Spending time in outdoor spaces has become more popular than ever, and we sure are grateful for the quality and quantity of outdoor space we have here in Western Montana. It’s paramount, however, that we all do our part to recreate responsibly when playing in local parks, on public lands and trails, in Montana’s two national parks, and everywhere in between.
Glacier Country Tourism is a partner in the national Recreate Responsibly initiative to provide all outdoor lovers the outlook to experience safe, responsible and successful outdoor adventures this year, and to preserve the places we all love.
This summer, we encourage everyone to embrace discovery.
Spend time learning about our local gems and finding off-the-beaten-path spots. Use state and federal land websites like TrailLink, AllTrails, Guthook, and local meetup/Facebook/stewardship groups, or check out library books on local outdoor resources to find them.
As we embrace new places and new ways to get outside, we have a responsibility to think about our impact on the outdoors and to be a part of sustaining them for the future. This means:
Know the rules and safety information for the area you’re exploring.
Be willing to turn around when areas are too crowded.
Practice responsibility around wildlife: This means keeping a safe distance and never approaching, touching or feeding wildlife.
Be especially mindful to #RecreateResponsibly to prevent wildland fires, especially across Montana and the West.
It takes all of us working together to be good stewards to this great state. Here are some helpful resources to learn more about what recreating responsibly and “leave no trace” are, and how to practice them while enjoying our great outdoors and fresh mountain air.
Know Before You Go
Play it Safe
Prevent Aquatic Invasive Species
Leave No Trace
Prevent Wildland Fires
Traveling With Your Dog
Be Wildlife Wise
Adequate trip planning and preparation helps travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing negative impacts to the land. Poor planning often results in a miserable experience and unintended damage to a special place.
Western Montana's Outdoor Spaces, Towns and Tribal Lands
If you’re thinking about exploring Western Montana, first check the status of the places in consideration. If it’s closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a backup plan. Remember, Western Montana sees a lot of visitors—especially around Glacier National Park. Before you book your trip, think about visiting in the spring, fall or winter. Glacier National Park is open year-round and offers adventures no matter the season.
Some areas and attractions may be closed, have reduced hours or be too busy to visit. Call ahead to businesses you plan to patronize. Lodging, stores, restaurants and breweries, museums, art galleries and even outdoor areas may have adjusted operating times and procedures or may have reduced capacity.
Check for mask requirements, as mask-wearing is enforced in some businesses. Although the Montana state directive does not require masks, there are businesses that require and enforce mask-wearing in indoor public spaces. In accordance with federal mandates, face coverings are also currently required on federal lands when social distancing is not possible—this includes Glacier National Park.
Masks are required for everyone on all forms of public transportation. Additional details are available at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.
Reservations Are a Must This Year
Secure all reservations in advance—lodging, campsites, rental cars, tours, tickets, etc.
There is a new ticketed entry reservation system for vehicles on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from May 28 to September 6, 2021, 6 a.m. – 5 p.m. Visit Glacier National Park’s ticketed entry system page to learn more.
If you plan to ride the free shuttle, you will need to reserve a shuttle system ticket on recreation.gov. for each person over 2 years old. The Ticket-to-Ride serves as a Going-to-the Sun Road entry reservation ticket for the day. Make sure to read Glacier National Park’s website carefully.
Check travel updates and the weather forecast before you head out. Weather can change very quickly, especially in higher altitudes.
Know what to wear and pack. Wear activity-appropriate clothing and footwear. Layers are always a good idea, and bring all the necessary gear and essentials.
Know your driving, hiking and biking routes and let friends and family know where you’ll be.
Be prepared for road delays and closures—be patient, and have a backup plan.
Be prepared for spotty cell phone service or even no service in some areas.
Keep an eye on your gas tank and know where the nearest gas station is.
Practice Leave No Trace
Be a considerate recreationist—whether hiking, biking or horseback riding, know trail etiquette ahead of time. Yes, trail etiquette is a thing and very important for safety and to ensure everyone has a positive experience. For example, hikers heading up an incline trail have the right of way when meeting hikers heading down.
Minimize your campfire impacts by adhering to all fire bans and restrictions. Always have enough water on hand to put out any open flame.
Wildlife is just that—wild. It's important to know how to act and recreate responsibly around wildlife. View wildlife from the safety of your car or from a safe distance. Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and at least 25 yards away from other large animals. Visit the Bear Aware website to learn more.
Wildland fire is a natural part of our region’s ecology. Many fires are caused by lightning, but many are also caused by humans.
Know how to prevent wildland fires by properly using outdoor equipment, making sure RV chains are not dragging en route, learning campfire safety and checking for fire restrictions and closures.
If you are traveling in the summer, know what fire restrictions are in place at your destination and check if campfires, barbeques and flammables are allowed. From fireworks to camp stoves, understand the potentially explosive nature of your toys and tools—some may be restricted or forbidden in your location.
Learn more about how to safely start, maintain and extinguish fires.
Once you know what your prospects are, plan ahead to stay safe and keep others safe. Adequate legwork ensures safer, more enjoyable travels—especially in the wild and unpredictable outdoors—and minimizes your impact on Montana’s resources and lands.
Secure reservations in advance—lodging, campsites, rental cars, shuttles, tours.
There is a new ticketed entry system for vehicles on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from May 28 to September 6, 2021, 6 a.m. – 5 p.m. If you plan to enter the park between those times, secure your ticket in advance and purchase your park pass in advance. Visit Glacier National Park’s ticketed entry system page for details.
If you plan to ride the free shuttle, you will need to reserve a shuttle system ticket for each person over 2 years old on recreation.gov. The Ticket-to-Ride serves as a Going-to-the Sun Road entry reservation ticket for the day. Make sure to read Glacier National Park’s website carefully.
Pack appropriate clothing and footwear and bring all the necessary gear and essentials. Packing list ideas include: hand sanitizer, mask, layers of clothing, hiking boots and good socks if hiking, GPS unit, hiking poles, bear spray (know how to use it), water, snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, food, water and plastic bags to carry your trash out when you’re recreating outdoors, especially in remote areas.
Be prepared for road delays and closures—be patient and have a backup plan.
Now is especially the time to stick to low-risk activities that fit your skill level. First responders, search and rescue teams, and medical personnel are all at mass capacity right now, so reducing your risk of injury is of utmost importance.
Know your physical limitations.
Always travel with ample water and provisions.
Be cognizant of the danger of water, whether moving or still. Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death in Glacier National Park where the water is very, very cold.
Stay a safe distance from all wildlife; they are wild for a reason—they can be unpredictable and dangerous. Know how to recreate in bear country.
Have a first-aid kit in your car or backpack. Ask park rangers and public land managers about potential safety concerns you should be aware of—bear activity, rock and mud slides, rough roads, etc.
Be part of an inclusive outdoors. We all play a role in helping to make sure our great outdoors are safe and welcoming for all abilities and identities by being kind, respectful and patient.
Please be mindful of our communities and small businesses, which have had to adapt to the change and may face limitations in hours and staffing this year—always call ahead.
Practice physical distancing. Keep your group size small. Be prepared to use a face covering and give others space. If you are sick, stay home and plan to visit Montana when you are well.
Keep in mind that other human beings might have different—but valid and safe—ways of enjoying the outdoors.
Be good stewards of our public lands and never recreate on private land.
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are plants, animals or pathogens that are not native to Montana and can cause harm to our environment and economy.
AIS are introduced accidentally or intentionally outside of their native range. AIS populations can reproduce quickly and spread rapidly because there are no natural predators or competitors to keep them in check. AIS can displace native species, clog waterways, impact irrigation and power systems, degrade ecosystems, threaten recreational fishing opportunities and can cause wildlife and public health problems.
If you plan to recreate on Montana’s waterways, know:
Glacier Country Tourism believes in being good stewards of our destination, balancing our culture, natural environment, and quality of life and experience—protecting the very qualities that make Northwest Montana first and foremost a wonderful place to live, with the added benefit of being a wonderful place to visit.
Glacier Country Tourism is a proud partner of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Leave No Trace is the most widely used stewardship education program on public lands across Montana. The program has been shown to reduce recreation related impacts and continues to inspire millions of visitors each year through the easy to practice Seven Principles of Leave No Trace. Think you know Leave No Trace? Take the free online course Leave No Trace: Take Action to Protect the Outdoors and find out!
Western Montana is susceptible to wildland fire, especially during the dry summer months. Following campfire safety is crucial. Preventable wildland fires threaten lives, property and our precious natural resources. Whether it is properly extinguishing a campfire or keeping your vehicle maintained to prevent sparks, following just a few simple steps can help prevent wildland fires. Learn how to properly use outdoor equipment; burn debris safely; maintain, and extinguish a campfire; maintain a vehicle and tow safely; and practice fire-safe target shooting to name a handful. If you are traveling in the summer, know what fire restrictions are in place at your destination and check if campfires, barbeques and flammables are allowed.
Did you know that many wildland fires start from vehicle use? Remembering these hot tips will help you #RecreateResponsibly this summer:
Exhaust can reach temperatures of 1000 + degrees, so avoid driving in or around dry grass.
Unmaintained vehicles shoot hot particles. Make sure your car, truck or OHV is maintained and suited for off-road adventures. Brakes worn too thin may cause metal-to-metal contact, which can cause a spark.
OHVs should have a spark arrestor. Drivers should pack a shovel and a bucket.
Practice safe towing. Dragging chains throws sparks. Use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains. Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained, with nothing dragging on the ground.
If you’re traveling with your dog in Western Montana, it’s important to be a responsible pet owner, plan ahead and know before you go. First and foremost, dogs should be properly licensed and up-to-date on vaccines, and, of course, aggressive pets should be left at home. Bring dog waste bags and pick up dog waste promptly. Always dispose of waste in proper receptacles, which you’ll often find near trails. If you don’t find a proper receptacle, you’ll need to carry the waste out with you. Make sure your dog doesn’t chase wildlife; this could harm wildlife, your dog or even you—or your dog could get lost. Make sure you carry enough food and water for you and your dog while you’re out exploring, and note that pets are not allowed on some public lands and waterways, and in other areas they must be leashed. Please note, dogs are not allowed on most trails in Glacier National Park.
Wildlife is just that—wild. It's important to act responsibly around wildlife, and it's also vital that, while recreating in the area, we help preserve and enhance wildlife habitat by practicing Leave No Trace principles.
View wildlife from the safety of your car or from a safe distance. Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and at least 25 yards away from all other wildlife such as mountain goats or bison.
Never approach, touch or feed wildlife, even when an animal does not seem to be threatened by your presence.
Let wildlife know you're nearby. When hiking, be sure to bring a friend, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals.
Recreating in Bear Country
It's important to remember that we share the land with wild animals. Many grizzly and black bears travel the forests, trails and terrain of Glacier Country. The grizzly bear is identified by a distinctive hump on its shoulders. Typically, its coat is dark brown, but can vary from very light cream to black. Grizzlies weigh between 400 and 1,500 pounds and can stand up to 8 feet tall on their hind legs. They also move very quickly and can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. When recreating in bear country, it's important to follow and practice certain rules and guidelines.
Stay 100 yards away from bears at all times.
Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
Hike in groups of three or more people.
Don't hike at dawn, dusk or at night, when grizzlies are most active.
Don't use perfumes or scented body lotions.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Most bears prefer to avoid people. When hiking, be sure to make noise such as clapping, whistling or singing so bears and other wildlife know you're coming.
If you see a decomposing animal carcass or smell a strong odor, be sure to give a wide berth to the area, as bears are attracted to these smells.
Never enter a closed trail.
Camp in designated camping areas.
Maintain a clean campsite. Be sure to store food in a bear-proof canister or hang it between trees at a height unreachable by bears.
Be sure to pack out all garbage. Remember, even if it's an organic or biodegradable item—like an orange peel, apple core or cherry pit—it is not native to the forest and takes a long time to decompose. Plus, these are not foods animals find in their natural habitat and they can become sick if they eat them.
Bear Encounters: Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating. Read more from the National Park Service about bear encounters here.
Remember that bears will fiercely defend their cubs. Don't come between a cub and a sow.
Deciding where to go while you’re here won’t be easy (it’s a pretty big place), but what you’ll quickly discover is that there’s so much Montana to see, you’ll be planning your next trip before this one is even over.
Here are some easy ways to get started. From laid-back weekend jaunts, romantic getaways and family vacations, to complete cultural experiences, there are seemingly endless options for adventure in Western Montana.
At first glance, Montana may not seem like a dining destination, but we’re happy to report it’s exactly that. With incredible fine dining restaurants, steakhouses, bakeries, bars, breweries, food trucks and cafés serving up a mix of everything—for every kind of eater—Montana is an adventure in food, too.
You don’t even need to see what’s around the next bend to be stopped in your tracks at Glacier National Park. The sheer beauty is jaw dropping from every angle. With over 1 million acres of towering, jagged peaks, cascading waterfalls, wild meadows and sparkling waters, plus wildlife watching and recreation opportunities, it is, quite simply, the vacation of a lifetime.