Skip those Crowds In Glacier Park this Summer!

Sunset in Glacier National Park at Lake McDonald

For those who want to explore!

Located in the northwest corner of Montana is what most refer to as the “Crown of the Continent.”  This is a vast playground for any outdoor enthusiast. Glacier Park is home of the continental divide, and 1 million acres filled with vast forests, towering mountains, and during three months of the year a ocean… a ocean of cars, crowds, and crazy drivers.

Every year Glacier National Park breaks it’s annual visitation record. Last year a whopping 3.3 million people hiked the trails, swam in the lakes, and battled for parking at the famed Logan Pass Visitor Center. But this doesn’t have to be you this summer if you follow this tip.

Explore Outside the Boundary of the Glacier

The truth is, there is much more to explore beyond the boundaries of Glacier than most think. If you want to beat the crowds this summer, exploring these spots is the right choice for you.

Jewel Basin Hiking Area

Jewel Basin

Located 40 miles south of Glacier Park nestled up in the Swan Mountain Range is the Jewel Basin Hiking area. This spot provides some of the best day hikes in the area. Home to 25 crystal clear alpine lakes and 35 miles of hiking trails, it is easy to say one could get lost here. Don’t worry though, I promise you will only get lost in the best of ways! 😉

Also…. you can camp, park and hike for free!

Bob Marshall photo of china wall with bear grass

Bob Marshall Wilderness

Ever wonder what Glacier Park looked like before the roads, the buildings, and parking lots? Go see it for yourself in the Bob Marshall Wilderness aka “The Bob” by locals. For the slightly more adventurous types (yes I’m talking to you), spend a day, or a week or two weeks here. There are approximately 1,100 miles of trails, that stretch across it’s 1.5 million acres. Home of the some of the most amazing mountains, rivers, and valleys in Northwest Montana.

Flathead National Forest “Swan Valley”

Ah yes… how could I forget home! Maybe I am biased, but the opportunities of the Swan Valley are endless. Don’t believe me? Hop on Alpine Trail #7 and head north, you’ll be walking for about 50 miles! Want to stand on mountain peaks in the morning? No problem! How about swimming in sparkling alpine lakes? Yeah got that covered. How about ease of access? Park at the trail head. And yes of course it is FREE!

Too often we are blinded at what’s in front of us because what people say we should think, speak, and explore. Don’t fall for it, and explore your surroundings. Maybe the trick isn’t to listen to me. But try to focus on what is right in front of you, because your Glacier Park is probably begging to be explored!

10 things to know about the Hiawatha trail

 #1. It’s a real thing

Opened in 1998, the Hiawatha trail is a 15-mile-long bike trail that operates out of Lookout Pass Ski Area right off of I-90 at exit 0. All amenities such as trail passes can be found at the ski area that opens at 8 a.m.  The actual main trail for the Hiawatha is actually located 7-miles east of the ski area at exit 5 in Montana. The trail is open roughly from the end of May and closes at the end of September every year.

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#2. You don’t need to own a bike to ride the Hiawatha Trail

Okay, that’s a lie, well only slightly. You do need a bike to ride the Hiawatha. However, you do not need to own one personally because you can rent one from the Lookout Pass ski area. Not only can you rent from two choices of mountain bikes for both children and adults, but you can also rent helmets, bike lights and bike trailers.

#3. You will never know what actual time it is

Because the Hiawatha trail main trailhead starts in Montana, but Lookout Pass ski area where you buy your ticket is in Idaho, and Idaho and Montana are in two different time zones it can get very confusing. Now you may be reading this and thinking that it’s logical to just reference Montana time because that’s where the trail starts. But actually half of the trail is in Idaho time because the first tunnel you bike through sends you straightunnamed-1 into Idaho from Montana. But then again be warned, I still don’t know this to be 100% because after riding the Hiawatha many times I still am very confused by the time concept.

#4. It’s fun for the whole family

Or in my case my best friend and I because we’re out of state college students.img_2858 But nonetheless, the Hiawatha trail is a perfect weekend outing for all ages. The 15-mile trail is mostly all downhill so it’s not as strenuous as 15 miles’ sounds. Along with this there are many pullout spots along the trail to take a break, take in the view and have a picnic.

#5. The views are incredible

I personally struggled with staying on the trail because of how pretty the scenery is. If you go later in the season, you’ll be able to see the trees begin to change color. So if you’re somebody who likes to look at everything but where you are going, go slow to avoid a spontaneous trip off the side of the trail.

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#6. There is a light at the end of the tunnel

One of the very cool things about the Hiawatha trail is that it use to a continental railroad system, and contains 7 sky high trestles along with 10 train tunnels. Right out of the gate, bikers will bike through the St. Paul Pass Tunnel which is 1.66 miles long. You will be totally consumed by darkness in this tunnel and it gets very cold. Unless you are Bane from the Dark Knight rises, it’s essential that you have a reliable and bright bike img_2848light, and no your IPhone flashlight will not suffice. It may sound scary to some, but the tunnels are one of the main attraction on the trail and an experience you don’t want to miss. Also, the acoustics in the St. Paul Pass tunnel will convince you that you should’ve auditioned for American Idol.

#7.  Make sure you pack the essentials

As a veteran of the Hiawatha trail I will tell you that it is much more fun if you pack the right things. Some of these necessities for ultimate fun on the trail include a helmet (everyone loves to be safe, also it’s required), gloves (the tunnels get very cold, so gloves come in clutch), a backpack (to hold all your snacks of course), snacks and a sack lunch (to fill your backpack of course. I also recommend img_2901packing a pb&j because it’s the one sandwich that taste best smashed), a bright light (if you have one, if not you can rent one), first aid kit (because better safe than sorry) and water (you’ve got to stay hydrated!). Also I recommend dressing in layers because some parts of the trail are more shaded then others which causes some to be colder than others.

#8. Always buy a shuttle pass

A shuttle pass is not required to buy because it’s possible to ride the 15 miles down to the bottom of the trail and then back up, and some people do this. However, from experience the 15 miles back up to the trailhead is a lot harder than the way down because, well, gravity. But when planning ahead purchasing a $9 shuttle pass so that you have the option to ride on the bus back up to the trailhead is never a bad idea. Better safe than sorry right? You never know what may happen to you on your 15-mile ride to the bottom. You may have plans to be an animal that day and go down and back up, but then realize you’re much more tired after the first half of the ride, or realize it took longer than you thought and you’re short on time. Like I said, it’s better safe than sorry, and also who doesn’t love fun facts and stories about the area provided to you by your very knowledge Hiawatha shuttle driver?  untitled-4

#9. Angels do exist on the Hiawatha trail

I recently learned on my past trip on the Hiawatha trail that angels exist. I was about 5 miles into the trail when tragedy struck and I popped a tire. I realized I was probably SOL because I never planned on popping a tire, because who plans on that? With ten more miles to go I began pedaling my sad self down the now extremely bumpy trail. After a mile or so on my embarrassing flat tire, a red haired angel pedaled up next to me on a blue bike and asked if I needed a replacement. Her name was Emma, or as I call her Angel Emma and she was one of the patrols on the trail that assisted the distressed like myself.  She quickly worked her magic and replaced my tire and sent me on my way. Thankfully Lookout Pass who operates the Hiawatha trail plans for people to have misfortunes down the trail.untitled-3

#10. Take your time on the trail and enjoy the ride

The Hiawatha trail has been dubbed the “crown jewel of rail to trail adventures” and a crown jewel of an adventure it is. Not only do you get to be outside exploring beautiful Montana Idaho but you get to be amongst other friendly cyclists! So enjoy the ride and take the whole day to experience it.

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Sad you missed your chance to ride the Hiawatha trail this season?

Because I know I would be if I missed it, but thankfully I didn’t! And because I didn’t you can experience parts of my ride in this short video.

Enjoy and visit www.ridethehiawatha.com for more information and to plan your trip next season!

 Have a hidden adventure you want to share?

Tell me about it!

Montana: by a Northern Californian

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-8-47-46-amIt is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).

“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan

“Sacramento, California!” – Me

“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan

“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me

Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”

I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.

By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor

9 reasons why Portland and Missoula are the same city

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Portland, OR and Missoula, MT have many similarities. From the craft breweries, bike craze, Birkenstocks, outdoors-men, organic foods, diverse restaurants.. Portland Oregon and Missoula Montana have a lot in common. Here are ten reasons, and counting, why these two cities are so similar, and what makes them such great places to live.

Craft Breweries:

brewery

Portland and Missoula are listed in the top ten cities for beer drinkers. Portland beats out Missoula at 3rd place to Missoula’s 8th, but that recognition alone shows how much both cities love beer. There are nearly ten breweries in Missoula alone and Portland has 58 within the city limits.

Biking & Pedestrians:

bikes pdx

Bikers always win in Portland. There are these green bike boxes downtown that allow bikes to wait in-front of cars while at a stop light. If you work downtown, chances are you bike to work and are well familiar with the many bikers all over the roads. In Missoula, there are many bikers as well thanks to the large selection of bike paths in the city, and downtown you can find elevated sidewalks only for biker use.

Organic Foods:

good food store

The Good Food Store, Missoula Fresh Market, Natural Grocers.. Missoula has many options for organic and natural foods and like Portland boasts farmers markets throughout the summer and fall seasons.

City/state pride:

 

MT roots

Montana roots gear is extremely popular in Montana, and in Missoula. Locals sport this clothing to show how much they love this state. Much like Portlander’s and Oregonians wearing the ironic “put a bird on it” shirts and their willingness to show their love for their hometown.

Hiking, Biking, Skiing:

hiking missoula

Missoula is home to great hiking, biking, and skiing trails. You don’t have to go far to see the incredible places this city has to show you. There isn’t a time when there arent people exploring and hiking the “M trail” about the UM campus. Portlanders need to travel a bit further for hiking or skiing, but they are still favored weekend activities. There are also parks within the city, like Forest Park, where you can spend a whole day exploring and enjoying nature.

Spectacular food:

 

pok pok

In Portland, you could eat your way through the city with any kind of food you are looking for. There are incredible and unique restaurants all over the city, not to forget the food carts around downtown that have their own unique food scenes. Missoula has great choices for food as well. Being a college town, you can find great burgers, pizza, and brunch.

A river runs through it:

rowers river

Portland has the Willamette river. Missoula has the Clark Fork. Both rivers run through the middle of the city and are used for recreation. Dragon boats, kayaks, and rowers can be seen on the Willamette, especially during the summer months. A favorite summer time activity of Missoula is floating down the Clark Fork on inter-tubes. The Clark Fork is smaller than the Willamette and makes it easier for fishing and walking along it.

The weather:

snow-Missoula

It snows in Missoula, and it rains in Portland. Both cities are often covered by gloomy gray clouds and have very temperamental and changing weather. While Missoula is well equipped for snow, Portland tends to shut down for less than two inches of snow. Even in April, the mountains around Missoula are covered with a light dusting of snow.

Sports teams:

griz game

Griz games are huge in Missoula. Timbers soccer games are huge in Portland. Portland and Missoula both have huge support for their sports teams and if thousands of screaming fans doesn’t show this I don’t know what does.

PORTLAND, OR - MAY 2: The Timbers Army wave flags at the start of the second half at JELD-WEN Field on May 2, 2013. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers)

 

Portland and Missoula are both incredible cities. Living in Missoula reminds me so much of Portland, which is home for me, has been incredible. These are two cities that are great to live and work in.

Written by; Kelsey McCauley – native Portlander

5 Montana Ski Resort Gems

Montana winters are often portrayed with ten feet of snow and a guy covered in furs (somewhat reminiscent of Leo in The Revenant) but the Big Sky Country has a lot more to offer. Thanks to being in close proximity to a number of mountain ranges, ski slopes cover Montana. This portrayal is quickly turned into life changing experiences and truly exposes the tremendous potential Montana has. There are some recreational activities and some particular resorts that really help stereotype Montana but the list of resorts below are some “hidden gems” that many people might not have ever been to or even heard of. They are all experiences that a Montana lover must try!

5. Montana Snowbowl

  • Snowbowl is a smaller resort located about 15 miles from Missoula making it the perfect destination for a simple day ski or for last minute ski plans.
  • Despite being a smaller mountain, Snowbowl gets optimal snow, has reasonable prices, and is great for any level of skier.
  • When Snowbowl shuts down the lifts for summer, its focus turns to weddings, concert series, and other events.

Website: http://www.montanasnowbowl.com/

4. Red Lodge Mountain

  • With the closest Montana “city” to Red Lodge being Billings, this ski resort is often overlooked and considered to be an underrated mountain.
  • Red Lodge is actually a bigger Montana ski hill despite its location and is a very nice resort to take vacations to or to just simply ski for the day and enjoy the nice little town of Red Lodge.
  • Red Lodge is great for skiers of any skill level with a “top half” and “back side” of the mountain that provides a lot more space for many skiers to freely roam without feeling crowded.
  • The mountain hosts a series of different events, has live music at the lodge, and turns its focus to the Red Lodge Mountain Golf Course when the weather permits.

Website: http://www.redlodgemountain.com/

3. Bridger Bowl

  • Less than an hour away from Bozeman, Bridger Bowl is great for day trips to hit some serious powder (gnar bro).
  • Even though Big Sky Resort casts a big shadow for the Montana ski industry, Bridger Bowl does a great job of making a name for themselves keeping a considerable reputation.
  • Bridger has a great atmosphere made for skiers of any skill level and is considerably priced (about half of Big Sky Resort).
  • If you have an avalanche beacon and guts of steel, Bridger Bowl offers the opportunities to put your skills to the test.

Website: http://bridgerbowl.com/

2. Lookout Pass

  • Lookout has the most optimal location for a ski resort being a stones throw off the interstate at the top of Lookout Pass.
  • One of the most unique experiences is being able ski on both the Montana side and the Idaho side of this ski resort since it lies on the Montana-Idaho border.
  • Even though Lookout is located on a busy interstate, it is still big enough to enjoy skiing without feeling crowded by fellow skiers.
  • Lookout is constantly putting on events and in the warm summer months serves as the central hub for taking a bike ride on the Hiawatha trail (which is an amazing experience).

Website: https://skilookout.com/

  1. Showdown

  • 2016 reached the 80 year mark of Showdown and I swear it gets better every year.
  • Although a smaller mountain, Showdown is the perfect hill for skiers/boarders of any skill level.
  • 2 chairlifts take you directly to the top of the mountain so you don’t have to worry about switching chairs at midway.
  • Showdown offers everything from the “bunny hill” to terrain parks and even advanced skiing such as cliffs and moguls.
  • Hosts a lot of fun events and competitions throughout the year such as the popular mannequin jump.
  • After a long day of skiing, enjoy local beer and live music at the “Hole in the Wall Saloon” located in the lodge on the hill.

Website: http://www.showdownmontana.com/

The goal of this blog post was to hopefully bring awareness to anyone who enjoys skiing in Montana looking to try something new. The true Montana outdoor experience isn’t a fancy experience with all the bells and whistles. The best way to experience Montana’s beauty is to escape from the world and simply enjoy the little things in life. Given the proper settings these “gems” will not disappoint anyone looking for a new Montana skiing experience.

 

 

Post By: Dawson Auck