Category Archives: Summer

Oh Snap! A Montana Spring in Pictures

As you know, a picture is worth a thousand words, and when we get our fans and friends out there capturing Montana moments in Glacier Country, we’re left speechless. These snapshots of our corner of paradise speak for themselves. Do we actually get to live, work and play in this place? Yep, we sure do, and you’d be ahead to come experience the magic and wonder for yourself. There’s a reason why we call it heaven on earth. So, although we love telling you all about our stunning landscapes and unrivaled recreation opportunities, this time we’re going to just show you. (We’re still bragging, but with less words and more pictures.)

Warning: daydreaming for an unspecified amount of time is sure to ensue after you make your way through this post.

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

Photo: Quinton Tolman (instagram.com/quintontolman)

Wildflowers in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Matthew Mason (instagram.com/mason.art.globe)

Waterworks Hill in Missoula, Montana.

Photo: Sara Schroeder (instagram.com/saraoutside)

Blodgett Canyon near Hamilton, Montana.

Photo: Hunter Day Photo (hunterday.photo/montana)

Horses at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Along the Bull River.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

The forest near Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

A mountain goat at Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park.

Photo: Kent Johns (instagram.com/kent_johns)

A wedding in Glacier National Park

Photo: Emil Rajkowski (instagram.com/raj_photo)

Aurora Borealis over the North Fork of the Flathead River.

David Marx Photo (instagram.com/davidmarxphoto)

A peaceful view of Flathead Lake.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

A kayaker rides Brennans Wave on the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

How’s that for inspiring? There’s more where these came from. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for your daily dose of Western Montana beauty.

Want to share your incredible travels in Western Montana? Use #GlacierMT on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a chance to be featured.

The Brag-Worthy Beauty of Montana’s Wildflowers

Here’s a little something you may not know about us. In Western Montana, one of our best features is the wonder of our wildflower blooms. Just when you thought we couldn’t be any more jaw-dropping, these miniature miracles of nature brave cold nights and dramatic spring weather to sprout their way up into Montana’s landscape in a striking display of beauty. During our heavenly warm season, our mountain woodlands, prairie grasslands, foothills and alpine meadows are sprinkled with the splendor of nature’s loveliest and most colorful artwork. Montana’s rich flora thrives in several different ecosystems, drawing wildflower aficionados, visitors and locals alike on a quest for the carpet of color or the elusive stem hidden high on an alpine ridgeline.

Beargrass blooms in Glacier National Park.

BEARGRASS

Beargrass is a celebrity around these parts. The impressively high (5 to 8 feet) stalks of dense white clusters blanket the subalpine landscapes of Glacier National Park and draw visitors in for a glimpse. Contrary to what the name might suggest, bears do not eat this plant!

WHERE + WHEN:

Beargrass can be found throughout Western Montana, but it’s especially coveted in Glacier National Park. It blooms in late May in the lower country and can be found in the high country into August. Though it’s a perennial and therefore blooms every year, mass blooms occur every five to 10 years, when the climate is just right.

Indian paintbrush colors a Montana meadow.

INDIAN PAINTBRUSH

Indian Paintbrush (or prairie fire) is aptly named, having a vibrant paintbrush-like appearance and contrasting the glacial-carved terrain with rich scarlet hues. Glacier National Park boasts three red and four yellow species of paintbrush, which grow between 4 and 16 inches in height.

WHERE + WHEN:

During July and August, Montana’s alpine and subalpine meadows and mountain slopes are a canvas of Indian paintbrush. You’re certain to find them on the banks of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River in the Bitterroot National Forest.

Arrowleaf balsamroot blankets a hillside overlooking the Mission Mountains.
Photo courtesy of Randi de Santa Anna

ARROWLEAF BALSAMROOT

These easily recognized yellow flowers define our spring landscape and transform our hillsides into a golden-yellow. Part of the sunflower family, these plants grow in clumps 2 – 3 feet tall. Tribal nations once relied on Arrowleaf Balsamroot for food and medicinal purpose, and although these plants are still used for food today, they’re mostly eaten by our wildlife.

WHERE + WHEN:

These plants are common in low-elevation grasslands, on open slopes and ridges and in open ponderosa pine woodlands. They are often found in the company of sagebrush. Take a hike up Missoula’s Mt. Jumbo in early May to immerse yourself in the sea of yellow.

A yellowbell welcomes spring in the Seeley Swan Valley.
Photo courtesy of Randi de Santa Anna

YELLOWBELLS

These tiny treasures are beloved because their arrival means spring is upon us. They’re one of the first of Montana’s wildflowers to bloom and can even be found humbly poking up near lingering snow. Don’t miss the distinct reddish-purple ring around the base of the yellow flower.

WHERE + WHEN:

These bashful bells keep their heads down in grasslands and dry sagebrush prairies as well as ponderosa pine forests, blooming through early May.

Fireweed strikes a colorful pose on a Glacier National Park hillside.
Photo courtesy of Donnie Sexton

FIREWEED

A favorite among bees and delicious in jam and tea, Fireweed is a striking pinkish-purple 4 to 9-foot cone-like shoot against the stunning Montana landscape. They flourish in avalanche sites and burn areas, where they’re usually the first plant to emerge after a fire—hence the name.

WHERE + WHEN:

From June through September, you’ll find fireweed in open meadows, along stream banks or in open forest areas after wildfires.

Big Water Boasts Big Adventure

One of Glacier Country’s greatest assets is our rivers. Just the mere mention of Western Montana conjures visions of sparkling waterways winding through some of the country’s most scenic landscapes. Our rivers are wild and free, and they all offer diverse adventures, from fly-fishing to scenic multiday float trips to adrenaline-pumping whitewater excursions. A Western Montana vacation isn’t complete without a day (or more) on the water. 

Whitewater rafting is one of the best ways to cool off on a hot summer day in Western Montana. Photo: Donnie Sexton

As winter turns into spring, snowmelt means our rivers begin rolling at peak volume and vacationers and locals alike flock to Glacier Country for whitewater rafting adventures or lazy, scenic floats (later in the summer).

BITTERROOT RIVER

The Bitterroot River—one of Montana’s more scenic waterways—offers a peaceful float down the panoramic Bitterroot Valley, with views of the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains. Flow is slow to moderate, which makes for a gentle, pleasant trip, ample wildlife viewing and plenty of fishing. Don’t forget your camera on this picturesque float!

CLARK FORK RIVER’S ALBERTON GORGE 

The Clark Fork River’s Alberton Gorge is a popular rafting destination and serves as a whitewater headquarters in this part of the region. The 16-mile Class III rose-colored canyon stretch is perfect for beginners and families looking to get their feet wet (literally) on a hot summer day. The Gorge is close to Alberton, Superior and Missoula, offering paddlers and rafters adventure on and off the water.

KOOTENAI RIVER

It’s been said that the Kootenai River is as close to the Zambezi as you’re going to get in Montana. This remote northwest corner of Big Sky Country is worth the drive and offers Class I scenic floats on the upper and lower Kootenai River, but adrenaline seekers can navigate the middle Kootenai River for Class IV+ whitewater and a view of the rowdy Kootenai Falls—some of Montana’s biggest water. 

FLATHEAD RIVER

Looking toward Glacier National Park, the Middle Fork of the Flathead is a designated Wild and Scenic River, and all of the West Glacier rafting companies run the whitewater stretch as well as scenic floats on the lower parts of the Middle Fork and the North Fork of the Flathead (also a Wild and Scenic River). The North and Middle forks comprise Glacier’s western borders and offer breathtaking views into Glacier National Park. Whitewater difficulty varies with flow levels, the scenery is unimaginable and the water is an unforgettable crystal-clear aqua. This is definitely one of the most gorgeous parts of the state—and the country for that matter—to be on the water. In fact, Glacier Guides and Montana Raft is offering a half-day whitewater rafting or scenic float trip for two. (Make your way to the end of this blog post for more information.)

The West Fork of the Flathead River runs through West Glacier. Stop on Belton Bridge to catch a glimpse of one of the more peaceful portions of the river. Photo: Emily Hall

GO WITH A GUIDE:

Guided rafting trips are always your best bet and the safest way to exploreWestern Montana’s rivers. If you’re new to rafting, but you’re ready for the adrenaline rush, go with one of Glacier Country’s many experienced rafting companies. Western Montana outfitters and guides customize floats to your comfort level, whether you’re looking for the thrill of our biggest runs, a scenic raft trip or a family float.

Western Montana river guides focus on quality of experience with half and full-day interpretive trips and multiday floats. All of our guides are Montana lovers. They’re enthusiastic, highly trained, professional, friendly and as knowledgeable about the area as they are about how to keep you entertained (not that the scenery alone isn’t capable of that). Some of our guides have happily been at this for over 30 years!

Sometimes one day on the river just isn’t enough. Multiday rafting experiences are offered for those who long to sleep under the star-studded big sky and enjoy steaming, organic coffee riverside in the cool quiet of a Montana morning. If you’re not up for experiencing Montana’s backcountry by foot, overnight rafting is the way to go. Guides do all of the work, from setting up tents to cooking delicious, locally sourced meals, while you sit back and enjoy Montana by boat.  

When you’ve reached the river takeout, end your rafting trip on the best note possible by heading to the nearest watering hole for a local Montana brew and a chat with the locals, who, chances are, also spent the day on the water.

A group of Western Montana adventurer’s make their way through the raging waters of the Flathead River.

RULES OF THE RAFT:

Water is wild and safety is a priority. First and foremost, go with a guide! You’re in good hands with licensed, professional Western Montana river guides, who basically live on the water. It’s important to listen to their instructions…they know what they’re talking about. And, as always, wear a personal flotation device (PFD). Also be sure to wear the right clothing (including a hat) and sunscreen for a hot, sunny day on the water. Bring your camera, and, if you’re getting into whitewater, be prepared to get splashed.

Guide companies rarely ride just one river. To help you sort through your options, here’s a list of some of our region’s finest guides and outfitters, all of whom have made their life’s work out of ensuring your river adventure is second to none.

 


 

Glacier Guides and Montana Raft have been riding Montana’s wild and scenic rivers for 30 years.

RAFTING GIVEAWAY: Glacier Guides and Montana Raft is giving away a Half-Day Whitewater Rafting or Scenic Float Trip for Two, plus, they’ll help outfit you for a day on the river with GGMR Nalgene water bottles, Chums sun/eyeglass retainers, sunscreen, lip balm and GGMR hats!

Enter to win here:

Best Day Hikes in Western Montana: Part II

Last week in Part One of this series, we explored some of our favorite day hikes in the southerly region of Glacier Country (if you missed it, you should definitely go take a peak). This week, we’re finishing the list by heading up the map toward Highway 200, the Jewel Basin, Tobacco Valley and the Crown of the Continent: Glacier National Park.

If you’ve already read Part One, skip ahead. For our friends new to the blog, we have a couple pointers to help keep you safe and happy:

Rules of the Trail:

  1. It’s always a good idea to wear layers and comfortable hiking shoes or boots. It gets a little cold around here (in case the name “Glacier Country” didn’t tip you off), though temperatures still reach into the 80s and 90s during summer. Wear broken-in hiking footwear so uncomfortable feet don’t distract you from our breathtaking views.
  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?

Now that we’ve got our safety suggestions out of the way, here’s your much-awaited Part Two:

Huckleberry Mountain Lookout

Photo courtesy of Kristal Martin (IG: @kriszm_)
The hike to Huckleberry Mountain Fire Lookout is on the west side of Glacier National Park. After getting back from this beautiful hike, venture into Apgar Village or West Glacier in search of huckleberry pie. The search is half the fun.

DIRECTIONS: Head to Glacier National Park from West Glacier and Apgar Visitor Center. About two miles into Going-to-the-Sun Road you’ll take a left onto Camas Road. Find the trailhead six miles in on the left. The trail is six miles in, six miles out and climbs 3,400 feet in elevation. If this trek sounds like more than you bargained for, keep driving up Camas Road to find the much tamer 1/2 mile Huckleberry Nature Trail.

ROUND-TRIP: 12 miles
PERMIT: National Parks Pass
HIGHLIGHTS: When “huckleberry” is in the name, it means there could be bears nearby. Bring friends and make noise so you don’t get into trouble.

Gable Pass

The Gable Pass trail system takes you through a beautiful alpine meadow with views of Mount Cleveland, Gable Mountain and Chief Mountain (pictured). Photo courtesy of Glacier Guides and Montana Raft.

DIRECTIONS: Gable Pass is northwest of Babb on the east side of Glacier National Park and begins at the Lee Ridge Trailhead. To get here, take Highway 17 (Chief Joseph Highway) north. You’ll find the trailhead about half a mile before Chief Mountain Trailhead at the International Border Crossing (you should see a sign that says “Customs 1/2 Mile Ahead”). Find parking for the trail in the pullout about 150 yards north at the top of the hill.

ROUND-TRIP: 12 miles
HIGHLIGHTS:  View Mount Cleveland, Gable Mountain and Chief Mountain from this lush alpine meadow.

Ross Creek Cedars

DIRECTIONS: For a truly awe-inspiring stroll, head to Ross Creek and walk among the over 400-year-old western red cedars. If you’re coming from Thompson Falls, take Highway 200 northwest to Highway 56. You can also reach Highway 56 from Highway 2 heading east from Troy or west from Libby. South of Bull Lake on Highway 56, turn east onto Forest Service Road 398 (locally known as Bull Lake Road). Drive this paved road 4 miles to a parking area.

ROUND-TRIP: 1 mile
HIGHLIGHTS: Drive 2 miles farther up Bull Lake Road for a scenic view of the Cabinet Mountains and Bull River Valley.

Mount Aeneas

The view from Mount Aeneas on a bluebird sky day. Photo courtesy of Glacier Guides and Montana Raft.

DIRECTIONS: From Highway 83 north of Bigfork, take Echo Lake Road north and take a right onto Foothill Road. Follow Foothill until the road turns into Jewel Basin Road. Continue about 11 miles up Jewel Basin to Camp Misery Trailhead. Follow the old service road behind the gate 1 mile before the trail narrows and turns into trail #717. Follow the signs half a mile and stay on #717. From here, the trail takes quite the elevation gain. Follow the switchbacks up the mountain to get to the ridgeline for views of Glacier National Park, Flathead Valley and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

ROUND-TRIP: 6 miles
HIGHLIGHTS: This is a great mountain goat viewing area.

Little North Fork

DIRECTIONS: From Rexford, travel 7 miles south past the Koocanusa Bridge. Take Road 336 and follow for 1 mile to the marked trail.

ROUND-TRIP: Under 1 mile
HIGHLIGHTS: This short hike takes you past a sparkling waterfall.

Powerhouse Loop Trail

Thompson Falls is adding 1.5 miles of ADA-friendly trails to Powerhouse Loop in the summer of 2017. The additions will lead visitors to Thompson Falls State Park. Photo courtesy of the Sanders County Community Development Corporation

DIRECTIONS: After exploring Thompson Falls, head west on Main Street (Highway 200). Turn left on Pond Street, and take another left on Maiden Lane. Here you’ll find the PPL Montana Power Park and a great parking spot. Walk into the park and head to the powerhouse gates. To the left of the gate, you’ll see signs pointing to the trail. The signs will take you in a nice loop leading you back to Main Street and your car.

ROUND-TRIP: 2.3 miles
BONUS: Dog-friendly

Swift Creek Trail

DIRECTIONS: North of Whitefish Lake, Swift Creek has multiple trailheads perfect for a variety of visitors. To get here from Whitefish, drive north on Baker Avenue and continue on as the road turns into Wisconsin Avenue. Then head east on East Lakeshore Drive around the west side of Whitefish Lake. You will pass Big Mountain Road and continue another 5.9 miles before reaching the trailhead.

ROUND-TRIP: 3 – 6 miles
BONUS: The Swift Creek area includes an ADA accessible trail leading to the Swift Creek overlook.

Best Day Hikes in Western Montana: Part I

Western Montana’s Glacier Country covers the northwest corner of Montana, stretching from the Canadian border all the way down through the Bitterroot Valley. It’s a big region, with a lot to explore. We started this blog post hoping to share our top 10 favorite hikes, and we quickly realized it was just too much for one post…so, we’re splitting it up. Part One covers the more southern portion of Glacier Country including the Seeley-Swan Valley and the Bitterroot Valley. Next week we’re sharing the northern-most parts of Western Montana including the Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, Tobacco Valley and more.

One of the easiest ways to explore our little slice of heaven is to set out by foot. Here are a handful of trail tips for the aspiring Western Montana hiker:

Tips for the Trail:

  1. It’s always a good idea to wear layers and comfortable hiking shoes or boots. It gets a little cold around here (in case the name “Glacier Country” didn’t tip you off), though temperatures still reach into the 80s and 90s during summer. Wear broken-in hiking footwear so uncomfortable feet don’t distract you from our breathtaking views.
  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?

Now that you’re all set for a hike, let us help you find one. Below is a list of our top 10 spots and how to find them.

Morrell Falls

The hike on Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail leads to Morrell Lake and the stunning Morrell Falls at the base of the Swan Mountain Range.

DIRECTIONS: From the town of Seeley Lake, travel half a mile north on Highway 83. Turn right on Morrell Creek Road, which becomes Forest Service Road #477/Cottonwood Lakes Road and travel just over 1 mile. Turn left on West Morrell Road #4353 and travel about 6 miles. Turn right on Pyramid Pass Road #4381 and travel a quarter-mile. Then turn left on Morrell Falls Road #4364. Continue for 1 mile to the Morrell Falls Trailhead and parking area.

ROUND-TRIP: 2.7 miles
BONUS: Dog-friendly

Turquoise Lake

DIRECTIONS: Flathead National Forest is home to so many natural wonders it can be a little overwhelming when you’re trying to plan a hike. Allow us to help, beginning with Turquoise Lake. In the Swan Valley, head south on Highway 83. Just past mile marker 38 south of Condon, turn right onto Kraft Creek Road. Drive 11.5 miles in to Glacier Creek trail #690. Follow #690 3 miles to Turquoise Lake trail #708. From there, you’re only 3 more miles to the beautiful turquoise waters of this pristine glacial lake.

ROUND-TRIP: 12.2 miles
PERMIT: Turquoise Lake is on tribal lands. Be sure to stop by any local grocer or outfitter to pick up your Tribal Conservation Permit.
HIGHLIGHTS: If you have extra time, hike down to Lace Lake for cliff jumping.

Three Lakes Peak

DIRECTIONS: Take Exit 82 on Interstate 90 east of Missoula and make your way west on Highway 10 until you reach Remount Road. Turn north onto Remount Road and drive 2.5 miles before turning west onto Ninemile Road. Continue for about 12 miles, then turn right onto Foothills Road #5498. Drive 5 miles to reach Burnt Fork Trail #418. This trail is easily navigated with posted signs.

ROUND-TRIP: 3.2 miles
PERMIT: Three Lakes Peak is on tribal lands. Be sure to stop in Missoula at Bob Ward and Sons, Cabela’s , MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks – Region 2 or Wholesale Sports to pick up your Tribal Conservation Permit.

Blodgett Canyon

Blodgett Canyon is known for its incredible overlook and relatively easy hike to the summit. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can venture into the valley for breathtaking views like this one.
Photo courtesy of Hunter Day Photography (hunterday.photo/montana)

DIRECTIONS: From Hamilton, take Main Street west into the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains, following signs on Forest Service road 735 to the Blodgett Trailhead and overlook. The trailhead is to the right of the parking area.

ROUND-TRIP: 3 miles
HIGHLIGHTS: 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!

Lake Como

Lake Como is easily accessible in any season. Photo: instagram.com/scottwilsonphotography

DIRECTIONS: Access Lake Como Road from Hamilton, Montana. Take the road around the south side of Lake Como to find Little Rock Creek Trailhead.

ROUND-TRIP: 9 miles
HIGHLIGHTS: This is a lovely overnight camping spot.

Mount Sentinel

Mount Sentinel’s colors change with the seasons, making it a fresh new hike every few weeks. Visit in April and May to catch the mountain covered in green and peek at the wildflowers sprinkled throughout the hike.

DIRECTIONS: Hike “the M” for a breathtaking view of the Missoula Valley. The trail starts at the eastern edge of The University of Montana campus. This steep, zigzag path includes 11 switchbacks and gains 620 feet of elevation in under a mile.

ROUND-TRIP: 1.75 miles
HIGHLIGHTS: The trail is named for the large whitewashed rock “M” placed on the mountainside in 1908.

Kootenai Creek

DIRECTIONS: From the Stevensville junction on Highway 93, travel north 1 mile. Turn west on Kootenai Creek Road and continue two miles to the trailhead.

ROUND-TRIP: Up to 18 miles…choose your adventure.
HIGHLIGHTS: Find great rock climbing about half a mile in. If you want to venture farther in, the Kootenai lakes can be found at mile 9.

Must-Stop Family Road-Trip Attractions

There’s nothing quite like loading up the family and embarking on an epic road trip to make some everlasting memories and there’s no place to make those memories better than Montana. From the Bitterroot Valley to Glacier National Park, Western Montana has enough scenic byways for a lifetime of cruising. We love road trips and camping so we partnered with Bretz RV & Marine to bring you a spring camping gear giveaway. Enter to win, load up your RV, chart a route through our charming small towns and make it a point to pull over and check out these fun and unique roadside attractions.

A Hefty Hereford

Stoney’s Bull sits at Clearwater Junction and greets travelers along Highways 200 and 93.

Along Highway 200 at Clearwater Junction, you’ll find a 15-foot-high, 18-foot-long Hereford steer.

50,000 Silver $ Bar

50,000 Silver $ Bar

Stop in St. Regis to visit the infamous 50,000 Silver $ Bar, stay for the burgers, shakes and souvenirs.

Stay: Salmon Lake State Park, Clearwater Junction, Big Larch Campground

Flathead Cherries

Flathead Cherries

At 3,000 feet above sea level, Flathead Lake has the perfect growing climate for cherries. Make your way around the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi to see the orchards, and be sure to stop at a roadside stand for a taste of this prized fruit.

Stay: Campground St. Regis, Nugget RV Park

Amazing Fun Center

The Amazing Fun Center in Coram, MT

When you’re done exploring Glacier National Park take the kids to the Amazing Fun Center in West Glacier. With a 1.5-mile maze, go karts, bumper boats and mini golf, you won’t leave without being at least a little a-MAZE-d.

Stay: Flathead Lake KOA in Polson, Polson Motorcoach & RV Resort, Edgewater R.V. Resort & Motel in LakesideDiamond S RV Park in Ronan

Seeley Lake

A family docks their boat as the sun sets over Seeley Lake

With easy water access, a walk-up burger joint (Bay Burgers, right on the lake!) and ice cream shops (try a blue-goo swirl cone at The Ice Cream Place), your family will fall in love with this little lake town.

Stay: Seeley Lake Campground

Darby

What road trip is complete without a stop at an old-fashioned candy store? Darby, Montana’s Old West Candy Store is the perfect spot to satisfy your sweet tooth. Don’t miss out on the huckleberry options!

Stay: Travellers Rest Cabins and RV Park

Float the Clark Fork River and Ride the Carousel

A Carousel for Missoula

Stop in Missoula to ride one of the fastest carousels in the West. If you’re there on the weekend, be sure to check out one of several farmers markets on Higgins Avenue. Cool off with a scenic float down the Clark Fork River afterwards.

Stay: Jellystone RV Park, Cabins, Campground, Boat & RV Storage, Jim & Mary’s RV Park, Missoula KOA

A couple enjoys their RV stay in Glacier Country

We’ve partnered with Bretz RV & Marine of Missoula to help you on your journey to find these Western Montana roadside gems. Store gear, grill and lounge with this custom camping set perfect for your next adventure.

This contest has closed. Visit glaciermt.com for more giveaway opportunities.

Explore-Worthy Excursions in Western Montana

We all need a little adventure in our lives, and we all have different thoughts about what that means, so here are a handful of travel ideas to explore, depending on your “adventure type.”

The Bookish Explorer: Montana Valley Book Store

Montana Valley Book Store in Alberton, Montana

You know the type—they carry a novel in their bag everywhere they go and insist on stopping in a bookstore in every new town they visit. If this is you, we’ve found your heaven on earth in Alberton, Montana. The Montana Valley Book Store houses more than 100,000 unique and rare books at any given time. Their shelves are constantly rotating, waiting for the perfect book lover to walk in. Open year-round, the owner lives only five minutes away and will come unlock the store for whomever stops by.

Inside Montana Valley Book Store.

Pro tip: For lunch, stop at the Flyin’ R Café for a homemade patty melt on marbled rye. Write your name next to ours on the wall, snap a pic and use #GlacierMT to say hello!

Write your name on the wall at Flyin’ R Cafe’.

Patty Melt at Flyin’ R Cafe’ in Alberton, Montana.

The History Seeker: Garnet Ghost Town

Overlooking Garnet Ghost Town.

The most intact ghost town in Montana—Garnet—takes its name from the ruby-colored stone. The town itself hasn’t been inhabited since the late 1940s, though volunteers help visitors explore the buildings for anyone who hikes in during the summer. If you’re a cold-weather history seeker, click into your cross-country skis and glide into town. Be sure to peek in the windows of the hotel, general store, post office and saloon. Visit our ghost towns page to learn more about the old mining campsites on Garnet Range Road and how to get there.

Pro Tip: The Bureau of Land Management rents out two Garnet Ghost Town cabins in the winter.

The Backcountry Rambler: Holland Lake Waterfall

Stand-up paddleboarder enjoys an early spring day on Holland Lake.

Nestled in the Seeley-Swan Valley and good for an adventure in any season, Holland Falls is a three-mile round-trip trek up trail #42. To get there in winter, strap on your snowshoes, or hike up on a hot summer day to cool off in the mist of the massive falls. The trail ends just before the falls and overlooks Holland Lake. Then, head back down for a little water play in the lake. It’s is a popular spot for campers, canoers and stand-up paddleboarders.

Overlooking Holland Lake from Holland Falls.

The Pioneer: Martin City + Hungry Horse

Hungry Horse Reservoir.

There are three things you need to know about Martin City and Hungry Horse, Montana.

  1. In 2017 they held their 39th annual Cabin Fever Days and Barstool Ski Races.
  2. The towns were created after World War II during the construction of Hungry Horse Dam.
  3. They love your dam puns.

The Romantic: Fire Lookouts

Come on, we know you’ve dreamed about escaping to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, wistfully sipping coffee while you watch the sun rise over the Rocky Mountains. Well, here’s your chance, you romantic, you. The U.S. Forest Service rents fire lookouts and cabins throughout Montana on a first-come first-served basis. This off-the-beaten-path getaway can be yours for a small reservation fee. Western Montana houses eight of these 360-degree-view, picturesque lodging options. Reserve your spot at recreation.gov.

The Foraging Fiend: Huckleberries

Huckleberries.

This finicky native shrub only grows in high elevations, making Montana’s mountains a perfect home for its tasty berries. Huckleberries look like small blueberries and taste like a cross between a blueberry and blackberry. While you can find huckleberry syrup and jam at many Western Montana stores and farmers markets, the true forager will take to the hills looking to find their own “purple gold.” Most Montanans won’t give just anyone their secret berry spot, but we can tell you that the state’s legislature coined Trout Creek the “Huckleberry Capital of Montana.” Plan to visit in August for the Huckleberry Festival, and they just might share their secrets.

Pro Tip: If you decide to forage for huckleberries, be sure to make some noise and carry bear spray. Montana is bear country, and huckleberries are bear food.

Kayaker paddles through Holland Lake on a peaceful fall morning.

What’s your adventure type? Tell us by tweeting or gramming @glaciermt or #glaciermt.

Save

Save

Save

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Three

I’m just going to say it: spending a week in the backcountry of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness was a memory I’m never going to forget. But before I get too sappy, let’s pick up where we left off from parts one and two of this trip.

Day six was our last official day in camp and while most of the group opted to do a horseback trail ride to the Flathead River, I decided to stay at camp and go fishing with Bill—another guest on the trip. And while we had a great time fishing the purest water I’ve ever seen, it was the experience of fishing at this particular place that made it such a wonderful day.

Our fishing hole on White River.

Our fishing hole on White River.

You see, my mama and my grandpa (as well as my grandma and aunts and uncles) used to come into the Bob Marshall Wilderness every summer for their family vacation. The best part: they fished this exact fishing hole on White River.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

And while my grandpa has been gone for a few years now (and I still miss him every day), it was so special to know that both my grandpa and my mom had spent time casting their own fishing lines in this spot. Sidenote: this was a memory my mama shared with me after I came out of the Bob. Looking back on that day, I spent quite a bit of time just sitting on the shore of White River and trying to soak up every moment. Now it makes sense to me why I was so drawn to that particular location; being in the same place my mom and grandpa had been decades before turned that Montana memory into something that I can only describe as part magic and completely special.

I'm certain that I'll love this place forever.

I’m certain that I’ll love this place forever.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Patiently waiting.

Patiently waiting.

I love a feisty fish.

I love a feisty fish.

Pretty little trout.

Pretty little trout.

The little fly that landed the fish.

The little fly that landed the fish.

After a few hours on the river, we headed back to camp to meet up with the rest of our crew. At dinner on our last night, we sat around eating ribeye steak (which was THE best steak I’ve ever had) and sharing highlights from our trip. Our group shared moments that included Amy’s cooking, the views from the Chinese Wall and making the ride to Gladiator. When it was time for my turn, I teared up…and not because I was sad, but because a trip like this isn’t something that can easily be put into words. To sum it up, it was one of the most impactful trips I’ve ever taken. We all went to bed that night knowing that we had all shared an experience that would stay with us forever.

On the last day, we awoke early and prepared to hit the 24-mile-long trail to Benchmark.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

Looking west.

Looking west.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass is always a good idea, especially with this view.

Standing at a place that's frozen in time.

Standing at a place that’s frozen in time.

Cementing this view in my mind.

Cementing this moment in my mind.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

We walked a few miles down from White River Pass along creeks and through forests before mounting our horses to ride the rest of the way to our lunch stop. While we were taking a break, the two pack strings caught up with us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those mules can move.

Tucker and his pack string.

Tucker and his pack string.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Turk and his string.

Turk and his string.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

Riding back through an old forest fire. As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

Riding back through an old forest fire.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I’ve ever heard.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2.5 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Just a girl and her horse.

Just a girl, her horse and their shadows.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar and Amy's folks: Mark and Renee.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar (Amy and Tucker’s oldest son) and cool drinks.

For fun (and to help me remember the trip and be able to share this off-the-grid Montana experience with you), I created a little video. Take a look…

A few things to keep in mind if you’d like to take a pack trip into one of Montana’s most beautiful places, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex:
-Go with an experienced outfitter. Mills Wilderness Adventures has more than 100 years of experience packing into The Bob and it shows in how they handle their stock, welcome their guests and act as true stewards of the land. Other recommended outfitters can be found here.
-Book your trip in advance. If you want to take a pack trip in summer 2017, start researching the area and outfitter you’d like to go with now.
-You don’t have to be an avid horseback rider to take a pack trip. If you’re not, your booty will be sore (especially on day one and day seven) but riding that far is manageable. Don’t let the distance scare you.
-If you book a trip with Amy and Tucker Mills, get ready for some of the best storytelling you’ll ever hear. While Tucker has a quiet demeanor, he is one of the best storytellers in the area.
-If you plan on using your cell phone as your camera, bring a portable or solar charger.
-For packing, be sure to bring a button-down shirt (or two); hiking boots (don’t forget these at home – I was SO glad I had cowboy boots and hiking boots); and riding gloves (to help keep your hands a bit clean during long rides).

As for me, this trip was special because it’s a memory that could only be made in Montana. And that’s something I’ll be grateful for forever.

xo,
TT

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Two

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that earlier this summer I fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine and took a pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness will Mills Wilderness Adventures. Sidenote: if you’re just joining me, you can check out part one of the pack trip here.

On day four—the day after our incredible ride to the Chinese Wall—I decided to hang out at camp, relax and try my hand at taking photos. I was joined by two pals, Turk and Cinnamon, and we headed down to play in White River.

The path from camp down to White River.

The path from camp down to White River.

I'm fairly certain this little path was magic.

I’m fairly certain this little path was magic.

dscn0392

Getting his saddle ready to ride. My favorite part of this photo: he didn’t know I was taking it.

Turk (and his trusty steed) crossing White River.

Turk (and his trusty steed) crossing White River.

Turk and Cinnamon.

Turk and Cinnamon.

After chatting with Cinnamon along the river, we turned around and saw this scene. This was one of the favorite moments from my trip: just a cowboy hanging out, talking to his horse.

After chatting with Cinnamon along the river, we turned around and saw this scene. This was one of the favorite moments from my trip: just a cowboy hanging out, talking to his horse.

PSA: I love riding horses...but you don't have to be a horseman to enjoy the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Its trails are also perfect for hiking.

PSA: I love riding horses…but you don’t have to be a horseman to enjoy the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Its trails are also perfect for hiking.

Heading back up to camp.

Heading back up to camp.

Hanging out with the horses AKA the perfect companions.

Hanging out with the horses AKA the perfect companions.

After our day hanging out at camp and taking pictures, we awoke on day five to one of the most perfect mornings of the summer.

Good morning to you too, Rocky Mountains.

Good morning to you too, Rocky Mountains.

Low-hanging clouds.

Low-hanging clouds over camp.

Early-morning light.

Early-morning light.

Following breakfast, Bob (one of the wranglers and perhaps one of the kindest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting) headed out with his pack string to ride the 24 miles back out to the Benchmark Trailhead. While I knew Bob had done this ride solo many times, as I watched him and his string make their way down the trail I was filled with feelings of awe and wonder as they rode off into the forest.

Bob leading his team.

Bob leading his team.

See ya next time.

Bob saying his goodbyes.

After sending Bob off down the trail, we prepared to head out for today’s destination: Gladiator Mountain. A 12-mile-long ride, I hadn’t heard of this mountain before now, but Amy told me it was one of her favorites so I was pretty positive I was going to love it.

From camp, we stayed parallel with White River for a spell as we made our way into higher elevations and through forested terrain.

From camp, we stayed parallel with White River for a spell as we made our way into higher elevations and through forested terrain.

Looking back toward White River.

Looking back toward White River.

The views from here were AMAZING.

The views from here were AMAZING.

Our first pit stop: Needle Falls.

Our first pit stop: Needle Falls.

Taking in the view of Needle Falls.

Taking in the view of Needle Falls.

This marker was just hanging out, in the MIDDLE of the WILDERNESS.

This marker was just hanging out, in the MIDDLE of the WILDERNESS.

Tucker checking stirrups.

Tucker checking stirrups and the cinch.

Climbing and climbing and climbing.

Climbing and climbing and climbing.

And climbing and climbing.

And climbing and climbing.

After riding across some of the most interesting terrain I’ve ever seen, we arrived to a gorgeous meadow at the base of Gladiator Mountain. And I have to be honest: I was completely surprised at the beauty of this place. I knew it was going to be pretty, but I didn’t expect this lush oasis surrounded by mountain peaks.

My favorite view.

My favorite view.

Our crew eating lunch and marveling at the incredible mountain that rose up before us.

Our crew eating lunch and marveling at the incredible mountain that rose up before us.

Tucker and Gladiator.

Tucker and Gladiator.

Soaking up the sun and the beauty of this meadow.

Soaking up the sun and the beauty of this meadow.

After spending as much time as we could ingraining this place and this moment into our memories, we headed back down the mountain for camp. And that, my friends, was quite the ride. We took a different trail down and the terrain in front of seemed to go on forever, as the only thing in view was endless mountain peaks.

Making our way down.

Making our way down.

Mountains upon mountains.

Mountains as far as the eye can see.

We also found this massive sinkhole on the side of the mountain.

We also found this massive sinkhole on the side of the mountain. Needless to say, we didn’t get too close.

The lovely Janet.

The lovely Janet.

And looking back on those two days now, I know one thing for sure: I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

xo,
TT

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part One

Taking a pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I grew up on the doorstep of The Bob along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front where I could look out my window and see it everyday, and while I had played in this wilderness on day hikes and rides, I’d never spent an extended amount of time in my backyard treasure. Which, let’s be honest, is kind of weird and really lame.

Montana's Rocky Mountain Front AKA the gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front AKA the gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

While several members of my immediate and extended family did horseback pack trips or hiking trips in the Bob Marshall pretty regularly, including my mama (who went in every summer with her family growing up), my grandpa (who made countless trips into The Bob, even during his later years in life) my big sister and both of my little brothers. And yet, my messy-haired blond self never went on any of those trips.

However, ALL of that changed this summer when I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine and spend a week in the heart of one of Montana’s most spectacular places—the Bob Marshall Wilderness. And in case you’re wondering how this dream of mine finally came true, it was because of my friend (who is also my cousin, because Montana is small and my family is big) Amy Mills. Amy and her husband Tucker own Mills Wilderness Adventures and they regularly take guests into The Bob and as luck would have it (and because they’re really nice and knew I had never gone on a pack trip), they invited me to join them for a trip this summer. Needless to say, I jumped at their invitation and on July 14 we headed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to spend a blissful week in one of the most incredible places on earth.

On the first day of our trip, we met in Augusta and headed to the Benchmark Trailhead for a trip that was sure to be one of the best adventures of my life. We got to the trailhead where Tucker and his crew were waiting for us with pack strings and horses saddled and ready to go.

Morning light at Benchmark Trailhead.

Morning light at Benchmark Trailhead.

By 8 a.m. we were on the trail making our way to White River, our camp for the week. Today’s ride was 24-miles-long and would include cresting the Continental Divide at White River Pass. There was a moment on the ride where I looked back at the rest of the group and saw the mountains rising behind them and wondered if this is how early explorers felt when they set out to explore the West. That feeling was quickly replaced by one that is best described as surreal. Even though The Bob has always been my backyard and I’ve looked at its landscapes thousands of times, I almost couldn’t believe the beauty of it was real. Our views included open meadows, cliffside trails and terrain that was burnt during a forest fire in 2007.

Making our way through a landscape that was burnt in a 2007 forest fire.

This part of the ride (through an old forest fire burn) was hauntingly beautiful. 

At our mid-morning break, the pack strings passed us. Those mules can MOVE.

At our mid-morning break, the pack strings passed us. Those mules can MOVE.

Amy and Hawk leading our group up the trail.

Amy and Hawk leading our group up the trail.

White Rive Pass: Elephant Ear to the left and Haystack Mountain (the start of the southern portion of the Chinese Wall) to the right.

White Rive Pass: Elephant Ear to the left and Haystack Mountain (the start of the southern portion of the Chinese Wall) to the right.

Janet, an avid horsewoman and perhaps one of the loveliest gals ever, checking out the view of the Flathead Alps from White River Pass.

Janet, an avid horsewoman and perhaps one of the loveliest gals ever, checking out the view of the Flathead Alps from White River Pass.

I loved seeing the rest of the guests loving my Montana so much.

Beth and Jeanine capturing a memory. I loved seeing the rest of the guests loving my Montana so much.

"Meet me in Montana, I want to see the mountains in your eyes."

“Meet me in Montana, I want to see the mountains in your eyes.”

After 8+ hours of riding, we arrived in White River and my feelings about camp may have been partially due to my incredible sore booty and achy legs, but it was so beautiful.

The view from camp at White River.

The view from camp at White River.

Day two of the trip was spent doing one thing and one thing only: resting our booties. We also wanted to give the horses a day off, since they were the ones who actually hauled our behinds the 24 miles in to camp. Also, I’d like to give a special thanks to my horse, Popeye. He carried me and my cameras into camp like it was no big deal.

Each night, the horses and mules were put out to pasture. And each morning, the wranglers would bring them back in.

Each night, the horses and mules were put out to pasture and each morning, the wranglers would bring them back to camp.

Crossing White River.

Crossing White River.

Bob finishing up his morning wrangle.

Bob finishing up his morning wrangle.

After a full day of rest, day three brought the moment of the trip I was most excited about. We were going to ride 12 miles from White River to one of the most stunning geological formations in the country: the Chinese Wall. A 22-mile-long rock escarpment, the Chinese Wall reaches heights of 1,000 feet and runs through much of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Standing here, on top of the wall and looking out over endless mountain ranges, is one of my most special memories.

The mountain ranges seem to go on forever.

The mountain ranges seem to go on forever.

Dream come true. Photo: Tommy Meyer

Dream come true. Photo: Tommy Meyer

Amy and Tucker, taking in the landscape.

Amy and Tucker, taking in the landscape.

Standing on top of the wall.

In addition to the cooking, planning, driving and leading guests in and out on horseback, Amy is also a great sport and moonlights as a model when I ask her. 🙂

I think this is what they call a #MontanaMoment.

I think this is what they call a #MontanaMoment.

Basically on top of the world. Photo: Tommy Meyer

Basically on top of the world. Photo: Tommy Meyer

White River from Haystack Mountain (the Chinese Wall).

White River from Haystack Mountain (the Chinese Wall).

Jumping for joy after spending time on top of the Chinese Wall.

Jumping for joy after spending time on top of the Chinese Wall.

And that my friends, is just the beginning. Can’t wait to share parts two and three with you soon!

xo,
TT