Category Archives: Native American Culture

Winter Road Trips and Scenic Drives in Western Montana

Road trips are often equated with summertime, or at least with the warmer months (and by warmer we mean no threat of snowy road conditions). But here’s the thing: we recreate outdoors all year here in Western Montana, so we’re always on the road driving from one ski hill, Nordic paradise or snowmobile trail to another, and we’re here to tell you this—the winter panoramas from the pavement here are pretty magical, and the stops along the way are, too. 

Winter views in Western Montana, like East Glacier’s Dancing Lady Mountain, will not disappoint. Photo: Tracey Vivar

A winter road trip in Glacier Country is always good for a snow-season refresh, whether you get out for a few hours or a whole day, or you turn your travels into an overnight adventure. Never-ending bluebird skies against pure white snow sparkling in the sunshine? Yes please.

Here are a few of our favorite winter drives in Western Montana:

RAVALLI TO ST. REGIS – TOUR 200 + ST. REGIS/PARADISE SCENIC BYWAY
53 Miles
Just outside of Ravalli, head west on Highway 200 traveling along with the Flathead River as it snakes through scenic valley vistas. You’ll pass through the small towns of Dixon—famous for their mouthwatering Dixon Melons—and Perma. As this two-lane highway winds down the valley, the mountains continue to get more and more grand. Head south on Highway 135, following the Clark Fork River down the St. Regis/Paradise Scenic Byway. Stop for a soak at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort or a meal at their historic Harwood House Restaurant. Continue south down this picturesque mountain highway until you reach St. Regis. Stop at the St. Regis Travel Center for gas and a huckleberry shake, and don’t miss the free live trout aquarium!

Highway 135 follows alongside the Clark Fork River, making for a gorgeous and fun drive. Photo: Jerrie Bullock

MISSOULA TO SULA HIGHWAY 93
82 Miles
This four-lane highway takes you straight through the always-gorgeous Bitterroot Valley. From Missoula, drive south towards Lolo, admiring the many towering peaks of this picturesque range, like Lolo and St. Mary. Make an appointment with the Holt Heritage Museum for a history lesson on cowboy culture, American Indians and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. From Lolo, head to Florence and on through Stevensville, Victor and finally to Hamilton. Continue south on 93 until you see the right-hand turn for Lake Como Road. Follow that until you reach the Lake Como Group Picnic Site. Check the Bitterroot National Forest website for trail information, or just enjoy the views of Lake Como underneath Western Montana’s El Capitan and West Como Peak.

Jump back on Highway 93 towards the quaint, Old West town of Darby, where you can fuel up on food and gas, or extend your trip with a stay at Alta Ranch—a great place for cross-country skiing. Highway 93 takes you past Lost Trail Powder Mountain and Chief Joseph Pass for more cross-country-country skiing, snowshoeing or winter hiking.

HIGHWAY 12 SCENIC DRIVE
70 Miles
Highway 12 into Idaho is one spectacular drive, especially in the winter. This two-lane highway weaves through the lush Lolo National Forest. Check out Travelers’ Rest State Park for a little Lewis and Clark history. Highway 12 follows West Fork Lolo Creek, and with the density of the trees and slope of the surrounding mountains, this beautiful drive makes you feel far away from it all. Take a much-deserved stop Lolo Hot Springs for a mineral soak, a warm meal or place to rest your head. Lolo Hot Springs is close to easy snowshoe and cross-country trails (Lolo Pass). Head back towards Lolo to enjoy a different view, but take it easy on this winding mountain road. When you’re back in Lolo, treat yourself to a steak dinner.

WHITEFISH TO WEST GLACIER
26 Miles
Thousands travel this route throughout the summer months, but as a winter drive, it’s just as stunning. Begin in Whitefish with views of a winter Whitefish Lake, or take a fat-bike ride around Beaver Lake with Whitefish Bike Retreat. Outside of Whitefish, head south on Highway 93 to Highway 40 toward Columbia Falls. Highway 40 becomes Highway 2 as you drive into the mouth of this breathtaking canyon. Covered in ice and snow, the Flathead River is truly stunning. Stop in Hungry Horse at the Huckleberry Patch for a slice of homemade Montana pie or fudge. Continue on Highway 2, making a stop at Glacier Distilling Company in Coram (be sure to designate your driver). Highway 2 passes through West Glacier, with access to Glacier National Park. For winter access to Lake McDonald, head north to Apgar Village. The Apgar Visitor Center has weekend hours throughout the winter months. Make sure to check their hours online.

Fat bikes are one cool way to sightsee around Glacier Country. Photo: Adam Caira

The National Park Service also offers weekend ranger-guided snowshoe park tours January through March. Make sure to check the Going-to-the-Sun Road status to see how far into the park the road is open.

Lake McDonald’s keeps its stunning allure all year long.

POLSON TO POLSON: FLATHEAD LAKE LOOP
87.5 Miles
See Flathead Lake from all sides. From Polson, head northwest on Highway 93. Stop by the Kwataqnuk Resort & Casino for a little extra fun. Stay on 93 towards Big Arm and Flathead State Park. Wraps around the “big arm” of the lake through Elmo, Dayton, and Rollins. Lakeside Motel & Resort offers relaxing and scenic lakeside lodging, plus delicious food. From Lakeside, continue north to Somers and then take a left on Highway 82, which will take you past Kalispell Bay and over the Flathead River, then turn onto Highway 35 heading south.

Bigfork is a real charmer. Determine your designated driver and stop by Flathead Lake Brewing Company, or check out The Barn Antiques, Consignment & Gifts. Afterwards, travel on to the stellar winter lake views at Wayfarers/Flathead Lake State Park. We recommend taking it easy on this two-lane highway, for safety reasons and because the winter views of Flathead Lake are incredible. Continue on past Woods Bay towards Finley Point, where we recommend sitting down for dinner at Finley Point Grill.

ESSEX TO ST. MARY
72 Miles
Taking the route from Essex to St. Mary is a unique way to see a very wintry Glacier Country. In Essex, start by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing from the Izaak Walton Inn. If you’re looking for a place to spend the night, rent one of their cabins or iconic renovated cabooses. From Essex, head east on Highway 2. This two-lane highway winds through the mountains, including Mt. Furlong, Snowslip Mountain and Calf Robe Mountain. Wintertime in East Glacier is quiet, but you’ll enjoy the view of Glacier National Park’s peaks where they meet the plains of Eastern Montana. Take the more frequently traveled Highway 2 east towards Browning or the less-traveled Highway 49 north towards Lower Two Medicine Lake, which eventually meets Highway 89. In Browning, check out Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post or the Museum of the Plains Indian for fascinating American Indian history. Beyond Browning, jump on Highway 89 heading west, passing through the small towns of Star and Kiowa. Continue north until you reach the junction back into the park to see Saint Mary Lake or Lower St. Mary Lake. Travel into Glacier National Park on the east side is a bit more limited than the west, but always know what’s open by checking road conditions online.

Look to the north on Highway 2 for a view of Calf Robe Mountain. Photo: Tracey Vivar

WINTER DRIVING SAFETY TIPS

  • Check out Montana Department of Transportation’s Travel Map for up-to-date road conditions.
  • Travel with sleeping bags, blankets, extra water and food, extra warm clothes, and look ahead for where cell service may be spotty or nonexistent.  
  • Make sure your vehicle is well-maintained: working headlights and tail lights, coolant, windshield wipers, tire pressure, etc.
  • Take it slow! Road conditions may change quickly.
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife.
  • Assign a designated driver if consuming alcohol.
  • Refuel when you can—in some areas, gas stations can be few and far between.
  • Always check business hours before stopping, in case there are weather-related closings or changes.    

We love our wildlife, so please watch carefully for bighorn sheep or other animals while driving. Photo: Jerrie Bullock

A Chuckwagon Dinner at Montana’s Z5 Ranch

There’s a new sheriff in town. Okay, not really, but there is a new guest ranch in Western Montana (and that’s kind of like the same thing).

Last night, the folks at Z5 Ranch in Arlee had their first ever chuckwagon dinner and because I love all things ranch, Montana and—let’s be honest—food (you can read more about that here), I jumped at the opportunity to attend. I grabbed two of my best girls and we made the short drive (about 25 minutes) to the ranch from Missoula.

Upon arrival, the chaos of the day drifted away. Here’s why…

This view greeted us upon arrival.

This view greeted us upon arrival.

Yeehaw.

Yee-haw.

Z5 is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. An added bonus: guests can stay in the tipis at the ranch.

Z5 is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. An added bonus: guests can stay in the tipis at the ranch.

The view from the bed in the tipi.

The view from the bed in the tipi.

As part of their chuckwagon dinner event, the folks at Z5 also let you pet/visit the animals that call the ranch home. Last night’s furry guests include horses, baby chicks, rabbits, a cow that literally wandered around (she was cute) and adorable goats.

The goats and I quickly became BFFs.

The goats and I quickly became BFFs.

I may have fallen in love with this rabbit.  She reminded me of my own rabbits that I tricked my parents into getting me when I was little. Sidenote: my rabbit's names were Sally and Hot Stuff. I hope no one ever lets me name kids.

I may have fallen in love with this (super soft) rabbit. She reminded me of my own rabbits that I tricked my parents into getting me when I was little. Sidenote: my rabbit’s names were Sally and Hot Stuff. I hope no one ever lets me name kids.

Hey baby.

Hey baby.

Summer perfection.

Summer perfection.

I took advantage of the shade and tranquility by the pond.

I took advantage of the shade and tranquility by the pond.

Soon, the dinner bell rang (which I loved) and we all gathered in the barn for a dinner that was comprised of locally sourced bison steak, seasonal potatoes and a tasty peach and huckleberry crisp. After dinner we headed outside for the evening’s entertainment. And you guys, I have to tell you one thing about last night’s entertainment: it was kind of perfect.

Kyle and Zach Felsman kicked off the night with drumming and singing.

Kyle and Zach Felsman kicked off the night with drumming and singing.

This cowboy poet was, hands down, the best I've ever heard.

This cowboy poet was, hands down, the best I’ve ever heard.

Local musicians Matt and Dan (who are also in the popular Montana band Shodown) serenaded us.

Local musicians Matt and Dan (who are also in the popular Montana band Shodown) serenaded us.

The night's entertainment ended with Salish dancers.

The night’s entertainment ended with Salish dancers.

At the end of the night, I knew that I’d been part of something special. I’ve been a Montana girl my whole life, but there was something different and completely authentic in the way the stories of the evening (from the family history and being welcomed in Salish to the cowboy poetry and the American Indian dancing) came together to tell a beautiful, well-rounded story.

xo,
TT

PS: Z5 Ranch hosts chuckwagon dinners throughout the summer. For the most current schedule, be sure to visit their website.

Montana: Sometimes There Are No Words

Every once in a while, there are moments when this girl wonders if the last few days have been real. Once such moment happened last week.

I’d been on the road for work for several days and had seen some pretty amazing Montana moments along the way. As I was searching for the words to describe what I’d seen and felt, I realized that sometimes no words are needed.

This my friends, is one of those times.

Taking in the view at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Taking in the view at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

 

Watching the sunrise at Tally Lake.

Watching the sunrise at Tally Lake.

 

The view from a Montana backroad.

The view from a Montana backroad.

Watching the next generation marvel at the majesty of Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park.

Seeing the next generation marvel at the majesty of Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park.

American Indian dancers in Glacier National Park.

American Indian dancers in Glacier National Park.

The early morning mystery at Many Glacier in Glacier National Park.

The early morning mystery at Many Glacier in Glacier National Park.

Greeting the day with a red bus tour in Glacier National Park.

Greeting the day with a red bus tour in Glacier National Park.

The view toward Logan Pass from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The view toward Logan Pass from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

xo,
TT

Exploring the Blackfeet Nation

Last week, I headed over to the east side of the Continental Divide to spend a bit of time on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Bordering the east side of Glacier National Park, the Blackfeet Nation is a beautiful place where the wind-swept plains meet the rolling foothills before being engulfed by the impressive rise of the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

Looking down into Glacier National Park's Two Medicine Valley.

There’s something about the Blackfeet Nation that feels almost magical to me. Perhaps it’s the hours my family spent here when I was just a little blond-haired missy. Or maybe it’s the wild beauty of it that nearly takes my breath away. Perhaps it’s the rich history, culture, heritage and strength of the Blackfeet people. But to pick just one thing that makes this land so special is nearly impossible. So I won’t. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Blackfeet warrior sculptures greet visitors at the Blackfeet Nation's four entrances.

The tribe's bison herd relaxes in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.

Happy trails,
TT

PS: To learn more about the Blackfeet Nation, visit www.glaciermt.com.

Montana Summer: A Photo Recap

I’m not sure how many of you feel this way, but this girl is having a hard time saying goodbye to summer. It’s like I blinked and all of the sudden it’s gone.

This summer was definitely one for the books, with thousands of miles logged, countless scoops of ice cream consumed and beautiful snapshots of images that will be carried with me always. And while I’m looking forward to autumn, colorful fall foliage, beautiful drives and spiced cider, my heart is still mourning the loss of summer.

But instead of saying goodbye, I’m going to bid summer a hearty farewell, so long and a hope to see you soon. And summer, until we meet again, I’m going to remember the good times and adventures we shared under Montana’s big blue sky.

Lake McDonald from Apgar, Glacier National Park

A quiet creek near Stevensville, Bitterroot Valley

Outdoor summer concert - Missoula

Kerr Dam - Flathead Valley

Late summer afternoon - Tobacco Valley

Early morning sunrise - St. Ignatius

A summer tradition - Serrano's in East Glacier

Fly-fishing with friends in the rain - Glacier National Park

Hello beautiful - Glacier National Park

Hiking with baby brother - Holland Falls

Blackfeet Nation

Missoula from Mt. Sentinel

Summer = Strawberry Lemonade

Seeley-Swan Valley

Montana hugs and kisses,
TT

Five Days in Glacier Country, Montana

Happy first day of autumn! I hope this finds you each well, relishing the past months of summer and looking forward to a beautiful fall.

Last week, I headed off for a few days with two of my favorite Montana ladies and some friends from Europe. We were together a total of five days (give or take a few hours) and definitely made the most of our time by exploring Western Montana’s Glacier Country and cramming in as much fun as we possibly could.

Our trip included exploring Whitefish, Missoula and Kalispell, sampling beer from Great Northern Brewery, zip lining/Walk in the Treetops at Whitefish Mountain Resort, a trail ride at Bar W Guest Ranch, lake cruises on Whitefish Lake and Flathead Lake, a red bus tour in Glacier National Park, checking out museums, rafting, hiking and eating delicious food from Whitefish to Somers and Missoula to Charlo. But instead of just telling you about it, I’m going to show you.

A boat ride aboard 'Lady of the Lake' on Whitefish Lake.

Traveling the Going-to-the-Sun Road in our red bus.

Beautiful McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park.

Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park

The Far West docking in Lakeside, Montana.

Ninepipes Museum in Charlo, Montana

A Kootenai Indian Dress on display at Ninepipes Museum.

A kayaker enjoying a late summer paddle on Brennan's Wave in Missoula, Montana.

We rode the Carousel!

Checking out a plane used by smokejumpers at the Smokejumper Visitor Center in Missoula, Montana.

Until next week,
TT

Montana Summer: Let’s Plan For Fun

Happy June!

Can you believe I just wrote that? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the last few months have absolutely flown by…but I’m not even mad about it. Because that means summer is HERE! Well, almost. (It’s coming, I promise.)

For many of you, you may be planning your vacation to Montana this year, still deciding where you’re heading or heck, maybe you’re on your way to us now. To help you in your decision, we’ve pulled together some events and happenings that are sure to make your vacation a little bit sweeter.

JUNE
Western Heritage Days
The quaint community of Stevensville hosts Western Heritage Days, June 17 – 18. The celebration marks 170 years of Stevensville as a community and includes a parade, St. Mary’s Mission tours, dancing and a chuckwagon cook-off.

St. Mary's Mission, Stevensville

Libby Logger Days
Held June 23 – 26 in the northwest corner of Montana, Libby Logger Days is an educational event that shares the forestry culture with attendees. The festivities include a carnival, boxing smoker, kids logging competition, parade, live music, lawn mower races and an adult logging competition.

JULY
David Thompson Days
For folks looking to stroll 200 years back in time, head to Thompson Falls to participate in David Thompson Days, held July 2, where re-enactors replicate the lifestyle of early North American exploration, survival and trade. As part of the festivities, you’ll see historic displays and demonstrations, primitive arts and crafts, live music and games. David Thompson Days take a special look at explorer David Thompson (1770 – 1857), who traveled more than 50,000 miles by foot, horse and canoe as he mapped many of the uncharted territories in upper North America.

North American Indian Days
This year, North American Indian Days marks its 60th annual celebration July 7 – 10 on the Blackfeet Nation in Browning. One of the largest gatherings of North American tribes, the event provides insight into Blackfeet traditions, with dancing, traditional games and a rodeo.

North American Indian Days, Browning.

Flathead Cherry Festival
Held July 16 – 17 in Polson, the Flathead Cherry Festival celebrates the sweet, dark cherry that grows in orchards along the shores of Flathead Lake. The festival includes a cherry pie eating contest, quilting contest and is a great family event. Plus, a stellar crop is expected for this year’s harvest.

AUGUST
Huckleberry Festival
Located in Trout Creek, this festival celebrates the beloved purple berry and is held August 12 – 14. The festival includes a parade, street dance, auction, children’s activities and numerous craft and food vendors. Small town fun at its best!

Mmm, huckleberries. Photo courtesy Donnie Sexton/Montana Office of Tourism

River City Roots Festival
Held August 27 – 28, the River City Roots Fest is Missoula at its finest. The festival includes all-day music stages, a juried art show, family activities and a 4K walk/run.

For more events happening throughout the summer, visit www.glaciermt.com.

TT

The Rope

It’s summer in Montana and that means it’s time to hit the open road and play, play, play. My last adventure had me visiting the Blackfeet Nation for North American Indian Days.

This year, NAID attracted more than 500 dancers and had members from 50 different tribes throughout the United States and Canada in attendance. During the festivities, we attended the dancing, stick games and rodeo. (And trust me, this Montana girl loves a good rodeo).

The parade at North American Indian Days in Browning

The parade at North American Indian Days in Browning


North American Indian Days in Browning

North American Indian Days in Browning

We also spent time in East Glacier and were able to head out and “help” (ok, we watched) the cowboys round up bucking horses for Sunday’s main rodeo event in Browning. And boy did we enjoy watching the roundup!

The part that sticks out is my mind the most is the sound of the herd–we could hear them before we could see them–as they stampeded toward us with five cowboys on horseback wooping and hollering bringing them in.
wild horses

mom and colt

"Mouse" Hall, a true Montana cowboy.

And the icing on the cake?
TJ

This cowboy gave me his rope. We may be in love.

TT

Glacier Centennial: First Peoples, Two Countries, Three Voices

September 16, 2009
First Peoples, Two Countries, Three Voices
Flathead Valley Community College in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) kicked off their Crown of the Continent Centennial Lecture Series last night.

The evening consisted of a conversation with leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Salish-Pend Oreille, and the Kootenai/Ktnuxa nations. Speakers included Herman Many Guns from the Piikani Blackfoot Tribes, Tony Incashola from the Salish Tribes, and Vernon Finley from the Kootenai Tribes. 
 

Herman Many Guns commenced the conversation with a traditional prayer, a perfect opening to what followed. The dialogue spanned a great deal of wisdom and story telling. Values of each culture were shared- such as that of Vernan Finely’s grandmother’s teaching of the importance of using our five senses to Tony Incashola’s comments on remembering where we all come from.

It was acknowledged by each of the tribes that this was an ideal space for such a series– the location is known as the Village Center to the Kootenai peoples. It happens to be the center of the Crown of the Continent National Geographic Geotourism Map, as well.

The lecture ended with wise words encouraging all people to work together to protect these resources and the special culture that exists here in the Crown of the Continent. Each tribal member expressed their gratitude for their invitation to the table. Vernon regarded that it is not of their interest that such an event exists– instead it is the interest of each of the audience members that the conversation has taken place, suggesting that it is up to us to continue the discussion.

 

 
Join us on Monday for the second lecture:
Sep 21, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Setting the Stage- Describing the Crown Region
Speaker: Dr. Jim Byrne
Flathead Valley Community College Continuing Education Center
For more information on Glacier’s Centennial, please visit www.glaciercentennial.org