Tag Archives: Outdoor Adventure

GUEST POST: 5 REASONS GROUSE MOUNTAIN LODGE IS YOUR NEXT CONFERENCE DESTINATION IN WESTERN MONTANA

It’s time! You’ve got a group looking to get away. You want to focus, grow and feel inspired—to recharge and reset. But you don’t want to do so just anywhere. You need a special place!

Whitefish, Montana, is one of the finest conference destinations in North America. Nestled at the edge of a picturesque lake, it’s a small town with authentic adventure vibes. Here, people live heartfelt lives, grateful each day to do so in such a healthy and beautiful place.

Grouse Mountain Lodge embodies this Montana spirit. We help your group tap into a strong sense of wellness here—they can soak up the mountain culture while they refine their team. Here are five reasons Grouse Mountain Lodge is your next conference destination.

1) Authentic Montana charm.
As the original lodge in Whitefish, we have been sharing the Montana way of life with our guests for decades. Every aspect of your experience at Grouse is authentic and warm; we treat our guests as if they are in our own home.

Grouse Mountain Lodge welcomes visitors year-round.

2) A meeting space for every occasion.
With 11,000 square feet of meeting space available in various combinations, from large corporate seminars to more intimate boardroom discussions, Grouse Mountain Lodge has the venue for almost any occasion.

Grouse Mountain Lodge offers 11,000 sq. feet of flexible meeting space.

The intimate Wine Room at Grouse Mountain Lodge.

3) Easy to get to.
Getting to Grouse Mountain Lodge is a breeze! You can travel here via air—there are many direct flights from major cities to Glacier Park International Airport, just 20 minutes away. Amtrak’s Empire Builder stops in the heart of downtown Whitefish, so traveling by train is another option. And regardless of your mode of transportation we offer a complimentary shuttle service to make your trip that much easier.

Welcome to Grouse Mountain Lodge.

4) Amazing food.
Because the Whitefish community is active and adventurous, there are some very creative chefs living and working here. We are passionate about food at Grouse, and it shows. From our famous breakfast to our rotating beer taps and special tasting events, we take food seriously at Grouse Mountain Lodge.

Logan’s Bar & Grill has a brand new menu.

Enjoy a sunrise breakfast on the patio.

5) Take the team outdoors.
Few towns can match Whitefish for the plethora of amazing outdoor activities. At Grouse Mountain Lodge, we know all the best places and are located directly next to two of Whitefish’s premier golf courses. Golfing, rafting, kayaking, hiking, skiing, boating and fly-fishing are all right here—let our team help you add some adventure to your next event!

Grouse Mountain Lodge overlooks the Whitefish Lake Golf Club (open to the public).

If you’re thinking about where to take your group next, look no further than Grouse Mountain Lodge. For more information on booking a conference, retreat or board meeting at Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, contact me at kborgardt@pursuitcollection.com.

Krista Borgardt

About the author: Krista joined Pursuit’s Glacier Park Collection as the Regional Sales Manager overseeing group sales for a collection of timeless and iconic lodges around Glacier & Waterton National Parks including Grouse Mountain Lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, St. Mary Village, and Prince of Wales Hotel to name a few. One of the key things that drew her to join the team at Pursuit was their “Promise to Place” mission. The Pursuit team desires to work and play with people who value authentic interactions and a deeper knowledge of the world around us. To ensure that happens, the operation of their properties and experiences is guided by this “Promise to Place” which outlines their responsibilities to manage their impact on the environment, foster respect for people, and champion our communities.

2020 BRINGS NEW TOURISM PRODUCTS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Happy New Year from Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Ringing in the new year in Montana makes us appreciate all the new tourism products we have to offer to our meeting planners, group tour operators, wedding planners and FIT visitors. Here is just a sampling of what’s been rolled out recently and what’s coming up in 2020.

Paddling Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK UPDATES
For those who have visited the Many Glacier area over the past several years, you may have noticed that the road into Many Glacier is in need of repair. We would like to share some exciting news. Beginning in April 2020, a two-year road construction project will commence. For those tour operators with a block of rooms at the Many Glacier Hotel, please take note: The road to Many Glacier will be closed April 1 through May 17 and September 21 through December 16, 2020. May 18 through September 20 visitors should expect travel delays up to 40 minutes, so plan accordingly on your itineraries. During this time, day-hike visitors are encouraged to explore other areas of Glacier National Park to help reduce traffic congestion. Road status in Glacier National Park can be found here.

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Visitors will notice that the red buses in Glacier National Park will be getting quieter and eco-friendlier. This multiyear project will upgrade the reds with a hybrid gas-electric engine. The new 6.2-liter V8 engines will have battery-assist power, which will reduce noise and fuel consumption. The battery system will be charged by deceleration on the downhill runs over Logan Pass. There will be no disruption in tours, as the upgrades will be handled in the off season and over time.

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

While the most popular time to visit Glacier National Park is summer, the most peaceful time to visit is winter, where visitors feel like they have the park to themselves. For the more active, spend the day cross-country skiing or snowshoeing with Glacier Treks or go backcountry with Glacier Adventure Guides. On weekends during the winter, park rangers lead guided two-hour snowshoe walks from the Apgar area.

Winter trekking in Glacier National Park.

RESORT, CAMPGROUND + LODGING NEWS
Flathead Valley has seen a significant increase in lodging properties over the past couple of years. Located in Kalispell, and adjacent to Glacier Park International Airport, is the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson offering 100 rooms in rustic-elegance, lodge-style accommodations. Two new extended-stay properties opened with My Place Hotel Kalispell offering kitchen suites. The TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Whitefish offers 81 suites featuring an outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center along with complimentary breakfast.

In Missoula County, Residence Inn Missoula Downtown is located in the heart of downtown Missoula and boasts 175 rooms and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. The Marriott also houses four new restaurants—1889, Zoo Thai, The Camino and Basal—plus retail space. Downtown Missoula will also welcome the new AC Hotel by Marriott in 2020. The European-inspired boutique hotel will have 105 guest rooms, a speakeasy off the adjacent alley and a rooftop bar. Renovations are underway on a project called The Wren, remodeling an older motel into a retro hotel with 73 guest rooms and a retail center including an Airstream trailer ice-cream shop and a new Black Coffee Roasting location. Additionally, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel-Missoula Edgewater has renovated their meeting space, restaurant and guest rooms. The lobby and guest rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn have been renovated and the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown has a renovated lobby and fourth-floor guest rooms and will be working on meeting space, restaurant and additional guest rooms renovations in 2020.

The lobby of the new Residence Inn Downtown Missoula.

Looking for that perfect retreat location we have a couple to add to your RFP list. Opening summer of 2020, and a great corporate incentive location, The Resort at Paws Up will be adding a resort within the resort called Green O. These newly constructed one-bedroom homes allow couples to reconnect with nature and disconnect from everyday life with unobstructed views of the forest canopy and custom-tailored service. In Ovando, and located on the shores of the Blackfoot River (from the famed movie A River Runs Through It), The Cliff Ranch will be opening in June of 2020 and is a perfect fit for groups of up to 24+ people looking for a personalized, luxury, guest ranch experience all year-round.

The Cliff Ranch is opening June 2020.

Quietly tucked behind the hustle and bustle of West Glacier Village—at the west entrance to Glacier National Park—is the new West Glacier RV Park & Cabins. These fully-equipped RV sites opened last summer and feature 50-amp power, full hookups, fire pits and green space and can accommodate RVs up to 70 feet in length. The cabins sleep up to four and feature a full kitchen, a private bedroom and a standard bathroom.

New cabins at the West Glacier RV Park and Cabins. Photo: Pursuit Collection

ACTIVITIES NEWS
Skiing at Western Montana’s seven ski resorts has never been better. Whitefish Mountain Resort was recently named the No. 3 Best Resort in the West by readers of SKI magazine and has completed the renovation of its Summit House. Located at the summit of Big Mountain, the Summit House now has an additional 1,700 square feet of dining space, as well as unparalleled views into Glacier National Park. Montana Snowbowl, just north of Missoula, has completed the new Snowpark chairlift, which doubles the ski terrain of the resort with 2,200 acres, opening more begginer and intermediate runs. The famed bloody marys at Snowbowl remain the same. Discovery Ski Area has a new way for shredders and skiers to get to the resort with the opening of the road from Philipsburg and delivers skiers to a small base area at the backside of the mountain.

Ski through the snow ghosts at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Noah Couser

Recent trail expansions make Glacier Country a prime destination for hikers and bicyclists, particularly in the spring and fall. New in Glacier National Park, e-bikes are now allowed anywhere traditional bikes are allowed, so biking in Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road prior to the road opening to vehicular traffic in mid-June will be more popular than ever before—and the inclines a bit easier to handle. For bike and e-bike rentals or guided tours, contact Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Co. South of Missoula, the 50-mile-long Bitterroot Trail connects the towns between Hamilton and Missoula along the Bitterroot River. The Whitefish Trail now connects with the bike trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort, offering 42 miles of terrain accessed by 12 trailheads for biking and hiking in Whitefish.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

ARTISAN BREWS AND SPIRITS
Western Montana has seen major growth in the local brewery and spirits industry and is home to 32 breweries, 9 wineries and 11 distilleries and five cideries. New to the list includes Conflux Brewing and GILD in downtown Missoula, Lolo Creek Distillery just south of Missoula in Lolo and Old Bull Brewing west of Missoula in Frenchtown. Kalispell welcomes SunRift Beer Company, Bias Brewing, Sacred Waters Brewing Company, Vilya Sprits, MontaVino Winery and Rough Cut Hard Cider along with the new 1st Avenue Taphouse in downtown.

Sample artisan brews at our craft breweries.

Hop aboard the Montana Brew Bus to experience the local craft breweries in the Flathead Valley or reserve the bus for your group of 14 or less.

MUSEUMS AND HISTORY
Undergoing a new name, but still the same great museum, Northwest Montana History Museum (formerly the Museum of Central School) located in Kalispell, tells the story of the evolution of the northwest corner of Montana and takes note of historical markers such as the Great Northern Railway, the logging industry and the history of downtown Kalispell.

AIRPORT AND AIRLINE NEWS
United Airlines has extended their service from Chicago to Glacier Park International (FCA) December through March along with a direct flight from San Francisco, which is great news for winter recreationists. A direct daily from Los Angeles in the summer has been added as well.

Alaska Airlines beginning March 2020 will add a new daily nonstop flight from Missoula International Airport (MSO) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and will offer larger aircraft, almost doubling the seats available between Missoula and Seattle (SEA).

American Airlines offers year-round daily nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth and daily seasonal (June through September) from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Missoula International Airport. American Airlines will offer seasonal (June through September) daily nonstop flights to Glacier Park International in Kalispell from Dallas/Fort Worth International, Los Angeles International and Chicago’s O’Hare International airports, and, new for the summer of 2020, American will be offering a once a week (Saturday) direct flight to New York’s La Guardia Airport.

Direct flights into Western Montana.

For the coming year and beyond, stay up to date on all the happenings in Western Montana’s Glacier Country by subscribing to our B2B blog. If you need assistance with itineraries, meeting space or venues, feel free to drop me a line. I’m always here to help.

Happy New Year!

DP

REFLECTING ON 2019 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 the travel trade and meeting planner professionals from around the world. It’s been a pleasure to help develop suggested itineraries for motorcoach tour operators wanting to showcase the history of Montana and find that perfect experiential addition that meets the needs of their groups. We have seen an increase in requests from international tour operators looking for unique lodging options for their clients and we can accommodate with a teepee stay, treehouse overnight, cabin in the woods, historic hotel, lakeside lodge, branded hotel and dude or luxury guest ranch experience. Meeting planners have visited looking for that perfect meeting space, offsite venue and activity that will resonate long after the meeting in Montana is over. It’s been a joy to hear them say, “This region is so beautiful, our attendees are going to love the authentic experiences found here.” We’ve held familiarization tours throughout the region, and when asked what surprised these business professionals the most about Western Montana—besides our stunning scenery and warm hospitality—it’s Montana’s amazing culinary scene that seems to rise to the top.

Reflecting back on a great 2019, we’d like to say thank you to all who shared in the fun.

Glacier National Park on a cool spring day from Apgar Village.

Meeting Planner FAM, with a quick stop at the Glacier National Park sign (it’s a must with first-time visitors).

Horseback riding at Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish.

Stunning dinner on the grounds at Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Touring Purple Mountain Lavender in Lakeside.

Exploring downtown Missoula and dinner in the wine cellar at Plonk.

Fall hiking in Glacier National Park is highly recommended. Pro Tip: Go guided with Glacier Guides.

Watching the sunset from downtown Whitefish with Whitefish Mountain Resort in the background.

RiverView Ranch offers a great place to retreat in Alberton.

Swan Mountain Llama Trekking is a fantastic group activity (aren’t they the cutest animals?).

The Ranch at Rock Creek’s Art in Nature program is a must during a stay.

Cheers to corporate retreats at The Resort at Paws Up.

Relaxing by the new pool at Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, after a horseback ride.

Enjoying a summer day at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Watching bison roam on the Blackfeet Nation with Glacier National Park in the background.

Biking the Route of the Hiawatha through retired train tunnels and over trestles.

Red bus fun in Glacier National Park.

Glacier Park Boat Company offers stunning lake tours in Glacier National Park.

Warning: if you come on a FAM tour to Western Montana you might go home with a new tattoo. (For those wondering, they’re not real.)

Thanks, 2019, for a beautiful year in Western Montana, and here’s to an amazing 2020. Drop me a line if you need assistance with an itinerary or a meeting venue in Western Montana’s Glacier Country—I am always here to help.

Debbie Picard

LLAMA TREKKING IS ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE HIKING TRIPS YOU WILL EVER TAKE

In September, Glacier Country Tourism hosted several travel bloggers and digital influencers on a press trip through Western Montana’s Glacier Country. One of the activities on the itinerary was a llama trek with Swan Mountain Outfitters. At Glacier Country Tourism we usually do some previewing, or what we call “product verification,” before taking folks out on an excursion we have yet to try ourselves, but we had full confidence in our tourism partners at Swan Mountain Outfitters. With that, we entrusted our group to them for a day trekking in the Seeley Swan Valley. The valley is majestic in nature with the Mission Mountains to the west and the Swan Mountains to the east. Our trek took us into the Swan Mountains in NW Montana—not far from Glacier National Park—and it was a delightful and unique experience we highly recommended for groups of all ages and athletic abilities.

Llama trekking is an all-around lovable affair, and it’s eco-therapy for the soul. When you trek with a llama you get to hike into the mountains or forest without having to carry gear, which makes hiking with kids and groups logistically easier and more enjoyable. Plus, llamas can travel to backcountry places horses are not able to.

Here’s a picture collage of our trek. See why everyone should put this activity on their bucket list.

We met up with our guides at the trailhead and were assigned our llamas.

Our guide explained how to trek with a llama and why they are such great mountainous companions to have on trips into the woods—from their agility to their acute sense of danger.

We all had a great time bonding with our new friends.

Every llama had a lead rope and just walked along behind each of us. This is my llama, Serge.

Our lead llama, Robusto, carried our lunch to a beautiful waterfall destination in the Swan Mountains.

Every once in a while, we stopped for a water or picture break, and the llamas munched on vegetation in the woods.

Once we got to our lunch destination, we all rested and ate.

After we ate our lunch, the llamas got treats. Look at those ears of anticipation!

We hiked back and took our end-of-the-trail photos. The llamas are used to the cameras and had fun posing.

Goodbye, from Robusto.

These “camels of the clouds” trekking tours allow for a variety of time-frames within different trip options. For the most adventurous, choose a half-day or full-day trek, as well as multi-day backpacking trips to pristine alpine lakes. A favorite trip offering is the three-hour evening “Wine and Cheese Llama Trek.” Now doesn’t that sound fun?

For more information on additional tours, guides and outfitters, we’ve got you covered here. 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

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA 2019

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

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Missoula and Whitefish—the new Sage LodgeBozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau, Big Sky Resort, Visit Helena including Helena Great Northern Hotel and The Ranch at Rock Creek to learn about the variety of meeting offerings in Montana. Without further ado, please meet the meetings experts from Montana that will be attending IMEX America 2019.

Liv Grubaugh – Big Sky Resort

Joining the Montana booth this year is Liv Grubaugh the National Sales Manager with Big Sky Resort. Liv will discuss with planners the inspiration that comes from alluring landscapes, fresh mountain air and unlimited outdoor adventure creating an authentic Montana meeting memory. Big Sky Resort offers a variety of lodging and venue options along with one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. Winter is king at Big Sky Resort with ski-in ski-out properties offering 5,800 acres of skiing terrain. Summer offers more availability for meetings and retreats along with easy access to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park only 40 miles away. Big Sky Resort is located an hour south of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport with easy transfers.

Mike Peterson – Sage Lodge

New to the Montana booth this year is Mike Peterson the Director of Sales and Marketing for Sage Lodge. Located on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Montana’s Paradise Valley, Sage Lodge offers the perfect surroundings for a Montana luxury resort. The resort offers the perfect meeting space for corporate retreats, board meetings along with additional outdoor space with sweeping views. Three small meeting rooms allow for breakouts. Onsite dining in The Fireside Room or The Grill offer the best of authentic Montana fare. Customize your event with spa treatments, fishing expeditions or fireside chats at this beautiful retreat location located 35 minutes from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

Daryl Schliem – Visit Bozeman

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

Andrea Opitz – Visit Helena.

New to the Montana booth this year is  Andrea Opitz the Executive Director of Visit Helena the Helena Tourism Alliance. Meet with Andrea and learn about the capital city of Montana, conveniently located between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park for pre or post excursions. Discover the meeting spaces both historic and modern that Helena has to offer that will have attendees excited. Offsite venues and attractions including a boat ride at Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour on the Missouri River or travel through Helena’s Mansion District on The Last Chance Tour Train. From board retreats to citywide conferences, Helena has something for everyone.

Karena Bemis – Helena Great Northern Hotel

Joining in on the Helena appointments is Karena Bemis, Director of Sales at Great Northern Hotel in Helena one of Best Western’s Premier hotels. Let Karena explain how J.D. Power has ranked Best Western Premier number 1 in guest satisfaction for the upscale segment and how guests can expect an elevated experience when they walk through the doors of this magnificent hotel. Located just minutes from downtown Helena and all the attractions of Montana’s capital city. The hotels convention space can accommodate groups up to 500 attendees.

Troy Hedenskog – The Ranch at Rock Creek

The Montana booth is excited to have National Sales Manager, Troy Hedenskog join the team this year from The Ranch at Rock Creek. The all-inclusive luxury guest ranch has the distinction of being the worlds first Forbes 5 star guest ranch. The Ranch at Rock Creek combines hallmark corporate retreat ideas like luxury accommodations, all-inclusive amenities, Relais & Chateaux dining and customized group activities. The ranch offers 29 one-of-a-kind accommodations and elegant event space and 20 year-round activities on the 6,600-acre ranch. Missoula International Airport is 1.5 hours drive to The Ranch and round-trip transportation is provided.

Emily Rolston – Destination Missoula

Serving as the Group Sales Associate for Destination Missoula, Emily Rolston will be attending IMEX to talk about meetings in Missoula this year. Missoula is the second largest city and cultural hub of Montana as it provides the perfect blend of business and pleasure for meeting attendees with outdoor adventure, abundant nightlife, unexpected sophistication and a thriving food scene. Whether the meeting is an intimate corporate retreat or a large association conference, Missoula has something for everyone. With nearly 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,400 guest rooms at hotels for every budget level, Missoula is a great destination for meetings up to 2,000 or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Montana’s second busiest airport, Missoula International Airport from 13 major U.S. markets.

Dan Hansen – Explore Whitefish

As the Marketing and Sales Manager for Explore Whitefish, Dan Hansen focuses on group travel and will be joining the Montana booth this year. Whitefish creates lasting impressions and earns rave reviews for meetings, events and corporate retreats. With more than 1,200 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 2,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard – Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism

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

If you’re coming to IMEX America 2019, let us know. We’d love to meet with you and talk meetings in Montana.

A few things to keep in mind for IMEX:
*To meet with Montana’s Glacier Country, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minutes appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman, Big Sky Resort, Sage Lodge, Helena and The Ranch at Rock Creek are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by our booth A420 anyway. We welcome drop-ins and will be hosting daily giveaways.

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

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

Meet in Montana,

DP

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. 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

MEET IN MONTANA – A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP

We all know that the best—and quite frankly the only—way to really know if a destination is right for your next meeting, conference or corporate retreat is to experience it firsthand. With that in mind, the third week of June Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism invited four professional meeting planners from around the U.S. to Western Montana for a familiarization (FAM) tour to visit our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish where we showcased meeting facilities, off-site venues, farm-to-fork culinary offerings and authentic Montana experiences custom-made for meetings. Come along for a recap.

A beautiful day in Missoula overlooking Brennan’s Wave on the Clark Fork River.

Tuesday
After flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) the group took a scenic 30-minute drive to The Resort at Paws Up, an authentic working cattle ranch and one of Western Montana’s luxury guest ranches. The ranch has varying accommodations from lavish guest homes to riverside glamping tents that include a camp butler who’s dedicated to your group’s needs. The glamping tents were a hit with the planners, and we took a few minutes to relax around the fire ring.

Relaxing at The Resort at Paws Up.

Luxury camping or GLAMPING.

Restful sleep inside a luxury tent. with en suite bathroom.

After the site tour, we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and the cultural hub of Western Montana. We toured several meeting venues including the new Residence Inn Missoula Downtown—a Marriott, that feels more like a boutique property, in the heart of downtown Missoula featuring 175 guest rooms and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. Next was the Historic Wilma Theater, a great off-site venue for dinner, theater or a concert within walking distance to several downtown hotels. We finished with a visit to the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, boasting the largest meeting space in the downtown core with 15,000 square feet and 198 guest rooms. After a short walk along the Clark Fork River—stopping to watch the kayakers and surfers on Brennan’s Wave—we tasted and toured Montgomery Distillery before heading off to one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. We had a restful night’s sleep at DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater—featuring 170 newly renovated guest rooms and 9,000 square feet of meeting space—on the shores of the Clark Fork River.

Caras Park in downtown Missoula.

Colorful drinks from Montgomery Distillery.

A remarkable five-course meal paired with delicious wines at Plonk in Missoula.

Wednesday
The next day started with a site tour of the unique and expansive meeting space (33,000 square feet) at the University of Montana followed by the Hilton Garden Inn, Missoula’s largest convention hotel space with 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and 146 guest rooms with plenty of overflow guest rooms within walking distance.

The drive from Missoula to Kalispell north on U.S. Highway 93 happens to yield some of the most scenic vistas in Montana, including the National Bison Range and the Mission Mountain Range. With early summer wildflowers on full display, the drive through the Jocko and Mission valleys was stunning.

Our next stop on the FAM tour was Purple Mountain Lavender located in Lakeside, where owner Deb took us on a tour of her farm where she grows, cultivates, dries and manufactures everything from sachets to lavender lemonade and shortbread cookies, offering a great spouse outing or off-site venue activity. Next, we climbed aboard Far West Boat Tours for a cruise on Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—offering leisure excursions daily throughout the summer and charters for special events up to 150 people.

Purple Mountain Lavender offers something for everyone.

Far West Boat Tours on Flathead Lake.

Wild Horse Limousine provided our transportation in style on a historical tour through downtown Kalispell on our way to the Conrad Mansion Museum, once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad. After a tour of the mansion, several Kalispell ambassadors joined us for a delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions and dinners.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the Hilton Garden Inn Kalispell featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, one of Kalispell’s premier meeting venues along with Red Lion Hotel Kalispell with 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space.

Thursday
Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. We made a quick stop for boxed lunches at Josephine’s Bar and Kitchen in Coram and headed to Lake McDonald Lodge. Once we finished our leisurely lunch taking in the atmosphere of the lodge, we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the historic DeSmet on Lake McDonald. To round out our afternoon in the park, we enlisted the guide service of Glacier Guides to take us on a nature walk. Our guide explained all about the flora and fauna in the park as we hiked. It was a perfect day spent in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park.

A red bus tour offers a great way to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

The rain made the forest smell so good on the nature hike.

Friday
Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish. Our first stop in Whitefish was the boutique property of The Firebrand Hotel featuring 86 guest rooms, 1,100 square feet of meeting space and third floor board room. We headed up to Big Mountain and stopped in at Whitefish Mountain Resort to see their on-mountain lodging options and meeting space including a gondola ride to the Summit House. Their on-site teambuilding activity options include the multicourse aerial adventure park, alpine slide and zip lines. The afternoon had us horseback trail riding at Bar W Guest Ranch, which offers glamping tents, cabin suites and a main lodge for roughly 30 – 40 guests at capacity, great for corporate retreats.

Horseback ride through the glamping tents at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Our best cowgirl impersonation.

Our final evening was spent touring The Lodge at Whitefish Lake featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space and dining at the Boat Club Restaurant on the shores of Whitefish Lake. The planners were surprised with a float-plane tour over Glacier National Park and the surrounding area by Backcountry Flying Experience to end the evening. What a thrill.

Hello from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Backcountry Flying Experience takes off from the docks at Whitefish Lake.

A good-night’s sleep was provided at Grouse Mountain Lodge featuring 11,000 square feet of meeting space and 143 guest rooms.

Logan’s Bar & Grill at Grouse Mountain Lodge.

Saturday
The meeting planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA)—a 20-minute drive from downtown Whitefish (or Kalispell)—for home. It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you would like more information about Western Montana’s Glacier Country as a meetings destination (feel free to check out our week at #MeetInMontana on instagram) or, if you are interested in participating in the next meeting planner FAM highlighting our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, drop me an email here.

Meet me in Montana,

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

THE BEST GUIDED TOURS IN WESTERN MONTANA

How many of you would rather see or experience a destination with a guide? Visitors usually say they get more out of a destination with a local expert. In Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we also know—especially for the international traveler—Montana can be a little intimidating as a destination. You’ve seen pictures of the expansive landscapes and viewed videos of the wildlife—yes, we have bears. And that big sky we talk about? During the day it’s stunning, and at night it produces a vast amount of stars (and a whole lot of darkness). Not to worry. We have experts to make your trip fun, exhilarating, experiential, informative and, most of all, memorable. Here in Western Montana the best way to explore is with an expert in the field. We’ve rounded up some of our most utilized guided tours in Western Montana’s Glacier Country to make your visit to Montana seamless and absolutely unforgettable.

Climb aboard Sinopah for spectacular views of Glacier National Park.

Hands down our most well-known tour is on an iconic red bus through Glacier National Park. Travel the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road—an engineering marvel and historic landmark—in a vintage 1930s restored bus. The buses seat 17 people each and have canvas roll-top roofs. The tour guide driver is called a Jammer, because, back in the early days, they used to have to jam the gears to get the buses to climb the steep hill grade. Tours depart from locations on the east and west side of the park and offer different tour times and lengths. Advance reservations are highly recommended in July and August.

Red bus tours are ready to show off the scenery in Glacier National Park.

Are you curious about American Indian culture? Take advantage of a tour with Sun Tours in Glacier National Park and the adjacent Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Sun Tour guides are all enrolled members of the Blackfeet Nation and tell the story from the Blackfeet perspective, explaining what the lands—now known as Glacier National Park—have meant to them and their culture. Many of the peaks, valleys and waterfalls are named after bygone Blackfeet tribal members.

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

Your trip to Glacier National Park is not complete without a tour from Glacier Park Boat Company on one of the many lakes within the park. Climb aboard a historic wooden vessel, cruise through pristine glacial water, and listen to the captain or a park ranger provide commentary. Boat tours are offered on five lakes in Glacier National Park including Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, Lake Josephine, Swiftcurrent Lake and Two Medicine Lake.

All aboard the DeSmet with Glacier Park Boat Company on Lake MacDonald.

For the animal lovers, Swan Mountain Outfitters offers guided llama trekking and horseback riding. Llama trekking adds something unique and novel to your Montana vacation plans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an experienced hiker, Swan Mountain llama trekking offers several options from two-hour treks to multiday adventures. Many agree that there is no better way to view Glacier National Park than to see the sites while horseback riding. For those visitors, Swan Mountain Outfitters guided horseback tours are a Glacier National Park vacation highlight.

A guest enjoys the scenery from the saddle during a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters.

Trekking with llamas is one of the most unique hiking trips you will ever take.

Spring runoff is the perfect time to ride the rapids with Great Northern Whitewater Raft on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River or with Montana River Guides in the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork River just west of Missoula. Many of Montana’s rafting companies start offering rafting trips in May and June when spring runoff is at its peak and offer scenic rafting tours later in the summer. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, you will have a blast with these two guides. Find additional options on our outfitters and guides page.

Ride the rapids with Great Northern. Photo: Great Northern Whitewater Raft

Montana River Guides offers fun in the Alberton Gorge. Photo: Montana River Guides 

Glacier Guides was chosen as the exclusive backpacking guide service in Glacier National Park. They offer a wide range of adventure hiking options. All trips are ecologically friendly, and family or custom adventures are available. New this year they are offering guided half-day nature walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays, May through September. With more than 700 miles of trails, Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream.

Hiking in Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier Guides

Prior to the seasonal opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to vehicular traffic, it’s open to cyclists. Biking in Glacier National Park is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Montana. The plowed portions of the road are open only to biker and hiker traffic until mid to late June, and pedaling a bike up the nearly empty, quiet, Going-to-the-Sun Road is nothing short of spectacular. Glacier Guides offers guided biking tours providing visitors with a bike, helmet, backpack, lunch, and a guide to explain all there is to see and hear along the way.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Thanks to the film “A River Runs Through It,” with scenes filmed in Montana, this part of the country has become well-known for its blue-ribbon trout streams and rivers. Whether you are a beginner or have been fly-fishing for years, it’s a great idea to 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. Glacier Anglers offers lessons and trips near Glacier National Park on the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Grizzly Hackle offers float and wading trips on Rock Creek and the Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers.

Fly fishing with Glacier Anglers near Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier Anglers

Fishing the Bitterroot River with Grizzly Hackle.

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? 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 being stolen by other tribes. There are still a few wild horses on Wild Horse Island, along with bighorn sheep, mule deer and bald eagles. Far West Boat Tours allows you to book a charter for groups or take advantage of the daily summer schedule departing at 1:00 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 how it is rated the cleanest lake in the U.S. Plus, they’ll tell you what kind of water species call the lake home. Find additional boating opportunities here.

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake. Photo: Far West

The microbrew industry is more than alive and well in Montana with 30 breweries in Western Montana’s Glacier Country alone. Tour Missoula’s finest breweries by jumping on Thirst Gear (a bike with 15 seats) and use pedal power. If you are looking for a less strenuous way to visit our breweries, book a brewery tour with Montana Adventure Shuttle. They will escort you to the largest brewery in Montana, Big Sky Brewing, to taste their famous Moose Drool. Another stop includes the local-favorite KettleHouse Brewing Company for a taste of their famous Cold Smoke® Scotch Ale. River City Brews Rafting Tours lets you fill up a growler with your favorite brew and enjoy either the Blackfoot or Clark Fork rivers while sipping suds with 12 of your friends, or strangers who will become friends by the end of the tour. Big Sky Brews Cruise offers tours to the expanding brewery scene in Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish.

Peddle pub tour by Thirst Gear.

Brewery tours with Montana Adventure Shuttle.

Gearing up with River City Brews Rafting on the Clark Fork River.

For more information on additional tours, guides and outfitters we’ve got you covered here. 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

TOP 9 TOUR OPERATOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

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

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

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

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Spring day in Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

Groups enjoy red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

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

Moose sightings in the spring.

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

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

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

All smiles at a chuckwagon dinner outside of Missoula.

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

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

Cultural dancing on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

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

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

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

Hiking the M trail overlooking Missoula.

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

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

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

Happy Adventuring!

DP