Meet in the North Montana wilderness: summertime group activities
“Big city turn me loose somewhere in the middle of Montana.” — Merle Haggard, “Big City”
Away from the 60-degree air-conditioned meeting rooms and 90-plus-degree concrete outdoor spaces of summer meetings in most big cities, lies Montana. Here in the northwest corner of the state, summer guests are met with the green carpet of the sprawling wilderness, snowcapped mountain peaks and big lakes and rivers. This is the place people dream of — a summer retreat away from the big city, a place to make meaningful connections and explore the majesty of nature.
“There is a reason the locals don’t leave Montana in the summer,” says Dawn Jackson, group sales manager at the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau. “It’s the time of year you want to be on the lake or on the river, hiking or just relaxing on an Adirondack chair. I don’t know anyone who would want to turn down a summer visit to Montana.”
Summer meetings in the Big Sky state are certainly less about the conference room (although those are ample as well) and more about getting outside — taking advantage of the long days and mild temps and letting your attendees disconnect from their busy lives, enjoy each other’s company and learn more about themselves and the world.
Here are just some of the outdoor activities your guests can join during a summertime meeting or conference in Northwest Montana:
GLACIER’S RED BUS TOURS
Considered one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, a visit to Northwest Montana in the summer must include Glacier National Park. As you climb up the epic Going-to-the-Sun Road from an open-air historic Red Bus, your guests will enjoy the breathtaking mountain views, waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife sightings the park is famous for. Red Bus half- and full-day tours over the Going-to-the-Sun Road are offered daily from mid-June through the end of September / beginning of October.
If your guests are up for a little more action, a rafting excursion on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River along Glacier’s southern border offers thrills over whitewater rapids and in-between time for leisurely floating, nature gawking and meaningful conversation. Rafting companies like Great Northern Resort and Raft offer half- and full-day river excursions with riverside dining and fishing options.
The rivers and lakes of Northwest Montana are known for their crystalline waters, a byproduct of snow runoff and a healthy ecosystem. Your guests can enjoy the deep blue waters of the alpine lakes of Glacier National Park on an interpretive boat tour on Lake McDonald on the park’s west side or on several lakes on the park’s east side. Depending on the lake, Glacier Boat Tours are offered mid-May through Labor Day weekend.
Flathead Lake south of Kalispell mimics the deep clear waters of Glacier’s lakes but on a much larger scale. A Far West Boat Tour is one of the best ways to experience the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. You can charter Far West for a seminar, afternoon or evening meal and cruise and arrange to explore all points of the immense lake including Wildhorse Island, where you may indeed see wild horses or bighorn sheep.
The horses on Wildhorse Island are not to be ridden, but there are lots of opportunities near Kalispell for guests to experience the Montana cowboy culture on horseback. The wranglers at Lonesome Dove Ranch offer guided trail rides in the Montana backcountry. Along the trail your guests will experience the area’s authentic Western culture and beautiful mountain scenery.
Picnics and horseshoes
Eating alfresco must be on the agenda of any summertime Montana meeting. Surrounded by millions of acres of Montana wilderness, the options for alfresco dining are almost limitless. Plan an old-fashioned picnic for your attendees at Lone Pine State Park and easy access to the restaurants and caterers in Kalispell. A picnic shelter and restroom facilities make for stress-free event planning, but your guests will be more impressed with the all-encompassing views of the Flathead Valley, hiking trails and an impromptu game of horseshoes.