Tag Archives: Festivals and Events

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 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

STAY AND PLAY IN WESTERN MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, I am often asked about our hidden gems or the undiscovered places in the region. Without hesitation, I think of one of my favorite places, the Bitterroot Valley. If your clients are looking 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.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

Located just south of Missoula on 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 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.

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

A little farther south on 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.

Birding at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.

Continue south on the East Side Highway and you’ll come to 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.

For overnight stays, try the The Stevensville Hotel or Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast. Built in 1910 and located one block from Main Street, The Stevensville Hotel is an award-winning property that’s on the National Historic Register. Meanwhile, the charming Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast sits along the Bitterroot River and offers four beautifully appointed rooms and a scrumptious breakfast.

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

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

A little further south just outside of Hamilton is the Daly Mansion. The summer home 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.

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. Depending on the time of year, 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.

Lodging in Hamilton is comfortable and cozy at the Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center or Hamilton’s TownHouse Inn.

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

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

Impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

Impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

For travelers looking to explore a western town, travel a bit farther south through Montana’s Bitterroot Valley on Highway 93 to the charming town of Darby. Darby’s wood façade 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 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 Triple Creek Ranch.

A beautiful day at Lake Como.

A beautiful day at Lake Como.

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

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

Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce 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 3 REASONS TO VISIT WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY IN THE FALL

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Glacier Country Tourism I am often asked by tour operators and travel agents who specialize in domestic group travel or individual fly/drive tours, when the best time is to visit Western Montana’s Glacier Country.  Without hesitation, I answer fall.

While every season in Montana is notable and offers its own distinct group 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 3 reasons to visit Western Montana in autumn.

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

More benefits to a fall visit: the 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 that are 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.

Glacier National Park remains 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. Look for deer, 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 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 people trails too.

2) 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.

Sitting at 96 miles long, the Bitterroot Valley is 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 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.

A bird’s-eye view of the Bitterroot Valley from the Sapphire Mountain Range.

A bird’s-eye view of the Bitterroot Valley from the Sapphire Mountain Range.

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

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

The far northwest corner of Montana is a bit off-the-beaten-path but with its expanse of old growth forests and wilderness is a showstopper when it comes to fall foliage. The spectacular hues of the western larch—also known as the tamarack—are stunning. Take 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 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. Here are additional scenic fall drives that might be incorporated into your Western Montana itinerary.

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

3) 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 Glacier Country. A few to note: Montana Dragon Boat Festival, Great Northwest Oktoberfest, McIntosh Apple Days and Seeley Lake Tamarack Festival & Brewfest.

Held on the shores of Flathead Lake, the Montana Dragon Boat Festival takes place every September. In addition to teams racing on the water, this event is fun for spectators and includes live music, children’s activities and made in Montana vendors.

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.

A few hours south of Whitefish, McIntosh Apple Days take place in Hamilton in October. This festival is all about apples, with highlights including live entertainment and a giant bake sale that features homemade apple pies, caramel apples and apple butter.

McIntosh Apples make the best pies.

McIntosh Apples make the best pies.

Last but not least is the Seeley Lake Tamarack Festival & Brewfest. This event celebrates fall and the beauty of the turning colors of the tamarack trees.

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