You know, there’s more to Whitefish, Montana than just breathtaking scenery, an award-winning ski hill, abundant wildlife and a spectacular alpine lake. But there’s no ignoring the obvious: the #1 attraction that brings visitors to our town—the Great Outdoors—also fuels an active lifestyle for residents that is second to none. Just minutes from downtown Whitefish lies world-renowned Glacier National Park, 1,600 square miles of the most awe inspiring mountain peaks, waterfalls, rushing streams and glaciers to be found in North America. As the shining jewel in the “Crown of the Continent” region, Glacier attracts millions of visitors each year to hike its 700+ miles of trails, sleep in magnificent 100-year-old log hotels, explore the crags and canyons that abound… and maybe catch a glimpse of a bighorn sheep, a herd of elk or a grizzly bear! If Glacier is the crown, there are certainly plenty of other “natural jewels” to choose from in the Whitefish area, beginning with Whitefish Lake! The southern shore of the lake, and the ever-popular Whitefish City Beach, is just blocks from the heart of downtown Whitefish. The lake is popular with users of all sorts: swimmers, kayakers, fishermen, water- and jet-skiers, paddleboarders, ice fishermen, and every imaginable type of motorized—and self-propelled—boat known to mankind. Whitefish Lake is 7 miles long, 2.5 miles wide and 222 feet deep at its deepest point.
In addition to Whitefish City Beach—with its family-friendly, roped-off beach, manned lifeguard towers and picnic gazebos—the public can also access the lake at Whitefish Lake State Park on the Lake’s west shore, or Les Mason State Park on the eastern shoreline. In the summertime it’s all about being outside, and there’s no better way to see nature than to hike (or bike) on one of the area’s many trail systems. The Whitefish Trail offers more than 42 miles of natural surface trail accessed from 12 trail heads, with more being added each year. These trails are located in forested, rural environments popular for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and walking and are appropriate for families, outdoor enthusiasts, and bikers and runners of all abilities. If a casual stroll is more to your liking, try the paved Whitefish Bike & Pedestrian Trail System, which meanders around town and along the Whitefish River.
For a more heart pumping workout, head up to Whitefish Mountain Resort and hike the Danny On Trail to the summit of Big Mountain, where you’ll find breathtaking views of the Flathead Valley, eye-popping fields of colorful wildflowers, and some of the best huckleberry picking around. Those looking for a more relaxing experience can catch a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Big Mountain… but there’s plenty more for the more adventuresome to experience at the resort as well. The Zip-Line Tour at Whitefish Mountain Resort is one of the most popular summertime activities on the hill, often requiring reservations days in advance. But the Aerial Adventure Park, Alpine Slides, Spider Monkey Mountain, Strider Bike Park and summertime tubing are just as popular with visitors and locals alike. Mountain biking opportunities range from resort riding at Whitefish Mountain Resort to trail rides just outside of town at Spencer Mountain, the Whitefish Trail, Round Meadows and Tally Lake. There are trails to accommodate everyone from kids on training wheels to the most veteran off-road riders… and road cyclists have a myriad of options in the area as well. Rock climbing is another popular summer adventure, and Whitefish-based Rock Climb Montana teaches folks from 3 to 80 to climb at spectacular outdoor locations throughout northwestern Montana… no experience needed!
Whitefish has been named a “Top-50 Golf Destination” by Golf Digest Magazine, and it’s no wonder! Nine championship golf courses are within a forty-five minute drive of Whitefish, and the outstanding quality and affordability of the Valley’s golf courses are well known throughout the US and Canada. Add to that our 16 hours of summertime daylight and temperatures that average in the mid-70’s, and anytime is a good time to play a round in Whitefish. Whitefish Lake Golf Club offers Montana’s only 36-hole golf complex; its tree-lined fairways, well-bunkered (and spacious) bent grass greens and spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery make for an excellent golfing experience for players of all ages and skill levels.
If you’re looking to get your heart pounding and adrenaline flowing, look no further than the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, where a handful of professional rafting companies will be happy to get you chest-deep in whitewater! The Class II-IV rapids on the Flathead—with names like “Bonecrusher” and “Jaws”—are more than enough to satisfy the whitewater purist, but there is also a menu of “gentler” options designed with families in mind.
If you’re looking to get a true “Old West” experience, maybe it’s time to saddle-up and hit the trail! The Whitefish area has several different stables and ranches that offer everything from 1-hour horseback rides to multi-day overnight trips into Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness. Follow that up with a stop at Stumptown Vintage Photography in downtown Whitefish, and get a “wild west” portrait to memorize your Wild West adventure! Summer and fall are “prime time” for sportsmen in the Flathead Valley, as fishing and floating picks up on both the Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River and a hundred other, smaller, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. Anglers flock to our area in search of west slope cutthroat trout, rainbows and whitefish, but they’ll occasionally pull in some hefty bull trout, a kokanee salmon or northern pike. Fall is deer and elk season in northwestern Montana, and those serious about filling their tags will find the hunting here to be both challenging and rewarding.
When winter sets-in here in Whitefish, we don’t go into hibernation… we catch our second wind! Winter sports abound here in the shadow of Whitefish Mountain Resort, which this year was ranked the #3 ski resort in the western U.S. by Ski Magazine. More than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, 105 runs and 15 lifts beckon to powder hounds and beginners alike. The lift lines are short, the people friendly, the snow plentiful, and—best of all—lift ticket prices are among the most affordable of any major US ski resort. And if untracked powder is what you’re craving, the folks at Great Northern Powder Guides offer snowcat skiing opportunities that are unsurpassed anywhere!
Off the hill, things are just as busy. Whitefish is a wintertime mecca for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, ski-joring, sleigh riding, ice skating… and cross-country skiing. A wide array of groomed nordic skiing trails are available throughout the Whitefish area. Tours in Glacier National Park take you through breathtaking scenery, and the Whitefish Lake Golf Club magically transforms into the Glacier Nordic Center in winter—a 15-kilometer Nordic touring center that is tracked and groomed for skating and classic skiing, with five kilometers of lighted trails for night skiing. The Dog Creek Lodge and Nordic Center— located about 20 miles north of Whitefish— is another great option. Another magnet of wintertime activity is the Stumptown Ice Den, an Olympic-style rink in the heart of Whitefish that is popular with figure skaters, hockey players, curling enthusiasts and recreational skaters throughout northwestern Montana. The “Den” is open year ‘round, and hosts skating lessons and performances, hockey leagues, tournaments, and daily open skating for the public.
Northwest Montana offers some of the most incredible snowmobiling terrain to be found anywhere, and a number of local businesses have the equipment—and know-how—to make sure your day on the trails is safe and enjoyable. And if you’re looking for a mode of transportation with a little more “horse” and a lot less power, consider a trip to the Bar W Guest Ranch for a horse-drawn sleigh ride and dinner. For more information on recreation and attractions in the Whitefish area, visit: WhitefishChamber.org.