Montana’s Glacier Country – Travel Squire

As a repeat visitor to Glacier Country, I’m unashamedly enamored with the area. I almost envy its unabashed pride and recently learned that, here, seasonal changes aren’t month to month or even day to day, but minute to minute.

On my most recent visit I happily spent 7,200 minutes (i.e. five days) exploring Big Sky Country’s northwestern-most region and its array unique experiences during a mixed bag of weather conditions.

I knew it was ‘game on’ when I boarded our vehicle in Missoula, embellished with a decal that read: “There’s this place where life is driven by adventure.” I knew I was in that place. And it was Glacier Country.

There’s no better remedy for a cold, drizzly first night’s arrival on a day that started with a 3 am wake-up than a leisurely soak in a thermal pool, accompanied by a glass of wine (of course).

Quinn’s Hot Springs (Paradise)
Jenny Klein | Travel Squire

Cue Quinn’s Hot Springs (Paradise), reached by driving along the Clark Fork River with repeated crossings back and forth. This place is so popular it’s booked year-round. Comprised of two Western style lodges, 25 cabins, five natural flow-through hot springs with temps from 100 to 106 degrees, two salt treated pools, a 55-degree cold plunge and more, it’s noted not for just its amenities but also its food and beverage offerings. Harwood House Restaurant, their onsite organic, locally sourced, fine dining establishment, features specialties such as Bison Tenderloin, Wild Game Meatloaf and Apricot Soy Prawns. In recognition of its carefully curated wine list, it was the recipient of the 2023 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. 

Tip:  For a stay at Quinn’s Hot Springs, book as far out as possible.

We leave amid snow flurries the following morning, our next stop, the Flathead Indian Reservation (Arlee) where we find an unexpected surprise. Having once visited the CSKT Bison Range nearby (managed by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), the sight of the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a radical departure from anything we anticipated here. Established in 2000 as an international center for peace, its circular monument is a spiritual, open-air site. Set on ten acres complete with 1,000 hand-cast Buddha statues, 1,000 plants and trees and a prayer tent (adorned with 1,000 flags, supposedly), the entire place oozes tranquility.

Jenny Klein | Travel Squire
Jenny Klein | Travel Squire

Tip: To best achieve the Garden’s serenity, explore it clockwise.

Traveler’s Rest State Park (Lolo), is the nation’s only archeologically verified stay for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We gladly reach it beneath clear skies. A guided tour of the park brings to life this back in the day setting of the Corps of Discovery’s two stopovers (Fall 1805 and Summer 1806).   

Jenny Klein | Travel Squire

Tip:  Frank Finley, a member of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, regaled our group with Native American tales.  I recommend attending the park’s storytelling series if it’s available (when snow’s on the ground).

Nearby, Holt Heritage Center (Lolo) was a collection of everything Wild West – from cowboy hats of the rich and famous to boots, saddles, firearms, even the rope used in Montana’s last hanging. It was assembled over decades by the Holts, a legendary local couple – 90-something Ramona (a rodeo bareback rider) and her late husband, Bill (a professional rodeo announcer). Of their impressive treasures, Ramona deemed a pair of President Reagan’s boots her most valued. However, for most visitors her stories are the true treasures (note: appointments are necessary).

Jenny Klein | Travel Squire
Jenny Klein | Travel Squire

Tip:  If Ramona is there (good chance), ask her about a young Reba McEntire singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at rodeos.

In 1898, Garnet Ghost Town (Garnet), the state’s best preserved ghost town, was a gold mining community of approximately 1,000. A big part of the adventure of visiting this once thriving settlement was getting there – 11 miles snaking up a mountain road in the snow. Little imagination was needed to envision the harsh conditions its former residents must have endured – and a peek inside the windows of the deserted cabins’ provides a glimpse of the past. 

Jenny Klein | Travel Squire

Tip:  Bring your boots. The variety of trails makes Garnet Ghost Town a great hiking destination. 

Our entry into Double Arrow Lodge (Seeley Lake) was pure Montana – a wagon ride pulled by a duo of massive horses, Charlotte and Sam. Once Jess, our driver and a Seeley resident from birth, guided us past a stop sign reading “Whoa”, all the while spinning local yore, I knew I was not in Kansas anymore. The lodge – a rustic luxury resort – offered an assortment of accommodations, including log cabins. Mission View, mine for the night, was a prime choice. Restored using original 1930’s – era logs and set on land overlooking the pond and foothills of the Mission Mountains, the cabin’s porch presents us with a private surround-sound view. With an interior furnished with a gas fireplace, a wine frig and a bath with clawfoot soaking tub under a crystal chandelier, I could have easily moved in. Hospitality here was at its Westernmost best. In the mornings we were greeted in the Main Lodge by the Great Room’s roaring blaze and treated each night to an after-dinner bonfire, complete with s’mores making. 

Jenny Klein | Travel Squire

Seasons Restaurant onsite was a special treat, with regional creativity on full display. Featuring a cyclical menu, among our choices were a Jalapeno Huckleberry Margarita, Rattlesnake and Rabbit Sausage and Your Grandmother’s Bread Pudding. 

Tip:  Evenings are dark so perfect for stargazing. Flashlights are helpful when returning from the Main Lodge to your cabin.

Wild Skies Raptor Center (Potomac) is dedicated to the care, rehabilitation and release of injured raptors – including Nandu (a Great Gray Owl), Frith (a Great Horned Owl) and Merlin (a Merlin Falcon). It’s possible to visit and meet the facility’s various residents, courtesy of founder Brooke Tanner and handler Jesse Varnado. After displaying a few of them, Jesse was asked, “Do you have a favorite?” His reply: “Whichever one is on my arm.”

Jenny Klein | Travel Squire

Tip:  Visitors welcome, reservations necessary.

In the end, though the term, “Fall for Montana,” could be taken for a seasonal slogan, I admit I’m head over heels for Glacier Country – winter, spring, summer or fall.

All Photos Credit: Cynthia Dial 

Quinn’s Hot Springs

190 MT-135

Paradise, MT 59856


Double Arrow Lodge


Seeley Lake, MT 59868