Category Archives: Spring

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.

Best Day Hikes in Western Montana: Part I

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

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

Tips for the Trail:

  1. It’s always a good idea to wear layers and comfortable hiking shoes or boots. It gets a little cold around here (in case the name “Glacier Country” didn’t tip you off), though temperatures still reach into the 80s and 90s during summer. Wear broken-in hiking footwear so uncomfortable feet don’t distract you from our breathtaking views.
  2. Be bear aware! Make noise and carry bear spray. You’re in bear country, and no matter how wild you think you might be, we can assure you the wildlife have you beat. (It’s also never a good idea to try to feed the wildlife).
  3. Make room in your pack for water, snacks and a camera. It’s good to stay hydrated, and good to have a camera ready to capture your Montana moments.
  4. Always stay on the trail. Wandering Montana’s splendor is easy to do, but it’s important not to lose your way. We promise you won’t miss out on anything.
  5. Ask the locals. Montana is full of secrets and who better to ask than a Montanan?

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

Morrell Falls

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

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

ROUND-TRIP: 2.7 miles
BONUS: Dog-friendly

Turquoise Lake

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

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

Three Lakes Peak

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

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

Blodgett Canyon

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

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

ROUND-TRIP: 3 miles
HIGHLIGHTS: Several benches are placed along the hike up. Stop and take in the incredible views, but keep going—you’re in for a treat at the top!

Lake Como

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

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

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

Mount Sentinel

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

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

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

Kootenai Creek

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

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

Must-Stop Family Road-Trip Attractions

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

A Hefty Hereford

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

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

50,000 Silver $ Bar

50,000 Silver $ Bar

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

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

Flathead Cherries

Flathead Cherries

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

Stay: Campground St. Regis, Nugget RV Park

Amazing Fun Center

The Amazing Fun Center in Coram, MT

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

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

Seeley Lake

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

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

Stay: Seeley Lake Campground

Darby

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

Stay: Travellers Rest Cabins and RV Park

Float the Clark Fork River and Ride the Carousel

A Carousel for Missoula

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

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

A couple enjoys their RV stay in Glacier Country

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

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

Explore-Worthy Excursions in Western Montana

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

The Bookish Explorer: Montana Valley Book Store

Montana Valley Book Store in Alberton, Montana

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

Inside Montana Valley Book Store.

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

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

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

The History Seeker: Garnet Ghost Town

Overlooking Garnet Ghost Town.

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

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

The Backcountry Rambler: Holland Lake Waterfall

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

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

Overlooking Holland Lake from Holland Falls.

The Pioneer: Martin City + Hungry Horse

Hungry Horse Reservoir.

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

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

The Romantic: Fire Lookouts

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

The Foraging Fiend: Huckleberries

Huckleberries.

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

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

Kayaker paddles through Holland Lake on a peaceful fall morning.

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

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

You guys, I have to tell you something: riding Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road on a bike is one of the best things you could ever do.

Hello, you gorgeous thing.

Hello, you gorgeous thing.

Sure, parts of it are hard (at least it’s hard if your name starts with a T and ends with an -ia) and yes, you may wonder how in the world your legs can and will keep pedaling uphill as you slowly make the elevation climb from the valley floor toward the tunnel and up to the loop but I’m here—alive and well—to tell you that those things are well worth the experience of biking in one of the most beautiful places in the world—Glacier National Park.
Sidenote: while parts of this road may be difficult if you don’t bike regularly, it is totally doable and quite literally one of the best things I’ve ever personally done. 

A bit of backstory: in mid-May, I grabbed three new friends who were here exploring Western Montana’s Glacier Country and we headed for Glacier National Park with one mission and one mission only: to pedal our bikes up the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

You and me, baby. (And yes, apparently the bike is now my baby.)

You and me, baby. (And yes, apparently the bike is now my baby.)

And pedal we did. To sum it up in three words: it was awesome.

Here’s the other thing: I had done this before, back in the days of yesteryear, and I drive this road regularly. But there is nothing that compares to biking the road in spring when it’s just you, your bike and your riding companions making your way up the road before Glacier National Park opens it to vehicular traffic.

Take a look…

This view, and moment, is one I won't soon forget.

This view, and moment, is one I won’t soon forget.

Low-hanging clouds made this day even more magical.

Low-hanging clouds made the day even more magical.

Stopping for a moment to record this moment with friends. PS: don't mind the line on my forehead. The "one size fits all" helmets don't apply to this big-headed girl.

Stopping to record this moment with friends. PS: don’t mind the line on my forehead. The “one size fits all” helmets don’t apply to this big-headed girl. The good news? My head was very safe. 

This view during spring can only be seen by hikers and bikers on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

This view during spring can only be seen by hikers and bikers on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

For this Montana-lovin' girl, this is perfection.

For this Montana-lovin’ girl, this is perfection.

Heading back down the road through the tunnel.

Heading back down the road through the tunnel.

I had to stop time and time again to soak this experience in.

I had to stop time and time again to soak in this experience. 

Wind-swept hair + watery eyes ironically equal my perfect May day in Montana.

Wind-swept hair + watery eyes ironically equal my perfect May day in Montana.

If you want to bike in Glacier National Park, here are a few things to note:
-You can bring your own bike or rent one. If you’re renting, I recommend picking up a rental bike at Great Northern Cycle & Ski in Whitefish. While their whole team is fantastic (special shout out to Craig and Stella!), Willy gave our group incredible service and detailed explanations about our bikes when we picked them up.
-Plan to ride in spring before the road is open to car traffic.
-Take advantage of the brand new and free bike shuttle service. The biker shuttle runs daily from Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche Creek now through June 26, 2016 or when the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens to vehicular traffic, whichever comes first.

xo,
TT

20 Spring Adventures in Montana’s Glacier Country

Let’s face it: when it comes to seasons of the year in Montana, spring tends to get overlooked. Summer typically takes center stage, while spring serves as her understudy. She studies really hard and is so well-behaved that sometimes we don’t give her the accolades she deserves. To which I say: spring, I see you. And I think you’re awesome.

A gorgeous spring day earlier this week called for a scenic drive.

A gorgeous spring day earlier this week called for a scenic drive.

So without further ado, please meet my friend: spring. In an effort to help us all get better acquainted and to take advantage of one of the best times of year to explore Big Sky Country, I’ve put together a list of 20 spring adventures in Montana’s Glacier Country.

1. Bike in Glacier National Park.
A little known fact: biking in the Crown of the Continent is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Montana. Prior to the Going-to-the-Sun Road opening to vehicular traffic, it’s open for bikers and hikers. Plus with the spring snowmelt, more of the road tends to be open to bikers on both the west and east sides. The Apgar Bike Path is also a fun place to bike, especially if you have small children.
Sidenote: with the arrival of spring, wildlife are active in the park. Be sure to carry bear spray when hiking or biking in Glacier National Park.

Biking on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Biking on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

2. Fish Flathead Lake.
As the largest freshwater lake in the West, it’s probably no surprise that fishing on Flathead Lake is incredible. The lake is home to a variety of fish, including lake trout, whitefish and northern pike. You can go on your own or book a guided fishing trip with a local outfitter.

2. Hike the M in Missoula. 
One of the most popular hiking trails in Montana, this trail starts at the base of Mount Sentinel and works its way up to the M. A total length of .75 miles, the trail has 11 switchbacks, an elevation gain of 620 feet and an incredible view of the Missoula Valley, the Clark Fork River and the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area.

The view from the M. Photo: Chris Mickey

The view from the M. Photo: Chris Mickey

4. Drive the National Bison Range.  
Situated at the base of the Mission Mountains, the National Bison Range is one of the most easily accessible and beautiful adventures in Western Montana. In early spring, visitors can travel along the west loop, while Red Sleep Drive (the 19-mile-long one-way drive that winds through the range) opens in early May. Be sure to keep an eye our for baby bison.
Insider tip: bring your binoculars.

The view along Mission Creek.

The view along Mission Creek.

5. Pan for sapphires + visit a candy store.
Hands down, one of Montana’s most charming small towns is Philipsburg. Home to cute boutiques, a fun brewery and the world-renowned Sweet Palace, it’s also a great place to pan for sapphires. Make plans to visit Gem Mountain or the Sapphire Gallery to try your luck at landing a few Montana gems.

6. Attend the Annual Kyi-Yo Pow-Wow.
Taking place in April at The University of Montana, the Kyi-Yo Pow-Wow brings many of the nation’s American Indians together to dance, sing and share stories, as well as preserve the incredible heritage of our First Nations.

7. Visit Kerr Dam near Polson.
Sitting at 204 feet high, Kerr Dam controls the water flow along the Flathead River. For views of Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains, follow the long boardwalk down to the dam overlook and watch the powerful water coming through the spillway. An added bonus: it’s only a 10-minute drive from downtown Polson.

The view from the boardwalk at Kerr Dam.

The view from the boardwalk at Kerr Dam.

8. First Friday in small town Montana.
Many communities in Western Montana have First Friday celebrations where artists display their work at various galleries and shops around the region. Check out First Friday happenings in Missoula, Stevensville and Hamilton.

9. Take a trail ride in West Glacier. 
Starting in mid-May, Swan Mountain Outfitters offers trail rides from their West Glacier corral.

Time to saddle up.

Located just off Highway 2, the West Glacier corral offers a variety of trail rides.

10. Golf.
With the warm spring temperatures, many of the golf courses in Western Montana open and welcoming players in April. Recommended courses include Buffalo Hills Golf Club in Kalispell, Canyon River Golf Club in Missoula and The Wilderness Club in Eureka.

11. Tour the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville. 
Opening for the season in mid-April, the Historic St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville is an important place in Montana history. Be sure to take a guided tour of the complex and peruse the incredible American Indian photos inside Chief Victor’s cabin.

St. Mary Mission.

St. Mary’s Mission.

12. Stand-up paddleboard (SUP) on the Whitefish River.
Bring your own paddleboard or rent one in Whitefish at Paddlefish Sports.

13. Get ice cream.
When temperatures rise above freezing, it means ice cream time in Montana. My favorite places for locally made ice cream are Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula and Sweet Peaks in Whitefish, Kalispell and Missoula.

My favorite treat: a coconut (coconut ice cream dipper in chocolate and covered in nuts) at Big Dipper.

My favorite treat: a co-co-nuts (coconut ice cream dipped in chocolate and covered in nuts) at Big Dipper.

14. Yell “We Are Sparta” at the Montana Spartan Race. 
Taking place on the shore of Flathead Lake, the Montana Spartan Race is held in early May and consists of two parts: the Spartan Beast and the Spartan Sprint. As for me, I just want an excuse to yell “We are Sparta!”

15. Soak in a natural hot spring.
With comfortable temperatures during the day and cooler nights, spring is ideal for soaking in one of Montana’s many natural hot springs. For a weekend visit, try one of the hot springs in Paradise or the aptly named town of Hot Springs.

Paradise found at Quinn's Hot Springs.

Paradise found at Quinn’s Hot Springs.

16. Stand on the swinging bridge over Kootenai Falls. 
Take the short walk down from Highway 2 and make your way to the swinging bridge. Be sure to take your camera to capture the view of the water tumbling over the falls.

17. Attend Garden City Brewfest. 
Held in early May in Missoula at Caras Park, Garden City Brewfest introduces attendees to a variety of Montana beer. Between sampling beer and dining on local food, you’ll also be able to watch kayakers and surfers at Brennan’s Wave.

18. Go birding at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. 
A  30-minute drive south of Missoula and a few minutes from Stevensville, the Lee Metcalf is a 2,800-acre refuge that’s home to a variety of wildlife and birds. The refuge also has accessible trails and offers gorgeous views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

A spring day at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.

A spring day at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.

19. Attend the Bigfork Whitewater Festival. 
Watch some of the world’s best kayakers navigate the Class IV whitewater along the Wild Mile of the Swan River at the Bigfork Whitewater Festival. Held over Memorial Day, the festival includes whitewater kayaking races, whitewater rafting races and SUP events.

20. Paddle the Clearwater Canoe Trail.
One of my favorite spring activities is to paddle this quiet stretch of the Clearwater River as it winds through a willow marsh before flowing into Seeley Lake. My advice: go in the early morning and watch the sun come up.

Paddling the Clearwater Canoe Trail.

Paddling the Clearwater Canoe Trail.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Montana during the spring?

xo,
TT