72 Epic Hours in NW Montana
A Long Weekend in Kalispell, Montana
With plenty of room to roam and abundant things to see and do, it’s easy to spend a long weekend exploring northwest Montana. Prepare to immerse yourself in the soul of Montana with our 72-hour itinerary, which combines beautiful places like Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake and the Flathead National Forest with flagship hotels, cozy lodges, mouth-watering dining experiences and locally owned shops and boutiques.
2 p.m. - Hit the Water
When it comes to summer in Montana’s Flathead Valley, water is often the focal point, with rivers, lakes and mountain streams found around nearly every bend in the road or waiting at the end of the trail. Anchoring the region’s water recreation offerings is Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. Encompassing more than 200 square miles and with 185 miles of shoreline, Flathead Lake has abundant recreational options, from community and state parks with water access to chartered sailing excursions and guided fishing trips. Additional water-focused fun can be found on Hungry Horse Reservoir, the Thompson Chain of Lakes (with 18 lakes to choose from), Whitefish Lake and Little Bitterroot Lake.
6 p.m. - Cheers with Beers
After playing on the water, head to Kalispell’s original brewery—Kalispell Brewing Company (KBC). A 10-barrel brewhouse, KBC creates craft lagers with superior malt flavors in a beautifully historic building on Main Street. The owners met while competing in telemark ski racing across Europe and tasted the traditional flavors found in their beer today. With a rooftop patio, KBC is the perfect place to unwind, taste the flavors of Montana and rub elbows with the locals.
7 p.m. - Sunset in Glacier National Park
While many travelers to the park plan for an all-day adventure, Glacier National Park is a beautiful destination for a quick evening visit. Head into the park’s West Glacier entrance and make the short drive to Apgar Village to soak in the quiet moments of a summer evening and catch the sunset over Lake McDonald.
8 a.m. - 10¢ Coffee
A Kalispell favorite, Sykes Diner offers up early-bird breakfast specials (including 10 cent cups of coffee from 7 a.m. - 9 a.m.) with local staples that include loaded hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy and cowboy steak and eggs. After filling up on breakfast, swing by their onsite deli and pick up lunch for the day.
10 a.m. - Hike it Out
With the Flathead National Forest nearby, there are endless hiking trails that lead into some of Montana’s most beautiful places. For an easily accessible hike close to town, head to Foys to Blacktail Trails. Within the trail system, there are five trailheads to choose from, including Herron Park, Emmon’s Saddle, Emmon’s Spring, Lakeside to Blacktail and Blacktail Mountain.
For an adventure farther away from town, visit the Jewel Basin Hiking Area. With 15,000 acres, Jewel Basin has 20 lakes and 11 trails for day hiking, which means there is plenty of room to spread out and take in the views. While you’re here, take the 6-mile-long round-trip hike to Mount Aeneas and its 7,500-foot summit. Keep your eyes out for mountain goats and be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles.
Additional hiking options include Lone Pine State Park—complete with panoramic views of the Flathead Valley—the 11 miles of trails on Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort or an easy stroll along the2-mile-long Swan River Nature Trail in Bigfork.
Option B: Head into Glacier National Park. From Kalispell, it’s a scenic 30-minute drive to the west entrance of the park. If it’s your first time visiting, be sure to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Or if you’re in the mood for a hike, make the 4.5-mile-long loop to Avalanche Lake along the Trail of the Cedars. Find more travel ideas for Glacier National Park here.
7 p.m. - Dine Local
After a heart-pumping day of hiking in Montana’s Flathead Valley, taste the flavors of Big Sky Country at one of our local dining establishments. For a boot-stomping good time, dig into the West’s best pizza at Moose’s Saloon (be sure to carve your name into the wood booths or walls), dine on sushi at Blue Samurai Sushi Bar & Grill or fill up on homemade pasta at Scottibelli’s Ristorante Italiano.
8 a.m. - Farmers Market
One of Montana’s oldest seasonal farmers markets, the Kalispell Farmers Market is held every May - October at the Flathead Valley Community College. Take time and stroll the market, chat with local farmers and growers and peruse the work of Montana artists. You’ll find freshly picked huckleberries, juicy Dixon melons, crisp produce, fresh-baked goods and local jams and jellies, as well as beautiful arts and crafts.
11 a.m. - Soak in Montana History
Located two blocks from downtown, the Hockaday Museum of Art maintains a permanent collection of art that showcases the work of Charles M. Russell, John Ferry and others, including 15 historic murals that used to adorn the historic lodges within Glacier National Park.
Noon. - Belly Up at an Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain
Founded in 1938, Norm’s Soda Fountain is an old-school soda shop that serves up American classics, as well as bison burgers, alongside soda fountain favorites, sundaes, floats and more. While here, be sure to try a huckleberry cone or shake and pick up sweet treats at the candy counter.
2 p.m. - Meet Kalispell's Founder
A place frozen in time, the Conrad Mansion was the home of Kalispell’s founder, Charles E. Conrad. Today, the Conrad Mansion Museum offers docent-led tours that share the history of the Conrad family’s past and a glimpse into the life of early modern-day Montana. Arrive a few minutes early or stay after your tour to stroll the grounds of the mansion and walk through its beautiful gardens.
3:30 p.m. - Downtown + Apres Cool Down
After soaking up Kalispell’s history, take a walk through this mountain’s town’s lively downtown. Grab a blended soda at House of S&M or a coffee from Montana Coffee Traders before setting out to peruse local shops, including Western Outdoors (home to 2,500 cowboy boots and 1,500 hats), The Toggery, Wheaton’s Cycle, Sage & Cedar and The Montana Scene. As you’re strolling, be sure to look up to see buildings from the late 1890s and early 1900s that continue to serve as a solid foundation for this lively mountain town.
6 p.m. - Taste Montana
When it comes to food, Kalispell takes dinner seriously, which means there are plenty of places to fill up on made-from-scratch offerings. One of the mainstays in downtown, Hop’s Downtown Grill serves up surprising selections in the form of yak burgers, elk brats, duck wings, elk bolognese lasagna and more. Just up the road, DeSoto Grill is open for lunch and dinner and serves up the best BBQ in the West, perfectly paired with Montana beers.
8 a.m. - Bike it Out
While there are plentiful mountain biking trails and road biking routes throughout Montana, one of the coolest places to ride is the Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana. A biking path built on retired railroad beds, the trail extends from Flathead Lake to downtown Kalispell and beyond. Plus, riding Rails to Trails means you can avoid vehicular traffic as you pedal along with the snow-kissed peaks of the Swan Mountains in the background.
11 a.m. - Brunch
End your trip with brunch at The Knead Cafe, Wheat Montana Bakery & Deli or Split Rock Cafe. The latter serves breakfast all day and is the perfect place to treat yourself to a tasty brunch as your last meal in Kalispell.