When most people picture Montana–most including myself–they typically think of dude ranches and wide open plains. And although Whitefish, Montana does have The Bar W Guest Ranch, the quintessential resort mountain town doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotype.
Where is Whitefish, Montana?
Whitefish, Montana is located on the western side of the continental divide, on the edge of Glacier National Park. It lies within the Northern Rocky Mountains Ecosystem and it’s not uncommon to hear about Black Bear sightings.
Additionally, Bald Eagles can often be seen soaring overhead or nestled in trees among the Ospreys.
…adjacent to the peaks of Glacier National Park, Big Mountain (home to Whitefish Mountain Resort) and the Whitefish Range, is comprised of numerous lakes, including Whitefish Lake, wild and scenic rivers and an enormous valley that stretches 60 square miles and features Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. The location of the valley keeps it safe from extreme climate changes encountered in other portions of Montana, making it ideal for year-round recreation. –Explore Whitefish
Plus, you may be surprised by the atmosphere, the incredibly well-kept city center, and the hospitality of the community. As one of our guides explained it, “Be prepared to slow down.”
Basically meaning, when you’re out and about, you’re very likely going to run into someone you will want to to talk to. This will add to your allotted amount of time, so, be prepared to stop and spend a minute catching up.
In fact, after only spending a couple days in the resort town, we found ourselves running into residents we had previously met while out and pulling over on the sidewalk for a quick chat!
Quick Facts About Whitefish
- 11 million people visit the town annually; 50% of them in the summer
- 65 driving miles from the US / Canada border
- Whitefish Lake is 222 feet deep; 7 miles long and 2.5 miles wide
- The Northern Lights, when forecasted, can be viewed best around Whitefish Lake
- WiFi kiosks are located in city center that lead directly to ExploreWhitefish.com for convenience
- No big box stores in small town
- No building over 35 ft without a variance to avoid blocking mountain views
- Don’t be alarmed when you hear the “siren” going off each evening staying in touch with the town’s traditional 10:00 PM curfew!
Where to Stay
- The Lodge of Whitefish Lake: family-friendly AAA four-diamond resort
- Garden Wall Inn: small luxury hotel
- Grouse Mountain Lodge: golf course views
- Snow Bear Chalets: World’s First Ski-In/Ski-Out Luxury Treehouses
- Whitefish Downtown Suites: luxurious suites and vacation rentals
- Hidden Moose Lodge: relaxing, rustic, rugged retreat
- Good Medicine Lodge: Bed and Breakfast
- The Firebrand Hotel: urban sophistication great for millennials
Where to Eat
- Bonsai Brewing Project: Serving lunch and dinner; comfort food; large outdoor seating area; pets on a leash welcome; family (and pet) -friendly
- Casey’s Whitefish: serves two different menus; one inside and one atop the roof at the Skybar, so it’s like 2 destinations in one
- Ciao Mambo: Immigrant-style Italian cuisine, prepared while you watch; family-friendly
- Loula’s Cafe: serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner; also features award-wining Huckleberry Peach Pie; family-friendly
- Montana Coffee Traders: locally-roasted coffees and fresh baked goodies; family-friendly
- Piggyback BBQ: Whitefish, Montana’s ONLY Authentic Pit BBQ restaurant; casual, family-friendly atmosphere
- Sweet Peaks Ice Cream: features 18 rotating flavors of (mostly) locally-made ice cream, yogurt and sorbet; also serves dog ice cream; family (and pet) -friendly
- Tupelo Grille: “thoughtfully prepared Southern cuisine, offering fresh sea food, grilled steaks and signature pastas”; save room for dessert, the Bread Pudding is delicious; family-friendly
Where to Play
- Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort: 5 courses of varying difficulties
- Bar W Guest Ranch: Montana dude ranch featuring legendary hospitality, outdoor recreation, horseback riding, glamping cabins, winter sleigh rides and more
- Glacier Adventure Guides: out-and-back tours and are great for travelers of all ages
- Glacier National Park: Going to-the Sun Road, a national historic landmark, can be traveled by personal car, hiking, biking, shuttle or a historic Red Bus “Jammer” Tour
- Marina at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake: full service marina offering a gas dock to fill watercraft, a snack bar and Tiki Bar, as well as boat tours and rentals
- SaltBox Dry Salt Therapy: offers healing practices of breathing pure salt, massage, and infrared sauna
- Skydive Whitefish: tandem skydiving featuring unbeatable glacier views and free fall from 10,000 ft.
- Whitefish City Beach: sandy beach, shaded grass area, designated swimming area, docks, gazebos, and picnic tables, in addition to kayak and paddle board rentals in the summer
- Whitefish Mountain Resort: one of the largest ski resorts in North America with several features, including an Alpine Slide, mountain biking, scenic lift rides, zip lines, hiking, tubing and much more
- Whitefish Trail: 42 miles of natural surface trails and 12 trailheads/connectors located in a forested, rural environment
For a small mountain town, there is plenty to do and see. And for my local Dallas readers, you can now catch a direct flight to Kalispell on American Airlines, and reach Whitefish after a short drive over.
Therefore, if you ever find yourself in Montana, make sure to head Northwest to Whitefish for year-round fun!