Visiting Western Montana – Things to do in Glacier Country in the Winter Part 1

bar-w-guest-ranch

I was so lucky to have been born here and into Montana life. The ground of this valley fed, entertained and healed my family. We grew on the creeks, rivers, and mountains of Montana. We learned great self-reliance and freedom. The space, the clean water, the clean air and the good people gave us a safety few are ever able to know. This state cradled my family. To this day, everyday, I am grateful for this sacred ground under my feet. – Sheryl Getman – Getmans’ Orchard & Vineyard

Western Montana

Last year, at this time, I was planning a trip to Glacier Country in Montana. Scheduled for late January, when you would expect plenty of frosty temperatures and snow in the northwestern part of the U.S. (just an hour from the Canadian border), I wondered if I could really make the trip. I’m a person who generally hates the winter and frigid weather. I also need to manage my Reynaud’s disease, which can be a problem when temperatures are in the 50s, let alone 20s and 30s. I wasn’t sure how I would handle being outside for extended periods of time (hand warmers, layers of mittens and battery operated gloves…all of the above??) and was nervous about potential damage to my fingers, if I didn’t take serious precautions.

Of course, the hubs thought I was a bit crazy, but there was something about heading west to a place I’d never been before and at a time of year where I would normally jump on a plane destined for a tropical paradise, that was rather captivating. And what’s the chance you’re going to have the opportunity to visit a small town in Montana, Bigfork, and actually know someone who lives there?

Bigfork, MT

Bigfork, Montana

Admittedly, the impetus to visit Glacier Country was inspired by my friendship with Sheryl Getman. Friends for several years, we met through owning the same breed of dog, Tibetan Terriers. And by following Sheryl on Facebook, I saw her photos of spectacular Montana sunsets, snow-capped mountains, shimmering lakes, and Sheryl and Dan’s beautiful orchards and vineyards. She had shipped us fruit a few years in a row, so we’d tasted the cherries grown on their land (some of the biggest and sweetest we’ve ever had) and saw all of the other stunning fruits and produce they were harvesting from their property along Flathead Lake, including grapes from their new vineyard. When I read what Sheryl wrote (the quote above), I knew I had to visit the state known as Big Sky Country.

Getmans' orchard in winter

Getmans’ orchard in winter

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Glacier Country

The following video captures the thrill and beauty of Glacier Country in winter.

Wide-open spaces, picturesque western mountain towns, stunning landscapes, a burgeoning culinary and beverage scene, and of course, Glacier National Park, are some of the many reasons to visit this part of Montana. A large portion of Glacier Country (1.5 million acres) is part of the Blackfeet Native American Reservation. Bordering on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park, the native tribes refer to the reservation as the “Backbone of the World.” And while spring, summer, or fall would traditionally have been my recommended time of year to visit with all of the options for outdoor activities and sightseeing (hiking, fly-fishing, mountain biking, golf, and hang gliding or parasailing, to name a few), what I have learned is wintertime is magical and offers one of the best outdoor adventures in the United States.

Big Sky Country

Big Sky Country

It was also surprising how moderate the temperatures were in late January. With the lake effect around Flathead Lake and other lakes in the region and of course swings in the weather with climate change, Glacier Country was much warmer than I had anticipated. And even if you’re a bit chilly after a fresh snowfall and an exciting day of playing outdoors, there’s nothing better than coming inside to warm up by a crackling fire with a steaming mug of hot cocoa or sharing a nice bottle of wine before dinner. It’s part of the fun of the season.

Barn in the distance

Barn in the distance

Covered Wagon

Covered Wagon

Over the course of a week, we traveled north from Missoula to Kalispell and on to Whitefish, with stops along the way for detours and photo ops. We explored museums, attended local theater performances, listened to live music, went snowshoeing in Glacier National Park, and crossed off two of my bucket list items – dogsledding and a sleigh ride in the snow. With its unspoiled scenery, fresh air, clean water, quaint towns, and friendly people, Western Montana is a destination not-to-be-missed.

montana-for-post

If you think that a cold weather winter vacation is out of your comfort zone, then think again and plan a trip to this stunning year-round destination. There are plenty of things to do for the adventurer or the traveler that just wants to take in all the beautiful scenery, great food, and relax by the fire. Here are some suggestions and tips for visiting Glacier Country, Montana this winter.

Snowshoeing in Bigfork

Snowshoeing in Bigfork

 

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