Hub and Spoke Tour - Northwest Montana's Flathead Valley
Hub: Kalispell or Whitefish
Spokes: National Parks and Refuges, Indian culture and western history, museums and galleries, charming towns, freshwater lakes and antiques
DESTINATIONS (CITIES) VISITED: Glacier National Park, Bigfork, Kalispell, Polson, Whitefish. Add a Day options: Libby, Eureka, Browning
Arrival into and departure from Kalispell or Whitefish, located in the center of the scenic Flathead Valley and serve as gateways to Glacier National Park via air, Amtrak or automobile from US Highways 2 or 93.
This is the day for culture, galleries and wandering. Begin your day with a one-hour tour of the historic Conrad Mansion. This 26-room Norman-style mansion is an example of luxurious 19th century living, from its exquisitely landscaped gardens to its collection of original furniture, toys and clothing. Next the Museum at Central School and Hockaday Museum of Art, located within one block of each other, invite visitors to peer into the valley's past with Indian, homesteader and logger exhibits or view the artistic legacy of artists preserving Montana and Glacier National Park on canvas, with photography or by sculpture. For lunch, Kalispell and Bigfork offer dining opportunities galore. Spend the afternoon in Bigfork, the charming community located on the shores of Flathead Lake. At The Barn, wander and shop among beautifully displayed antiques and gifts that portray Montana and Western history. In downtown Bigfork, galleries, boutiques and local enthusiasm resulted in it being named "One of the 100 Best Small Art Towns of the Nation." The free Bigfork Art and Cultural Center reflects the region's natural beauty. After dinner, take in a play at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, which celebrates over 50 years of repertory theatre in the northwest.
Today's destination is Glacier National Park, featuring the magnificent Going-to-the-Sun Road. Nicknamed the "Crown of the Continent," Glacier is the nation's 10th national park and the world's first International Peace park (shared with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada.) It is a true jewel for its unspoiled beauty. After you arrive to Glacier, transfer to a "Jammer" or "Red Bus" for an interpretive tour on "the Sun." Sit back and enjoy the ride through the spectacular scenery, the diverse wildlife and the amazing array of plants that call this park 'home.' Along the route, enjoy a picnic lunch in the splendor of the park, before ending the tour on the east side. Reboard your own motorcoach for the return trip via Hwy 2 over Maria Pass on the southern border of Glacier National Park. For a unique break, stop at the Goat Lick Overlook, just west of Essex, where mountain goats clamber up mineral cliffs along the Flathead River. A pioneering wildlife underpass allows salt-seeking goats to safely cross US Hwy 2.
Today is the day of Native America culture and tradition. Travel south on Hwy 93 along the west shore of Flathead Lake and view the Mission Mountain range as you begin your day of culture. Your first stop is the National Bison Range at Moiese, where nearly 500 bison roam nearly 19,000 acres of natural grassland. The 5-mile Prairie Drive (West Loop Trail) is open year-round and provides scenic views, while the visitor center displays of the importance of bison to the Native American. From there, take a short drive to view the amazing artwork of Brother Joseph Carignano, S.J. at the St. Ignatius Mission or the intricate beadwork at the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. After lunch, stop at The People's Center in Pablo to "Encounter the Past. Ensure the Future." This unique cultural center focuses on the heritage, natural history and cultural interpretation of the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreille peoples that call the area home. End your evening with a scenic cruise (or dinner) on The Shadow on Flathead Lake leaving from Polson's KwaTaqNuk Resort, before returning home via the lake's eastern shore on Hwy 35.
The resort town of Whitefish is your destination today. Explore this lumberjack and railroad town turned tourist destination by visiting the Stumptown Historical Society and Whitefish Museum located in a restored Great Northern Depot and operating train station. Later, wander the boardwalks to visit art galleries or shop for "Made in Montana" products. Spend the afternoon on Big Mountain, home to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Take a scenic chairlift ride to the Summit and enjoy the views of Glacier National Park, the Canadian Rockies and try to count the lakes found in Flathead Valley. From there, you can ride the lift down or take a scenic hiking trail - perhaps the Danny On Memorial Trail - and enjoy the wildflowers or huckleberries as you go down. For the adventurer, a bird's eye view with Walk in the Treetops or a "zipline" excursion is a must. The Treetop tour takes place 60-feet above the canopy floor for a three-hour, half-day guided adventure experience that offers a unique view of a majestic, managed forest and the interconnected ecosystems of water, wildlife and plants that make it successful. The Zipline tour speeds at more than 50 miles per hour from hilltop to hilltop and over the trees below. At over 100 feet above the ground, riders will travel right through the forest, while others are sent high above the trees.
Add A Day Options: Libby & Eureka
Libby and Eureka are the main destinations today. Heading west of Kalispell on US 2, pass through the Lolo National Forest and into the Kootenai National Forest. Continue through Libby and turn south on MT 56 for a walk through the Ross Creek Scenic Area, where you find giant cedars that are more than 500 years old and 250 feet high. Return to Libby for a visit to the Heritage Museum and lunch. Heading north on MT 37, view the Libby Dam from the outside, then take a free guided tours of dam and powerhouse, then continue along the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway. Once in Eureka, tour the Tobacco Valley Historical Village collection of area structures and artifacts from the 1880s to 1920s. Round out your day with dinner in Whitefish or a play or concert at the Alpine Theatre Project or the Whitefish Theatre Company for an evening to remember.
Browning & the Blackfeet Indians
Browning, on the east side of Glacier National Park, via Hwy 2 is home to the Blackfeet tribe. Here you can visit the Museum of the Plains Indian, tour the reservation, perhaps purchase Native American artwork or take in a powwow during the summer. Later, a tour of Glacier National Park with Sun Tours, provides a narrative of the park from the Blackfeet's perspective. Return home via Hwy 2 for an easy day of relaxation and reflection.
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