The land of huckleberry: Could there be a dreamier realm?! I think not. Thriving at elevations above 3,500 feet, it takes a special kind of place to grow the purple gold. Fortunately for Montanans (and visiting gluttons like me), huckleberries are native plants that dot the state’s jaw-dropping hills and valleys. Reminiscent of blueberries, the wild fruit is arguably the more flavorful sibling, which makes it a highly sought after gem. Locals are proud foragers and guard their secret patches vigilantly. But competition is high as the berry is also the grizzly’s favorite snack!
Alas, if you’re not the kind to wander the mountains in pursuit of the magical fruit (late July and early August are the times to do it if you are), you can still savor the plump, purple berry without having to fend off any furry friends in bear country. How? Embark on an epic, culinary road trip and stop as much as possible along the way. I recently journeyed through huckleberry heaven with the Expedia Viewfinder team and promise it is a feast for both the eyes and stomach.
Here are 10 must-try stops to add to your itinerary.
1. Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager – The Great Northern Brewing Company (Whitefish, MT)
Made with handpicked huckleberries and pure glacial water, this is Montana in a bottle. Proudly crafted at the gravity-flow brewhouse in Whitefish (designed by world-renowned architect Joe Escherick), the refreshing lager is balanced and incredibly unique. This stuff flies off the shelves, so make sure to grab a pint or two at the brewery and stock up on your way out.
2. Purple Dragon Burger – Pocketstone Cafe (Bigfork, MT)
Home cooking with character—that’s the motto at this quaint restaurant in Bigfork. And it is exactly what they deliver. The handmade burger I devoured had me reminiscing about mom’s cooking until the character kicked in—oh yes, a true homage to Montana, Karie’s Purple Dragon Pepper Sauce conquered my taste buds with its beautiful harmony of jalapeños and huckleberry. This is a burger not to be missed!
3. Wild Huckleberry Liqueur – Vilya Spirits (Kalispell, MT)
Producing small batch spirits using only the finest botanicals (many of which are grown in the Northwest Rocky Mountains of Montana), this family owned and operated micro-distillery makes a mouthwatering huckleberry liqueur. The husband and wife team have a special connection to Big Sky Country and incorporate its alpine herbs and fruits into their artisanal concoctions. The liqueur is best enjoyed while taking in an epic Montana sunset.
4. Huckleberry Pie – The Huckleberry Patch (Hungry Horse, MT)
Erna’s famous, made-from-scratch huckleberry pie should be enough reason to drive to Montana’s original huckleberry cannery. The flaky crust cocoons a rich and delicious filling that will have you salivating at first sight (or scent). Using tried-and-true recipes (some of which have been around for over 50 years), these guys have the largest selection of wild huckleberry products in the state. Preserves, jellies, syrups, baked goods… You name it, they probably have it!
5. Elk Meatloaf With Huckleberry Demi – Tupelo Grille (Whitefish, MT)
Nestled in the heart of downtown Whitefish, this fine dining restaurant is a popular spot among locals. The ambiance is casual, the service is friendly, and the food is diverse. Chef Cecilie Andersson hails from Denmark and has established a unique menu—a mix of farm to table, childhood favorites, modern American, and international flavors. The restaurant specializes in Cajun and Southern cuisine, but also serves up Montana favorites like sizzling steak and a tantalizing elk meatloaf drizzled with a rich huckleberry demi. Yum!
Viewfinder Tip: Head to Northwestern Montana from mid-July into August for the best huckleberry picking in the state.
6. Huckleberry Gummy Grizzly & Starlites – Huckleberry Haven (Kalispell, MT)
Time-honored recipes, small batch production, and delectable aromas and flavors—that’s what you can expect from Huckleberry Haven. Located just outside of Glacier National Park, these guys have been meticulously manufacturing wild berry delicacies since 1987. What began with a wild huckleberry jam decades ago has now flourished into a full-blown gourmet specialty store that produces everything from jams and BBQ sauces to teas and scented wild huckleberry candles.
7. Huckleberry Macaroons – Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery (Whitefish, MT)
Follow your nose when you step inside Stumptown Market and you’ll likely end up at this world famous bakery (the original mercantile has been serving the North Fork for over a century). Racks overflowing with delicious baked goods will greet you alongside a friendly face or two. Eat everything you can get your paws on, but do not leave without trying the huckleberry macaroons or bear claws. Oh, and I hear their huckleberry beer bread is also drool-worthy.
8. Huckleberry Ice Cream – Sweet Peaks Ice Cream (various locations across MT)
In 2010, two people with a deep love for ice cream united to bring quality ingredients and creative flavors to Whitefish—their very first shop. Fast forward a few years and you’ll now find Sweet Peaks in Kalispell, Bigfork, Missoula, and Coeur d’Alene. One taste and you’ll understand why. Making all the ice cream and sorbet in their production kitchen in Whitefish, these guys combine milk and cream from Hutterite Colony Dairy farms of Montana with other local ingredients to make some enticing flavors (16 in total).
9. Milk Chocolate Wild Huckleberry Creams – The Sweet Palace (Philipsburg, MT)
Montana huckleberries are transformed into a velvety cream and hand-dipped in luxurious chocolate at this local gem. The irresistible scent of freshly-made sweets permeates throughout the Victorian store—said to be the grandest candy emporium in the great American West. One thing is for sure: If you don’t enter with a sweet tooth, you will certainly leave with one. They make over 50 kinds of fudge, 72 flavors of saltwater taffy, 20 varieties of caramels, and countless chocolates onsite.
10. Huckleberry Gin – Glacier Distilling (West Glacier, MT)
Perched on the foothills of Glacier National Park, this craft distillery aims to reflect the rugged beauty of the region into the small-batch whiskeys and fine spirits they produce. Using local grains and pure glacial water from the Northern Rockies, they are proud makers of handcrafted, alpine whiskeys and spirits. Their Huckleberry Gin is distilled from a rye grain with a mix of botanicals, infused with local spruce tips and sweetened with wild huckleberries. How’s that for a taste of Glacier?
What are your favorite huckleberry treats?
To learn more about planning your own epic road trip through Montana, click here or check out the #PictureMontana hashtag on social media.
This post was written by Solmaz (aka The Curious Creature), a full-time food and travel blogger based in Toronto, Canada. Having traveled to more than 35 countries, her ultimate goal is to break down barriers to unfamiliar lands and cultures in order to inspire people to explore new destinations. She’s a firm believer that food plays an essential role in doing so and makes it a priority to write and share culinary experiences. You can follow her gluttonous journey on her website or via Instagram.