Category Archives: Montana Fun

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. So 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 dollar 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 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.

Enter to win here:

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

Montana’s Top 5 Backcountry Skiing Tips

It’s the middle of winter, Mother Nature just hit us with some serious snow and, let’s face it, we all have a bit of cabin fever. It’s a good thing Montana’s cold-weather recreation options keep expanding. From miles of groomed trails to acres of untouched terrain, our mountains are waiting for you to come shred some powder. And since we know that planning a vacation can sometimes feel overwhelming, we made a little list to help you out of your winter rut.

1. Cat Skiing for Experts and Amateurs Alike

Photo: Great Northern Powder Guides

If you’re ready for some pristine high-country exploration in our awe-inspiring outdoors, Great Northern Powder Guides out of Whitefish is ready to help you climb more than 10,000 vertical feet into some of Montana’s best backcountry terrain. The fine folks at GNPG tailor their trips to every skill level—from families to seasoned experts—and they also specialize in avalanche safety training, so, rest assured, you’re in good hands. And if you’re looking for an overnight adventure, they offer backcountry yurts for a truly unique on-the-mountain lodging experience.

2. We Ski With a Little Help From Our Friends

Pro skier KC Deane drops powder pillows in the Great Bear Wilderness while internationally famous photographer Chris Burkard looks on. Photo: Devin Schmidt of Glacier Adventure Guides

Our friends at Glacier Adventure Guides are the experts among experts when it comes to backcountry skiing. These self-described “igloo-dwelling powder hounds” are always ready for a wild time, and they aren’t messing around when it comes to keeping you safe. They’re all certified in First Aid and CPR and trained in Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC), mountain travel and rescue, and avalanche awareness. These powder hounds are powder ready, just like our mountains.

3. Ski the Park

While winter in Glacier National Park means fewer lodging options and limited road access, it also means epic backcountry skiing. The National Park Service is our go-to resource for all Glacier National Park safety help. Their website shares safety tips for skiing, snowshoeing, trails and area closure reports. It’s always a good idea to check out avalanche reports and road closures before heading in. See Glacier Country’s Going-to-the-Sun Road status feed here. And when in doubt, ask a ranger! After gathering your safety gear, pick up your backcountry pass and a skiing and snowshoeing brochure from the park headquarters at the Apgar Visitor Center on your way into this backcountry winter wonderland.

4. Something Borrowed

LB Snow, Missoula, MT Photo: David Bosler

Not everyone has all the right gear to face the exhilarating elements and snow-covered landscape of Western Montana, but someone here always has what you need. If you don’t have a great uncle in the backcountry with 70 years of alpine gear in a trunk ready to lend out, try out one of these local rental shops:

5. We’re Here for You

Glacier National Park

We know Glacier Country like the backs of our hands…or gloves (depending on the season), and we’re always checking weather and trail reports because making sure you’re taking advantage of the best backcountry conditions is one of our favorite things to do.

We also love to chat, whether by phone, 1.800.388.5072, or live message, so get in touch anytime Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and let’s plan your Montana backcountry ski adventure together.

Find even more inspiration and enter today for a chance to win monthly prizes in Western Montana’s Glacier Country at glaciermt.com.

Happy Trails to 2016, From This Montana Girl

You guys, first things first: I’m so glad we’re friends. When I think back on this blog, I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to take you on my Montana-loving journeys and share all the things that make Big Sky Country so special to me. I love reading your comments and receiving your emails about the latest blog posts, and I really love when you share your memories of Montana, family or life with me. So from the bottom of my windblown, silly, happy and joyful heart, I want to say one thing: thank you. Thank you for letting me be part of your lives.

My Montana.

My Montana.

Maybe it’s the holiday season or just taking the time to think about another year passing as we all gear up for the arrival of 2017, but I’ve been feeling really sentimental about this past year. 2016 held a plethora of adventures with some of my favorite people, from snowshoeing in Glacier National Park to the #PictureMontana trip with friends both new and old and taking the trip of a lifetime into the heart of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness to my family reunion at Placid Lake State Park. When I look back on all of the life that was packed into the last 12 months, I can’t help but be happy. So, just because, I thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the best Montana moments of 2016.

Take a look…

Starting 2016 at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.

Starting 2016 at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.

Ranger led snowshoeing in Glacier National Park, Glacier Country

Snowshoeing in Glacier National Park.

Taking in the stillness of winter in Glacier National Park.

Taking in the stillness of winter in Glacier National Park.

Several of my Montana memories involve this lady: photographer Donnie Sexton.

Several of my Montana memories involve this lady: photographer Donnie Sexton.

Stopping to take in the view along I-90 near Alberton, Montana.

Stopping to take in the view along I-90 near Alberton, Montana.

Perhaps my most favorite barn shot, ever.

Perhaps my most favorite barn shot, ever.

After work, I headed out west of Missoula to watch the soft evening light fall over the valley.

After work one day, I headed out west of Missoula to watch the soft evening light fall over the valley.

2016 also brought my first-ever visit to Cody, Wyoming.

2016 also brought my first-ever visit to Cody, Wyoming.

My traveling partner and I fell in love with downtown Cody, Wyoming.

Downtown Cody, Wyoming.

The first bike outing of the year on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The first bike outing of the year on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

This last year also brought two blissful, almost picture-perfect days at Flathead Lake Lodge.

This last year also brought two blissful, almost picture-perfect days at Flathead Lake Lodge.

In May, I was able to welcome 17 writers to Western Montana. Definitely one of my most memorable trips ever (in the best way possible).

In May, I was able to welcome 17 writers (who I’m lucky enough to call my friends) to Western Montana. Definitely one of my most memorable trips ever (in the best way possible).

One of the most special experiences of 2016: watching American Indian dancers perform at Ninepipes Lodge.

One of the most special experiences of 2016: watching American Indian dancers perform at Ninepipes Lodge.

Another thing I've learned: it's important to capture memories.

Another thing I’ve learned: it’s important to capture memories.

I also crossed another destination off my bucket list: Bighorn Canyon in Southeast Montana/Northeast Wyoming.

I also crossed another destination off my bucket list: Bighorn Canyon in Southeast Montana/Northeast Wyoming.

The second bike outing on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

The second bike outing on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Home. PS: when your hometown is as small as mine, you have no problem laying on Main Street to take photos.

Home. PS: when your hometown is as small as mine, you have no problem laying on Main Street to take photos.

Holland Lake Road, with Swan Mountain views.

Holland Lake Road, with Swan Mountain views.

Just a quick visit to my favorite spot with one of my favorite girls.

Just a quick visit to my favorite spot with one of my favorite girls.

This past summer, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and went on a week-long pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

This past summer, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and went on a week-long pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

My friend Amy taking in the view of the Chinese Wall in The Bob.

My friend Amy taking in the view of the Chinese Wall in The Bob.

For as long as I can remember, seeing the Chinese Wall in person has been one of my dreams.

For as long as I can remember, seeing the Chinese Wall in person has been one of my dreams.

Special thanks to my friend Tommy for this shot.

Special thanks to my friend Tommy for this shot.

The crew standing on top of the world.

The crew standing on top of the world.

This morning view was one of my favorites from the entire year.

This morning view was one of my favorites from the entire year.

A must-do activity: driving Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road in fall.

A must-do activity: visiting Glacier National Park in fall.

Don't tell anyone, but this lady is one of my favorites.

This little lady is one of the best adventure partners in the land. 

There's something about a dirt road and Montana.

There’s something about a dirt road and Montana.

Adventuring on Two Medicine Lake in fall.

Adventuring on Two Medicine Lake in fall.

Sunrise over the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park.

Sunrise over the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park.

Fall at Travelers' Rest State Park. My traveling friend and I (see previous photo) were the only ones there.

Fall at Travelers’ Rest State Park. My traveling friend and I were the only ones there.

A favorite fall memory: driving Chief Mountain Highway.

A favorite fall memory: driving Chief Mountain Highway.

One thing I've learned this year: sometimes you just have to go.

One thing I’ve learned this year: sometimes you just have to go.

For those of you who have been my adventure buddies this year, thanks for the memories. And for those of you who’ve kept up with my travels this year, thank you for letting me share my Montana with you.

xo,
TT

Hitting the Road in Search of Montana’s Best Fall Colors

It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of fall in Montana. In fact, I think it may be my favorite season. But to be honest, the changing colors of autumn in Big Sky Country tend to get overlooked for other more colorful destinations. Which I totally get. If you ask me, one of the reasons Montana is glanced over as a fall color destination is because people just don’t know that we actually have fall foliage here.

A perfect fall scene of the Bitterroot Mountains in Hamilton.

A perfect fall scene of the Bitterroot Mountains in Hamilton.

Which is why I’m glad my buddy Andy Austin, a local Montana photographer, decided to embark on a Montana Fall Tour in which he drove hundreds of miles to soak up, play in and photograph autumn’s beauty. He traveled from Bighorn Canyon in the southeast corner of Montana (read more about the canyon here) to the expansive Paradise Valley and the ice-carved peaks of Glacier National Park on his search for Montana’s best fall colors.

Montana's Paradise Valley.

Montana’s Paradise Valley. Photo: Andy Austin

And while I lived vicariously through him on instagram while he was hitting the road, he said I could share his photos on the blog so you can have an up-close look at fall in Montana.

Take a look at his trip through Western Montana’s Glacier Country

The Middle Fork of the Flathead River from Belton Bridge in West Glacier.

The Middle Fork of the Flathead River from Belton Bridge in West Glacier. Photo: Andy Austin

A glimpse at Glacier National Park.

A glimpse at Glacier National Park. Photo: Andy Austin

A perfect fall sunset from Oberlin Peak in Glacier National Park.

A perfect fall sunset from Oberlin Peak in Glacier National Park. Photo: Andy Austin

Looking into the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park.

Looking into the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park. Photo: Andy Austin

Fall at Whitefish Lake.

Fall at Whitefish Lake. Photo: Andy Austin

Tamarack trees (and the most beautiful fog I've ever seen) at Salmon Lake State Park.

Tamarack trees (and the most beautiful fog I’ve ever seen) at Salmon Lake State Park. Photo: Andy Austin

Hands down, the Seeley-Swan Valley is one of the best places to view tamarack trees (AKA western larch).

The Seeley-Swan Valley is one of the best places to view tamarack trees (AKA western larch). Photo: Andy Austin 

Soaking up Missoula's colors from Waterworks Hill.

Soaking up Missoula’s colors from Waterworks Hill. Photo: Andy Austin

To see more of fall in Montana, check out the #MontanaFallTour on instagram.

Oh and Andy…don’t forget to stop and pick me up on your next Montana road trip.

xo,
TT

Fall in Montana: Exploring the Bitterroot Valley

I think L.M. Montgomery said it best when she wrote, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Truth be told, October (with November being a close second) is one of the most underrated months of the year, especially in Montana. And I get it. Weather in Montana can be a little unpredictable, but if you’re bold enough to visit in October you’re going to find that it’s actually quite lovely. Plus, when the weather has one of her “moods” she typically snaps out of it pretty quickly and returns to her pleasant self, complete with sunshine and gorgeous fall foliage.

October in Hamilton.

October in Hamilton, Montana.

And as we all know I’m in a constant search for fall colors in October, my road trip buddy and I decided to hit the road to Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Located just south of Missoula, the Bitterroot Valley is flanked by the Bitterroot Mountains on the west and the Sapphire Mountains on the east. It’s also home to the Bitterroot River, lots of cute towns, incredible history and it still has plenty of open spaces to explore. And while we only had a few hours to explore, we soaked up as many incredible fall moments as we could with stops at Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, the Daly Mansion in Hamilton and St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville.

Take a look…

As we left Missoula, a soft snow started to fall. (I told you Montana's weather was dramatic.)

As we left Missoula, a soft snow started to fall. (I told you Montana’s weather was moody.)

And just like that, she snapped out of it and sunshine returned.

And just like that, she snapped out of it and sunshine began to return.

Our first stop: Travelers' Rest.

Our first stop: Travelers’ Rest.

Crossing the bridge at Lolo Creek.

Crossing the bridge at Lolo Creek.

Prior to being used by the Lewis & Clark Expedition, this site of Travelers' Rest was used by Montana's First Nations.

Prior to being used by the Lewis & Clark Expedition, the site of Travelers’ Rest was used by Montana’s First Nations as a gathering place and trading grounds.

We also made a stop to see the Historic St. Mary's Mission, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in September 2016.

We also made a stop to see the Historic St. Mary’s Mission, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in September 2016.

Main Street in Victor, Montana, looks like it's out of a western movie set.

Main Street in Victor, Montana, looks like it’s out of a western movie set.

The Bitterroot River (with the Bitterroot Mountains) in the background.

The Bitterroot River (with the Bitterroot Mountains) in the background.

Up next: the Daly Mansion Museum AKA one of my favorite places.

Up next: the Daly Mansion Museum AKA one of my favorite places.

The view of the grounds from the front porch of the Daly Mansion.

The view of the grounds from the front porch of the Daly Mansion. The mansion’s grounds are one of the best places in Western Montana to see fall colors.

No matter how many times I see a barn in Montana's countryside, it warms my heart.

No matter how many times I see a barn in Montana’s countryside, it warms my heart.

You'll also find small farms and ranches up and down the valley.

You’ll also find small farms and ranches up and down the valley.

Our last stop (and one of my favorite places): the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. PS: Read more about the refuge here.

Our last stop: the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. PS: Read more about the refuge here.

If you plan to explore the Bitterroot Valley, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
-The valley is long (as in 96 miles long) and there’s so much to explore. I’d recommend noting a few of the key places you want to visit and then just see where the trip takes you. Basically, have a flexible plan for your visit.
-Take time to stroll the communities in the valley. Stevensville, Hamilton and Darby have charming downtowns with locally owned shops, boutiques and restaurants.
-If you like local beer, the valley is home to some great breweries. Check out Lolo Peak Brewing Company in Lolo, Bandit Brewing Co. in Darby, Blacksmith Brewing Company and Wildwood Brewery in Stevensville, and Higherground Brewing and Bitterroot Brewing Company in Hamilton. PS: the fish tacos at Bitterroot Brewing are amazing and Higherground Brewing has yummy pizza and salads.
-While you can do a day trip to the Bitterroot Valley from Missoula, it’s definitely worth staying a night or two. For lodging options, consider Alta Ranch in Darby (be sure to bring your fishing rod), Bitterroot Cabins in Hamilton, Time After Time Bed & Breakfast in Victor and Stevensville Hotel in Stevensville.
-If you’re doing a day trip, be sure to travel on Highway 93 one way and the Eastside Highway on your return trip.
-There’s abundant outdoor recreation options in the valley and it’s perfect for hiking, biking, bird watching, fly-fishing and camping.
-Be sure to check out the Bitterroot Trail, a 50-mile-long walking and biking path that connects Missoula and Hamilton.

And as for me, I’ll always be glad to live in a world (and a place like Montana) where there are Octobers.

xo,
TT

9 Must-See Attractions in Montana’s Mission Valley

Montana has some big names and well-known places (I’m talking about you Glacier National Park), but the truth of the matter is this: some of the coolest places are located off the beaten path and come in the form of small towns, destinations at the end of gravel roads, local shops and colorful characters. Keeping this in mind, last week I set out to explore one of Western Montana’s most-underrated places: the Mission Valley. And you guys, it was a perfect fall day that had picture-perfect views around every corner.

Hello Mission Mountains.

Hello Mission Mountains.

But, as it goes with many off-the-beaten-path places, it can be hard to know where to start or what to see when you’re adventuring around a new destination.

To make it easier, I rounded up 9 must-see attractions in Montana’s Mission Valley. 

1. The Mission Mountains from Ravalli Hill. Hands down, this is one of the best views in Montana and it’s not really off the beaten path, as it’s right on Highway 93. But here’s the thing: this view is best soaked in by pulling off the highway into the scenic overlook and spending at least a few minutes looking at one of the wildest mountain ranges in the West.
Insider tip: this is also one of the best places to catch sunrise.

My favorite view in the Mission Valley.

My favorite view in the Mission Valley.

2. McDonald Lake. I found out about McDonald Lake from one of my favorite places: instagram. Several locals were posting photos from this lake, located a short drive back in the Mission Mountains, to their instagram feeds and I knew it was a place I needed to visit. It’s a gorgeous destination to take a hike, have a picnic, cast a fishing line or simply sit and relax.
One thing to note: the lake is on tribal land, so you do need to purchase a recreation permit from the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.

McDonald Lake last spring.

McDonald Lake last spring.

3. The National Bison Range. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the National Bison Range (you can read more about my day trip to the range here), but regardless this is one of the best places to visit in the Mission Valley, especially for wildlife watching and photography.

This pile of antlers welcomes visitors to the National Bison Range.

This pile of antlers welcomes visitors to the National Bison Range.

4. Great Gray Gifts and Ninepipes Lodge. Located just off Highway 93, Great Gray Gifts is brand new to the Mission Valley (they opened in May 2016). Owned by the adorable husband-and-wife team from Ninepipes Lodge, the merchandise at Gray Gray Gifts is all hand-selected and and includes many made in Montana products. Next door, you’ll find Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant. If you’re looking to stay and play in the Mission Valley, the lodge is a great home base.

Oh hey, Great Gray Gifts.

Oh hey, Great Gray Gifts. Photo: @greatgraygifts instagram

The view from the patio at Ninepipes Lodge.

The view from the patio at Ninepipes Lodge.

5. Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Located next door to Ninepipes Lodge is one of the most interesting museums in Montana—Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Operated by one of the valley’s most well-known families, the Cheffs, the museum has a well-curated collection of hundreds of Western Plains Indian artifacts, as well as exhibits on early settlers, the fur trade and cowboy way of life.
Insider tip: take the guided tour, if possible.

Handcrafted moccasins at the museum.

Handcrafted moccasins at the museum.

6. Mission Mountain Golf Course. If you like golf (or you’re really good at driving the golf cart like me), this course in Ronan has one of the most stunning backdrops in Western Montana.

Playing 18 holes with this backdrop? Yes please.

Playing 18 holes with this backdrop? Yes please.

7. Stella’s Deli & Bakery. Fun fact: I get really sick of eating sandwiches (except peanut butter and jelly – those never get old). But I’m 100 percent confident that I’ll never tire of the sandwiches at Stella’s Deli & Bakery in Ronan. I’m not sure if it’s the homemade buns they serve them on, but this is THE place to stop for lunch in Ronan.

I'll take seven cinnamon rolls please.

I’ll take seven cinnamon rolls and two turkey sandwiches, please.

8. Muley Bluz-Cowboy Toys. It’s no secret that I love cowboys and authentic western offerings, so believe me when I tell you that I’m obsessed with Muley Bluz. Located on Main Street in Ronan, I randomly stumbled into this shop last week and had a great 45 minutes of trying on chaps (also called chinks, depending on who you’re talking to), sitting in saddles and talking the owner’s ear off. Long story short: don’t visit the Mission Valley without stopping into Muley Bluz.

Not kidding: the saddle in the very front is the MOST comfortable saddle I've ever say my booty on.

Not kidding: the saddle in the very front is the MOST comfortable saddle I’ve ever sat my booty on.

9. The People’s Center. If you asked me what my favorite museum is in Montana, The People’s Center in Pablo would be among my top choices. The museum shares the history and culture of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes and has artifacts and exhibits on display. But if you want to really learn about the history of Montana’s first nation, take the guided tour. The center’s tour guides will share incredible insights into the tribal histories, traditions and more and, to be totally truthful, it’s one of the best guided tours I’ve ever taken.

The People's Center at night.

The People’s Center at night.

Happy adventuring!

xo,
TT

Hidden in Plain Sight: Montana’s National Bison Range

Truth time: some of Montana’s most incredible places are hidden in plain sight. One such example is the National Bison Range.

The National Bison Range is located in Moiese, Montana on a small mountain that's connected to the Mission Mountains by a spur.

The National Bison Range is located in Moiese, Montana on a small mountain that’s connected to the Mission Mountains by a spur.

This pile of elk antlers, collected on the range, welcome visitors to the range and its visitor center.

This pile of elk antlers, collected on the range, welcome visitors to the range and its visitor center.

Located just off Highway 93 north of Ravalli, the National Bison Range has 18,500 acres of terrain that’s home to an estimated 350 herd of bison, as well as antelope, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, coyote and black bear. It’s also home to three scenic drives: Red Sleep Mountain Drive, Prairie Drive and West Loop. Since snowfall will soon close Red Sleep Mountain Drive, a gorgeous 19-mile-long one-way road (and one of my favorite drives in Western Montana) that takes visitors through the heart of the range, I grabbed a pal and we headed to the National Bison Range to make the drive before winter arrives.

And while we could definitely tell that fall has officially arrived in Montana, it was such a beautiful day.

Take a look…

Welcome to the National Bison Range!

Welcome to the National Bison Range!

The start of the drives: to the right is Red Sleep; to the left is West Loop.

The start of the drives: to the right is Red Sleep; to the left is West Loop.

This guy slowly made his way along the road.

This guy slowly made his way along the road.

After chowing on some grass, he started making his climb up the mountain.

After chowing on some grass, he started making his climb up the mountain.

The view from the backside of the range on Red Sleep Drive.

The view from the backside of the range on Red Sleep Drive.

Early fall brings incredible weather patterns to Montana, resulting in skies like this.

Early fall brings incredible weather patterns to Montana, resulting in this sky.

This bison was taking a nap. I think.

This bison was taking a nap (I think).

We saw several bighorn sheep along the drive's route.

We saw several bighorn sheep along the drive’s route.

Driving through history and the highest water mark of Lake Missoula, a massive prehistoric lake that covered this area 15,000 years ago.

Driving through history and the highest water mark of Lake Missoula, a massive prehistoric lake that covered this area 15,000 years ago.

This buck's antlers were velvety gorgeous.

This buck’s antlers were velvety gorgeous. He also did a great job blending into the landscape.

Some antelope, trying to blend in. They stood there motionless.

Some antelope, trying to blend in. They stood there totally motionless.

After seeing a handful of bison along Red Sleep Drive, we saw this massive herd as we were getting ready to leave.

After seeing a handful of bison along Red Sleep Drive, we saw this massive herd as we were getting ready to leave.

A few things to keep in mind when visiting the National Bison Range: 
-The bison range is open year-round and each season offers a chance to view wildlife.
-There are three drives on the range: Red Sleep Mountain Drive (open mid-May to early October), West Loop and Prairie Drive. Both West Loop and Prairie drive are open year-round. Learn more about all three drives here.
-Vehicles over 30 feet long are not allowed on Red Sleep Mountain Drive.
-The National Bison Range is an ideal location for viewing wildlife and remember that they are most active at dusk and dawn. The NBR has helpful hints for how and where to photograph wildlife on the range here.
-When visiting the range, take time to explore its nearby communities including Moiese, Ravalli, St. Ignatius and Charlo.
-If you’re looking to overnight near the National Bison Range (allowing for easy access to early morning views and prime wildlife-watching), check out Ninepipes Lodge near Charlo.
-Front gate hours are 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
-Cost to visit the range is $5 vehicle.

And if you need a personal guide on your visit to the National Bison Range? Call us (or actually tweet us at @GlacierMT)!

xo,
TT

All Aboard for Montana: A Day Trip on Amtrak’s Empire Builder

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I do a pretty good job of taking advantage of the offerings that are found in my Montana backyard. Except, I don’t always try everything that I wish I would. Take for example Amtrak’s Empire Builder line. It runs between Chicago and Seattle and passes through Montana’s northern tier two times per day, making stops in Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby and Havre.

Amtrak's Empire Builder traveling the tracks near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling the tracks near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak

Ready for the truth?

Here it comes: the last time I rode Amtrak’s Empire Builder I was six years old and on a first grade field trip when we rode the train from Shelby, Montana to East Glacier Park, Montana which—by the way—I thought was so awesome. And since I haven’t been six years old for a few years, it seemed like it was time that I got back in the train-lovin’ saddle and took a ride through my own backyard. So I grabbed one of my favorite traveling companions and we climbed aboard the Empire Builder. And you guys, it was pretty fun.

Take a look…

Our starting point: Whitefish, Montana.

Our starting point: Whitefish, Montana.

Waiting for the train to come in.

Waiting for the train to come in.

Here's our ride.

Here’s our ride.

Making our way to our seats.

Making our way to our seats.

Fall colors were starting to arrive along the river.

Fall colors were starting to arrive along the river.

Loved this view looking back west out of the train.

Loved this view looking back west out of the train.

Something I learned on this trip: it's really hard to get good photos from the inside of a train car looking out.

Something I learned on this trip: it’s really hard to get good photos from the inside of a train car looking out. 😉

The observation car was my favorite spot on the train.

My favorite spot on the train: the observation car.

Making friends with a National Park volunteer in the observation car.

Making friends with a National Park volunteer in the observation car.

Hello, gorgeous.

Hello, gorgeous.

Coming down off Marias Pass, you're rewarded with this view.

Coming down off Marias Pass, we were rewarded with this view.

Entering the Blackfeet Nation. Traveling from west to east, you abruptly notice the change in Montana's topography as you hit the plains.

Entering the Blackfeet Nation. Traveling from west to east, you abruptly notice the change in Montana’s topography as you hit the plains.

Arriving at our destination: East Glacier Park, Montana.

Arriving at our destination: East Glacier Park, Montana.

The train station at East Glacier Park.

The train station at East Glacier Park.

Displays from the Blackfeet Nation inside the train depot at East Glacier Park.

Displays from the Blackfeet Nation inside the train depot at East Glacier Park.

It's official: we love train travel in Montana.

It’s official: we love train travel in Montana.

A few things to note when riding Amtrak’s Empire Builder to (or through) Montana:
-Go with the flow. Trains aren’t known for always operating on time; our eastbound train was 90 minutes late, but I’ve found that when doing a trip like this where things can tend to run behind, it’s easier to just roll with it. You’ll be happier and pleasantly surprised when it’s on time.
-If you can, snag a seat in the observation car. During the late spring, summer and fall, Amtrak’s Trails & Rails program has volunteers from the National Park Service on the train who offer interpretive commentary from Seattle, Washington to Shelby, Montana.
-You can get the best pictures by placing your camera as close to the window as possible (thanks to NPS guides who shared that insider tip!).
-If you’re getting on or off in Whitefish, West Glacier or East Glacier Park, plan to arrive early so you can check out the train stations. The Whitefish station has an on-site museum, while East Glacier Park has interesting and historic photos from the early time of train travel to the area.
-Don’t be afraid to ask the conductors questions about the train, best views, etc. They literally know everything there is to know and are incredibly nice.

xo,
TT

My 5 Favorite Photo Moments in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness

You know those times when you’ve just experienced something amazing that you don’t even know how to start putting the experience into words? Well, that’s me right now at this exact moment as I’m trying to write about my week-long pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness with Mills Wilderness Adventures

And since I don’t currently have the words, for now I thought I’d show you my top 5 photography moments into a place that’s affectionately called “The Bob” by locals.

Take a look…

1. The Chinese Wall. 

Taking in the view from the south end of the wall.

Taking in the view from the south end of the wall.

2. Morning light in White River. 

Looking at our tents from the cook tent.

Looking at our tents from the cook tent.

3. Wildflowers + Gladiator Mountain. 

After crossing rocky terrain, this lush mountain meadow was an incredible surprise.

After crossing rocky terrain, this mountain meadow was an incredible surprise.

4. Forest light. 

Turk walking his horse down a short path to the river.

Turk walking his horse down a short path to the river.

5. The morning wrangle for horses + mules. 

Each morning, a wrangler would go and gather the horses and mules.

Each morning, a wrangler would go and gather the horses and mules.

Can’t wait to share more about the trip!

xo,
TT