Tag Archives: Glacier National Park

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

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

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

Looking into Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway.

Looking into Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway.

Fresh snow in Glacier National Park.

Fresh snow in Glacier National Park.

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

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

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

Take a look…

Hello, St. Mary Valley.

Hello, St. Mary Valley.

Looking up the road from Two Dog Flats.

Looking up the road from Two Dog Flats.

Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Going-to-the-Sun Road.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi.

Hi.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

Debbie taking in the view.

Debbie taking in the view.

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

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

This is my piece of heaven on earth.

This is my piece of heaven on earth.

Driving up the road out of the tunnel.

Driving up the road out of the tunnel.

Fresh snow on Going to the Sun Mountain.

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

Two Montana-loving traveling buddies.

Two Montana-loving traveling buddies.

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look…

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

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

Two Guns under Mount Grinnell.

Two Guns under Mount Grinnell.

The view from the dining room at Many Glacier Hotel.

The view from the dining room at Many Glacier Hotel.

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

Needless to say, it was a good day.

xo,
TT

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

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

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

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

Ready for the truth?

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

Take a look…

Our starting point: Whitefish, Montana.

Our starting point: Whitefish, Montana.

Waiting for the train to come in.

Waiting for the train to come in.

Here's our ride.

Here’s our ride.

Making our way to our seats.

Making our way to our seats.

Fall colors were starting to arrive along the river.

Fall colors were starting to arrive along the river.

Loved this view looking back west out of the train.

Loved this view looking back west out of the train.

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

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

The observation car was my favorite spot on the train.

My favorite spot on the train: the observation car.

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

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

Hello, gorgeous.

Hello, gorgeous.

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

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

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

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

Arriving at our destination: East Glacier Park, Montana.

Arriving at our destination: East Glacier Park, Montana.

The train station at East Glacier Park.

The train station at East Glacier Park.

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

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

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

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

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

xo,
TT

Happy 100 Years, National Park Service

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

Cheers to 100 years.

Cheers to 100 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of my favorite places: Two Medicine.

One of my favorite places: Two Medicine.

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

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

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

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

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

xo,
TT

The Best Hidden Gems in Glacier National Park

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

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

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

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

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

Taking in the view from a roadside pullout.

Taking in the view from a roadside pullout.

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

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

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

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

Taking in the view of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Taking in the view of Swiftcurrent Lake.

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

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

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

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

Kintla Lake. Photo: Tim Rains/NPS

Kintla Lake. Photo: Tim Rains/NPS

Happy summer!

xo,
TT

A Summer Road Trip: Clearwater Junction to Polebridge, Montana

It’s hard to stay in one place during summer in Montana. There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to adventure in, around and through this place I call home. And I have to tell you, this year is no exception and with gorgeous weather, the need to hit the road came earlier than usual. So on one sunshine-filled day this June, my two traveling companions (affectionately known as boo and baby girl) and I loaded up the car and decided to take a road trip north. Our destination: Polebridge, Montana.

Polebridge, Montana.

Polebridge, Montana.

Why did we choose Polebridge for this specific road trip? Well, it’s because neither boo nor baby girl had been there and the three of us decided it was time to change that because Polebridge is a place that everyone should visit during their lifetime.

Often when we travel north through Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we hit Highway 93 and travel along Flathead Lake. But not this time. Instead, we opted to go through one of Montana’s most lovely valleys: the Seeley-Swan on Highway 83. And I have to tell you, it was such a perfect day. The company was fun, the views were beautiful and the drive from the southern end of the Seeley Valley to the northern end of the Swan Valley is one of the prettiest in the state.
Sidenote: you can read more about my love of the Seeley-Swan Valley here

Our travel route for the day.

Our travel route for the day.

On this particular day, we decided to officially start our trip at Clearwater Junction, home to Stoney’s and the most photographed bull in the state.

Good morning, handsome.

Good morning, handsome.

Additional stops in the Seeley-Swan included Salmon Lake, the Clearwater Canoe Trail, Holland Lake and Laughing Horse Lodge (which is now officially on my must-stay list!).

Take a look…

Taking in the view from the shore of Salmon Lake.

Taking in the view from the shore of Salmon Lake.

Gotta love these clear waters.

Gotta love those clear waters.

Hands down, the Clearwater Canoe Trail is my FAVORITE activity in the entire valley.

Hands down, the Clearwater Canoe Trail is my FAVORITE activity in the entire valley.

This valley is home to hundreds of lakes, including Summit Lake which sits just west of Highway 83.

This valley is home to hundreds of lakes, including Summit Lake which sits just west of Highway 83.

This view, with a dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere, called to my heart.

This view, with a dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere, called to my heart.

A short drive down Holland Lake Road from Highway 83 will take you to Holland Lake.

A short drive down Holland Lake Road from Highway 83 will take you to Holland Lake.

From the trailhead, the hike to Holland Falls in an easy 1.6 miles.

From the trailhead, the hike to Holland Falls in an easy 1.6 miles.

Just one reason to love country roads.

The grounds at Laughing Horse Lodge.

The grounds at Laughing Horse Lodge.

The garden at Laughing Horse Lodge.

The garden at Laughing Horse Lodge.

I could have spent all afternoon here.

I could have spent all afternoon here.

It was my first time stopping at Laughing Horse Lodge and by the time we left, all three of us were ready to just end our trip here.

It was my first time stopping at Laughing Horse Lodge and by the time we left, all three of us were ready to just stop and spend the night here.

Kathleen (the owner of Laughing Horse Lodge) tends the gardens, cooks the dinners (which look amazing) and welcomes guests to her property. Oh, and she's nice. Nice people should never be taken for granted.

Taking advantage of my visit to the garden. Kathleen (the owner of Laughing Horse Lodge) tends the gardens and cooks dinner at her on-site restaurant. Oh, and she’s nice.

After we left the Seeley-Swan Valley, we continued north but not without making a stop for lunch at my favorite Montana cafe: Basecamp Cafe in Columbia Falls.

Note: if you ever want to woo me, just make me tacos with cilantro.

Note: if you ever want to woo me, just make me tacos with cilantro.

After fueling up (and loading up our starving tummies), we continued the drive to one of the wildest and most awesome places in Montana: the North Fork and Polebridge.
Sidenote: all of the electricity in Polebridge is from generators or solar power. 

Baby girl and I donning our new snapbacks from our pal Kevin at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Baby girl and I donning our new snapbacks from our pal Kevin at Flathead Lake Lodge.

There are two routes you can take to the North Fork: 1) you can take the North Fork Road from Columbia Falls to Polebridge and 2) you can go through the west entrance of Glacier National Park and take the Camas Road to North Fork Road. Route #2 cuts some gravel off your drive and gives great views of Lake McDonald.

There are two routes you can take to the North Fork: 1) you can drive the North Fork Road from Columbia Falls to Polebridge and 2) you can go through the west entrance of Glacier National Park and take the Camas Road to North Fork Road. Route #2 cuts some gravel off your drive and gives great views of Lake McDonald.

The famous Polebridge Mercantile.

The famous Polebridge Mercantile, home to huckleberry bearclaws and macaroons.

The Northern Lights Saloon, owned by another sweet gal named Heather, is a great place to stop and get a cold beverage or have dinner.

The Northern Lights Saloon, owned by another sweet gal named Heather, is a great place to stop and get a cold beverage or have dinner.

After spending time in the merc and saloon, we ventured into Glacier National Park and drove to Bowman Lake.

The trail to one of the prettiest places in the park.

The trail to one of the prettiest places in the park.

Bowman Lake.

Bowman Lake.

Boo, myself and baby girl at Bowman Lake.

Boo, myself and baby girl at Bowman Lake.

My only question is this: where are we off to next?

xo,
TT

The Top 10 Things to Do Near Glacier National Park

We all know that Montana’s Glacier National Park is amazing. It just is. I mean, does it get much better than 1 million acres of glacial-carved terrain, the epic Going-to-the-Sun Road and the feeling you get just being in Glacier National Park? Maybe not. But I’m here to tell you, it gets pretty darn close.

Hello, Glacier National Park.

Hello, Glacier National Park.

Around here, a lot of focus gets placed on Glacier National Park (which is completely deserved by the way) but the truth of the matter is that there is more to this corner of Montana than just the Crown of the Continent. And you deserve to know some of the best things to do outside of Glacier National Park, because sharing is caring.

Before I get started on this list, there were two guidelines I followed when pulling it together: 1) All of the items on this list are within 30 minutes of Glacier National Park and 2) I have personally been to them (so I feel really confident recommending them to you).

Without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 things to do near Glacier National Park. 

1. Take a guided horseback trail ride on the Blackfeet Nation. Hands down, this is one of the best activities I’ve ever done. Maybe it’s because the Blackfeet Indian Reservation has a special place in my heart or maybe it’s because Mouse Hall (who I totally adore) leads the crew at Glacier Gateway Outfitters. But to be honest, I think it’s both of those combined with the incredible experience of riding a horse in wide-open country as you climb trails, nearby mountains and learn about the Blackfeet Tribe and their history, all while taking in expansive views along the Rocky Mountain Front.
Storytime: last time I rode with Mouse, my horse’s name was 7up and he was feisty as all get out…which is probably why I loved him. He didn’t like the other horses and got bit by a wasp on our ride down from Baldy Butte and still, the ride was incredible. It was also amazing to see how Mouse handled all of the horses. Each of the horses knew he loved them and in turn, they loved, trusted and respected him. I’ve not seen anything quite like that anywhere else. 

Mouse on top of Baldy Butte.

Mouse on top of Baldy Butte.

2. Visit The Museum of the Plains Indian and Blackfeet Heritage Center in Browning. Hands down, these two places (that just happen to be next door to each other) are my top two places to stop in Browning. The Museum of the Plains Indian has an incredible history of several of the Plains tribes (be sure to watch the video before touring the museum), while the Blackfeet Heritage Center has work from hundreds of American Indian artists on display.
Insider tip: while in Browning, be sure to check out Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post, Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village and Western Curios. 

The museum is home to incredible artifacts and displays.

The museum is home to incredible artifacts and displays.

3. Stroll the grounds and sit in the lobby at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park. I’ve had a love affair with Glacier Park Lodge for as long as I can remember and it’s a place that I love sharing with other people. Whether you’re staying at the lodge or just passing through, it’s definitely worth a stop. You can read more about Glacier Park Lodge here.

My happy place, Glacier Park Lodge.

My happy place, Glacier Park Lodge.

4. Have dinner at the Izaak Walton Inn. Located halfway between East Glacier Park and West Glacier is Essex and the Izaak Walton Inn. Their on-site restaurant has become one of my favorite places for dinner in the region. Afterward, sit on the patio outside and watch the trains roll past.

Hello, handsome.

Hello, handsome.

5. Cool down at the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center. Situated just down the road from the west entrance of Glacier National Park is the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center. It’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs, learn about the area, cool down with local ice cream, grab a coffee, take a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters (they have a horse corral out back) and peruse made in Montana items.

The horses of Swan Mountain Outfitters hanging out in the corral.

The horses of Swan Mountain Outfitters hanging out in the corral.

6. Visit Hungry Horse Reservoir, the area’s best-kept secret. While it won’t be a secret anymore (woops a daisy), Hungry Horse Reservoir is a great place to go to get away from the masses. Located a short drive from the town of Hungry Horse, the reservoir and its surrounding area offer fishing, boating, swimming, hiking and camping. Plus, it’s beautiful.

The view of Hungry Horse Reservoir from above.

The view of Hungry Horse Reservoir from above.

7. Taste Montana spirits (and take a tour) at Glacier Distilling Company. Making its home in a red barn in Coram, the Whiskey Barn at Glacier Distillery offers tours and tastings daily from Noon – 8 p.m. during the summer. Plus, they have an outdoor patio where you can kick back, rub shoulders with the locals and taste Montana.

The Whiskey Barn.

The Whiskey Barn.

8. Stroll through Columbia Falls. Truth time: Columbia Falls is one of my favorite towns and is often overlooked as a place to stop. But that, my friends, is changing. This town has some exciting stuff happening and is home to a thriving farmers market (Thursday nights May – September), a brand-new hotel named Cedar Creek Lodge, Backslope Brewing (one of the state’s newest breweries), great dining, a coffee shop and a fly shop. In six words: Columbia Falls is worth a stop.

Confession: Columbia Falls is home to my favorite cafe.

Confession: Columbia Falls is home to my favorite cafe.

9. Drive the North Fork Road to Polebridge. The best adventures are often found along gravel roads and the drive to Polebridge is no exception. The drive will take you along incredible views into Glacier National Park and some beautiful landscapes. Once in Polebridge, be sure to kick back at the Northern Lights Saloon (and grab dinner there) and peruse the Polebridge Mercantile.

I love the Merc!

I love the Merc!

10. Eat a steak at the Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club. Last fall was my first encounter with the Cattle Baron Supper Club in Babb. And it was a great one. If you like steak, this may be the place you have the best steak of your life. Insider tip: order extra bread. It’s homemade and delicious.  

Before dinner in Babb, be sure to drive and take a look at Chief Mountain.

Before dinner in Babb, be sure to drive and take a look at Chief Mountain.

Happy exploring!

xo,
TT

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

Planning a Trip to Montana this Summer? Join #AskMontanaChat

Are you guys ready for some fun, Montana-lovin’ social media news? Here’s hoping you are, because I’m about to lay it on ya. Later this month, I’m going to be hosting (along with many of my other Montana friends) a twitter chat called #AskMontanaChat

Hi, Rocky Mountain Front.

Hi, Rocky Mountain Front.

In my job, I often get asked questions about the best places to go, the top things to do and see and what areas to explore when people are coming to my favorite place on earth: Montana.

So I got together with a few of my other Montana pals from Fort Peck in the northeast corner of the state to Bozeman in the southwest corner of the state and we decided to host a twitter chat that’s all about Montana and will give travelers to the area (AKA YOU!) the chance to ask and—more importantly—have your travel questions about Montana answered.

Here are the #AskMontanaChat details:#AskMontanaChat GNP
Date: Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Time: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. MST
Format: The chat will have 4 questions that will be tweeted out from the @GlacierMT twitter account and Montana travel pros from across the state will answer them. In addition, the last half of the chat will be “open mic” style where anyone can ask their travel questions about Montana.
Who will be there: We’ll have a bevy of Montana lovers and tourism pros on the chat, including @Debbie_Picard, @MontanaTia (me!), @GlacierMT, @406_nicole, @ycountry, @missouririvercountry@visitsemontana and @southwestmontana, as well as other local experts.
How to join: Log into twitter on 6/29/16 at 6 p.m. and type #AskMontanaChat into your search bar. From there, the tweets from the chat will pull in. When asking a question, be sure to “tag” your tweet with #AskMontanaChat so local Montana experts can see your tweets and respond to you with information.
Why to join: This is a chance for YOU to ask your travel-related questions to local Montana residents and tourism offices who will give first-person answers to help you plan your trip to Big Sky Country.

Hope to see you on twitter at #AskMontanaChat!

xo,
TT

Hello Glacier National Park (AKA for the Love, How is this Real Life)

Confession time: sometimes I wonder out loud to myself, “Is this real life?” Because you guys, I have to tell you that there are days where I legitimately wonder how in the world I’m in this exact spot at this exact moment to be able to experience this life.

This is my "REALLY LIFE?!" face. Or it's my "Don't cry because life really can be this good face." You decide.

This is my “REALLY LIFE?!” face. Or it’s my “I cannot believe this beautiful life” face. You decide. PS: sorry for this giant photo of me that’s currently staring you down from your computer/iPad/phone screen. 

Take for example, a recent afternoon spent in Glacier National Park.

The view of our destination: Glacier National Park.

The view of our destination: Glacier National Park.

I was traveling with a group of friends and we had a few free hours to explore the Crown of the Continent. Since it was the first trip to Montana and Glacier Park for most of them, we did what any group should do: we took a red bus tour and boat tour.

Our chariot AKA one of the historic red buses that provide tours in Glacier National Park.

Our chariot AKA one of the historic red buses that provide tours in Glacier National Park.

A required photo stop: the west entrance into Glacier National Park. PS: I'm currently obsessed with these shirts from Montana Shirt Company.

A required photo stop: the west entrance into Glacier National Park. PS: I’m currently obsessed with these shirts from Montana Shirt Company.

After stopping to take in one of the best views in the world (Lake McDonald from Apgar Village), our red bus driver Glenn took us along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Lake McDonald Lodge for a guided boat tour with Glacier Park Boat Company on the DeSmet—a historic wooden boat that calls the waters of Lake McDonald home. And for 45 blissful minutes we cruised the waters of the park while taking in snow-capped mountain peaks and learned about the history of the boat company and this region of the park from the boat’s captain.

This view never gets old.

This view never gets old.

Getting ready to board the DeSmet.

Getting ready to board the DeSmet.

See ya soon, Lake McDonald Lodge.

See ya soon, Lake McDonald Lodge.

Pro tip: if given the chance, always take a photo with a park ranger.

Pro tip: if given the chance, always take a photo with a park ranger.

This little lady is one of my favorite travel buddies.

This little lady is one of my favorite travel buddies.

I'll cruise with you any day, DeSmet.

I’ll cruise with you any day, DeSmet.

Showing our love for Glacier National Park.

Showing our love for Glacier National Park.

Needless to say, it was a good day.

xo,
TT

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