Izaak Walton Inn

Essex, Montana

If you’re looking for a unique getaway far from the crowds, you’ll want to check out the Izaak Walton Inn. It is located in Essex, MT, a truly remote area nestled between Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness, approximately 60 miles north of Kalispell. In fact, you won’t find much in Essex other than the inn, tracks and trains, and some great recreation! The area is surrounded by over a million acres of wilderness!

History of the Area

Photo by Ian Briton

The Izaak Walton Inn is built next to a railroad helper station. The railroad is central part of the history of Essex, an early Montana railroad town that was previously named Walton.

The Great Northern Railway, originally developed by Jim Hill in the 1880s, is now operated by Burlington Northern Sante Fe.

Historically, as well as today, the rails at Essex have housed helper trains that help long freighters climb the Summit at Marias Pass, 16 miles away.

The community was a bustling place in the early years of the railroad, and once had a population of 1000. It housed a school, a post office, a mill, a barber shop, a pool hall, and 2 mercantiles. Today it is a rural community, with little more than the inn and train yards.

History of the Inn

The Izaak Walton Inn was constructed in 1939, specifically for the use of railroad personnel, who were constructing the Great Northern Railway, which was to stretch from St. Paul to Seattle. The inn replaced 2 previous lunch establishments, both of which were destroyed by fire. Around the time it was built, it was believed that Essex would become a mid-way entrance for Glacier National Park, as it is located approximately half-way between the East Glacier entrance and the West Glacier entrance. However, the plans were postponed by WWII, but never did materialize.

Photo by Ian Briton

The Izaak Walton Inn is a 3 story building, with 29 guest rooms, a dining room, a cozy family room area, and a recreation center and bar in the basement, with a historical photo “museum” of the development of the Great Northern Railway. The inn also houses a gift shop and the Essex post office.

There are 4 converted cabooses on the hill behind the inn, that are available for lodging. These cars have been remodeled into cozy, cute individual lodging rooms, complete with electricity, running water, and restrooms.

The Izaak Walton Inn has had just over a half a dozen owners since its construction, and is currently owned and operated by Brian and Mary Kelly.

Area Recreation

With its beautiful, remote, mountain location, the area is an excellent place to enjoy many outdoor recreational activities.

There are many excellent hiking trails in the area. Popular trails include Scalplock Mountain Lookout Trail, Marion Lake Trail, Kendi’s Crossing, Kelsi’s Cliff Trail, and Park Creek Trail.

Mountain Biking
If you didn’t bring you bicycle, you can rent them at the Izaak Walton Inn for a reasonable price. Biking is a great way to experience the scenic views.

Half-day, guided scenic floats or whitewater rafting are available for a reasonable price.

Glacier Park
Glacier Park can be experienced in a variety of different ways. Jammer bus tours, boat tours, helicopter tours, and hiking are all popular ways to experience the beauty of the park. You can also experience the beauty of the park in your family car or Rv. For more information on seasonal road closures, visit the Glacier Park link.

Fly Fishing
With access to both the Middle Fork and the North Fork of the Flathead River, this is a great place to enjoy fly fishing. Guided trips and fly fishing school are also available.

Cross-Country Skiing
The area is well known for its cross-country skiing. The area receives abundant amounts of snow. Strike out on your own, or sign up for a guided tour.

Other Area Attractions
There are many other attractions to see in the area, including Marias Pass, Walton Goat Lick, Hungry Horse Dam, and Apgar Village.

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