Tag Archives: Tour Operators

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

INSPIRATION IS ONLY THREE HOURS AWAY: DALLAS, MEET MONTANA

Planning your next board retreat, association meeting, corporate event or group tour just got easier, Texas. American Airlines now offers nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Missoula International Airport (MSO) located in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Here are five reasons why you and your attendees or clients should leave the humidity behind and head north to Montana’s heavenly mountain air.

The magnificent big sky over Glacier National Park. Photo: Hunter Day

BIG SKY INSPIRATION

We’re just going to come right out and say it: Montana is incredibly amazing, and our big sky never ceases to inspire and energize. We provide authentic Montana experiences in breathtaking landscapes, majestic mountains, wide-open spaces and wild rivers that get the creative juices flowing. Plus, we provide everything you need for an unforgettable adventure, from lodging and accommodations to planning, meeting venues, technology, transportation and, of course, fun.

The Milky Way illuminated in Montana’s big sky.

MOUNTAIN MEETING VENUES

No matter the size of your group, we can accommodate. From hotels and conference centers to resorts, sprawling guest ranches, B&Bs and other uniquely Montana locales, our lodging options combine warm welcomes, comfortable meeting spaces, cozy accommodations, cutting-edge technology and ease of access to adventure.

Chuck wagon dinners, offered Montana style.

WESTERN HOSPITALITY

Your neighbors up north offer the same incredibly warm hospitality you’re used to. You’ll fit right in here, Texas. Whether you’re looking to accommodate 3, 30, 300 or 3,000+, we’ll move mountains for you. We specialize in exceptional hospitality and convention support, plus fine, fun and creative dining options from Montana-raised steak and bison burgers to ethnic cuisine, food trucks, comfort food and vegetarian fare. We offer meeting and trip support any way we can—service referrals, arrivals and departures, visitor information, photographs and marketing materials, welcome letters, itineraries and activity planning. Our goal is to ensure you not only have a positive Montana meeting experience, but one you’ll never forget.

Food trucks at Caras Park along Missoula’s waterfront, provide something for everyone.

ACTIVITIES + ADVENTURE

Whether you’re bringing your group to a large hotel or considering a more intimate retreat at a lodge or ranch, group and team-building activities abound here. Nothing brings people together like the wild rush of a guided whitewater rafting adventure, a hike in Glacier National Park, a festival or small-town fair, a music event on the banks of a sparkling river, or fly-fishing hiking, biking, skiing and stand-up paddleboarding. Take a brewery or distillery tour, or just explore downtown Missoula. Groups come together in Montana because our mountains inspire and our recreation is second to none.

Rafting the whitewater in Western Montana is a great team-building activity.

LOCATION IS EVERYTHING

There’s an endless list of reasons why Missoula, Montana makes for one incredible mountain meeting and group tour destination, but one of the top reasons is Missoula’s access to all things Western Montana. This arts and cultural hot spot and big-venue hub with all the amenities of a big city is just a stone’s throw from Glacier National Park, multiple wilderness areas and national forests, countless rivers and lakes, two Indian reservations, wildlife-viewing areas and dozens of incredibly charming small towns with museums, galleries, good food and plenty to drink. Here, you’ll find endless options for day trips and side excursions that let you take in everything Western Montana has to offer, making your meeting, convention or group tour an extraordinary adventure.

Hiking the M trail provides beautiful views of the Missoula Valley.

So, grab your cowboy hats, Texas, and head up north to big skies, cool temps and low humidity. We’ll see you in just under three hours. Let’s do lunch.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: 5 GREAT PLACES TO EXPLORE MONTANA BY BICYCLE

Western Montana’s Glacier Country has seen an increase in unique and niche markets that love the open roads, stunning scenery and local hospitality. Cycling is definitely one of them. If you are a tour operator offering cycling adventures we’ve asked the experts and our friends from Adventure Cycling Association, located right here in Missoula Montana, to share their top 5 destinations in Montana for adventure cycling.

Bikers enjoy the Bitterroot Mountains.

The Adventure Cycling Association’s route network has 3,500 miles of mapped bicycle routes in Montana, and more than 42,000 around the country. We encourage you to explore Montana by bicycle, where you can take in the smells, sights, locals, communities and culture at a pace that allows you to appreciate all Montana has to offer.

TransAmerica Bicycle Trail
With the incomparable Madison Range as a backdrop, cyclists explore the backroads, farmers markets and small towns of Big Sky Country using pedal power alone.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Northern Tier Route
A trio of riders explores a wild and remote section of the Northern Tier Bicycle Route from Libby to Whitefish.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here. 

Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail
Thousands of cyclists travel in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark every year. Here’s a small piece of that route, featuring the stunning plateaus and winding river bottoms of north-central Montana.

The Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail was created to celebrate the anniversary of the Corps of Discovery’s 1804 – 1806 historic journey and offers cyclists the opportunity to follow the path of the intrepid explorers, captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. It includes seven map sections detailing the 1804 – 1805 westbound trip, roughly following the Missouri and Columbia rivers, and one map section showing Clark’s 1806 eastbound return along the Yellowstone River in Montana, totaling 3,562.5 miles.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
Crisscrossing the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico, Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the longest mapped off-pavement cycling route in the world. Along its 2,768-mile course, it cuts through some of Montana’s most wild and spectacular country. See it here through the eyes of two young travelers from faraway lands.

There is an excellent opportunity to view wildlife such as bear, deer, wild horses, pronghorn antelope, eagles, osprey, sandhill cranes and other animals and birds. The route is rich in history, with ghost towns, deserted mines, wagon routes and old Spanish land grants, and is near or passes through several national parks, including Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Adventure Cycling Headquarters
Every summer we enjoy the parade of bicycle travelers who drop by our office here in Missoula, Montana. These cyclists come from all over the world. Last year we had over 1,400 visitors! Their variety of style, equipment, route and purpose is endless. In 1982, Greg Siple began recording our visitors on film and asking them to tell their stories, creating Adventure Cycling’s National Bicycle Touring Portrait Collection. The Open Road Gallery features selections from this collection in Adventure Cyclist magazine and on our website.

We invite you to visit the Adventure Cycling HQ, meet the staff, take a free tour, grab an ice cream from the visiting cyclists’ lounge and check out some of the portraits hanging on the walls that are featured in our Open Road Gallery collection.

Lisa McKinney is Adventure Cycling’s communications director.

13 NONSTOP FLIGHTS TO WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Getting to Montana has never been easier. With the increase in passenger demand for the treasure state and some of the larger airlines now offering direct-flight access into Western Montana as a travel destination from their main hubs, the time is right to visit and see for yourself why they call it Big Sky Country.

Fly direct from Dallas and Chicago to MSO on American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers ease of accessibility via two bustling regional airports, Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, and Missoula International (MSO), located in Missoula. Whether you are a meeting planner looking for a relatively undiscovered mountain destination or an association needing convention space near an international airport, we’ve got you covered in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish. For tour operators with clients who have Glacier National Park on their bucket list, cut your clients’ time on a motor coach and consider flying into one of our regional airports before jumping on a coach to see the sites.

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

Historic red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Six major airlines (United, Delta, Alaska, American, Allegiant and Frontier) provide service between these airports, with a combined 13 nonstop flights (some seasonal) to major cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Phoenix/Mesa, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle, offering flight schedules that make planning your next conference or tour in Western Montana’s Glacier Country a breeze.

Enjoy western hospitality. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

If attendees or clients are not located in one of these direct flight markets, not to worry; it’s a short flight from most hubs on these major airlines. To learn how simple it is to get to Western Montana, find out more.

Come see the Milky Way in big sky country.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,

DP

ONE DAY IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, one of the questions that I get asked quite often is “I only have one day to spend in Glacier National Park, how should I spend the day?” While I highly recommend visitors take at least two or three days to really see the park, I know that they are usually on a tight itinerary so here are some of the top “must-dos” with limited time in Glacier National Park.

Wild Goose Island, Saint Mary Lake.

Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road
If you only have one day in Glacier National Park, you’re well-advised to spend it exploring the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you are entering the park from the west entrance be sure to stop in West Glacier for gas, a souvenir and any snacks you might want for the day. (If entering from the east side, get your provisions at St. Mary before entering the park.) Once you’re inside the park, make a stop in Apgar Village, peruse the various offerings at the Montana House (open year-round) before taking in the view from the southern end of Lake McDonald (aka, the most photographed spot in the park). After dipping your toes in the lake, travel along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to St. Mary. Take advantage of the various pull-outs and scenic view points along the way. Recommended stops include Trail of the Cedars, Logan Pass Visitor Center, Jackson Glacier Overlook, Sunrift Gorge and Sun Point.

Lake McDonald splendor.

Take a Red Bus Tour or Sun Tour
If you don’t have your own car to drive or just want to receive a fun and informative history lesson, reserve a seat on a historic red bus tour. It’s a fantastic way to take in the sights and sounds of the park. The driver is your tour guide and is called a Jammer. Back in the 1930’s the drivers would have to jam the gears to get the reds to climb the hills on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. All the reds have been upgraded, but the drivers have kept the name and dress in historic clothing and can tell you all about the flora and fauna in Glacier National Park. The reds are operated by and can be reserved through Glacier National Park Lodges. If you reserve seats on the most popular morning tour called Western Alpine, you will be back in time for lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge. Another option and a truly memorable experience, is Sun Tours where you will get the Blackfeet Indian perspective on what Glacier National Park meant to the Blackfeet Nation, and the beautiful land known as The Backbone of the World.

Red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Dining at Lake McDonald Lodge
After your return trip from your Going-to-the-Sun experience, visit Lake McDonald Lodge. Built in 1913, the 82-room historic lodge sits on the edge of Lake McDonald. The front of the lodge—which actually faces the water—was built this way to greet the tourist that would come via rail and then steamship up the lake back in the early 1900’s. Step inside the Swiss Chalet designed lodge and choose to eat at Russell’s Fireside Dining Room or Jammer Joe’s Grill and Pizzeria.

Lake McDonald Lodge.

Take a Historic Boat Ride
After lunch, grab a seat on the DeSmet (advance reservations highly recommended) with Glacier Park Boat Company. Climb aboard the historic vessel just steps below Lake McDonald Lodge. Cruise the pristine water and listen to the captain or one of the Park Rangers provide commentary on the scenic tour. Boat tours are offered on five lakes in Glacier National Park including St. Mary Lake, Lake Josephine, Swiftcurrent Lake and Two Medicine Lake.

Cruise among the peaks in Glacier National Park.

Take a Hike
Known as a hiker’s paradise, your time in Glacier National Park would not be complete without a hike into the forest. The park offers 730 miles of trails for every age and fitness level from the novice to the highly skilled back-country hiker. One of the most popular hikes is the mile-long Trail of the Cedars (which is ADA accessible) followed by the 4.5-mile round-trip hike to Avalanche Lake. If going with a guide is more your style, Glacier Guides offers well trained guides to lead the way and explain the geology, history and more.

Pro tip: If hiking in Glacier, always be bear aware and never hike alone, make noise, never leave food out, observe bears from a safe distance and carry bear spay as a precaution.

A portion of over 730 miles of hiking trails.

Additional Options For the more adventurous take a horseback trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters from their Apgar or Lake McDonald corrals. For a thrilling adventure in late spring and early summer—at the height of mountain runoff—take a whitewater rafting trip with one of the many outfitters in Glacier Country.

For more information 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 Exploring,
DP

AGRITOURISM OFFERINGS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Niche markets are embraced here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, and we welcome visitors looking for new and fresh authentic experiences. We know that clients appreciate when tour operators have options that fit client interests. Agritourism is a niche market made for Montana. It takes the top two industries in the state—agriculture and tourism—and combines them into one of the fastest growing and flourishing markets around. Agritourism allows visitors to participate in a variety of agricultural activities, whether they’re churning cheese at a local cheese factory, herding cattle by horseback with real cowboys at a guest ranch or visiting a community farmers market. We’ve rounded up a few businesses that excel in agritourism offerings here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

The welcoming crew at Rich Ranch in Seeley Lake. Photo: Rich Ranch

Bitterroot Valley
Take a trip down the Bitterroot Valley and visit an emu ranch and learn how 90 percent of this prehistoric bird can be utilized for its oils, feathers, eggs and lean red meat at Wild Rose Emu Ranch. Tak a tour of one of the many dairies. At Huls Dairy learn about a state-of-the-art carousel and anaerobic digester that captures methane gas and produces energy for the dairy and the grid and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Enjoy a farm stay at ABC acres, and learn about the permaculture farmstead where regenerative agriculture is practiced with cows, pigs, goats and chickens. At Hidden Legend Winery, stop in for a tour and taste the mead—an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey.

Grazing cattle at ABC Acres in Hamilton.

Guest accommodations at ABC Acres.

Mission Valley
If your travels take you between Missoula and Kalispell, a must visit is Cheff Guest Ranch—nestled at the base of the Mission Mountains—guests can buck bales of hay, mend a fence or move stock on the ranch’s 15,000+ acres. A little farther north in Polson, stop in at Flathead Lake Cheese Company, a small creamery that creates artisan cheeses using fresh, locally sourced milk pasteurized with solar thermal heat.

Visit the tasting room at Flathead Lake Cheese Co.

Flathead Valley
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western U.S., even creating its own weather at times. While the west side of the lake is more arid, the east side is lush and green, and it’s the perfect climate for cultivating Flathead cherries and other produce offered at local roadside stands. Many orchards including The Orchard at Flathead Lake, invite visitors (by appointment) to walk the grounds. Stop in Lakeside at Purple Mountain Lavender and learn about making lavender oils and sachets. At Purple Frog Farms in Whitefish, learn the art of crop-sharing by lending a hand at pulling weeds from the hearty soil, and join in on a farm-to-table lunch or dinner.

Purple Frog Farms in Whitefish. Photo: Purple Frog Farms

Gorgeous lavender fields at Purple Mountain Lavender. Photo: Purple Mountain Lavender

Glacier Country Region

A tour of the region would not be complete without a visit to the magnificent Glacier National Park. Another must; take time to stop into the local farmers markets throughout the region for the freshest produce, meats, cheeses, breads and flowers. Many of our communities boast local craft breweries, cideries and distilleries utilizing Montana grains, hops, produce and local flavors.

Fresh produce at local farmers markets throughout the region.

Find additional suggestions for your agritourism itinerary 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.

Welcome to Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

DP

Top 6 Best Fall Hikes in Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Autumn has arrived in Western Montana and one of our favorite things to do during this magical time is hike. Home to thousands of miles of hiking trails that take visitors through more scenic beauty than imaginable, Western Montana’s Glacier Country is prime hiking country. Our hiking trails range from easy day hikes to multi-day backcountry treks which allow visitors the experience to see untouched beauty, breathe in fresh mountain air and explore our stunning mountain lakes and waterfalls.

If you’re not sure where to start for finding some amazing, easy and stunning day hikes, don’t worry, we’ve compiled our top 6 best fall hikes. These hikes are sure to provide your clients with an unforgettable Montana moment.

Blodgett Canyon

Blodgett Canyon is known for its incredible overlook and relatively easy hike to the summit. Photo courtesy of Hunter Day Photography (hunterday.photo/montana)

This stunning hike is located in the Bitterroot Mountains and is only a total of 3 miles round-trip. The trailhead is to the right of the parking area and easily accessible. Several benches are placed along the hike up. Stop and take in the incredible views, but keep going—you’re in for a treat at the top!

Mount Sentinel

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

Hike “the M” for a breathtaking view of the Missoula Valley. Named for the large whitewashed rock “M” placed on the mountainside in 1908, this trail starts at the eastern edge of The University of Montana campus. This steep, zigzag path includes 11 switchbacks-with gains 620 feet of elevation in under a mile- is a little difficult but the views make it all the worthwhile.

Morrell Falls

Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail leads to the stunning Morrell Falls.

If you’re looking for a quick hike to a stunning waterfall, than look no further than Morrell Falls. Located at the base of the Swan Mountain Range, Morrell Falls is a jaw dropping waterfall at the end of a great hike with amazing views. Be sure to bring your camera for this one, you’ll want to capture all of the beauty.

Ross Creek Cedars

You will stand in awe of these cedars. Photo courtesy of Donnie Sexton.

Located in the Kootenai National Forest is a grove of western red cedars. Stroll along the trail for a truly awe-inspiring experience. Walk among the over 400-year-old western red cedars and enjoy all of information along this interpretive walking tour.

Holland Falls Nature Trail

The view of Holland Falls will be sure to take your breath away.

This popular and breathtaking hike follows along the shoreline of Holland Lake and gradually climbs to the base of the falls. The trail starts at the end of the parking area and continues straight for 1.6 miles. It’s great for groups in the Glacier National Park area that are looking for an easy hike with unforgettable views.

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake is at the end of the 2 mile hike and the view is absolute perfection.

The trailhead is located a few miles east of Lake McDonald Lodge along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is a serene and breathtaking trail that winds through lush forest, along a pristine stream and inland through a northwest rain forest to a stunning alpine lake boasting sheer cliffs and waterfalls.

 Pro tips:

  1. It’s always a good idea to wear layers and comfortable, broken-in hiking shoes or boots. The weather can be a little fickle in the fall, and can change quickly. It’s best to be prepared with a rain jacket, just in case.
  2. Be bear aware! Make noise and carry bear spray. You’re in bear country, and no matter how wild you think you might be, we can assure you the wildlife have you beat. (It’s also never a good idea to try to feed the wildlife).
  3. Make room in your pack for water, snacks and a camera. It’s good to stay hydrated, and good to have a camera ready to capture your Montana moments.
  4. Always stay on the trail. Wandering Montana’s splendor is easy to do, but it’s important not to lose your way. We promise you won’t miss out on anything.
  5. Ask the locals. Montana is full of secrets and who better to ask than a Montanan?

If hiking is something your clients love to do, then they are in for a treat in Western Montana. We hope they are ready for an unforgettable experience, we promise they won’t be disappointed.

Happy Trials!
NG

CANADIAN ROCKIES AND AMERICAN ROCKIES TWO NATION VACATION LOOP TOUR

This year, Montana’s Glacier Country would like to congratulate our neighbors to the north in Canada as they celebrate their 150th birthday. Parks Canada is inviting visitors and locals to celebrate with them by offering free admission to all of their national parks and historic sites with a Discovery Pass for 2017. We’ve put together a seven day loop tour that incorporates northwest Montana along with some of these historic and iconic sites in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, making a great two nation vacation. Here are the highlights if you’d like to come along.

Day 1: NW Montana and Eureka
Fly into Glacier Park International (FCA) in Kalispell. Car rentals are available from the airport. Highway 93 passes through the charming town of Whitefish, where you can grab a quick bite at one of the local eateries on Central Ave. Next stop off Highway 93 is the quaint town of Eureka which sits on the banks of the Tobacco River. Eureka’s small-town hospitality is evident with the welcome signs and flag-lined streets. Stop in at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village—a collection of restored buildings from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Have a picnic at Riverside Park, which hosts a farmers market every Wednesday from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. in the summer months.

Charming downtown Eureka.

Northwest Montana from The Wilderness Club in Eureka.

Day 2: British Columbia, Canada
After crossing the border into British Columbia stop in the town of Fort Steele Heritage Town. Fort Steele was an outpost for the North-West Mounted Police who came to bring law to the itinerant gold seekers from America’s wilder West. Here, over 60 buildings have been restored since the site was designated a Provincial Heritage Site in 1961. Visit the heritage tradesman and women who were essential to daily life including blacksmith, leather workers, dressmakers, tinsmiths and gold panners. See livestock demonstrations, including daily care and feeding of the Clydesdale’s that provided the horse-power back in the day.

Fort Steele Heritage Town.

Continue your travels north through the beautiful sprawling pasturelands of the valley with the jagged Canadian Rockies to the east eventually coming into Canal Flats. Be sure to stop at Canal Flats Overlook for a breathtaking view of the Kootenay River Valley and Columbia Lake. This lake is the originating source of the Columbia River, that eventually flows south through the Columbia River Gorge between Washington and Oregon and empties into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon.

Stop in at one of British Columbia’s legendary attractions, Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada’s largest natural hot springs. There are accommodation options from RV to hotel lodging. Further on up the highway is the ultra-charming village of Radium Hot Springs that greets visitors with a welcome sign that reads “The Mountains Shall Bring Peace to the People.”

Overnight in Radium Hot Springs.

Day 3: Kootenay National Park/Banff National Park
The west gate of Kootenay National Park is located just outside of town. Sinclair Canyon serves as the entry into Kootenay National Park with striking cliffs of colored rocks on either side. Make sure you allow some time this morning to soak in the natural soothing waters of Radium Hot Springs while being surrounded by dramatic cliffs. And don’t worry if you forgot the towels or swimsuits, they are available for rent along with lockers.

Due to all of the wildlife, binoculars and cameras are highly recommended.

The hiking possibilities start immediately after your soak so take your lunch, bear spray, binoculars and enjoy your day in Kootenay National Park. Don’t forget to stop at the many viewpoints that overlook the Kootenay Valley or at the Continental Divide separating the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds. Leaving Kootenay National Park takes you straight into Banff National Park for an evening at Lake Louise.

Stop at overlooks for amazing views.

Overnight in Lake Louise.

Day 4: Lake Louise/Banff

Make this an early morning for the very best views of Lake Louise before the crowds begin to form (before 9 am or after 7 pm). The Victoria Glacier on Mount Victoria forms a dramatic backdrop at the head of Lake Louise for the most photographed location in the Canadian Rockies.

Magnificent Lake Louise.

Take the famed hike to Lake Agnes Tea House, open June 4 – October 10, located 3.5 km (2.1 miles) from the Lake Louise parking lot. The tea house—open since 1905—is set on the shores of Lake Agnes. Together with Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, these lakes are often called the “Lakes in the Clouds”. Choose from more than 100 varieties of teas, along with hearty homemade soup and sandwiches on freshly baked bread.

If not for an overnight, be sure to step into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to see the elegant yet relaxed atmosphere of the 552 room luxury resort. The 125-year-old resort also boasts the finest dining around. Choose from The Walliser Stube or fine dining at The Fairview or Lago Italian Kitchen, or enjoy the tradition of afternoon tea with views of Lake Louise.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Leave enough time to visit the ultra-charming town of Banff. Walk along Banff Avenue and visit boutiques, galleries, museums and eateries along with chateau-style hotels and curio shops.

Strolling downtown Banff.

Overnight in Banff.

Day 5: Waterton Lakes National Park
Today is another recommended early start and a bit of a travel day as you make your way through Alberta on Highway A1 east towards Calgary the largest city in Alberta. Stop and see the cosmopolitan city. Memorial Drive along the Bow River offers views of metropolitan activities from bikers to runners and walkers.

Calgary is the largest city in Alberta.

As you head south look for the interpretive center, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. This archaeological site built right into the cliffs preserves the remarkable history of the Plains People. Due to the native peoples understanding of the bison behavior and regional topography they hunted bison by stampeding them off cliffs.

The visitor center is set into the hillside at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

Continue on to Waterton Lakes National Park and part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park where Montana’s Glacier National Park and Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park meet at the border between the United States and Canada. Designated the first International Peace Park in 1932 to commemorate the bonds of peace and friendship between the two nations.

Local residents of Waterton.

There is plenty of activity options in Waterton Lakes National Park but a “must do” is a cruise from Canada across the border into the United States on Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. Listen to experienced local guides give informative and entertaining commentary for the 2-hour cruise. July through mid-September the boat will stop at Goat Haunt—the northern gateway to the wilderness of Glacier National Park.

Cruising Waterton Lake.

While there are options for your overnight stay, we recommend a room at a true historic icon, the Prince of Wales Hotel. As one of the most photographed hotels in the world, the Prince of Wales hotel sits on a bluff with stunning views of Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park.

The iconic Prince of Wales Hotel.

Overnight in Waterton.

Day 6: Glacier National Park (east side)
There are two border crossings into the U.S. from Waterton Lakes National Park. The most convenient is Chief Mountain border crossing on AB 6 crossing over onto Montana Highway 17. However, it is a seasonal crossing only open May 15 – September 30, from 9 AM – 6 PM. Dates and times may vary. Several miles east utilizing AB 2 and U.S. Highway 89 is the Piegan/Carway border crossing open daily, 7AM – 11PM year-round.

Just beyond Babb is the road to Many Glacier Hotel. Stop in to visit the historic lodge that just received a multi-million dollar renovation including a restored spiral staircase. This would be a good day to combine a boat tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and a day hike to Grinnell Glacier, catching another boat back after the hike.

Mount Grinnell at Swiftcurrent Lake across from Many Glacier Hotel.

Stop at the St. Mary Visitor Center to gather daily information on park activities, open trails, wildlife watch areas. The east side of the park offers wonderful day hiking opportunities and interpretive boat tours on Two Medicine Lake, St. Mary Lake and Swiftcurrent Lake with Glacier Park Boat Company.

If time allows take a trip into Browning, the largest city on the 1.5 million-acre Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Exhibits of cultural artifacts at the Museum of the Plains Indian are among the finest in the West. The Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery and the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village feature traditional and contemporary arts and crafts.

Glacier National Park’s east side.

Travel the park’s southern boundary along Highway 2. Visit Essex, home to the historic Izaak Walton Inn that once housed workers for the Great Northern Railroad. Visit the small town of West Glacier before heading towards the west entrance of Glacier National Park.

Overnight at Izaak Walton Inn, Lake McDonald Lodge or Belton Chalet.

Day 7: Glacier National Park (west side)
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. A wilderness of lakes, towering peaks and remnants of glaciers is readily accessible. Hop aboard a red bus tour of the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road. The red bus drivers, known as Jammers, are your tour guides and provide information about the park’s flora and fauna, history, geology and glaciology.  Another tour option is Sun Tours, which tells the perspective from the Blackfeet Indian and the emphasis Glacier National Park has had on Blackfeet Nation throughout the centuries. NOTE: The Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses a high mountain pass and due to weather is only open from the end of June to the middle of October (weather permitting). Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road is restricted for private vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet.

Red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

If time allows take a scenic boat tour on Lake McDonald or a guided horseback trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters or hike the most popular trails on the west side, Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail. Make a reservation at the historic Belton Chalet (built in 1910) for a gourmet dinner in the lovely dining room.

Overnight in West Glacier or Kalispell before departing your two nation vacation.

Find the full Two Nation Vacation itinerary 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.

DP

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.php 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.php 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