visit soon,
Jennifer

Jennifer O’Donohue is the Marketing and Sales Director for Triple Creek Ranch, a Relais & Chateaux property.

www.triplecreekranch.com
info@triplecreekranch.com
(406) 821-4600

5 UNEXPECTED SPRING EXPERIENCES IN WESTERN MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY

It’s that time of year we love: spring in Montana. One of our favorite seasons, spring offers FIT/Group clients an exceptional Western Montana experience. The days start to lengthen, the skies erupt with beautiful blue hues and visitation is lighter than in our busier summer months. Spring is one of the best, most underrated times to visit our region. To add to your spring itinerary, we’ve put together a list of a few of the best and most unexpected experiences to be had in our beautiful Bitterroot Valley.

Pedal the Valley: Bike the Bitterroot Trail

This paved 50-mile path connects Missoula and Hamilton, taking travelers through some of Western Montana’s most charming small towns and jaw-dropping scenery. Learn more about this historic trail at bitterroottrail.com.

Biking the scenic Bitterroot Trail. Photo: bitterroottrail.com

Sip Local Spirits: Visit a Brewery or Distillery

Within the last few years, the microbrew and distillery industries have exploded onto the scene in Montana. With more than 25 distilleries and breweries in Glacier Country, adding a brew or spirit tasting to your itinerary is simple and fun. The valley is home to some of those great breweries. Check out Lolo Peak Brewing Company in Lolo, Bandit Brewing Co. in Darby, Blacksmith Brewing Company and Wildwood Brewery in Stevensville, and Higherground Brewing and Bitterroot Brewing Company in Hamilton. Visit glaciermt.com/breweries to learn more.

Friends enjoy some brews at Blacksmith Brewing in Stevensville.

Birder’s Delight: Bird-Watching in the Bitterroot Valley

Spring is a fantastic time to check out migratory birds in our region, and Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is just the place to do it. A 30-minute drive south of Missoula and a few minutes from Stevensville, Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,800-acre refuge that’s home to a variety of wildlife and birds. Trails are easily accessible and the Bitterroot Mountain views offer a gorgeous backdrop. Visit glaciermt.com/wildlife-refuges to learn more about the refuges in Western Montana.

A group sees a baby bald eagle through the scope.

Local Flavor: Dining in Montana

When you think of Montana, you likely think of mountains and big blue skies, so it might be surprising to hear that our culinary scene is top-notch. The Bitterroot Valley is home to some of our delicious culinary offerings. We suggest heading to the Lolo Creek Steak House in Lolo or head farther south to Nap’s Grill or Red Rooster Artisan Bakery in Hamilton. Click here for more dining options, and let the mouthwatering commence.

The Bitterroot Valley is home to many delicious culinary offerings.

Market Season: Experience a Western Montana Farmers Market

If you find yourself in the Bitterroot Valley this spring and summer you must check out one of the many Farmers Markets in the area. These markets are great for a genuine Western Montana experience. You will find some amazing Montana-made goods, local produce, organic items, baked goods and fresh flowers, not to mention friendly locals and talented musicians. Check out the full list of community farmers markets in the Bitterroot Valley right here.

Hamilton’s Farmers Market is a must. Photo: asideofsweet.com

You can find more information on where to stay and play in the Bitterroot Valley here or if you are looking for more information about Western Montana, visit our tour operators website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our Tourism Sales Manager, Debbie Picard.

Cheers!
NG

5 PERFECT HONEYMOON DESTINATIONS IN WESTERN MONTANA

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

Montana sunsets are awe-inspiring.

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

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

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

Cabins on Swan Lake make a perfect honeymoon retreat.

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

Breathtaking views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

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

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

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

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

Honeymooners love guest ranches in Montana.

For more information on romantic inns and lodges, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and unique lodging throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operator website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Happy Honeymooning,

DP