blog_post_12

Montana: Secrets of the Locals

Visitors to Glacier National Park have risen steadily in the last five years reaching nearly 3 million just last year. I still can’t believe that number! With so many guests visiting the area it seems selfish not to share a few of my local secrets with you. So pull up a chair and join me for the inside scoop. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Radiant Wanderings blog so you have immediate access to new posts in the series. You can view a short video of the below activities here.

Post 1 - May in Montana

May is a special time in Flathead County and West Glacier Montana. Most visitors haven’t arrived yet but the weather warms, the sun shines, the canola fields clothe the valley in yellow beauty, and the mountain tops still have their snow caps. A thing of beauty for sure.

Most of our visitors arrive in July and August. That’s when it’s typically warm enough to camp overnight and you can usually be guaranteed that Going to the Sun road is completely open. However, if crowds aren’t your thing, or you just can’t come during those months there is still so much for you to enjoy.

If crowds aren’t your thing, or you just can’t come during those months there is still so much for you to enjoy.

Biking Going to the Sun Road

Specialized bike along McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park - Going to the Sun Road

So, let’s start with my favorite thing to do in May. Bike Going to the Sun Road. The plows are still working hard to remove snow near the pass, but as they work the road opens to bikers and hikers vehicle free. 

Parking lot by Avalanche Campground, Glacier National Park - Going to the Sun Road

We like to wait until vehicles are allowed to drive to the Avalanche Campground (typically the last week or two of May). This is a great place to park and begin your journey to the loop. It’s about an 8 mile ride with a steady incline that increases as you go. During the last third you will definitely stop more times than I care to admit. But, that’s ok because you will be surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever seen. 

During the last third you will definitely stop more times than I care to admit. But, that’s ok because you will be surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever seen. 

Biking Going to the Sun Road in May, Glacier National Park

We like to pack a lunch and plenty of water. When you reach the tunnel you are almost to The Loop. This is where we typically stop and have lunch on the rock border with views over the river, forest, and mountains.

Once refreshed the real fun begins. The feeling of the wind whizzing by as you descend the mountain is unmatched. Your speed is limited only by your fear and/or wisdom. Whichever you prefer to call it. Either way, it’s impossible to bike down without a smile (unless of course you're afraid of heights).  

The tunnel on Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park

The trek with stops and lunch typically takes us about 4 hours. That time included ages from 9-70. So, if you are younger or just super fit I’m sure your time could improve. But, our goal is not speed so much as a day of enjoyment.

Know Before You Go:

Remember to bring bear spray and plenty of water to hydrate. My friend saw black bears along the road two years in a row.

Road conditions can be viewed here. The opening time varies as it’s based on the plow schedule and winter conditions each year.

If you see a deer and approach slowly to 10-20 feet away it may come to you. They like the salty sweat on your body and will lick you if you let them. You can view our interaction with a deer in a short 5 minute video of these activities here.

Biking Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park

Stay to the right of the yellow line. When bikers come down they get going fast. You don't want to be in their way!

Glacier Cyclery in Whitefish or Glacier Outfitters in West Glacier Apgar Village will rent kids bikes, burley trailers, adult bikes, and bike racks for your car if needed. Glacier Outfitters will even rent you bear spray if you don’t have your own. (if you are flying home rent this don’t buy it. You can’t take it on the plane in checked or carry on bags.) 

Possible Add Ons to your day:

The Huckleberry Patch in Hungry Horse, MT - Be sure to get some huckleberry pie a la mode and do a little souvenir shopping.

Rocky Point hike along Lake McDonald - this is a short and relatively flat 1 mile hike with amazing views of the lake.

Trail of the Cedars hike. This is near Avalanche campground and is handicap accessible with a small waterfall view. If you still have a lot of energy left you could continue hiking to Avalanche Lake. This is one of our favorite hikes but it’s about 5 miles round trip.

McDonald Creek or Johns Lake Loop hike

Paddlefest

As long as you’re visiting in May why not time your visit to coincide with Paddlefest. This event takes place in Bigfork on the Flathead Lake. Sportsmans Ski Haus brings out an assortment of kayaks and paddleboards that you can try out for free. If that’s not enough they even provide free hot dogs, coffee, and lemonade. I like free. I wasn't sure what to wear but guessed correctly with workout pants and shirt. Pretty much the only thing you need in Montana, haha.

Paddlefest 2017, Bigfork Montana

No one pushed sales, in fact, I had to approach someone for more information when I wanted it. I did however find a paddleboard that I loved. The Bote HD Native. Now, I just need to come up with the money. They also host this event on Whitefish Lake during the month of June. Just FYI.

North Shore Beach

This beach is special because it only exists in the winter and early spring months. Once the dam is released the shoreline disappears. It is on the North end of Flathead Lake and is somewhat hidden and unknown even to the locals. There is a small parking lot in the town of Somers and a long path from the lot to the shoreline. 

North Shore Beach view from the parking lot, Flathead Lake - Somers Montana

You will need to crawl under a barbed wire fence but it’s totally worth it. Bring a frisbee or ball and enjoy the wide open uncrowded shoreline with mountain views. When finished stop into Tamarack Brewery in Lakeside or Flathead Brewery in Bigfork for lunch and a refreshing drink. You could combine this with Paddlefest for a full day of free fun.

Bring a frisbee or ball and enjoy the wide open uncrowded shoreline with mountain views. 

North Shore Beach Shoreline, Flathead Lake - Somers Montana

That’s it for now. As you can see, a visit in May provides plenty of beauty and excitement. I have more local secrets to share with you so stay tuned.

Pin it for later: