Agritourism combines Montana’s top two industries and allows visitors the opportunity to experience agricultural life firsthand at local farms and ranches, wineries or any number of agricultural businesses. Visitors might find themselves participating in a variety of agricultural activities, from picking fresh Flathead cherries to churning cheese at a local creamery or herding cattle by horseback with real ranchers. Please be sure to call in advance to schedule your tours.
Begin your day in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley with a visit to the Wild Rose Emu Ranch just south of the charming town of Hamilton. The ranch is home to approximately 120 emus, a prehistoric bird that originated about 80 million years ago in Australia. Emus cannot fly, but they can run 35 – 40 mph for short distances. The emu provides remarkable oils for the skin, supple leather, silky and bristly feathers, dark green eggs and healthy red meat.
Plan a stop at Lakeland Feed Mill in the heart of Hamilton to experience a fascinating look at how feed for horses, cattle, sheep, chickens and many other animals is made. Contact the mill to schedule a tour to see their milling equipment from the 1930s, which is still in use today.
Continue north from Hamilton on the Eastside Highway into the town of Corvallis, home to the Teller Wildlife Refuge. Sitting along the Bitterroot River, Teller encompasses 1,200 acres of habitat ideal for many types of wildlife, such as beaver, deer, moose, red fox and coyotes.
While in Corvallis, visit Huls Dairy and experience its 100+ years of family history. Established in 1908, the dairy currently milks 400 head of Holstein cows. In 2007, they constructed a state-of-the-art carousel and anaerobic digester that captures methane gas and produces energy generation for the dairy and the grid, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Traveling north on Highway 93, you will find the Hidden Legend Winery tasting room in Victor. Stop in and taste the sweetness of mead, a wine made from fermented honey. On a tour of the winery, you’ll be able to see mead made from start to finish with 100 percent local Montana honey and berries. The tasting room is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., while private tours of the winery are available upon request.
Also located in Victor is Lifeline Farms. Lifeline creates small-batch, handcrafted cheeses made using milk exclusively from their 400 pasture-fed Brown Swiss cows. Along with producing rich milk, their organic beef has no chemical fertilizers or herbicides, no antibiotics and no animal byproducts in their feed, which makes for delicious beef that is sold throughout Montana.
Round out your tour in Victor with a stop at the Victor Heritage Museum. Located in an old railroad depot, the museum houses railroad memorabilia, mining remnants and American Indian exhibits.
Wild Rose Emu Ranch – 406.363.1710 – wildroseemuranch.com
Lakeland Feed & Supply – 406.363.2334 – lakelandfeeds.com
Teller Wildlife Refuge – 406.961.3507 – tellerwildlife.org
Huls Dairy – 406.360.3801 – hulsdairy.com
Hidden Legend Winery – 406.363.6323 – hiddenlegendwinery.com
Lifeline Farms – 406.642.9717 – lifelinefarm.com
Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce – 406.363.2400 – bitterrootchamber.com
EATS AND WATERING HOLES:
Bouilla (Hamilton) – 406.361.0223
Bitter Root Brewing (Hamilton) – 406.363.7468 – bitterrootbrewing.com
The Wild Mare (Corvallis) – 406.961.8938 – thewildmare.com
Lolo Creek Steak House (Lolo) – 406.273.2622 – lolocreeksteakhouse.com
Bitterroot River Inn (Hamilton) – 406.375.2525 – bitterrootriverinn.com
Hamilton TownHouse Inn (Hamilton) – 406.363.6600 – townhouseinnhamilton.com
Heading north on Highway 93 and located in the heart of Western Montana’s Glacier Country is the beautiful Mission Valley and Cheff’s Guest Ranch in Charlo. Guests are welcome to stay and just relax, or they can choose to be a “working hand” and help in the day-to-day workings of the ranch. Join in on a fencing project, move stock or buck bales of hay. Individuals or small groups can learn what it takes to run this 15,000+ acre ranch of cattle, mules and horses.
Other not-to-be-missed attractions in the Mission Valley include the National Bison Range. Encompassing 18,500 acres, the range is home to over 300 head of bison, along with elk, deer, pronghorn antelope and a host of other animals. Take in the views and see wildlife on a self-drive tour through the National Bison Range. After driving through the range, stop in at The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana, which gives a glimpse back in time at the Flathead Indian Reservation and early settlements of Montana. Located next to the museum is Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant. With 25 guest rooms, a bar and dining room, Ninepipes Lodge has some of the best guest room and dining room views of the Mission Mountains.
As you head farther north on Highway 93, you will be stunned by the views of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West. Sitting on the southern tip of Flathead Lake is the charming community of Polson and its antique shops, art galleries and live theater. Get off the beaten path with a visit to Salish-Kootenai Dam. Located on the Flathead River, this 204-foot structure has a viewing platform and offers amazing canyon views.
Stop in for a visit at Flathead Lake Cheese Company, which is located in Polson. This small creamery creates artisan cheeses by hand in small batches from locally sourced fresh milk that’s pasteurized with solar thermal heat. Taste their creations with names like Joe’s Hawaiian Shirt Feta, Ray’s Pop Curds and Hoppin’ Mad Gouda.
Cheff’s Guest Ranch – 406.644.2557 – cheffguestranch.com
National Bison Range – 406.644.2211 – fws.gov/refuge/National_Bison_Range
Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana – 406.644.3435 – ninepipesmuseum.org
Flathead Lake Cheese Co. – 406.883.0343 – flatheadlakecheese.com
Polson Chamber of Commerce – 406.883.5969 – polsonchamber.com
Allentown Restaurant at Ninepipes Lodge (Charlo) – 406.644.2588 – ninepipeslodge.com
Mackenzie River Pizza Co. (Polson) – 406.872.2100 – mackenzieriverpizza.com
Cheff’s Guest Ranch (Charlo) – 406.644.2557 – cheffguestranch.com
Ninepipes Lodge (Charlo) – 406.644.2588 – ninepipeslodge.com
Red Lion Inn & Suites Ridgewater-Polson – 406.872.2200 – redlion.com/polson
From Polson, travel 35 miles north on Highway 35 as it winds around the east side of Flathead Lake. Be sure to take advantage of the roadside fruit stands along the way and pick up locally grown Flathead cherries and other fruit picked fresh daily before arriving in Bigfork, a charming community that’s been named one of the 100 best small art towns in the nation.
Located just outside of Bigfork on the northeast side of Flathead Lake is The Orchard at Flathead Lake. This certified organic multigenerational family farming enterprise primarily grows cherries, with secondary crops that include apples, peaches, pears and plums, as well as a large vegetable and herb garden. From these fresh fruits they make fruit products such as cherry jam, cherry barbeque sauce, cherry chutney and apple butter. Schedule an appointment to walk the orchard and learn about the family history and their commitment to producing chemical-free fruits.
Located 18 miles northwest of Bigfork is Kalispell and Hedstrom Dairy, the largest dairy in the Flathead Valley. The antibiotic and hormone-free dairy milks 200 Holstein cattle twice a day. All the cows are on pasture and fed free-choice grass hay. Located 20 feet from the milking production is the Kalispell Kreamery. The Kreamery processes the milk and dairy products from Hedstrom Dairy while actively promoting a farm-to-table, sustainable agricultural product. Schedule a tour to see the milking process from beginning to end.
If time allows, consider a visit to these downtown Kalispell museums: Conrad Mansion Museum, Hockaday Museum of Art and the Museum at Central School.
Those who are looking for the secret to growing a community crop-sharing garden, visit Purple Frog Farms. Located 15 miles north of Kalispell on Highway 93 in Whitefish, visitors can lend a hand and pull some weeds from the hearty soil that they spend time building and composting. The delicious bounty is available at farmers markets in the Flathead Valley, including Whitefish and Columbia Falls. Not only do they host tours by appointment, but they also host farm-to-table lunches and dinners.
The Orchard at Flathead Lake (Bigfork) – 406.982.3058 – montanaorchard.com
Hedstrom Dairy and Kalispell Kreamery (Kalispell) – 406.756.6455 – kalispellkreamery.com
Conrad Mansion (Kalispell) – 406.755.2166 – conradmansion.com
Hockaday Museum of Art (Kalispell) – 406.755.5268 – hockadaymuseum.org
Museum of Central School (Kalispell) – 406.756.8381 – yourmuseum.org
Purple Frog Farms (Whitefish) – 406.862.0621 – purplefroggardens.com
Bigfork Chamber of Commerce – 406.837.5888 – bigfork.org
Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau – 406.758.2811 – discoverkalispell.com
Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau – 406.862.3548 – explorewhitefish.com
Marina Cay Resort (Bigfork) – 406.837.5861 – marinacay.com
Best Western Plus Flathead Lake Inn & Suites (Kalispell) – 406.857.2400 – bestwesternflatheadlake.com
Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge (Whitefish) – 406.862.2569 – rockymtnlodge.com
Red Lion Hotel (Kalispell) – 406.751.5050 – redlion.com/kalispell
Your trip would not be complete without a visit to one of the regions most popular attractions, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more scenic drive in the lower continental United States than the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. A wilderness of lakes, towering peaks and remnants of glaciers is readily accessible.
Travel to the hand-hewn, grand Lake McDonald Lodge where you can hop aboard a red bus for a tour of the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road (various tour lengths available; reservations required). The historic soft-top tour buses were introduced in the 1930s and have since been restored and outfitted with propane engines as a gift from the Ford Motor Company. Or take a tour with Sun Tours and learn insights and cultural significance and history about what Glacier National Park has meant to the Blackfeet Nation. Since a motorcoach exceeds the road’s size restrictions, the motorcoach can “deadhead” around on Highway 2 to meet the tour in St. Mary on the east side of the park.
Narrated boat tours with Glacier Park Boat Company are offered several times a day on St. Mary and Swiftcurrent lakes. The St. Mary Visitor Center is also definitely worth a stop.
Add one last agricultural stop and visit Glacier County Honey and Chief Mountain Honey, both located on the east side of Glacier National Park off of Highway 89 and Duck Lake Road in Babb. Learn how these beekeepers produce exceptional pure, raw and 100 percent natural honey with the highest color grade. They also utilize the beeswax for products such as candles, ornaments, and they sell additional honey accessories.
Going-to-the-Sun Road + National Park Service – 406.888.7800 – nps.gov/glac
Red Bus Tours – 855.733.4522 – glaciernationalparklodges.com/red-bus-tours
Sun Tours – 406.732.9220 – glaciersuntours.com
Glacier Park Boat Company – 406.257.2426 – glacierparkboats.com
Glacier County Honey (Babb) – 406.581.2423 – glaciercountyhoney.com
Belton Chalet (West Glacier) – 406.888.5000 – beltonchalet.com
St. Mary Lodge and Resort (St. Mary) – 888.778.6279 – glacierparkinc.com
Glacier Park Lodge (East Glaicer Park) – 406.892.2525 – glacierparkinc.com
For additional information on touring Western Montana’s Glacier Country, visit touroperators.glaciermt.com