I planned this trip for 6 months. To say I was excited to see Montana (AND when it was snowing) was an understatement! We flew into Seattle from Dubai via London (yes, the travel was as long as it sounded!) and drove straight through to our first vacation rental which was based in Columbia Falls which is just outside of Glacier National Park. I cannot even begin to describe to you how perfect our rental was – named the Red Barn. Just look at it and the surrounding area!
The photos above were taken throughout our stay at the Red Barn. The first day we were in the area it was snowing heavily and the temperature was -25 C! I had to change up our itinerary a bit as we really couldn’t spend an extended amount of time outdoors at temperatures this cold. Even the locals were complaining! So we took it easy the first few days and explored the surrounding towns of Kalispell (which has a massive Target and a Famous Dave’s – take a guess where we spent most of our time! :)). We also visited Whitefish but were unable to go to the ski resort as the lift was closed – it was that cold!
Once the temperature warmed up a bit – to -8 C – we decided to go for a walk in Glacier National Park down Going-To-The-Sun Road. This road is only open for approximately 3 months of the year to cars and other vehicles and it usually takes months of snow plowing in order to open it. This area gets a ton of snow and the road is only safe to drive in the peak of summer. The rest of the time it is fairly iced or snowed over. Husband and I knew this when we planned our trip and figured we would just snowshoe through GNP. Unbeknownst to us we realized we actually rather dislike walking! Ha!
Below are some pictures from our walk. We didn’t see a single person while we were in the park. It’s pretty quiet in the winter!
On the way back from our walk we stopped in at Lake McDonald Lodge, which was closed! My sister had just come back from a Fall trip to GNP and said they served the best burgers. She said the place was buzzing! Look at what it looked like when we went there! So quiet and eerie! Amazing!
On a side note I really wouldn’t recommend visiting GNP in winter. My sister visited in the Fall and was able to do most of the hikes to see the Glaciers. Due to the park being inaccessible to wheeled traffic in winter we saw very little. GNP only allows foot traffic in the winter so unless you are keen to spend hours and hours walking or Nordic skiing then I suggest you visit in the Summer or early Fall.
The next day we were able to see Whitefish Mountain Resort and the town of Whitefish, so we took a lift up the mountain to have a little look-see. Man, that lift up and down was a cold ride! I honestly thought I was going to get frostbite on my hands! Whitefish is a gorgeous little town, but the Mountain was much too busy!
The following day we took a drive from Columbia Falls to Missoula and then onto an absolutely stunning Ranch called The Resort at Paws Up for a winter horse ride. The ride took just over an hour and the team were very experienced. We would highly recommend this activity!
We had had a few full on days of exploring and seeing so the next day we slept in and then took a slow drive to one of the prettiest small towns I have ever seen – Bigfork. We ate at Great Northern Gourmet and it was one of the best meals we had while in Montana. Deva and Bradley are just great and they have created a beautiful cafe with an Italian vibe. They really know their food and wine!
On our last full day in the GNP area we took a drive up to the Izaak Walton Inn for breakfast, a walk and a look around. Many of the cabins are old railcars and cabooses and it’s a really interesting place to see. Have a look below!
We spent the whole next day travelling from GNP to North Yellowstone where we would be spending the next week exploring Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas. More on that in the next post! In the meantime, look at some of the views we saw on the drive. Montana sure is beautiful!
Winter fishing on Swan Lake
PS: If you find yourself in the GNP or Flathead area of Montana be sure to stop in at one of the Montana Coffee Traders locations. Seriously good coffee!
Part 2 of our Montana trip can be found here.