This episode is sponsored by Glacier Country Tourism. All opinions are our own.
This week, Tamara shares what it is like to visit Glacier Country, Montana on a girls’ trip and Kim shares her thoughts on this scenic part of Northwestern Montana. From Missoula to Whitefish, Kalispell to Glacier National Park — if Montana is on your bucket list, give this episode a listen!
Things to do in Glacier Country, Montana
- Glacier Country is a tourism region of Northwestern Montana that covers eight counties
- To get to Glacier Country you can fly into Missoula or Glacier Airport in Kalispell, both of which offer many direct flights, especially from the western USA
- You need to rent a car to visit this region and part of the experience is the scenic drives through the countryside
- To visit Glacier National Park, Tamara stayed at the Homewood Suites in Kalispell, which is about 45 minutes to the western entrance of Glacier National Park
- To visit Glacier National Park you need a reservation to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road from when it opens in June through mid-September. Reservations open 120 days in advance and fill up in minutes.
- Things in and around the park close by mid-September to early October.
- Kalispell and Whitefish are both good for exploring Glacier National Park if you can’t get reservations in the park. Whitefish is a ski resort town that is very cute but also pricey.
- The road into the Many Glacier section and Two Medicine Lake are gravel and very rough road.
- Kim stayed in Under Canvas at Glacier National Park in West Glacier and the Isaac Walton Inn, which is an old train depot and you can stay in a train caboose.
- On her trip, Tamara stayed in a few different types of accommodations including:
- The Lodge at Trout Creek — B&B lodge
- Bridge Street Cottages in Big Fork
- Laughing Horse Lodge
- Residence Inn Missoula
- If you want to see wildlife, drive through the Bison Range not far from Missoula
- Other fun outdoor adventures are:
- Kootenai Suspension Bridge & Kootenai Falls
- Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area
- Llama trekking with Swan Mountain Llama Treks
- Soak in the hot springs at Quinn’s Hot Springs
- Kayaking Clearwater Trail into Seely Lake
- Sunset boat tour on Flathead Lake
- Shoulder season in September was a great time to be
- If you are visiting be sure to Recreate Responsibly:
- Leave no trace
- Plan ahead and make reservations
- Be flexible as plans may need to change because of weather, fire, road closures, etc.
- Be mindful of wildlife and carry bear spray when hiking (buy it there but don’t bring it on the plane)
Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.090] – Kim Tate
Get in touch with nature in Glacier Country, Montana.
[00:00:15.640] – Tamara Gruber
Welcome to Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts. Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We3Travel.
[00:00:30.270] – Kim Tate
So, Tamara, you just got back from a pretty fun trip to an area of the United States that I think is just gorgeous. You went to Glacier Country, Montana, so why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit to start off where that is?
[00:00:43.600] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, absolutely. I just spent a week in Northwestern Montana, so Glacier Country is like a tourism region that covers eight counties. I can’t remember exactly how many square miles, but it’s like many, many times the state of Rhode Island.
[00:00:58.310] – Kim Tate
Well, Montana is like, quite large. One little pocket of Montana, but yeah, exactly.
[00:01:03.520] – Tamara Gruber
So it’s a pretty big region, and I covered at least, well, parts of at least four of the counties, but there’s really so much to see out there, so even a week was kind of like just scratching the surface. But this is, I guess, my third trip to Montana, so I really love it out there too. And one of our favorite trips ever was when we did a dude ranch in southwestern Montana at the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch. That was one of our favorite alltime vacations. So I was really excited to get back out there and explore. And just for full disclosure purposes, this podcast and my trip there was sponsored by Glacier Country Tourism so that I could have a chance to explore and share my experience there.
[00:01:45.520] – Kim Tate
Yeah, well, I definitely want to hear kind of everything you got up to and everything you did. I know that you started off before you started working with them. You did take the chance to go out a little in advance. So why don’t you first start off and tell us where you flew into and then how you kind of got around while you were visiting the region.
[00:02:00.460] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, absolutely. So I flew in and out of Missoula Airport, which was fairly easy. I mean, even from the East Coast, I did have to connect, but I’m not sure if you could be fly direct, but I know a friend that joined me from La. Was a direct flight, like two and a half hours. I was really surprised.
[00:02:17.470] – Kim Tate
And you can even go to Kalispell from Seattle. It’s a direct flight. And that’s even closer kind of up there.
[00:02:24.130] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, those are your two options. Like, there’s Missoula, or you could fly into Kalispell, which I think is like Glacier Airport or something like that, regional or something.
[00:02:33.780] – Kim Tate
It’s a small airport. Yeah.
[00:02:35.380] – Tamara Gruber
If you’re going to Glacier National Park, that is definitely closer. It’s probably 2 hours from Missoula, but for me, it was good. I connected through Minneapolis, which I’ve never been to their airport before. I’ve been to the city, but not the airport. And it was so easy. I kept thinking to myself, like, wow, my option was to go through Denver. And that just always stresses me out because I feel like I’m always somehow running from one end of a terminal to another with other people. But yeah, getting there once you’re there is so easy. There’s one baggage claim, you walk out and there’s the car rental, but you really, absolutely have to rent a car when you’re going to Montana. I mean, it’s called Big Sky Country for a reason. There’s a whole lot of open ground. I feel like a lot of going there is really about the scenic drives. So I feel like when you’re there, people there don’t really think about like, that it’s an hour from one place to another because that’s kind of commonplace. Where I live on the Northeast, where everything’s compacted together, that’s like, wow, it’s.
[00:03:35.050] – Kim Tate
45 minutes across your whole state.
[00:03:36.840] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, so but it’s kind of part of the experience of having the scenic dry because you have those really lovely mountains. It kind of reminds me of Northern California for people that haven’t been to Montana but have been to Northern California, where it’s like the dryish kind of hills and more towering mountains in the background, but those kind of hills with some green pines and things on them, just like blue sky, yellow grass, really just pretty, pretty country. Just clean, crisp air, big open spaces, so many places to explore. So. Yeah, I love that.
[00:04:12.370] – Kim Tate
Well. I know you started I mean. Everyone’s going to be eager to hear about Glacier National Park because I know you spent a little bit of time and I’ve been there before. But definitely know that this is to help you guys plan and understand that there’s more to this county in this region than just Glacier National Park. Which is actually crazy busy and you can see a lot of the same beauty kind of outside of the park. So you’re going to give us some hints on that. But why don’t you start off with just a little glimpse of what you thought about Glacier National Park. And I have a little couple of things I can say about that, but I want to hear your take.
[00:04:43.480] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, absolutely. So my feeling was that if I’m going to go to this part of the country, I really want to see Glacier National Park. It’s kind of one of those things, like, we’re all like, we know it’s touristy, but we still want to see it like the Eiffel Tower. And so I went out a couple of days early and I did stay in Calistelle. You know, unless you book something really far in advance, it’s very hard to get into the lodging in the park. And even the lodging, like on the outskirts, which we’ll talk about, I think, when we talk about your experience. There’s a lot of lamping places, there’s some lodges, but there’s kind of limited options, and they sell out and they’re pricey. And then there’s some luxury places which are really pricey. So I found it was easiest just for me to book in Kalaspel because it’s like a larger town. There are a lot of chain hotels. I stayed at the Homewood Suites, which was perfectly fine, but it is a bit of a drive to the park. It was about 45 minutes to the West Glacier entrance. So the hard thing about that is that it is busy, really, I think, no matter when you go, because the thing to know about Glacier National Park is that from the time the main road through the park is the Going to the Sun Road, it’s one of the most beautiful drives in the country.
[00:05:57.160] – Tamara Gruber
Everyone wants to do it. It doesn’t open until usually late June, maybe even July because of the snow. And now you need a reservation to be able to drive on that road from the time it opens through mid September. So I was there the weekend after. You didn’t need a reservation, which I think a lot of people were taking advantage of, you know, right. Like, oh, I couldn’t get a reservation before, so now I’m going to go. So it was still really busy. But the park also starts to kind of close down. Certain areas, like certain lodges are closed, certain activities and things around the park are starting to close by late September. And then in early October, at least this year, they’re closing the middle section of Going to the Sun Road in October 1 or very early October. So you have this kind of short window to get in there. And that’s the hard thing about it. If you want to plan a trip out there, those reservations open 120 days in advance, but they fill up within seconds. It’s like harder than getting a Disney princess, like, breakfast or reservation. And so suppose you plan this whole trip and then you don’t get that.
[00:07:05.560] – Tamara Gruber
There are some options you can take, like a shuttle, or there’s these red, kind of old fashioned open air buses that you can do, but you really need to plan ahead. Luckily, when I was there, it was a little bit more flexible. It was the first weekend that you didn’t renew a reservation, but it was also the last weekend of the shuttle. So, like I said, this in between period is pretty short when it comes to the farm. But driving that, I basically spent one day a friend of mine was supposed to join me, but she wasn’t actually able to come until Monday. And then we were able to explore Glacier Country together. So I was on my own for Glacier National Park. And we all know there’s a lot of bears in Glacier National Park. And so even though I stopped the visitor center, I talked to them about different hikes. I bought bear spray. I was definitely prepared one of the things that I was just nervous about going out on some of those trails on my own because they always recommend that you hike with someone. And then it turned out on that day, really, all of those trailheads, the parking lot was full, filled up, because.
[00:08:09.730] – Kim Tate
By the time I got there and.
[00:08:10.810] – Tamara Gruber
That’S the hard part about staying down in Kalispell. So basically I drove the going to the sun road. I did a whole lot of stops, did a couple of short hikes. It was beautiful. I loved it. I got out, I went all the way to the east entrance, and then I decided I can either turn around and come back the way I came or I can loop around the bottom of the park, you know, back to Callum Bell. So I decided to do that. And then on the east side there’s a couple of other entrances that kind of only go part way into the park. So I stopped at one of those on like the southern side just to see one little more section of the park and then I looped around the outside, which really takes about the same amount of time at least, but you’re seeing something different and not dealing with the traffic along that road. But the next day my plan was, well, I’m going to just get up at like 05:00 A.m. Because I stopped at the visitor center and they’re like, if you want to do these trails, you really should be in like this trailhead parking lot by seven, this one by eight.
[00:09:08.890] – Tamara Gruber
I’m like, okay, well, if I get up really early and I get out there, it’s a 45 minutes drive plus then into the park another 45 minutes. So I need to give myself like an hour and a half kind of to get to the one trailhead and yeah, and the next morning I was like, no, that’s not happening. Because I’m like, what if I get there and I still don’t find a spot? Or what if I get there and then there’s bears? Because they did say that there’s bear activity along both of those hikes that I was thinking of. And then also on the way back the next day, that day that I drove through the park, when I had no cell coverage, a light went on in my rental car. So it had me a little nervous about what was going on with that. So I actually decided on my second day to not go back to the park, to just take care of my rental car and then to explore some more of the towns in the area. So I really spent time exploring Calistell and then I drove up to Whitefish and explored that too.
[00:10:02.210] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, so I really just had one day in the park, so I have that taste of it. I have the iconic, like, going to the Sunroad. It’s beautiful. What more is there to say? It’s something I feel like you should do, but just know that it’s kind of like Zion or these others being able to actually get into the park and do these hikes. It just takes one of those time commitments of, like, getting there super early. And I really feel like if you stay in the park, you should maybe stay one night in the west side. West one night on the east side because just getting across to do somebody like, did you go to Many Glacier? Did you do glacier hike? And I’m like, I would have loved to, but I have to get all the way to the east side and then up. And so it’s a big time commitment if you’re not staying around there.
[00:10:52.840] – Kim Tate
Yeah, well, definitely. It’s funny because we actually weren’t able to go on going to the sunroof. So that’s something I’ve never done because we were there it was the week before the last week in June, so like 20 to the 24th or something like that, or 21st, and it still wasn’t open. And so it kind of adjusted things for us. And so we just drove in to the west side and kind of went to Lake McDonald’s and looked at the pretty scenery. And then we kind of came out and did a horseback ride and a couple of things just outside of the park. And then on the other day, we drove over to East Glacier and went to Many Glacier and looked at the glaciers there, which that road, by the way, to go to Many Glacier. I don’t know if they’ve fixed it, but it was just traumatic to drive. I mean, it’s the most potholed road I’ve ever seen in my life. And not like little potholes, it was.
[00:11:41.470] – Tamara Gruber
Like was it gravel?
[00:11:42.900] – Kim Tate
[00:11:44.960] – Tamara Gruber
I went into the southern part of the park on the east side, and of course, now I can’t remember the name of it. Medicine to medicine. I believe. Okay.
[00:11:56.500] – Kim Tate
There’s some like Elizabeth or something like famous campground also, like, up there.
[00:12:00.040] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, and it was also I kept thinking to myself, wait, why did I do this? I have to drive back out this. Because it was gravel and it was quite bumpy.
[00:12:10.810] – Kim Tate
And then the glacier road is just terrible and it was just kind of.
[00:12:14.230] – Tamara Gruber
A long way around.
[00:12:16.460] – Kim Tate
It is a long way.
[00:12:17.460] – Tamara Gruber
It really surprised me that really the only through fare through the park is going to the sun road. I thought there would be other ways to get into other sections of the park, and it’s really like there’s a lot of backcountry, but just from a let’s drive and explore or if you have little kids there’s not as much as I thought there would be.
[00:12:38.230] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I agree. That’s why I think I’m excited to hear kind of what you did around the area, because I think, like you said, the national park is great. You want to see it and do it. Lake McDonald. It’s the one that everyone has always seen this picture. I have a picture of the girls that it’s like the crystal clear lake with the colorful rocks that’s most likely like McDonald’s right there. West Glacier entrance stuff. So people love that, and that’s a really awesome thing. But during the summer and kind of crazy season, it’s just covered with people. And I think national parks have had like, a boom also because when we went with the girls, it wasn’t that busy. It wasn’t too, too bad and early June, but I feel like now national parks are just everyone’s doing it. And especially since you can get the national park pass for a pretty cheap it’s like 85, right?
[00:13:31.900] – Tamara Gruber
I think so.
[00:13:32.820] – Kim Tate
For the year. And I mean, that covers you if you go to two or three national parks a year, probably. So anyways. But yeah, I would say that’s cool. One of my favorite experiences was just where we stayed, and maybe we’ll go into where you stayed, but I’ll quickly shout out the two places. So we did the undercanvas, which I know you’ve talked about before. We did the undercanvas at Glacier, which is outside of the park, actually, and just kind of in a random not the most scenic, atmospheric place. It’s cool. The experience. I love under campus, but it’s kind of right off the highway. It feels like a hill of the highway, interstate. So just kind of a random location. And then one of the really cool places that was kind of towards East Glacier, Mars, we stated, I think it was called Isaac Walton. I think it’s Isaac Walton Inn, but it’s this old train depot. They actually still get I think the Amtrak train comes by there and they have these old train cabooses, and you can stay. And we stayed in one of the train cabooses for, I think, two nights, and that was just amazing.
[00:14:35.370] – Kim Tate
So if you have kids who are crazy about trains, look into that because they have like, an inn, which is I don’t know if it’s kind of like B and B in, like, shared bathrooms. I’m not quite sure. I didn’t check out the inn much, but the train cars on site that you can stay in are really cool.
[00:14:51.150] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, that sounds neat. I mean, the home and suites where I stayed was basic. It was Homestream, it was mean, it was good. It was located near so many things. It was a short drive to downtown, and it was kind of near like a super Walmart. And it’s hard get by hiking and.
[00:15:08.770] – Kim Tate
Getting snacks and stuff.
[00:15:10.320] – Tamara Gruber
[00:15:11.660] – Kim Tate
And then where else, though? Because you stayed? So do you want to tell us about where else you stayed? Because you were in California for a little while and then I really moved.
[00:15:19.560] – Tamara Gruber
Around a lot, so I probably did not do your typical trip. And when we were there, we were really trying to see a lot of the area. I think if most people would go for a few days, they’d want to settle in one spot for a little bit. But I did get to experience like a few different types of lodging that Montana has to offer. So Montana has a lot of ranches, they have a lot of lodges, and then there’s like bed and breakfasts and cottages. So it’s not a lot of chain kind of places unless you’re in one of these larger towns. And part of going to Montana is kind of being out there in the nature. Yeah. I can talk a little bit about some of the places I’ve stayed at. One of them is called the Lodge at Trout Creek, which is basically like a really large, beautiful lodge home that was set up as a bed and breakfast. So it’s privately owned. I could imagine if you went there with like a multigeneration family or like friends or girlfriend group, it would be so fun to take over the whole place because I think there’s like there’s five rooms there, but they’re huge and it’s just gorgeous.
[00:16:29.140] – Tamara Gruber
It looks like a home that would be in one of these magazines, like Style kind of magazines, definitely. And it’s out there in the countryside. The hosts like one. The husband, I think, does guiding for hiking and hunting and things like that. But it’s a beautiful property. They have a really nice porch just overlooking the woods and the scenery and big fireplaces, just like a cozy, lovely place. And then they have a wonderful she does a wonderful breakfast every morning. So we had homemade bear claws and there were actually so many things. We gave a little omelette order the next day, but she actually made it up more like a T shirt for Tata in a big pie place. And I felt a little guilty if I didn’t eat at all. She had like, fresh fruit and I think bacon. There was so much food, so it’s kind of good, though. It reminded me when I was in England and we needed to fuel up for the day of activity. So it was good. It was like just a lovely kind of place. And then the next night that I was there, we stayed at a place called the Bridge Street Cottages and that was in the town of Big Fork, which is near Flathead Lake, which I don’t know if you got to did you get to see Flat Lake?
[00:17:50.490] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I didn’t spend much time on there, but I know well, we drove past it and I know we actually have friends who are building a house just near Flathead near Big Fork and Flathead Lake. So I know the region pretty well and I know July. They’re famous for their cherries.
[00:18:05.660] – Tamara Gruber
If you love cherries, Huckleberry is everywhere. The cherries as well. One of the things about the lakes there one of the reasons why they’re so clear is so Montana and Glacier Country have this initiative called Recreate Responsibly, and so they really want to focus on people using the outdoors in a responsible way, which is like the leave no trace, being responsible around wildlife, you know, like carrying bear spray and things like that. Even when you’re using a gas powered vehicles like ATVs or things like that, like staying on trails and all that kind of stuff. But with their lakes, they have a program so that every watercraft that goes into the lake, from boats to paddleboards, needs to be inspected to make sure they’re not bringing any invasive species into the lakes. And so there you have these beautiful clear lakes because they’ve been protected and taken care of. But I was amazed driving past Flathead Lake. Like, I’ve heard about it so many times, and I’m driving by and I’m like 20 minutes later, I’m still driving by. Like, this lake is huge. The one thing I didn’t get to do, which we were supposed to do, was have a boat ride out on the lake at sunset.
[00:19:18.730] – Tamara Gruber
But it was a little windy because these lakes that are so large, obviously if it’s a little bit windy, you can really get some chop out there.
[00:19:26.160] – Kim Tate
Of course. Yeah, it’s pretty big. And they have, like there’s an island, horse island or something like that, in the middle of Flathead Lake, and you can rent a paddleboard or canoe or kayak or something and go out there to it. Did you hear about that or see that?
[00:19:40.810] – Tamara Gruber
I didn’t, but I believe it is just from driving by. You see there’s a state park for the South Branch, the North Branch, the this farm, the this cove. There’s all these different areas. So sometimes I’m not sure, am I looking at shoreline or am I looking at an island? There’s all these different kind of coves and inlets for the lake because it’s so large.
[00:20:01.990] – Kim Tate
Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. It’s a beautiful area out there.
[00:20:05.250] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. And saying this town of Big Fork was, like, super charming. Like, if you did you go to Whitefish when you were there? Yep.
[00:20:11.830] – Kim Tate
Yeah, we did Whitefish, and we did on the mountain. So Whitefish is a famous there’s a ski resort. The ski resort has a really awesome, like, alpine slide and ropes adventure course on their summer offerings there. So they also I love downhill biking, but yeah, it’s pretty fun. So we love that. I love that area.
[00:20:32.140] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Whitefish, to me, I stayed in Calicebell. Downtown California is cute. It has definitely that Western town kind of feel to it. But when you pull into Whitefish, as soon as I pulled in, I was like, oh, this is a ski town.
[00:20:45.270] – Kim Tate
[00:20:45.600] – Tamara Gruber
It has that vibe. Feels like a Colorado or even like a Vermont, like, upscale. It reminded me a lot, actually, a Steamboat Springs in Colorado. So it just has like there’s more restaurants there’s more shops, there’s yoga places. It has that, like, Lavendale. We paid at the store.
[00:21:05.360] – Kim Tate
Yeah, they have, like, a pet store that I went into once to buy something for Sophie that’s like, oh, yeah, this is total ski townish.
[00:21:11.460] – Tamara Gruber
And it’s a little closer to Glacier National Park. I feel like if you are not staying in the park or in one of the lodges or Glamping resorts right outside the park, like, Whitefish would definitely make a nice place to stay.
[00:21:24.010] – Kim Tate
And it’s definitely pricey. I know that Whitefish and even Flathead Lake, for the Seattle, Washingtonian people, that is like a premium vacation destination. So just a heads up if you think Montana, but no, it definitely is pricey up there.
[00:21:42.480] – Tamara Gruber
Another reason why I ended up in Cows bell. Yes, but also why some of these other places that I mentioned that are a little bit more off the beaten path and a little bit more out in the countryside, like, are good options. But this Bridge Street cottages was individual little cottages, but right in town. The little town of Big Fork, which is really tiny but really cute. And it’s right on, like, one of the little parts of Flathead Lake. So if you want to do some lake activities and explore it’s, like, close to other types of outdoor activities, it’s a good option. I stayed in a onebedroom that had a pullout couch in the living room area, had, like, a living room kitchen, really nice bathroom, one bedroom. I can’t imagine that they don’t have two bedrooms, but I didn’t get to see it because I was thinking, like, wow, this would be a great spot for families, especially if they had two bedrooms. And the funny thing was, we were, like, going out to dinner that night. We got in the car, we’re pulling out of the cottages, we’re, like, just a few feet down the road, and I look over, I’m like, I had this thought go through my head, and I’m like, there’s a bear statue.
[00:22:49.800] – Tamara Gruber
It moved. That’s a bear. I’m like, Bear to our friend Karen. And she was like, bear because she’s never seen a bear before. So I’m like her. Good luck.
[00:22:59.890] – Kim Tate
[00:23:00.730] – Tamara Gruber
But I’m like all the places that we were in the woods, all this. We find the bear in town, and so we pull over. And again, being responsible, we stayed away from it. We just rolled down the window to take a picture and video of it. But it was actually like walking through, like, a park and trying to check out the garbage can there. So it was like looking for snacks and shocked to see that garbage can.
[00:23:24.510] – Kim Tate
Wasn’T a bear proof. Every park. I’m like, what was that?
[00:23:28.090] – Tamara Gruber
I saw a video of it.
[00:23:29.100] – Kim Tate
I’m like, Is that not a bear proof can?
[00:23:31.590] – Tamara Gruber
We were like, how in Montana are they not bear proof? But this fisherman walked up and we were like, oh, there’s a bear. And he’s like, oh. And then the bear saw him and ran away. And he was obviously a local because he’s like, oh, that bear started me earlier today. He was, like, chewing on apples and so and so’s house. And I’m like, well, we don’t know who so and so is. You tell we were tourists, plus our rental car, like, Florida place, but we were like, it’s a bear, and we’re all scared. And meanwhile, these other people are, like, walking up, like, to look at it, and it was right near, like, a little river. So the bear ran down towards the river. So we drove to the other side of the river, waiting to see if we could see it down in the water. And what happens? The bear comes walking across the pedestrian bridge. Like, I was very nice of the bridge.
[00:24:19.780] – Kim Tate
Well, when you said someone who was a fisherman, it’s like, I certainly don’t want to smell like fish when I’m.
[00:24:23.980] – Tamara Gruber
Right, but it’s so funny how casual they are. They’re like, oh, I know. It startled me the way, like, if you walked around the corner and you saw a deer would startle you. But deers don’t eat you.
[00:24:34.800] – Kim Tate
Yeah, well, especially with a black bear. And I do know that’s much more. Like, black bears are kind of they’re more skittish. They’re more skittish. It’s not a big deal. So if it was a grizzly bear, then we got some issues.
[00:24:45.130] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Well, then I would be like, how are we getting from our car to our cabin? But it’s exciting when you get to see wildlife. And honestly, on this trip, we saw so many deer everywhere, which sometimes when you’re driving is not what you want to see, but you’re even in town walking down the street or just in people’s yards. I see that at home, too, but I don’t know, there’s always an elk.
[00:25:09.790] – Kim Tate
Or just mostly deer.
[00:25:10.980] – Tamara Gruber
You know, I think I saw Elk. So one of the things that I did when I first got there, actually, as I was driving up to Kalispell, I saw a sign for the National Bison Range. And I’m like, yes, I was going.
[00:25:21.690] – Kim Tate
To say that they drove through there. Yeah.
[00:25:23.250] – Tamara Gruber
I was like, that sounds interesting. Yeah, but I don’t know. I just got off the plane, like, let me just keep driving. I saw the second sign for it, and I’m like, let’s just go. I pulled in, and it was a bit of a drive out there. But then I get there, I go to the visitor center and they’re like, well, did you do the loop? Is 2 hours, and like, oh, I don’t have that much time. Like, I have a reservation, so you can do, like, a lower part of the loop. I don’t know if you did the whole loop or not, but we did the whole loop. Okay, so I did like, the lower part where you. Can turn around at any point and come back. So I spent like, an hour there, saw tons of bison, which, again, is always cool. I don’t care if you’ve seen them before or not. It’s just it’s fun. Yeah, it’s fun. And I saw, like, from pretty far distance, I saw either a deer with a very large rack or an elk. Or an elk. I just can’t tell from, like, even with my zoom camera on my zoom lens on my camera, even looking at the pictures later, I’m like, I still can’t really tell.
[00:26:19.660] – Tamara Gruber
I’m gonna say I saw an elk.
[00:26:21.370] – Kim Tate
Yeah, there you go.
[00:26:22.420] – Tamara Gruber
I saw an antelope, too.
[00:26:24.550] – Kim Tate
Oh, really? Yeah.
[00:26:26.380] – Tamara Gruber
[00:26:26.670] – Kim Tate
I forget that. Yeah. I always think of Wyoming and for Anthony, but I guess that’s right.
[00:26:30.480] – Tamara Gruber
I mean, I’ve seen them in northern in Munich, and that’s the northern entrance of the Yellowstone.
[00:26:36.540] – Kim Tate
I’m pretty sure I saw them a lot there as well on that bison range. Now that you say it, I’m pretty sure I did see those there as well.
[00:26:43.000] – Tamara Gruber
Bell bald eagles. Oh, yeah. Pretty good. I think it’s like a good trip. You’re going to spot some wildlife again when you’re coming from places where this is not common. It’s exciting.
[00:26:54.030] – Kim Tate
Yeah, of course. And that bison range is where I actually saw a black bear that actually I was like, is that a sun bear? Because it kind of looked like a California sun bear. It had that kind of light coloring. And I’d ask people there, and they said, no, it’s a black bear, but they can come in different shades and color. And I was like, oh, okay. I never knew that.
[00:27:13.420] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, that was another place where at the visitor center, they’re like, well, if you do the whole loop, there’s these two hikes that I would really recommend. They’re not that long. She’s like, but just so you know, bears have been spotted on them, like, today. And I’m like, okay. I didn’t have a chance to buy bears yet before I went to okay. Yeah, it’s something that you kind of expect to see a little bit of when you go to a place like Montana, of course.
[00:27:38.110] – Kim Tate
So is there any place else that you want to mention that you stayed that’s kind of cool or unique or that you loved?
[00:27:43.750] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, everywhere that I stayed was a little bit different to give you a slightly different vibe. And one of the places I stayed was called laughing Horse Lodge. And we first pulled up. It looks a little bit like a roadside not motel, but just like a roadside lodge, and you’re like, what’s this going to be like? Is this really where I want to be? It has a restaurant. There’s a lot of there’s a lot of, like, dive bar kind of places around when you’re driving montana, what’s this going to be? Nice. But it’s owned by someone who’s just, like, so creative and so interesting and so the rooms are in the back. Like, you go around into a courtyard and all in the courtyard she has a fountain and just like this really lovely, peaceful, like, almost Zen setting with artwork hanging up all over. She has animals I loved playing with, like, the dogs and the cats, the cat that doesn’t like anybody came to sit on my lap. So it just had this creative artsy kind of vibe to it. And that was called Laughing Horse Lodge. And the rooms were, I guess, slightly motel like in that it was open to a porch, but entering, like in this courtyard, not like out onto the street.
[00:28:49.800] – Tamara Gruber
And then it was more like log cabin looking like wood walls and just cozy beds. So it was cute. It wasn’t a fancy place, but it was, like, charming, especially just because of the people that work there. So, I mean, I would just mention that because the people Kathleen that runs it is just such an interesting person, like, great to just have breakfast and have a conversation with her in the morning.
[00:29:13.980] – Kim Tate
Awesome. There’s so much of that in Montana. The people in Montana are really unique and fun and they’re really different, like, down to earth way than Kansas, like, from where I grew up. It’s kind of funny. It’s got a bit of the Midwest feel or yeah, I don’t know. It’s cool.
[00:29:28.990] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, that’s good. And then when we were in Missoula, I would just mention we stated a residence inn, which you think residence in, but it was like a really cool residence in, you know how Hotel IndiGo’s or graduates really try to customize it for where they are? That’s really what this residence in was. It was in a spot where it used to be an old mercantile building. And so they took a lot of, like, the materials and the history from the mercantile building and incorporated into the design of the lobby. I mean, it does not look like a residence in, but you still have the space. You have a residence in, but everything felt like, really new, really fresh. Sometimes residence in can be a little tired. So it was definitely the nicest residence in, and it was right on the main street, super convenient. So if you’re going to Missoula for a weekend or something, which is a nice little town, I would definitely check that out.
[00:30:21.460] – Kim Tate
That’s cool. I’m trying to remember. I think it was Missoula, but nobody like I get confused on some of the big cities in Montana, but I think it was Missoula. They have a really cool, really old fashioned carousel in like, a downtown area park or something. And they have where you buckle in to you have to wear the buckle around your waist and there’s a reach for the ring and there’s these little plastic rings hanging as you come around on the carousel. You can try and grab one of the rings and the person gets the gold ring, like, oh, yeah, you win. And I remember when we were there, we did that with the girls, and they had so much fun. I swear they went around and around on that carousel. I don’t know how much money I spent. Like, it’s like a dollar each for a ride or something.
[00:31:07.690] – Tamara Gruber
Here they have one of those flying horses carousel where you get the breasts ringing and get the free ride.
[00:31:12.360] – Kim Tate
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. I think it is.
[00:31:15.160] – Tamara Gruber
I didn’t see it, but I remember seeing on a map carousel but the only day that we had one day of rain, and so we had to cancel. We were supposed to kayak along this trail that then leads into Sea Li Lake. And so that was canceled because it was like, 40 degrees and raining really hard, so it’s not so great. Every other day was beautiful. I feel like September is a great day to go. It was like high 60s, low 70s, sunny skies, no smoke, like, just beautiful. And the crisp, chilly nights where you want to cuddle under a blanket. But it was fine because one day we changed our plans. We found a lodge where we just hung out by the fireplace and then had lunch, we played cards, then we went into town. We ended up canceling the one thing. So we booked a day spa to do massages, and then we just walked around town and shopped a little bit. So it’s nice to be near a town for a rainy day or staying at one of these lodges where it’s perfectly fine to just sit in front of a fire with a book and enjoy it and relax a little bit.
[00:32:12.660] – Tamara Gruber
But definitely part of going to Montana is a little bit of this flexibility.
[00:32:16.810] – Kim Tate
I could see that. So we’ve covered a little bit about the national park and of course, the Bison Reserve, a couple of things around there. What other cool things did you do when you were visiting Glacier Country?
[00:32:27.790] – Tamara Gruber
There are a couple of things I definitely want to mention, and I don’t want to make it seem like these are the only things, because everywhere I drove, I’m like going past this national forest in the state forest in the state park. And there’s just so much there so many lakes and things. But some of my highlights were one of the things we did was llama trekking. I find stories. It looks so cute. I don’t know anything to do with animals. It just makes you feel good. You’re going on a hike, but you’re going on a hike with an animal, and it’s just they’re such goofy, silly animals in some ways. But I remember last year I went on a little weekend girls trip with a couple of my college friends to the Finger Lakes region. And one of the things that I had set up with an alpaca farm was a visit to the Alpaca farm, but then also like, walking them around, but that was kind of just like walking them around the field and back. That was cool. But this I’ve seen in a few different places and I’ve wanted to try it, so I was really excited to give it a try.
[00:33:25.810] – Tamara Gruber
The place that we did it with was called Swan Mountain llama Trekking, and they typically will do a group up to, I think, maybe ten or twelve. And if they have it that large, they’ll have two guys. But because we were there in that shoulder season, we were the only people. So it was like us and a guide. So the two of us and we each had a llama that we met and basically just led through the path. It was a five mile hike.
[00:33:55.830] – Kim Tate
Was it a loop or out and back?
[00:33:57.630] – Tamara Gruber
It was out and back. So basically we loaded up the llamas with our lunch stuff, which they provide, walked in. Parts of it were hilly, and it was funny because I’m like, wow, why does my day pack feel so heavy? Like, I just walked for 84 miles in England. Shouldn’t I be used to carrying like, a day pack? And it took me until like the next day when I’m like, oh, I totally forgot to take my laptop out of my backpack. It wasn’t flat. There was definitely some hills to climb and such. So I guess when you keep in mind your mobility, your activity level but it wasn’t like a challenging hike. It was on the easy to moderate side. And then we arrived at a waterfall and had lunch sitting by the waterfall, hung out there for a while and then checked back out. It was just really cool, like I said, just getting to kind of interact with the animals and just a fun way to do a hike. And honestly, I’m happy to do guided hikes in places like that because number one, the trails, even just driving to this trailhead, like, you drive past all these trailheads or these entrances, but then split off into like six branches for all these different trailheads.
[00:35:10.930] – Tamara Gruber
Unless you’re like, really following all trails or some kind of good hiking guide, you may not know which ones to do to begin with, but then to be with a guide that is going to also help you scare away bears is great. And then we didn’t have to carry our lunch or anything, so llamas were doing that. So it was fun.
[00:35:28.710] – Kim Tate
Yeah, that’s awesome. I would love to do something like that. I wonder if the llamas help, like if they would make because I was thinking about, like, this is my thing in Montana, hiking with lunches. It’s like, okay, what do you do? You hike and then you have food out in the wilderness. Is that going to attract other animals? I wonder if llamas would help keep other animals away. Yeah, it attracted more.
[00:35:51.660] – Tamara Gruber
When we were hiking, our guide went first and she would be like, Yogi Bear, like, do the typical like if you’re coming around a corner, just like, giving a little noise. Because you have animals, like, we weren’t in grizzly country, and because you have two animals are usually more you’re making a fair amount of noise.
[00:36:14.430] – Kim Tate
Noise, yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.
[00:36:16.230] – Tamara Gruber
So I definitely think that helps. The lunch was in the coolers, and then we took of course, it’s like leave no trace, pack everything and pack everything out. So we put all of our trash and the remnants of lunch back in the coolers. So they’re not smelling it as much either. It felt very good.
[00:36:35.660] – Kim Tate
[00:36:36.420] – Tamara Gruber
A couple of other people, when we were coming back, we passed like three ladies, which is funny. That night they were just going to hike to the waterfall on their own. And then that night they saw us actually at the lodge where we were having dinner and they were like, llama girls. Yes, that’s us.
[00:36:52.090] – Kim Tate
Small town life.
[00:36:55.160] – Tamara Gruber
That was awesome.
[00:36:56.560] – Kim Tate
What else did you get up to? Anything else? You want to shut up?
[00:36:58.870] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, a couple of other things. I did mention that a couple of our activities were canceled because the wind and the rain. So the wind one night, it was a beautiful day, but it was a bummer we couldn’t do that sunset sail because we watched the sunset by the lake. It was really pretty. And then the kayaking. So I definitely if I went back, I would really want to do something on one of the lakes because I feel like that was missing from the itinerary, but no fault of anybody with the weather.
[00:37:26.070] – Kim Tate
Yeah, exactly. That’s one of the things. The shoulder season, right? Like you kind of risk that a little bit. I mean, you risk it almost any.
[00:37:30.720] – Tamara Gruber
Season, but yeah, and that’s why I think it’s just good to have backups and be flexible and going in with that frame of mind, knowing what alternatives there are. But the other thing that we did that I really liked is we visited Kootenae Falls and suspension bridge. So it’s a bit of a drive. We’re actually seeing signs and like, we’re actually not far at all from northern Idaho. I’m recognizing some names. And even like, Spokane, it’s like not too far.
[00:37:58.030] – Kim Tate
I know you go right across, like, Idaho, that little sliver there. And you’re also really close when you’re in Glacier, actually their sister park across in Alberta.
[00:38:05.250] – Tamara Gruber
[00:38:06.070] – Kim Tate
Yeah, waterton. Yeah. I know a lot of people like to kind of combine that.
[00:38:11.010] – Tamara Gruber
Actually, I have a friend from Idaho that just recently did that. She’s a glacier. Then she went up to Waterton and then up to Bamp and Jasper even kind of made it one big one big trip.
[00:38:22.240] – Kim Tate
[00:38:22.840] – Tamara Gruber
But the Kootenay Falls and suspension bridge, I guess the old suspension bridge, from what I’ve heard, from the people that were there used to be kind of sketchy, but now it’s like really nice. So it’s an easy maybe mile hike down to the suspension bridge and then you can kind of walk along a bit of a gorge. It’s really following a river. It’s not a tall gorge, but it’s a bit of a river banks with these beautiful rapids going by. And then when you come back, you can either do the bridge first or the falls first, but you can also go out to the falls, which are not super tall, but they’re still just beautiful because the water has that like it’s not the glacier blue of like a pure glacier fed, but it’s still like a nice really blue water. And, you know, there’s just something about being around waterfalls, ocean, it’s like very restorative, I find.
[00:39:15.570] – Kim Tate
Yeah. I wonder if you’re a water sign. I wonder how that works. I’ve always wondered. I don’t know enough about astrology to know.
[00:39:21.280] – Tamara Gruber
But yeah, I’m a junior guy. I’m on the cusp of whatever comes next. I don’t know.
[00:39:25.990] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I always joke with Paul because he loves water and loves swimming and he’s a water sign, so I’m always like, oh, yeah, and I’m a fire sign and I like to be warm and cozy. I don’t like swimming because I don’t want to be cold.
[00:39:38.190] – Tamara Gruber
I was going to say I do not like to be in the water. Yeah, I like to be on fire. I do too.
[00:39:43.990] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I like to hear water and I love wheat, like ocean waves. But anyway, sorry, side tangent.
[00:39:50.140] – Tamara Gruber
Maybe I’m also fire because I am definitely a fire bug. We’re sitting at the lodge and I kind of needed to have another log added and be stoked a little bit. I’m like, Will they yell at me if I do it? The wood is sitting right here. And finally somebody came over and did it. So I was like, oh, I was thinking of doing it. And she’s like, oh, you could have would have been fine. I’m like, oh, yeah? You’re like, yes.
[00:40:09.190] – Kim Tate
[00:40:10.120] – Tamara Gruber
But I would say that area was just it was really pretty. I saw some people bringing a picnic so you could spend a picnic there. And it’s just a scenic drive around there. And then it was only maybe 15 minutes to this other area that we went to, which was called the Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area.
[00:40:28.840] – Kim Tate
I saw you saw some big trees.
[00:40:30.600] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. So they’re not redwoods or sequoias, but they’re still like really beautiful cedar trees. And within the park there’s the trail of Cedars Trailhead, which had no parking. So it’s like I didn’t get to see it in Glacier National Park, but you get to see something very similar. And there was two other cars in the parking lot.
[00:40:48.750] – Kim Tate
[00:40:49.510] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, so we really that’s one of.
[00:40:51.240] – Kim Tate
Those, like, do this instead of this or exactly.
[00:40:55.390] – Tamara Gruber
And being able to combine those two at least made it worthwhile to take a drive. And the scenic drive is really nice. There’s this route 200 that goes I think kind of east to west in Montana. And every time we were by it was such a beautiful it kind of follows a river, so you’re seeing those kind of rocky rivers, some cool bridges going over. It’s, just really nice scenery. Think of it as like we’re going to take scenic drives, we’re going to get out and we’re going to take some hikes to see some pretty waterfalls or trees, sites like this. So it’s just a way to get into nature.
[00:41:34.540] – Kim Tate
Well, it sounds like you guys had a lot of fun and it’s cool that you saw so much of the area kind of outside the park and got a really experienced some unique things. But why don’t you maybe wrap us up with some final tips for anyone who’s maybe thinking about planning a trip out to that area to Glacier Country and kind of get them anything they need to know when they’re doing their planning.
[00:41:54.490] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I mean, some of it we’ve talked about before, but I would just emphasize the need to plan ahead, especially if you’re going in the summer and try to think about things. Like, I think people expect it to always be cooler, but there’s actually some big heat waves in Montana in the summer and there’s also fire season in Montana. So I really absolutely loved going in September. We were there just as the color was starting to come out for fall. But like I said, the weather was really beautiful and it just felt like such a nice time to go. Outside of the park, things were not as crowded. And honestly, I’m sure inside of the park it wasn’t as crowded. I just think it’s pretty much crowded there, like while the door is open. I don’t think there’s any getting around that. But I would just encourage people to even if you want to do the park, don’t make that like your whole trip because really you’re going to get frustrated with the crowds and things. Like you’ll have so much of a better time if you spend most of your time exploring Glacier Country outside of the park is what I would say.
[00:43:05.080] – Tamara Gruber
And then I would just say make sure you’re prepared, like all the things we talked about, like if you’re going to go on a hike, if there is a way to check and see what activity has been around, that’s good. If there’s a visitor center or something. But otherwise definitely bring bear spray. Use smart common sense when it comes to like making noise and giving a shout when you come to a corner of the trail, just to let anybody know to get out of the way. Especially those black bears because they will.
[00:43:35.260] – Kim Tate
Usually yeah, they want to get away.
[00:43:37.230] – Tamara Gruber
They want to get away. Yeah, and just leave no trace. Like, I still when we were at the suspension bridge, I saw somebody just like, drop a bag of trash, and luckily it caught in the webbing of the suspension bridge. And I was able to pick it up and then bring it out and throw it away because it otherwise would have blown right down into the river. And I’m like, why don’t you do this? Like you’re in such a beautiful place. Even when I was in Glacier National Park, I stopped with this one overlook, and it was just a stunning valley. And there was a couple kind of down the path standing there, taking it all in. I’m like, oh, what a beautiful scene. And I get closer to them and they’re like, smoking. I’m like, oh, jeez, how do you even do that in a place like this? But I also saw when we were at the Cedars, a lot of people had carved their initials into things and they had made those rock cairns, which are really only supposed to be made as trail markers. There’s a lot of that. And I’d also say that there are two different Native American reservations there, so you need to be mindful.
[00:44:38.040] – Tamara Gruber
I know during COVID, some of those areas were closed because they were protecting the local communities. But it’s a good time to try to learn a little bit about local cultures and just showing the respect for that. So that’s really what I would kind of leave with when it comes to tips. Awesome.
[00:44:55.750] – Kim Tate
I think that’s good. I was going to say I was trying to think if I had one more oh, the bear spray. You can’t fly with bear spray, obviously. I mean, I think most people know that it’s aerosol. So make sure if you are buying something, you can’t buy it in advance and bring it with you.
[00:45:10.240] – Tamara Gruber
And I will say I saw a couple of lodges offered bear spray with their stay for use while you’re there.
[00:45:15.570] – Kim Tate
Yeah, you can do rentals. Yeah.
[00:45:17.020] – Tamara Gruber
And then there was one in Glacier National Park. The Apgar campground does rentals. I knew I wasn’t going to be coming back that way, so I did buy it. But it’s like $45 or $50. And hopefully you’re not going to use it because I knew someone there. I had dinner the last night with someone from the Glacier Country Tourism Board. I was able to give it to her and say, here, you have this for you. Give this to the next person that comes, or whatever. Yeah. When I’ve been in Canada, I’ve just left it for the housekeeping.
[00:45:49.910] – Kim Tate
Yeah, it’s nice. That’s something to keep in mind.
[00:45:52.540] – Tamara Gruber
There is one other thing I would mention. I forgot the first night that we were there, we went to Quinn’s Hot Springs. So there’s actually a lot of hot springs around this area of Montana, and some of them are more natural hot springs where you’re going to find, like, algae and things, but this one was with actual pools. And, like, you can buy it a day pass, but you have to do it in advance because they only sell a certain number per day because it’s also an area that has cabins. So it’s mostly for people to stay there. And it does look up even to stay there, like, a year in advance. So you want to book out in advance. But they provide towels. They have a beautiful locker room. You can have drinks. There’s a restaurant where we had dinner. So if you want, like, a nice clean hot spring experience where it’s fed by the natural hot springs, but it’s not it doesn’t have the downsides of a natural spring.
[00:46:44.860] – Kim Tate
[00:46:46.090] – Tamara Gruber
Then I would check that out. Yeah.
[00:46:47.830] – Kim Tate
They always feel weird in some ways, though, because I feel like I’m taking a bath with a bunch of strangers, but kind of like a communal hot tub at the hotel. But they are pretty neat and I love it. The ones where it’s more of a resort experience where, oh, let’s go in the afternoon and we’ll relax, and then we’ll have, like, happy drinks and then we’ll go to dinner or something. I think it’s really cool.
[00:47:06.490] – Tamara Gruber
They had different pools with different heats and you’re there looking up at the mountains. Yes, exactly. Definitely had more of that resort type feel.
[00:47:15.730] – Kim Tate
Yes. I love those. Awesome. Okay, well, thanks for all the tips. I’m sure that you will eventually be getting some blog content, but everyone can go to your Instagram stories on a weekly travel and see some of your highlights and stuff if they want to get an insight.
[00:47:31.480] – Tamara Gruber
And see the bear. See the big bear, hopefully. And the cute llamas, definitely. Hopefully. By the time this is out, I’ll have an article out and I’ll link to it in the show notes as well.
[00:47:42.430] – Kim Tate
Sounds good. Well, thanks for joining us for another week here at Vacation Mavens, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
[00:47:47.130] – Tamara Gruber
Talk to you soon. Close video.