Nicholas DeRenzo
Mar 2021

Flanked by the untouched alpine wilderness of Glacier National Park to the north and the aquatic playground of Flathead Lake to the south, fun-loving Kalispell is the ideal gateway for exploring Montana’s rugged northwestern region any time of year. Here, five adventures in and near Kalispell.

Credit: Getty Images

Go wildlife spotting in Glacier National Park

At more than one-million acres, this pristine national park—nicknamed “The Crown of the Continent”—sits about 45 minutes outside Kalispell, along the Canadian border. Its mountains, glaciers and wildflower-filled valleys are home to moose, grizzly bears and rarer finds like Canadian lynxes and wolverines. Best of all, you don’t need to look hard to find some of the park’s most famous fauna: While driving along the picturesque Going-to-the-Sun Road, you have a phenomenal chance of spotting mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

Credit: Noah Couser

Spend a day out on Flathead Lake

The largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the Lower 48 states covers some 197 square miles—almost three times bigger than the District of Columbia. The cold, clear waters teem with trout, perch, salmon, bass and pike. In summer, its shores are lined with roadside vendors selling cherries, plums and apples. Accessible by boat, the lake’s Wild Horse Island is home to a small family of wild horses, plus bighorn sheep, mule deer, bald eagles and more.

Courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort

Hit the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort

About 35 minutes due north of Kalispell, this alpine resort offers 3,000 skiable acres, with winter activities including snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. When the powder melts, you’ll find just as much activity up on the slopes: Expect thrilling zipline courses, downhill mountain biking and tubing, the state’s only alpine slide and an aerial obstacle course that includes cable bridges, rope ladders and even trapezes.

Credit: Swan Mountain Outfitters

Go llama-trekking in Swan Valley

Swan Mountain Llama Trekking calls its gentle beasts of burden “camels of the clouds,” and these sure-footed animals are perfectly suited to guide you through this rough mountainous terrain. With itineraries ranging from a few hours up to five days, the outfitter offers llama-packing clinics, yoga-with-llamas classes and wine and cheese treks. While out in the wilderness, you’ll have the opportunity to pick berries, sip hot chocolate by the fire, fish in the creek and enjoy the long summer evenings—here, the sun can stay out until 10:30 p.m.!

Credit: Discover Kalispell

Bike the Great Northern Historical Trail

Roughly following the route of the old Great Northern Railway, this 22-mile paved trail stretches from the lakeside town of Somers to the mountain hamlet of Kila. As you pedal through Flathead Valley, take in gorgeous views of the Swan, Mission, Salish and Whitefish ranges. Reward yourself with a break in Kalispell, where you can cool off with a Two Ski Brewski Pilsner at Kalispell Brewing Co. or a scoop of locally foraged huckleberry ice cream at Sweet Peaks Ice Cream.

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