Category Archives: Glacier National Park

Meat Montana: Top 10 Places to Savor a Steak in Glacier Country

We’re going to come right out and say it: we’re carnivores at heart. When we think of all the things we love about Western Montana (the list is long), savoring a juicy, perfectly cooked, locally raised steak is way up near the top of the list. It’s not just a mouthwateringly delicious meal, it’s a full Montana experience. Raising cattle is a way of life here. It’s a livelihood infused with a rich history of agricultural pride, cowboy culture and—most importantly—a high regard for the land and the livestock. We love everything about a Montana steakhouse, and we’re pretty confident you will, too.

Western Montana’s steakhouses are community fixtures that attract locals and visitors from far and wide, and our steaks are some of the best you’ll ever sink your teeth into. From fine-dining western lodges to log-cabin atmospheres, Glacier Country’s got a steak cooked to your idea of perfection. So, no matter your cut of choice, mosey on up to one of these fine establishments, grab a steak knife and see what all the fuss is about. (Cowboy hat and boots optional.)

Lolo Creek Steak House

Just south of Missoula as you head down the Bitterroot Valley, stop in at Lolo Creek Steak House in Lolo. They take pride in having served “ranchers, hikers, bikers, vacationers, hunters, snowmobilers, fly fisherman, floaters, artists, writers, students and their families for over 27 years,” so, you’ll be in good company. The large log cabin setting with western décor provides a genuine Montana experience and a prime selection of irresistible steak.

Victor Steakhouse

Further on down the valley, you get a lot of beef for your buck at Victor Steakhouse, and it’s delicious too. For dessert, try a deep-fried piece of cheesecake or their famous peanut butter pie, that is, if you’ve got any room left.

Skalkaho Steak House

If you’re lucky, you might spot a bighorn sheep or moose while you’re dining at Skalkaho Steak House. Wildlife makes itself known here inside and out. 15 miles south of Hamilton, the views in this part of the Bitterroot Valley are spectacular. This little gem has won awards for best steak, best atmosphere and best views in the Bitterroot, and one of the things that makes it such a unique spot is the hundreds of hummingbirds that visit the outside patio during the summer months.

The Depot

For more than 40 years, The Depot has been one of Montana’s premiere classic western steakhouses. Located in Missoula, The Depot offers a full bar, 18 beers on tap (including some local favorites) and a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Seafood is flown in daily, so try the Depot Steak, an 8-ounce tenderloin topped with Alaskan king crab and béarnaise sauce. Afterwards, explore Missoula’s lively downtown.

The Montana Club

Homestyle meets Montana style at The Montana Club, with two locations in Missoula and one in Kalispell. “Montana’s hometown restaurant” serves up scratch-made entrées and mouthwatering steak. Their 10-ounce Montana Club Cattle Company Angus Steak is exclusively selected and specially cut for The Montana Club Restaurants and aged for a minimum of 45 days. There’s something for everyone at the Montana Club, plus both Missoula and Kalispell serve up hearty doses of arts, culture, nightlife and recreation.

Whitefish Lake Restaurant

The New York Times called Whitefish Lake Restaurant one of the best restaurants in the Whitefish area. Tee up for 18 holes at this historic golf-course setting and end your day on the green by heading inside for a prime cut of Montana beef cooked exactly how you like it. Add a side of white truffle macaroni and cheese baked au gratin. Insider Tip: start with the Baked Brie in Puff Pastry or the New Zealand Mussels…or both.

Venture Inn and Restaurant

How does eating a 7-ounce premium choice Angus bacon-wrapped top sirloin filet with roasted jumbo shrimp sound after a beautiful hike in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness? Don’t mind if we do. Venture on over to Libby in Montana’s beautiful Kootenai River Valley and savor a meal at the Venture Inn and Restaurant.

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club had us at “special sauce.” Known as one of Montana’s best steakhouses, most outfitters end their Blackfeet Reservation trips with a stop at the Cattle Baron for their famous family recipes, flawlessly cooked steak and a cultural experience provided by the attentive and energetic owners.

Summit Mountain Lodge and Steakhouse

A perfectly seasoned Montana steak at the Summit Mountain Lodge and Steakhouse.

Located in Essex on the southeast corner of Glacier National Park, the historic Summit Mountain Lodge offers exactly what you want in a steak dinner—juicy, perfectly seasoned and seared meat with grilled vegetables. Housed in the iconic Great Northern Train Station built in 1906, Summit Mountain offers stunning park views from its deck, locally crafted beer, specialty cocktails and wine.

Bonus: overnight in one of the 32-acre property’s eight cabins.

Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse

We love a good lake with our steak. That’s why we love Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse in Seeley Lake. Premium Montana steak and stunning views? Yes please. All steaks come with garlic bread, potatoes, salad and sweet pickled watermelon rind. Enjoy the sunset from this beautiful, rustic, cedar-sided steakhouse situated right on the edge of the lake.

What’s one more?

Narrowing the list down to 10 of our favorite steak stops was impossible. We just couldn’t pass this next one up. Plus, it’s in Glacier National Park, and, well, you know how we feel about the park…

BONUS: The Belton Chalet Grill Dining Room and Tap Room

Gourmet steak dinner at the Belton Chalet. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Top off a day in Glacier National Park with a Montana-ranched steak at the 1910 historic Belton Chalet where “the way it was…still is.” Talented chefs prepare world-class meals in a unique outdoor kitchen, and guests watch the sunset from the expansive deck. Do yourself a favor and try one of their cocktails with vodka that’s infused with Montana’s famous Flathead cherries.

DIY: While we love a good night out, we know some of you might enjoy the experience of cooking up a Montana steak yourself. Local butchers and community farmers markets are a great place to buy premium Montana-raised beef.

P.S. If you’re looking for a complete western adventure (we highly recommend it), cowboy up at a Western Montana guest ranch for way more than a prime porterhouse.

Day Hike in Glacier National Park: Avalanche Lake

Hiking in Glacier National Park is a beautiful and wondrous thing, and we recently had the opportunity to hike one of the more popular routes in the park—the Avalanche Lake Trail. This serene and breathtaking trail winds through lush forest, along a pristine stream and inland through a northwest rainforest to a stunning alpine lake boasting sheer cliffs and waterfalls.

The hike begins with the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Creek. From there, the trail leads to Avalanche Lake. It follows the creek up a frothing gorge and meanders through a cedar and hemlock forest, giving the feeling that you’re walking among giants. After two miles, the trail opens up to the lake, which is fed by the waterfalls at the lake’s far end.

Here are some photos from our journey.

Our starting point: Avalanche Lake Trailhead.

Early on, we’re greeted with some beautiful icy blue water.

We found absolute perfection all along the trail.

As the trail turns inland…

We found ourselves walking among the giants.

Honestly, the views were ridiculously breathtaking.

After 2 miles, we made it to Avalanche Lake and the view was absolute perfection.

Pro tip: Carry bear spray (we saw a bear on the trail near the lake), use bug spray and make sure to apply sunscreen (although the trail has a forest canopy, there are some super sunny areas, so just be prepared).

Happy Trails,

Nicole

 

Spring Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park

Around these parts, it’s no secret that spring is one of our favorite seasons. Don’t get us wrong, we’ll never stop loving our heavenly summers and epic winter wonderlands, but there is something magical about the color changes and uncrowded roads that makes us long for shoulder seasons. One of the most unforgettable experiences Glacier National Park has to offer is biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This ride is truly special in the springtime when it’s only open to non-vehicular traffic, giving you and fellow riders the run of the road.

Recently, we had the pleasure of taking this incredibly scenic ride with our friends at Glacier Guides and Montana Raft. While biking the road by yourself offers a peaceful, one-of-a-kind experience, booking a trip with a guide allows you to discover more of the park’s treasures. We really lucked out with our GGMR biking guides—one of them even read to us about the native wildflowers we passed along the way.

Take a look at our unforgettable day:

Gearing up to start biking up the Going-to-the-Sun Road near West Glacier.

This view greeted us right away and we found ourselves falling in love.

Our guides from Glacier Guides and Montana Raft periodically stopped to tell us the history of Glacier National Park.

The park is full of refreshingly breathtaking glacial streams and lakes resting under majestic mountain peaks, much like this one.

We stopped for lunch (which was delicious and provided by our guides) and enjoyed this spectacular view.

It was hard to pull ourselves away from these incredible views.

The early spring landscape in Glacier National Park is something only hikers and bikers get to experience.

It was an absolutely perfect day in Western Montana.

If you plan to bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road, here are a few tips:

  • Leave the logistics to the experts. After spending the day with Glacier Guides and Montana Raft, we know firsthand that you won’t be disappointed.
  • Take advantage of the free bike shuttle service. The biker shuttle runs daily from Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche Creek now through late June or when the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens to vehicular traffic, whichever comes first. You can check the Going-to-the-Sun Road status here.
  • Try riding in the spring before the road is open to vehicular traffic.
  • You can bring your own bike or rent one. We recommend picking up a rental bike at Glacier Guides and Montana Raft or Great Northern Cycle & Ski in Whitefish.

Cheers,

NG

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!

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

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.

Fall in Montana: Driving Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road

Last week, my favorite travel partner and I hopped on Amtrak’s Empire Builder and rode it from Whitefish to East Glacier Park. (You can read the full post on our train trip in Montana here.) And you guys, it was such a fun adventure! But our trip didn’t end there.

After disembarking the train, we decided to head into Glacier National Park and drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. From East Glacier Park, we took Looking Glass Highway (Highway 49) above the Two Medicine Valley and made our way to St. Mary and the east entrance of Glacier National Park.

Looking into Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway.

Looking into Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway.

Fresh snow in Glacier National Park.

Fresh snow in Glacier National Park.

Truth time: Looking Glass Highway is one of my favorite drives in the state.

Truth time: Looking Glass Highway is one of my favorite drives in Montana.

After a quick stop at St. Mary Lodge & Resort, we headed into St. Mary and started driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. And you guys, it was incredibly beautiful!

Take a look…

Hello, St. Mary Valley.

Hello, St. Mary Valley.

Looking up the road from Two Dog Flats.

Looking up the road from Two Dog Flats.

Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Going-to-the-Sun Road.

As we were driving past St. Mary Lake, the reflection practically begged us to pullover. So we did.

As we were driving past St. Mary Lake, the reflection practically begged us to pullover. So we did.

I'm confident I could have sat here for hours.

I’m confident I could have sat here for hours.

Fall colors + St. Mary Lake = me in love.

Fall colors + St. Mary Lake = me in love.

Hi.

Hi.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

Debbie taking in the view.

Debbie taking in the view.

The fall color on the trees and underbrush was starting to really change, so we took a short hike down from Wild Goose Overlook.

The fall color on the trees and underbrush was starting to really change, so we took a short hike down from Wild Goose Overlook.

This is my piece of heaven on earth.

This is my piece of heaven on earth.

Driving up the road out of the tunnel.

Driving up the road out of the tunnel.

Fresh snow on Going to the Sun Mountain.

Fresh snow on Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.

Two Montana-loving traveling buddies.

Two Montana-loving traveling buddies.

You guys, check out the fresh snow on the ground behind me.

You guys, check out the fresh snow on the ground behind me.

The view from Logan Pass. (I love this view, but it's so pretty it almost looks fake. But it's not, I promise.)

The view from Logan Pass. (I love this view, but it’s so pretty it almost looks fake. But it’s not, I promise.)

After driving up to Logan Pass and back down again, we had some free time before we needed to return to East Glacier Park and catch our train home. So we did what any two Glacier National Park-lovin’ gals would do: we drove to Many Glacier.

Take a look…

Two Guns (Glacier Park Boat Company's wooden boat) heading to the head of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Two Guns (Glacier Park Boat Company’s wooden boat) heading to the head of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Two Guns under Mount Grinnell.

Two Guns under Mount Grinnell.

The view from the dining room at Many Glacier Hotel.

The view from the dining room at Many Glacier Hotel.

A few things to note if you plan to visit the east side of Glacier National Park in fall:
-Rental cars are available from spring to fall at Glacier Park Trading Company in East Glacier Park.
-Plan for cool weather. While it was gorgeous when we went, we did bust out our scarves and coats at Logan Pass. Weather in the mountains can change quickly, so always be prepared.
-Bring water.
-If you plan to visit Glacier National Park in the fall and want to stay in one of the historic park lodges or motor inns, plan to book your travel early (like now).
-Don’t be afraid to stay outside of the park. There are plenty of lodging options just outside the park that tend to stay open later in the season.
-If you time it right, you can catch dinner at Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant in East Glacier Park. They’re open for dinner through September 30.
-The Going-to-the-Sun Road is slated to be open in its entirety through October 16, weather dependent. You can check the road status here.

Needless to say, it was a good day.

xo,
TT

Happy 100 Years, National Park Service

This week, we’re officially commemorating the centennial of the National Park Service. While we’ve been celebrating all year (you can read more about how we’ve been marking 100 years of stewardship here and here), the official century mark is Thursday, August 25. And you guys, that’s a BIG birthday.

Cheers to 100 years.

Cheers to 100 years.

And here’s the thing about birthdays: in my family, we always celebrate them. When it’s your birthday, everyone in attendance at your dinner, party, etc., takes a turn and tells the birthday boy or girl what they love about him or her.

So, in honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, here’s a few things I love about our national parks.

1. The national parks are truly America’s best idea. If you’ve ever been to a national park, especially Glacier National Park, you realize what an incredible place it is. There’s nowhere on earth that’s quite like Glacier and there’s a real reverence, peace and sense of awe that accompanies every visit.

A red travels along the Going-to-the-Sun Road as part of the FDR commemorative trip in Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier NPS Flickr/Jacob W. Frank

A red travels along the Going-to-the-Sun Road as part of the FDR commemorative trip in Glacier National Park. Photo: Glacier NPS Flickr/Jacob W. Frank

2. They are more than just a pretty face. Sure, pretty much all of our national parks are beautiful. But they’re so much more than that. In Glacier National Park, evidence of human use dates back 10,000 years and today, this park has a diverse past that’s home to American Indian history, mining, hunting, fur trapping and settlers. Meanwhile, in Yellowstone National Park researchers have found that there were places in the park that were used around 11,000 years ago and that Salish (who called the Bitterroot Valley home) spent time in and around the park 3,000 years ago.

Blackfeet tipis. Photo: Glacier NPS Flickr/Jacob W. Frank

Blackfeet tipis. Photo: Glacier NPS Flickr/Jacob W. Frank

3. National parks were created for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. If you ask me, creating national parks was one of the most selfless things the government has ever done. Sure, national parks can get crowded and maybe people don’t always observe rules, safety regulations, etc. but the point is that they are there enjoying our most precious places. PS: if you are visiting one of the national parks in the West, read this blog and follow the rules

The Roosevelt Arch welcomes visitors to Yellowstone National Park. Photo: YNP Flickr

The Roosevelt Arch welcomes visitors to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana. Photo: Yellowstone NPS Flickr

4. I love how they make me feel. There are some places (you could easily switch out the word places for people or experiences) that have the ability to make you feel at peace. For as long as I can remember, Glacier National Park has been that place for me. And I can’t really put into words why, all I know is how I feel when I spent time in the Crown of the Continent.

One of my favorite places: Two Medicine.

One of my favorite places: Two Medicine.

5. National parks are always within reach. There are certain people and places that I know without a doubt that I can call or visit when I need them. If you ask me (let’s just pretend you did), our national parks and national historic sites have been cultivated to be within reach of all people, no matter where you’re from, how much money you make, your abilities or what you believe. The National Park Service is more than just national parks; it’s many of our country’s national monument and other historical properties (including historic trails, heritage corridors and battlefields). Plus, the National Park Service offers several fee-free dates that give everyone the opportunity to visit a national park site near them.

Many trails in the park are accessible for visitors of various abilities, including Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake. Photo: Glacier NPS Flickr/Jacob W. Frank

Many trails in the park are accessible for visitors of various abilities, including Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake. Photo: Glacier NPS Flickr/Jacob W. Frank

If you want to join me in celebrating the National Park Service Centennial, leave a comment and let me know what YOU love about our national parks.

A few things to note:
-Montana’s Glacier National Park is hosting an InstaMeet on Thursday, August 25. The public is welcome to attend; meet in the Apgar Village parking area at 6 p.m.
-Many units of the National Park Service are hosting InstaMeets. Check out the full schedule here and plan to attend one near you.
-Entry into all national parks is free August 25 – 28, 2016.
-See more centennial events taking place in Glacier National Park here.
-Be sure to share your national park love by using #FindYourPark on twitter and instagram.
-Check out more happenings and celebrations for the National Park Service Centennial here.

xo,
TT

The Best Hidden Gems in Glacier National Park

When I think of Glacier National Park, the first thing that comes to mind is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. After all, the 50 miles of this two-lane highway takes travelers to some of the most stunning landscapes in Glacier Park. But I have to tell you that there’s so much more to the Crown of the Continent than just driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The tunnel on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The tunnel on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

In an effort to help you get the most of your visit to Montana’s Glacier National Park, I’ve rounded up some of the park’s best hidden gems. 

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road. Okay, we all KNOW this is not a hidden gem, but the timing of when to drive it is indeed a hidden gem. My best advice: go early in the morning (as in be through the park entrance and on the road before 8 a.m.) or in late afternoon (we’re talking after 5 p.m). Most of the visitors to the road are hitting it during late morning, mid-day or afternoon and to be honest, the road gets really crowded during this time of day during July and August.

Taking in the view from a roadside pullout.

Taking in the view from a roadside pullout.

2. Take a boat tour at Rising Sun. While there are many places to take a guided tour with Glacier Park Boat Company in Glacier National Park, Rising Sun (located on the east side of the park on St. Mary Lake) is one of the lesser-visited destinations. Plus, this lake cruise is different from some of the others, due to the incredible landscapes and history of this side of the park.

Little Chief cruising on St. Mary Lake. Photo: Tyrel Johnson

Little Chief cruising on St. Mary Lake. Photo: Tyrel Johnson

3. Enjoy a cocktail at Many Glacier Hotel. Truth time: there’s limited lodging availability at Many Glacier Hotel during July and August, but don’t let that stop you from visiting this incredible place. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, it’s well worth making the drive to the Many Glacier Valley and enjoying a cocktail (I recommend the huckleberry smash) on the massive deck that overlooks Swiftcurrent Lake.

Taking in the view of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Taking in the view of Swiftcurrent Lake.

4. Cruise the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Sun Tours. Offering three tours daily (two tours depart from the east side of Glacier Park , while one departs from the west side), Sun Tours provides an incredible look at the Backbone of the World from the perspective of the Blackfeet Tribe. For more photos of what to expect on a tour, check them out on instagram.
Sidenote: I’ve taken one of these tours and they are amazing! Not only do you get to sit back and soak in the beauty of the park, but it’s incredible to be able to learn about the park from Blackfeet tribal members. 

Views of Mount Oberlin, Birdwoman Basin and Mount Cannon. Photo: Sun Tours/Bear Star Photography

Views of Mount Oberlin, Birdwoman Basin and Mount Cannon. Photo: Sun Tours/Bear Star Photography

5. Visit Kintla Lake. It’s no secret that I love Polebridge and Bowman Lake, but if you want to explore a place that’s even more off-the-beaten-path than those two, head to Kintla Lake. While it’s located in the North Fork of the park and is fairly close to Polebridge and Bowman, it takes longer to get there which means one thing: fewer people. Plus, it’s beautiful.
Sidenote: the road out to Kintla Lake is pretty rugged, so be sure you have a high-clearance vehicle (SUV, truck, etc.) and take your time. 

Kintla Lake. Photo: Tim Rains/NPS

Kintla Lake. Photo: Tim Rains/NPS

Happy summer!

xo,
TT