Tag Archives: Flathead Lake

YELLOWSTONE TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY

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

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

Goodbye Yellowstone, headed to Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

Shop the boutique stores in downtown Missoula.

Kayaker on Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula.

Overnight in Missoula

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

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

Over 350 bison roam the National Bison Range.

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

Views from Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant.

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

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

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

Overnight in Kalispell

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

Views from Apgar Village in Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Adventuring,

DP

ADDING TOUR OPTIONS TO YOUR GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY

As tour operators plan for their next warm-weather tour into Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we’ve highlighted a few tour options that tend to fly under the radar. When visiting Western Montana, we know that Glacier National Park is a bucket list destination, and most visitors coming to Glacier Country have at least a couple days planned to see the sights in the Crown of the Continent. If your itinerary allows, we’ve included a few more options in the Flathead Valley that can be added to any itinerary, especially for the less active or senior motorcoach tour.

Climb aboard a red bus in Glacier National Park.

Purple Mountain Lavender
Tour the grounds of Purple Mountain Lavender just above Flathead Lake in Lakeside, Montana, featuring more than 1,000 lavender plants of 25 different varieties all grown in a chemical-free environment. Take in the breathtaking views of the Flathead Valley and learn about all the different uses for lavender—from oil distillation and cooking, to drying for arrangements. If your itinerary schedule is tight and you’d rather have a class brought to your group, they are available at your hotel location and are great fun for men and woman alike. Deb—the owner—will introduce you to lavender cookies, lemonade and show you how to make lavender sachets so you can take some Montana lavender home with you.
May – October

The views of Flathead Lake from Purple Mountain Lavender.

Walk the lavender fields with 25 different varieties.

Meet Humphrey, Sunshine and Flopsey.

Making lavender sachets to take home.

Kalispell Historic & Cultural Tour
Kalispell Montana is the county seat for the Flathead Valley and has some amazing history just waiting to be explored. Whether you request a step-on guide to board your motorcoach and make your way around Kalispell or you climb aboard a historic trolley for a customized tour, your group is in for a treat. Your guide will help lay out the history of downtown Kalispell and its historic homes and tell the story of the famous people who resided in them. Learn about the founder of Kalispell, William Conrad, and visit the Conrad Mansion Museum built in 1895. The mansion was quite innovative for its time, with a built-in dumbwaiter, fire hoses on every floor and a communication system throughout the house. Take a docent-led tour and learn about the dignitaries who stayed with the Conrad’s over the years. Visit the Hockaday Museum of Art—an original Carnegie Library—a beautiful gallery housing one of the largest collections of art and culture on the Blackfeet Indians and Glacier National Park. Originally built as a schoolhouse, The Museum of Central School in now the home of NW Montana exhibitions and delves into the railroad and logging history of the area.
May – November including a tour of Conrad Mansion

Explore the Conrad Mansion Museum and grounds.

The Hockaday Museum of Art was once a Carnegie Library.

Board a historic trolley for a unique view of Historic Kalispell.

Far West Boat Tours on Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, capturing the title from Lake Tahoe by a few miles of shoreline. What better way to see this beautiful lake and the magnificent Mission and Swan Mountain ranges than by boat. Book a charter for your group or take advantage of the summer schedule when the boat sets sail daily at 1 p.m. from the dock at the Lakeside Marina on the northeast side of the lake. The daily cruise is narrated by the Far West crew who will explain how the natural lake was carved out by glaciers and that is rated the cleanest lake in the U.S. Plus, they’ll tell you what kind of water species call the lake home. Cruise past the natural islands in the lake, the largest being Wild Horse Island—now a day-use state park—and witness where the Flathead Indians were reported to have pastured their horses to keep them from be stolen by other tribes. There are still a few wild horses on Wild Horse Island, along with bighorn sheep, mule deer and bald eagles. There is a 10% discount for groups over 10 on their daily cruises. For groups wishing to charter the boat, a fully-licensed bar is available and catering services can be arranged.
June – October

Learn about Flathead Lake from the deck of Far West Boat Tours.

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake.

For more information on additional itinerary suggestions, where to stay, and where to find group-friendly restaurants, visit our tour operators page, or drop me a line. I’m always here to help.

DP

 

COLORFUL AUTUMN ROAD TRIPS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers up four very distinct seasons. While each has its own special place in our hearts, we have to admit that we are smitten with autumn. The season brings crisp mountain air at night while days are still warm enough for adventuring. The colors of the changing leaves are vibrant with golden hues of the cottonwoods and the western larch that cover the mountainsides along our wild and scenic rivers. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite road trips through Western Montana that showcase fall in all its glory. These routes can be added to any regional itinerary for your FIT clients this fall (winter, spring and summer too).

SCENIC ROAD TRIPS 

Bitterroot Valley
This lush, forested valley nested between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges is prime for leaf peeping. Pull over and explore any one of the Bitterroot’s storybook communities or watch wildlife at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Fall harvest events and happening take place at the Daly Mansion, which boasts 50 kinds of trees offering lots of changing colors. Stop in at Bitterroot cidery for some fresh-pressed deliciousness—the core of fall flavor!

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

Montana Tour 200
Just north of I-90 is scenic Hwy. 200 in Sanders County which travels along scenic river banks brimming with fall colors, active wildlife and ample outdoor recreation opportunities. Stop midway in Thompson Falls for a home-cooked meal at Minnie’s Montana Café. 

Visit the damn at Thompson Falls.

Flathead Lake
Circle the largest natural freshwater lake in the west for fall-foliage lake views, and experience the charm of the Flathead Valley, home to authentic small towns. Make a stop at The Raven Bar & Grill in Woods Bay on the east side of the lake for delicious waterfront dinging—including gluten free and vegetarian fare—craft cocktails, and some of the best views in the region.

The beauty of fall in the Flathead Valley.

Seeley Swan Valley
Between the stunning Swan and majestic Mission mountain ranges, the Seeley-Swan Valley boasts hundreds of pristine alpine lakes and beautiful hiking spots. This exceptionally scenic valley is known for its large population of tamaracks—unique pine trees that lose their golden needles in the fall. Make your stay an overnight with an authentic Montana lodging experience at the Double Arrow Resort, offering four-season recreation, cozy accommodations and incredibly warm hospitality.

 

Golden hue of the tamarack trees.

Highway 2 – Kalispell to Libby
Running through Western Montana’s northern region, Highway 2 travels along some of the most scenic places in Western Montana and introduces road-trippers to off-the-beaten-path treasures and well-known attractions to the locals. Start in Kalispell, the perfect mix of small-town Montana and old-west charm, and end in Libby, one of the region’s most scenic and quietest corners.

Kootenai Falls near the swing bridge on our way to Libby.

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

Happy fall road tripping,

DP

TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT THIS FALL IN WESTERN MONTANA

Many visitors to Western Montana’s Glacier Country arrive in July and August, but I’d like to let you in on a little secret that you can share with your FIT/Group clients: fall is one of the best times to visit Montana. The changing colors of vibrant red and orange hues are breathtaking. The weather can have a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies one minute and snow the next, but that is what makes autumn in Montana uniquely pleasing. We’ve rounded up some of the top things to add to a fall itinerary under Western Montana’s big blue sky.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Top 10 List:

  1. Glacier National Park – The Crown of the Continent encompasses more than 1 million acres and features the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Pro tip: boat cruises and hiking trails on the east side of the park, are less crowded and lead to stunning views.

    A red bus in Glacier National Park.

  2. Blackfeet Indian Reservation – Visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery to learn about Blackfeet culture and traditions.

    Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

  3. Whitefish – This resort town offers fine dining, boutiques and breweries. An easy 15-minute drive to Whitefish Mountain Resort offers weekend activities on the mountain until the end of September.

    The Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

  4. Kalispell – Make Kalispell your home base for your Western Montana adventure, and explore this charming town’s museums and galleries. Flathead Lake is just a 10-minute drive away and it’s only 30 minutes to Glacier National Park.

    Montana Trolley ride in historic Kalispell.

  5. Flathead Lake – The largest natural freshwater lake in the West is home to ample water-sport activities, boat cruises and six state parks, including Wild Horse Island, which can only be accessed by boat.

    Sunset view of Flathead Lake

  6. Flathead Indian Reservation – Experience the traditions of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at the People’s Center in Pablo.

    Cultural dancing at Ninepipes Lodge.

  7. National Bison Range – This 18,500-acre preserve is home to 350 head of bison, plus elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, black bear and coyote.

    Bison roam the National Bison Range.

  8. Missoula – Home to the University of Montana and known as Montana’s cultural hub, Missoula is full of shopping, dining, breweries and distilleries, and offers Montana’s finest music scene.

    Hikers are able to hike the “M” trail and oversee all of Missoula.

  9. Seely Swan Valley – Considered one of the state’s most scenic drives and an outdoor lover’s haven, the Seeley Swan Valley offers lakes, trails, mountains and state parks. The perfect place to watch the western larch trees (also known as tamaracks) turn the forests and hillsides a vibrant gold.

    Tamarack trees in autumn.

  10. Bitterroot Valley – Discover history at the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville and Daly Mansion and Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum in Hamilton. Chose to hike from over 100 trailheads or bike the 50-mile-long paved Bitterroot Trail.

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

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

 

Happy fall!

DP

MOTORCYLE TOURING IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Motorcycle touring around the Western United States is becoming increasingly popular. Home to uncrowded byways, back-roads galore and more scenic beauty than you can imagine, Western Montana’s Glacier Country is prime motorcycle riding country. Traveling along our open roads gives bikers the experience to see untouched beauty, breathe in fresh mountain air and explore our charming small towns along the way.

Open roads of Montana beckon.

If you are looking for the most stunning ride of your life, traveling on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is a must. This 50-mile-long road takes riders through the heart of the park, driving through glacial-carved terrain, jagged peaks and pristine wilderness and crests the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.

Ride alongside the historic red buses in Glacier National Park.

Other off-the-beaten-path rides include the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway, one of the most scenic wild roads in northwest Montana. This scenic byway travels around the west side of the lake and is heavily forested terrain with an abundance of wildlife.

Scenic byways along the water are perfect touring roads.

Another favorite motorcycle route is the State Route 35, along the east shore of Flathead Lake. This scenic route offers riders breathtaking scenery, roadside fruit stands (try the locally grown Flathead cherries, they are to die for) and some spectacular riding.

Gearing up at Grizzly Harley-Davidson in Missoula.

We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for the perfect Montana motorcycle tour, or give us a shout, we’re always here to help or look here for more inspirations.  Grab your bike or rent one from one of or dealers and head out into Western Montana for the ride of your life-you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Riding,
NG