I’m no stranger to Montana’s Glacier Country, which takes up the northwest corner of this great state I call home. Most free weeks and weekends I get in the spring and fall are spent biking Going-to-the-Sun Road, or climbing the stunning peaks overlooking the park. In fact, I’m writing this blog from Montana Coffee Traders in Kalispell right now. But during peak season I tend to avoid the park itself, as July becomes overrun with tourists at every turn. During the spring tour, I was given the opportunity to explore Glacier Country outside of the park, and I fell in love every day.
As I headed north from Missoula bound for Thompson Falls I decided to make a quick stopover at the National Bison Range. This spot had been on my photo bucket list for a while, plus it was on the way to Thompson Falls…and little did I know how close it is to the highway that I’ve driven hundreds of times on my way to Glacier. There wasn’t a soul besides me and the bison this particular morning. The views of the Mission Mountain range were unbelievable, and having a private morning with the national mammal was even better.
After a morning well I spent, I journeyed over to Thompson Falls. This is an area that had been on my radar for a while. I arrived, and met with filmmaker Lyman Gillen again, as well as our models, aka two of my best friends, Nicole and Jimmy. We geared up for the adventures ahead and spent the better part of the day exploring Thompson Falls State Park as well as the cute little downtown. After a day of shenanigans, it was time to check out Thompson Falls’ namesake, an unbelievably beautiful dam. We spent a few hours hanging around the cliffs as the sun set on town, and not once did we see another person.
We chose to stay at Noxon Reservoir just 45 minutes away from Thompson Falls, and the decision paid off. We were treated to a perfect, calm morning sunrise where the solitude dominated every moment. After soaking in Noxon for the morning, we ventured off to find the Ross Creek Cedars. This forest dates back more than 200 years, and the short trail within has one constantly looking up. The trail reminded me a lot of Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park, but without having to hike among a sea of other humans. Every day I grew more and more in love with these little-hidden gems in Montana.
Libby was our destination for the night, and Dave Blackburn’s Kootenai Anglers was our lodging for the evening. We were greeted to my dream cabin, tucked right along the Kootenai River surrounded by incredible mountains. Trust me when I say they had to drag me away the next day. After some lounging around town we went to check off another big bucket list item for me, Kootenai Falls. Just minutes from Libby is the famous Kootenai Swinging Bridge and Kootenai Falls (where scenes from “The Revenant” were filmed). Hours were spent playing and simply relaxing, soaking in the incredible scenes with good people. But the cabin was calling, and eventually we retreated to our temporary home.
Dave Blackburn himself offered to take us out on a sunrise fishing and scenic float down the river that he called home for so many years. It was an incredible experience to hear from someone who has seen this place change over the years. After wetting the line, we headed off for our final destination, Eureka! The road snaked along Lake Koocanusa, a lake I didn’t even know existed, let alone how stunning the drive along the 90-mile-long reservoir is. As we arrived in Eureka, we had to stop at the Front Porch Grill House to try the world-famous Eureka Burger, which lived up to its reputation. A stormy afternoon had us playing around in downtown Eureka before heading out into the woods—this time not for an adventure, but for beer. The H.A. Brewing Company has to win the award for most off-the-beaten-path brewery in all of Montana, but it also wins for being one of the best. The rustic wood siding paired with amazing beer and delicious wood-fired pizzas made the drive out of town well worth it.
Intrigued by the beauty of Lake Koocanusa, we wanted to get out on the water to explore. We headed to Abayance Bay Marina to rent a canoe and set sail under a stormy afternoon sky. With the storm looming, we packed up after an hour of paddling and decided to get our paddles in on a smaller lake. Luckily we were staying at the Wilderness Club in Eureka, a beautiful golf resort with a lot more to offer. They had a pond with a canoe and stunning views in every direction.
As I wind down in Glacier Country, I find myself hungry to explore more of these lesser-known areas around my favorite national park.
Stay tuned, as there is only one region left in the Montana Spring Road Trip!
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Check out this map of my roadtrip! Glacier Country is stops 12,13, and 14 on the map below!