Tag Archives: Lolo

MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY IS THE PERFECT OUTDOOR PLAYGROUND

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 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. 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 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.

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

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

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.

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

Florence
A little farther north 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.

Lolo
Located on the north end of the Bitterroot Valley 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

The 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

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

TOP 10 SPRING EXPERIENCES IN WESTERN MONTANA

Many of our 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: spring is one of the best times to visit Montana. Baby animals emerge, dotting the pastures, and wildflowers pop up, blanketing the surrounding hillsides. The weather can have a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies one minute and snow the next, but that is what makes springtime in Montana uniquely pleasing. We’ve rounded up some of the top things to add to a spring itinerary under Western Montana’s big blue sky.

1) Golf
With the warming temperatures, many of the golf courses in Western Montana open by mid-April, welcoming players back to the greens. Some of our recommended courses include Buffalo Hill Golf Club in Kalispell, Canyon River Golf Club in Missoula and Whitefish Lake Golf Course in Whitefish.

Golf one of the many courses in Montana.

2) Tour the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville
Opening for the season in mid-April, the Historic St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville marks an important place in Montana history as the first settlement. Be sure to take a guided tour of the complex and peruse the incredible American Indian photographs inside Chief Victor’s cabin.

The chapel at St. Mary’s Mission.

3) Soak in Natural Hot Springs
Spring is ideal for soaking in one of Montana’s many natural hot springs, and Western Montana has several sprinkled throughout the region. Try one of the hot springs in Lolo, Paradise or the aptly named town of Hot Springs.

Paradise found at Quinn’s Hot Springs.

4) Bike in Glacier National Park
Prior to the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to vehicular traffic, it’s open to bikers and hikers. Biking in Glacier National Park is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Montana.
Side note: with the arrival of spring, wildlife are active in the park. Be sure to carry bear spray when hiking or biking in Glacier National Park.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

5) Whitewater Raft the Middle Fork of the Flathead River
Many of Montana’s rafting companies start offering rafting trips in May and June when the spring runoff from the mountains is at its peak. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, our outfitters and guides have you covered.

Adrenaline pumping whitewater adventures.

6) Fly-fish the Bitterroot, Blackfoot or Clark Fork rivers
This part of the country is well known for blue-ribbon trout streams and rivers. Enlist one of our expert fly-fishing guides to take you down one of those picturesque winding rivers in search of your next trophy catch.

In search of the elusive brown trout.

7) Visit Libby Dam and the Swinging Bridge over Kootenai Falls
Located in northwest Montana, Libby Dam holds back the waters of Lake Koocanusa (a lake that spans between the U.S. and Canada) and helps control flooding on the Columbia River. While in Northwest Montana, make it a point to take the short walk down from Highway 2, visiting the swinging bridge and capturing the view of the water tumbling over the falls.

Kootenai Falls near the swing bridge.

8) Go Birding at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge
Enjoy watching the spring migration a few minutes from Stevensville at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. This 2,800-acre refuge is home to a variety of wildlife and birds. The refuge also has accessible trails and offers gorgeous views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

A group sees a baby bald eagle through the scope.

9) Hike the “M” Trail Overlooking Missoula
One of the most popular hiking trails in Montana, this trail starts at the base of Mount Sentinel and works its way up to the M. A total length of .75 miles, the trail has 11 switchbacks, an elevation gain of 620 feet and an incredible view of the Missoula Valley below.

Victory celebration above the M overlooking the Missoula Valley.

10) Drive the National Bison Range
Situated at the base of the Mission Mountains, the National Bison Range is one of the most easily accessible and beautiful adventures in Western Montana. In early spring, visitors can travel along the west loop, while Red Sleep Drive (the 19-mile-long one-way drive that winds through the range) opens in early May. Be sure to keep an eye out for baby bison. Insider tip: bring your binoculars.

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 spring!
DP