Spring is an excellent time to visit Whitefish, Montana, because the trails are loamy, the wildlife is roaming, and the visitors are few and far between.
The world has discovered Whitefish, Montana during the summer season, and for good reason: the waters are warmer, the alpine flowers are blooming, and the beaches and bike trails are bathed in sunshine. For those who prefer a less busy holiday though, spring is the perfect time to visit Whitefish because the sun’s still shining and the trails are buff but there aren’t any line-ups at the many bars and eateries in town. If you are someone who desires to protect places for future generations, you’ll want to put Whitefish on your radar this spring.
Located on the shores of its six-mile-long namesake lake, just west of Glacier National Park, Whitefish is a small mountain town but it offers delicious dining at over 40 restaurants, cafés, and bars as well as innumerable recreational opportunities both in an out of town. One such activity is unique in the United States: sections of the “Going-to-the-Sun” Road and Camas Road in Glacier National Park are closed to all vehicle traffic except bicycles and pedestrians. You can walk or pedal into the alpine, have the entire road all to yourself, and enjoy incredible mountain views that are completely unimpeded by passing cars.
Below is a list of our favourite springtime activities in Whitefish, Montana as well as a few pointers on how to blend in like a local. For more recreational ideas and to learn about how to “Be A Friend Of The Fish” visit ExploreWhitefish.com.
How To Partake In Favourite Springtime Activities In Whitefish, Montana And Be A Friend Of The Fish
Spot Wildlife In Glacier National Park
Encompassing over a million acres and 130 lakes, Glacier National Park is the perfect place to watch wildlife emerge from their winter slumber. Here you’ll find every kind of Rocky Mountain species from bears to river otters as well as 260 species of birds and a thousand different types of plants. Migratory birds return to the park in the springtime and, because there are fewer leaves on the trees, it’s easier to spot them as well as other animals. Plus, there are fewer travellers around to impede your views.
Because many of the trails are at elevation, there could still be snow or ice on shady sections so be sure to wear good footwear and Yaktrax or another type of traction device and carry hiking poles. If you prefer to stick to the pavement, you can also walk sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road that are closed to vehicle traffic. For more about hiking trails in the park, visit the National Park Service website.
Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip #1: Always give wildlife lots of space, photograph them with a telephoto lens, and carry bear spray with you on the trails.
Ride The Alpine Roads
Whitefish offers not one but two unique experience for road riders in the springtime: sections of both the Going-to-the-Sun (GTTS) Road and Camas Road in Glacier National Park are open to bicycle traffic only. If access to one is limited due to plow activity, simply go to the other! Both offer the best scenic riding in America between late April and June: towering mountain peaks, fast-flowing rivers, beautiful meadows and plenty of roaming wildlife including bighorn sheep, deer, mountain goats and bears emerging from their winter dens. Remember to always keep your distance from wild animals and never approach them.
It should be noted that Glacier National Park has a vehicle reservation system for visitors wanting to travel the GTTS and more information about that as well as directions can be found on the 2022 Vehicle Reservations page.
For those in need of bicycle rentals, they can be arranged by contacting the following shops:
Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip #2: Biking into the alpine requires warm layers, including gloves, and a wind/rain shell.
Hike And Bike All The Other Roads and Trails
Thanks in large part to the Whitefish Legacy Partners, there’s a recreational trail system called The Whitefish Trail that offers 47 miles of walking and biking, all accessible via 15 trailheads. Additional access can be found at the Whitefish Bike Retreat, a unique lodge and campground located eight miles out of town that caters to mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Particularly good in the springtime is the Whitefish Trail around Woods Lake, which includes three scenic overlooks with views of Woods Lake and the Whitefish Range. Plus, thanks to a 1.5-mile trail easement donated by the local Goguen Family, the trail offers stunning views of Whitefish Lake.
Some of the shadier trails may still have a bit of snow on them in the spring months but there are plenty of clear, open roads in the Flathead Valley in which to explore by bicycle. One of the best gravel bike experiences is riding the North Fork Road from Camas Road to Polebridge because it’s mellow enough that anyone can do it, but the views are outstanding and you can stop at the Polebridge Mercantile for some mid-ride snacks before heading back.
For more information about biking the trails and roads around the Flathead Valley, check in with the guides at Whitefish Outfitters and the owners of the Whitefish Bike Retreat.
Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip #3: When biking or hiking, always remember to pack out your TP and trash.
Fish The Local Waterways
There’s a reason Whitefish is called what it is. Founded in 1905 , the town earned its name because early settlers noticed the Salish people catching whitefish in the lake. In fact the Salish word for the area, epɫx̣ʷy̓u, means “has whitefish.” There are a lot of other species in the surrounding lakes including trout, pike, and bass and state regulations allow anglers to fish lakes and reservoirs all year long including on Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater body of water west of the Mississippi, and on the 23,800-acre Hungry Horse Reservoir.
For those who prefer to cast in rivers and streams, there are innumerable locations in and around the mountains near the community including the Whitefish River but it’s important to note that the 2022 fishing season runs from May 21 to November 30, unless otherwise noted in the state’s fishing regulations. Here’s a map and more info for the various lakes around town: explorewhitefish.com/map.
Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip #4: Hire local guides. They know the secret spots! We recommend Lakestream Outfitters & Fly Shop.
Explore The Town
For a community of only 8,000 people, Whitefish has plenty of urban amenities to go along with its rural charm. It’s recommended that every visitor checks out the Whitefish Depot, which is one of the busiest train depots between Seattle and Minneapolis. Built by the Great Northern Railway in 1928, and restored in the 1990s, this beautiful, historic building is noted for its beautiful timbers and small museum. Other places worth visiting include the Stumptown Art Studio, which is a nonprofit organization in downtown Whitefish that offers classes for adults and kids, rotating exhibitions, and drop-in open studio times for everyone to paint pottery or fuse glass with other creatives. If you’d rather buy art than make it, the Sunti World Art Gallery features award-winning painters work in oil, acrylic, pastel, and charcoal and adhere to old masters techniques, from authentic en plein air impressionism, to exceptionally detailed hyper-realism. For fashionistas, The Toggery needs to be on your radar because it’s part upscale boutique, part rustic department store, and everything Montana.
When not shopping, rest and rejuvenate at one of the 40 cafés, wineries, bakeries, distilleries, restaurants, and breweries in town. Here is a list of recommendations:
- Bonsai Brewing Project
- Ciao Mambo
- Spotted Bear Spirits
- Unleashed Winery
- Fleur Bake Shop
- INDAH Sushi
- Loula’s Cafe
- Wild Coffee Company
- Amazing Crepes
- Sweet Peaks Ice Cream
- Tupelo Grille
- The Last Chair Kitchen & Bar
Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip #5: Be extra kind to the workers in Whitefish. They’re the backbone of the town.
For more info about Whitefish, Montana, visit ExploreWhitefish.com.