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Article Listings - Scenic Drives

Take 35! The Scenic Route to Bigfork and Glacier

Many Montana visitors drive across the state via Interstate 90, following the route taken by Lewis and Clark when they explored the area more than 200 years ago.  But Lewis and Clark missed the best part.  So to find out what they missed, get off the main road, toss out the GPS and follow the northwest route along Highway 35 to Bigfork and Glacier National Park.

The route begins just west of Missoula where Highway 93 crosses the interstate, traveling north to Canada and south through the mountain west.  At Ravalli, just a few miles north of the junction, start looking for a bison or two—-or 500.  The National Bison Range is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States spanning more than 18,000 acres. In addition to the powerful bison, elk, antelope, mountain goats, black bear and coyotes call the refuge home. While we’d love to have you head straight for Bigfork, we do recommend a side or day trip into the Range. Take your time. Plan your trip so that you can enjoy several stops along the way. After all, you’re on vacation!

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Take a Drive to the Sun

When Congress established Glacier National Park in 1910, there were only a few rough wagon roads. Transportation to and in the park was provided through the Great Northern Railroad which operated not only the trains, but the hotels and lodges as well. Most guests stayed close to their lodges, but the more adventurous could choose a long trek by horseback and mule to reach into the park’s vast interior where they could stay at one of the railroad’s alpine chalets.

Glacier’s first park Superintendent, William R. Logan, wanted to open the interior of the park to more people and he began to lobby for the construction of a road. The first appropriation for the road was approved in 1921 and construction began in 1925. This was not an easy project.  In fact, the road is such an engineering marvel that it earned designations as both a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. In many places, the road was literally carved out of the mountainsides. Contractors were required to use small blasts of explosives in order to reduce the destruction to the surrounding landscape.

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Tap Rooms and Tasting Rooms

Made-in-Montana products have come a long way from 1946 when Eva Gates first produced the strawberry preserves that made the little white house in Bigfork famous.  Today, there is a wide range of items created with local ingredients.  And some of the newest are wines, ales, beers and spirits made from local ingredients and pure glacial water.

It started with wines, continued with the development of craft breweries that now produce more than 40 varieties of ales and lagers, and now includes distilleries that hand-craft small batches of spirits.  In other words, there’s something for any taste. As we said in another article, a favorite drive is one that circles Flathead Lake.  And while you’re enjoying the scenery and the wildlife, why not stop along the way to sample some other local favorites?

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