Kalispell, Montana – The Backyard You (Probably) Never Knew Existed
For many travelers, this summer means staying close to home, taking long weekend trips and exploring our backyards. While all of Montana is beautiful, we think it’s time you meet Kalispell.
If you’re a Montana local, chances are you’ve driven through Kalispell on your way north to see our pals in Canada, taking turns down the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort or exploring Glacier National Park. You may have even spent time here for a sporting event. And if you're a Montanan, we realize you might have a distinct memory or perception of what Kalispell is like. But heck, we’re here to tell you that there’s likely way more to our sweet mountain town than you remember.
No matter where you’re coming from in Montana, getting to Kalispell by car is easy. Whether you travel along the Rocky Mountain Front and the southern border of Glacier National Park, cruise up the scenic Seeley-Swan Valley, cut through the lush landscapes of northwest Montana or roll the windows down as you drive north along U.S. Highway 93, Kalispell is ready to welcome you and help you have the best vacation in the backyard you ever knew existed. Our best advice: forget the Kalispell you thought you knew and get ready to be pleasantly surprised.
Please remember that to continue to keep Montana and our residents safe and healthy - while also ensuring it remains a place where visitors also feel safe, healthy and welcome - is going to take all of us working together cooperatively and responsibly. Learn more about how to Travel Responsibly.
From us to you, here are our recommendations for making the most of your backyard summer vacation.
1. Sail, kayak or boat on Flathead Lake. If you’ve driven along Flathead Lake on Highway 93 or Highway 35, we know that seeing the vast waters of Flathead Lake can be really intimidating, even if you’ve seen it hundreds of times. This lake, with its 185 miles of shoreline, multiple islands and glacial-fed waters is one of the most interesting ecosystems in the West. When you look out at the lake, take a minute to think about the glaciers that moved through here thousands of years ago and left behind this incredible lake basin.
The north end of the lake is a short 10-minute drive from Kalispell, which means it’s easy to access the lake while you’re here. Flathead Lake is also home to massive fish and heart-pumping opportunities. And while you’re welcome to bring your own boat and launch it at a public access site, you can also book a guided trip or scenic tour with Howe’s Fishing. Scenic tours are available for groups as small as four people and up to 15 guests. If you want to get as close to the water as possible, Sea Me Paddle offers guided tours and equipment rentals. A few tours of note: visiting Wild Horse Island, kayaking to Cedar Island, exploring Somers Bay and sunset kayak tours.
2. Shop downtown Kalispell. Truth be told, walking along the main drag in Kalispell (which also happens to be Highway 93) is kind of like walking through the past, but in the best way possible. Downtown has historic buildings - mixed with newer builds - that serve as the home base for boutiques, art galleries, home stores, restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream shops and breweries.
Many of these places are owned by locals, neighbors and fellow Montanans who have been working hard to stay open, deliver incredible products and support their families. Be sure to stop into Sweet Peaks for a scoop of ice cream, visit The Toggery and Rocky Mountain Outfitter for outdoor gear, grab a bottle of wine from Brix Bottle Shop, let the kids peruse Imagination Station and enjoy a burger and milkshake at Norm’s News. As we’re all staying closer to home this summer, we’re positive Kalispell businesses would love to see you.
3. A place where the kids can be kids. We know that family is almost synonymous with Montana and that if you have kids, you’re looking for a place that has plenty of things for them to do. Kalispell and the surrounding Flathead Valley have abundant kid-friendly A few of note: hit the hiker-only trails at Jewel Basin, fly down water slides at Big Sky Waterpark (slated to open for the season on June 20), bring the bikes (or your hiking shoes) and set out on the Foys to Blacktail Trails, cruise down Big Mountain on the alpine slide at Whitefish Mountain Resort and take a guided horseback trail ride with Artemis Acres.
4. A weekend with the girls. It’s widely thought (especially by the ladies in our office) that a girls weekend is good for the soul. Chances are, your 2020 girls trips have been postponed or cancelled but we’re here to tell you that Kalispell has plenty of ways for you to reconnect with the ladies you love the most.
Plan to stay in the heart of downtown at the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel (and treat yourself to an onsite massage) or at Sherman Lodge (and book a fly fishing trip with True Water Fly Shop). Tour Purple Mountain Lavender (they have incredible workshops throughout the summer), kayak Flathead Lake, make custom fragrances and oils at Sage & Cedar, sip wine at MontaVino Winery & Tasting Room and enjoy dinner downtown.
5. Get wild outside. Hands down, Glacier National Park is one of Montana’s favorite places. And this year, while the park is operating a bit differently (you can always get the latest updates here) than usual, it might be time to explore Glacier’s backyard - the Flathead National Forest and Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. Hungry Horse Reservoir is stunning and has trails that head off in every direction that lead to peaks just waiting to be submitted. You can also visit Ashley Lake, Echo Lake and the Flathead River for floating and fishing.
All of this to say: come discover Kalispell. We’re ready for you and can’t wait to show you what awaits in Montana’s backyard. Learn how to Travel Safe in Kalispell.