If the Montana of your imagination consists of rugged mountains, iridescent lakes and soul-stirring scenery, then Glacier Country is the place you have been dreaming of.
The most beautiful part of Montana – with only Yellowstone providing serious competition – occupies much of the west of the state. Glacier Country encompasses the Kootenai and Flathead National Forests, Flathead Lake, and, of course, the Glacier National Park. You could travel all the way from the park, through Kalispell and Missoula, all the way down to Hamilton without ever leaving the area known as ‘Glacier Country’.
Montana’s most beautiful mountain ranges can be found in the region. The Rocky Mountains dominate the skyline, with spectacular subsets like the Bitterroot and Cabinet mountain ranges sweeping across huge swathes of land. They help create the dramatic landscapes the region is so famous for, while the towering glaciers, clear lakes and endless forests add an indescribable beauty to the landscape.
The stark image of turquoise lakes backed by lush green forests is a breath-taking contrast that has left countless visitors staring in awe.
You will discover a rich history alongside the natural beauty of the area. The history of the earth itself can be seen in the geological formations. You can also learn about the fascinating history of the Kootenai, Salish, Penn d’Oreille, and Blackfeet tribes. Both the Flathead and Blackfeet Reservations are located in Glacier Country.
Who could resist the allure of stunning scenery, sweeping vistas, and charming towns? Start your adventure in Glacier Country with the help of our guides today.
Glacier Country Stats and Facts
- Glacier Country is a tourism region in Montana that occupies millions of acres of land. The Glacier National Park alone covers an area of 1 million acres.
- The highest point in the Glacier National Park is Mt. Cleveland, the park’s tallest peak, which reaches the dizzying height of 10,466 feet.
- Flathead County, Lake County, Ravalli County, Glacier County, Missoula County, and the Lincoln, Sanders, Mineral counties are all found in Glacier Country.
- The population of Glacier Country was 332,702 in 2015.
- Missoula is the largest city in Glacier Country, and the second-largest in Montana. It is known as the cultural center of the state.
Notable Glacier Country Towns, Cities & Areas
Missoula is the largest city in Glacier Country and the second-largest in Montana. It is a popular stopover with tourists, as it roughly marks the halfway point between the Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. The city is known as “the hub of five valleys” thanks to its scenic location between five mountain ranges.
The idyllic surroundings of Missoula have led to its rise as an outdoor recreational center, where people can enjoy the art and culture of the city while having the great outdoors right on their doorstep.
It’s particularly famous for trout-fishing, as Missoula is surrounded by some of the best rivers and streams for trout in the United States. The Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot Rivers are the three largest, but there are hundreds of blue-ribbon streams nearby.
We have covered Missoula extensively – you can find out everything you would like to know about the city with our help. Why not start with our guides on Things to Do, Places to Stay, and Best Restaurants as a starting point?
Whitefish is one of the most fun mountain towns in Montana. The town center is small but vibrant; there are plenty of bustling restaurants, breweries, and bars to be found in Whitefish. But the biggest attraction to Whitefish is undeniably the Whitefish Mountain Resort. It is one of the best ski resorts in the whole state, and arguably North America.
Outdoor recreation and epic scenery are the everyday in Whitefish. Jaw-dropping views wrap around the town, with mountain ranges in every direction you look. The iconic Glacier National Park is one of these unmissable viewpoints. The park is only half an hour away from Whitefish.
Its close proximity has led to Whitefish frequently being used as either a base or stopover to explore the Glacier National Park.
Kalispell is a city nestled in one of the most beautiful regions of Montana. It is well-positioned on the edge of Flathead Lake but is also only 45 minutes from the Glacier National Park by car.
It is the biggest town within easy distance to Glacier National Park. With all the amenities and facilities of a city, it makes an excellent base. You can enjoy all the craft breweries, restaurants, and bars in Kalispell while enjoying the nature all around it.
If you want to know the best things to do in Kalispell, make sure you check out our guide.
Veering from the towns and cities to a community wildly smaller; Bigfork is known as Montana’s Christmas Village for its ridiculously picturesque appearance and enchanting festive atmosphere.
While the village reaches its festive peak in December, Bigfork is lovely all year-round. It sits on the northeastern edge of Flathead Lake, curving around Bigfork Bay. The storybook-like town is incredibly charming and mixes recreational outdoor activities with art and culture in its appeal.
The creative output of Bigfork is surprisingly wide-reaching considering its size. The famous Bigfork Summer Playhouse has seen some big names as former performers; J.K. Simmons is the standout of a stellar alumni cast.
While Bigfork is a bit of a misnomer ‐ the village isn’t home to more than a few thousand people – this tiny settlement is worth its weight in gold.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Bigfork or looking for things to do, check out our guides.
Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex seems an impossibility in the 21st Century: an area completely untouched by technology, and unmarred by roads.
It exists today in part due to the work of pioneering conservationist and forester Bob Marshall. He championed protected wilderness areas; the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex was named as such to honor his work. It gained the name in 1940, a year after Bob Marshall’s death. But it wasn’t until 1964 in the Wilderness Act that the area became an officially protected land.
The space covers an incredible 1.5 million acres, much of which is situated in the Flathead National Forest. The rest is largely found in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. There are many protections in place to preserve the wilderness; even bicycles are forbidden. But hiking, camping, and fishing are all great ways to explore the incredible Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
It is an important refuge for the wild animals native to the region. The Bob Marshall Wilderness is populated by grizzly bears, wolves, mountain lions, and a huge ecosystem of predators and prey.
Glacier National Park
We can’t discuss Glacier Country without talking about Glacier National Park.
This special part of northwestern Montana was designated as a protected space and the United States 10th National Park on the 11th of May, 1910. The Glacier National Park has been one of North America’s favorite wildernesses for over a century.
The towering peaks, alpine forests, and clear waters of the park are unmatched. While none of the mountains can claim to be the tallest peak in Montana, the consistency of their size is astonishing. Over 150 peaks reach over 8,000 feet: they dominate the park, with glacier-formed jagged edges and swooping valleys everywhere you look.
Every corner is hiding a new spectacular view, and there are few places on Earth more beautiful. It truly is one of the United States’ greatest treasures.
It is one of the finest slices of pure natural beauty in the world, and rightfully attracts millions of visitors every year. To find out more about the Glacier National Park, read our guides on The Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park and Where to Stay in Glacier National Park.
Things to Do
Glacier Country covers a vast area of Montana. One that just so happens to be filled with its most beautiful, dramatic landscapes and scenic settlements.
An area as gorgeous and large as Glacier Country is never going to be lacking in things to do. Some of the activities available here are the most iconic in Montana.
Starting with the big guns, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is world-famous as one of the most spectacular roads on Earth. Winding between the rugged mountains and pristine lakes of the Glacier National Park, the road takes you on an epic journey through the stunning scenery of one of the United States’ most beautiful National Parks.
Exploring the wonderful landscapes – whether on horseback, on foot, or on skis – is a huge part of life in this area of Montana. The scenery is so beautiful that you can’t help but want to get outside and see it up close.
Other ‘things to do’ in Montana mostly involve sports. There is a world-class ski resort at Whitefish, a dozen ranches to try out horseback riding, or, most popular of all, endless opportunities to try your hand at fly-fishing. There are hundreds of blue-ribbon trout streams, and the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, and Clark Fork rivers are all iconic locations to fish situated within Glacier Country.
Some of the more unique activities involve exploring ghost towns, trying a huckleberry bear claw in a remote outpost, and a visit to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. There really is something for everyone in Glacier Country.
- The Best Things to Do in Kalispell, Montana
- The Best Things to Do in Bigfork, Montana
- Things to Do in Polebridge, Montana
- The Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park
- The Best Ghost Towns in Montana
- Cool Things to Do in Missoula
Where To Stay
In an area as vast as Glacier Country, deciding where to stay largely depends on what you want to see. It can take hours and hours to go from one destination in Montana to another; it’s an absolutely huge state.
If you want to see the Glacier National Park, there are a few hotels within the park itself, but the large majority of visitors stay in the area just outside. Whitefish is a popular base
You don’t have to stay in a hotel – there are many unique places to stay in Montana. You can stay on a ranch, go camping, or try out life in an off-the-grid community like Polebridge.
- Where to Stay in Glacier National Park
- Where to Stay in Bigfork
- Where to Stay in Missoula
- The 10 Best Hotels in Glacier National Park
Places To Eat
Montana has a rich food culture, with a focus on local fresh ingredients and wild game. It is very much a state of meat-eaters, with the most popular restaurants often being bar & grills and BBQ joints. The meat isn’t just the typical beef and chicken; you will find elk, bison, and buffalo meats are fairly common in Montana.
It isn’t completely hopeless for vegans and vegetarians, however, as there are plenty of fantastic vegan eateries in Montana – they just tend to be in the larger towns and cities.
If you prefer cuisines besides American, you can find foods of other cultures fairly frequently in Glacier Country. One of our favorites is Five on Black, a Brazilian restaurant that made our top 15 restaurants in Montana list.
Missoula is definitely the foodie hub of Glacier Country, but there are so many fantastic restaurants to visit in the region. If you prefer sweet treats, the best of Montana’s iconic huckleberry pies are mostly found in Glacier Country.
Sometimes it is easier to explore an area by joining a tour. The convenience of being taken directly to a place, having a knowledgeable guide with you, and being able to just sit back and relax is hard to resist for many people.
If a tour isn’t relaxing, it is usually for thrill-seekers looking to try out watersports with a guide, or an intensive experience involving wild camping.
For a stress-free experience discovering Montana – or an exciting new adventure – join one of our recommended tours.
- February – 19th Annual Big Sky Film Festival at The Wilma Theater – In Missoula
- February – Whitefish Winter Carnival – In Whitefish
- March – Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival – In Missoula
- March – 13th Annual Bigfork Brewfest – In Bigfork
- May – Garden City BrewFest – In Missoula
- June – Montana Mule Days – In Hamilton
- July – Under the Big Sky Festival – Annual Festival in Whitefish
- August – Annual Big Sky Blues Festival – Blues Festival in Pilgrim Creek Park, Noxon
- August – Huckleberry Days Arts Festival – In Whitefish
- August – Bigfork Festival of the Arts – In Bigfork 2023