Category Archives: Wildlife

Small-town Discovery in Glacier Country: Meet Stevensville

There are some places that feel so welcoming. Those towns that once you hit their main street are filled with charm, happy people and something. Places that make you want to stop and stay a while.

One such place is the historic town of Stevensville, Montana. Nestled between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains, in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, Stevensville offers some beautiful views, great outdoor recreation and it over flows with small town charm. During the winter months this town doesn’t rest at all, and we had the chance to go and check out all the sites.

Stevensville, Montana is Montana’s first permanent settlement.

First stop had to be the Morning Star, this place has some of the most delicious coffee and sweets around.

So delicious!

Truth time: we love walking down these streets.

Just two blocks from Main Street, is the historic St. Mary’s Mission, founded in 1841.

No trip to Stevensville is complete without visiting their general store, Valley Drug & Variety. Inside you’ll find an old fashioned soda fountain…

…with the most delicious milkshakes around!

Just a few miles outside of Stevensville, is the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. This 2,800 acre wildlife refuge is open year-round and offers some beautiful sites no matter the season.

Even with it being a little cold out, this place was super peaceful and beautiful.

We ended our perfect day with some local Montana brews at Blacksmith Brewery.

Stevensville is a real charmer and we can’t wait to go back.

Discover Winter’s Wonder with a Snowshoe in Western Montana

Winter in Montana isn’t only for adventurous powder plungers and downhill dreamers. It’s also for paradise seekers looking for a peaceful escape in an enchanting frosty forest of white. We hike all year here, and taking a walk in the snow is high on our list of things we love—it just requires a little extra gear. Snowshoes make it possible to head onto the trails and into backcountry quiet places that might otherwise not be accessible this time of year. This easy—and family-friendly—snowsport is a must-do winter activity, bound to leave you with some pretty incredible Montana memories.

See Glacier Country on snowshoees for an outdoor experience you won’t forget.

Many facilities around the region rent gear and offer friendly tips and trail advice to eager adventure seekers. Not all snowshoes are the same, and not all trails are either. Our gear shops can help with size and fit and steer you in the right direction. Local outfitters are also available to show you the way if you’re looking for a guided tour.

Here are some tips for the trek.

TRAILS + TERRAIN
Groomed and ungroomed winter trails are a dime a dozen around here, and we tend to brag about our backcountry terrain because it’s just so brag-worthy. That said, here are some of our favorite spots to explore.

Snowshoe the park.
Winter is the most magical time of year in Glacier National Park. The crowds are gone and the landscape is heavenly. The stillness and quiet offer an ideal time to strap on a pair of snowshoes and discover this powder paradise. Take a self-guided tour along the shores of Lake McDonald or up the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Let our resident experts show you the way around the park by snowshoe. Glacier Adventure Guides offers alpine adventures through old-growth forest, past frozen waterfalls and lakes and across meadows blanketed with snow.

Lake McDonald views with Glacier Adventure Guides. Photo: Devin Schmit

You can also take an interpretive ranger-led snowshoe tour of the park’s Apgar area, learning about the park’s topography and wildlife along the way.

Autumn Creek Trail in East Glacier is one of the most popular routes in the area. This 6-mile trail begins at the summit of Marias Pass before entering the park.

Beyond the park.
Whitefish is pretty much winter defined. Whitefish Mountain Resort offers two uphill routes—the Toni Matt and the East Route—and, west of town, you can shoe the dog-friendly Round Meadow trail system. Whitefish’s Sportsman & Ski Haus will set you up with the right gear for your adventure.  

One of the best things about snowshoeing is it’s easy to master. Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell is a great place to try out this beginner-friendly sport for the first time, and Spoke & Paddle can help you with equipment rentals. Nearby Herron Park/Foy’s to Blacktail Trails is another great place to start out.

For fun near Flathead Lake, trek Lakeside’s Blacktail Mountain or Bigfork’s Crane Mountain Snowmobile Trail (Road #498). Contact the friendly folks at Base Camp for gear rentals and trail suggestions.

Head up near “The Yaak” to Troy’s Cougar Ridge for a trek on snow-covered roads that wind in and out of the wintry woods of the Kootenai National Forest.

The Thompson Falls Fitness Trail is a wonderful hike for families, as it’s relatively flat, deer sightings can be frequent and following wildlife tracks in the snow is fun for the kids.

Check trail resources ahead of time to see if dogs are allowed to come along. Photo: Thompson Falls Main Street

Explore Missoula’s Pattee Canyon or Blue Mountain recreation areas for endless trails. You’ll also find snowshoe adventures in the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Missoula’s South Hills. Just east of Missoula, Greenough’s Lubrecht Forest offers a quiet getaway to test your snowshoe know-how. Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area on the Montana/Idaho border offers over 15 miles of groomed trails for snowshoers. You’ll find gear and good advice from the fine folks at Missoula’s Trailhead.

From Lookout Pass, you can snowshoe, ski or snowmobile to Taft, about 10 miles. This route is for well-experienced snowshoers only, due to the nature of the trail.

The Bitterroot Valley boasts stunning winter landscapes, charming small towns with warm western hospitality, and trails abound. Lolo Pass lets you choose your own adventure with multiple snow-covered roads. Four miles from the pass, walk upstream to Snowshoe Falls for the perfectly picturesque winter waterfall scene. Hike the Continental Divide at the Chief Joseph Trail System’s large network of groomed trails, complete with a cozy log cabin at the trailhead for warming up after your trek. Skalkaho Snowpark provides access to Skalkaho Pass in the scenic Sapphire Mountains.

Wandering snowy trails under Western Montana’s winter sun, does it get much better?

Make it an overnight adventure.
Many of Western Montana’s ranches and resorts offer year-round activities, and snowshoeing is no exception. You can also find off-the-beaten-path overnight adventures at lodges, vacation homes and U.S. Forest Service cabins.

Revel in rustic splendor at Sula’s Twogood Cabin, a 6-mile hike from the Warm Springs Creek Trailhead. (Open until October 15th and the month of December.)   

Explore the breathtaking Seeley-Swan Valley from your cabin door at Seeley Lake’s Double Arrow Lodge, where you can borrow a pair of snowshoes or rent a pair at nearby Rocky Mountain Adventure Gear.

The 37,000-acre Resort at Paws Up offers guests two-hour snowshoe tours of the resort grounds, plus luxury Montana lodging in beautiful Greenough.

It’s safe to say, wherever you stay, there’s probably a trail close by and a pair of snowshoes calling your name.

Shoe safely.
Though snowshoeing is a tranquil and fairly simple winter activity, it’s still important to know your snow safety. Be avalanche aware and read snow reports before you head out. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions, pack water and snacks, take a trail map and follow trail signs, and be wildlife savvy.

Wildlife.

Our trails may come with lots of surprises, be prepared for wildlife and changing conditions. Photo: Devin Schmit

See you on the trail, friends.

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

Wild Montana: Enjoy Wildlife Safely and Respectfully

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Montana is wildly beautiful…with an emphasis on wild.

Big Sky Country is brimming with rugged backcountry terrain, pristine wilderness areas and stunning national parks. Glacier Country alone comprises more than 22,000 square miles of rivers, lakes, streams, waterfalls, wilderness, forestland and the Crown of the Continent—Glacier National Park. This place of wild wonder is vast and largely untraveled, and that’s why we’re so in love with it.

A black bear forages in Western Montana. Photo courtesy: tonybynum.com

While Montana’s wild nature is part of what has captured our hearts, it’s important to remember that it’s home to a variety of wildlife. Grizzly bears, black bears, bison, deer, mountain goats, elk, moose and wolves are among the wild residents who inhabit this special place. These magnificent animals are amazing to witness in their natural setting, but it’s crucial to remember that they are wild and we need to respect their space and keep them wild.

Here are some things to remember when visiting Montana.

Stay on designated trails, pathways and boardwalks. These areas are there for not only your safety, but for the safety of the animals.

View wildlife from your car or from a safe distance. You should stay at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) away from bears, and at least 25 yards away from other large animals, including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes.

This visitor is way too close to the bears. Photo: Yellowstone NPS Flickr

Do not approach wildlife, even for a selfie. Truth time: Yellowstone and Glacier national parks are not zoos. The animals who live here are wild, and there are no barriers between you and them. Never, under any circumstances, approach wildlife. Also, do not touch or pet them. Ever. Deal?

Let wildlife know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to hike in a group, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals. Pro Tip: Do not rely on bear bells as your noisemaker. Most of them are not loud enough to be effective and just end up disrupting the peace and quiet.

Stay safe and keep it wild!

Nicole

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.

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.

Montana is Wild: Top Rules and Tips for Safely Visiting the West

You guys, I don’t love writing about sad things on this blog. And I hate telling you about sad things, especially when they happen in the place that I love and adore: the West. But the fact of the matter is this: it’s only mid-June and we’ve already had several negative wildlife encounters and an unfortunate, heart-breaking experience in Montana and Yellowstone National Park.

Always give bears plenty of room and never approach. Photos: GlacierNPS Flickr (Tim Rains)

Always give bears plenty of room and never approach. Photos: GlacierNPS Flickr (Tim Rains)

To date this year, we’ve had visitors approach wildlife and get way too close (examples include selfies with bison, a tourist picking up a baby bison and placing it in his car and a woman being charged and hit by an elk) as they invaded the animal’s space. In addition, Yellowstone National Park had a group of adventure travelers walk off the boardwalk (and film it, for pete’s sake) and most recently, a visitor tragically lost his life when he went off the boardwalk and fell into one of the boiling geysers.

Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, I was in Glacier National Park earlier this month sitting at The Loop eating lunch when a black bear meandered across the Going-to-the-Sun Road. He was a nice bear who literally paid the 10 of us no mind as he crossed the road, even when a lady started running after him. Yep, you read that right. We were all sitting there marveling at the chance to see a wild bear in Glacier National Park and she ran after him to take a photo. This, my friends, is one of my worst nightmares and we actually had to say these words, “Ma’am, don’t chase the bear. Ma’am! Don’t chase him.” Honestly, I never thought I’d have to tell someone to not chase a WILD ANIMAL in the WILD.

All of these stories are not meant to cast shame or embarrass anyone; instead they’re meant to educate.

Perhaps the worst part about the examples listed above is that they could be have been avoided by following the rules and regulations that are in place to not only protect us as visitors to these special places, but to protect wildlife, their habitat and the ecosystem in which we all live.

The fact of the matter is that the West is still wild. One of the best things about visiting the wild places that still exist in Montana and Wyoming is that we’re able to experience raw, true, genuine nature.  To do that, it’s important that we follow the rules, guidelines and regulations that are put in place to help everyone have a wonderful time in Montana, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

Here are some rules to remember when visiting the West…

Stay on designated trails, pathways and boardwalks. Always.

Boadwalks are put in place to give us safe access to viewing geysers, hot springs and rushing waterways.

Boadwalks are put in place to give us safe access to viewing geysers, hot springs and rushing waterways. Photo: YellowstoneNP Flickr

View wildlife from your car or from a safe distance. For bears, you should stay at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) away, while you should stay at least 25 yards away from other large animals, including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes.

This visitor is WAY TOO CLOSE to the bears. Photo: YNP Flickr

This visitor is WAY TOO CLOSE to the bears. Photo: Yellowstone NPS Flickr

Do not approach wildlife. Even for a selfie. Truth time: Yellowstone and Glacier are not zoos. The animals who live here are wild and there are no barriers between you and them. Never, under any circumstances, approach wildlife. Also, don’t touch or pet them. Ever. Deal?

Let wildlife know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to hike in a group, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals. This messy-haired girl likes to sing (you’re welcome bears and humans) and say “hey bear” loudly at regular intervals or clap my hands as I walk along. PS: Do us all a favor and don’t rely on bear bells as your noisemaker. Most of them are not loud enough.

For more information, you can read more safe wildlife viewing tips here and here.

Wishing you all safe travels this summer,
TT

Exploring Montana’s Rocky Mountains

Last weekend, I headed for the land of my birth: the Rocky Mountain Front of Montana. Because let’s face it, every once in a while a girl needs to make a break for it and head for home.

Going home is like bringing peace to my heart. I’m not sure if it’s the land opening up into a wide expanse as I’m coming off of Roger’s Pass or seeing the rolling plains run smack dab into the Rocky Mountains. Maybe it’s the rush of memories that remind me of all the hours spent adventuring into the mountains with my grandparents and cousins. Whatever it is, it makes my heart happy.

Making our way into the Rocky Mountains and passing Castle Reef.

Making our way into the Rocky Mountains and passing Castle Reef.

handprints2

En route to Gibson Dam.

Regardless of how many times my family has made the trek to Gibson Dam, we've always stopped to look at the Indian handprints. They serve as a reminder of the incredible history of this place.

Regardless of how many times my family has made the trek to Gibson Dam, we’ve always stopped to look at the Indian handprints. They serve as a reminder of the incredible history of this place.

Gibson Dam overlook.

Gibson Dam overlook.

My baby sister hoping to get lucky with a fish. (The fish were playing hard to get).

My baby sister hoping to get lucky with a fish. 

We met a friend on the trail and named him Mr. Bighorn.

We met a friend on the trail and named him Mr. Bighorn.

The next day, we ventured back into the mountains for some rock climbing. This little guy made it up the rock face TWICE.

The next day, we ventured back into the mountains for some rock climbing. This little guy made it up the rock face TWICE.

The view on the drive back to Augusta.

The view on the drive back to Augusta.

It was a good weekend.

xo,
TT