Inaugural Event in Kalispell had 170 Participants from 31 States

Tuesday, October 10, 2023—Kalispell, Montana—170 backpackers descended on Kalispell, Montana, in late September for the inaugural HIGHLANDER event where they cleaned up 1,202.73 pounds of trash.

With two formats – Hercules (54 miles, five days) and Pegasus (38 miles, three days) – HIGHLANDER participants ranged from 13-71 years old and came from 31 states and three countries to participate in the September event. In addition to backpacking, the event included educational presentations, relaxation and fun, with an emphasis placed on recreating responsibly, bear safety and more.

“HIGHLANDER is the perfect fit for Kalispell,” said Diane Medler, Executive Director for Discover Kalispell. “From the backpacking element to the cleanup efforts, the event and its participants left an incredibly positive impact on our area.”

And while the backpacking adventure is seemingly the key focus of HIGHLANDER, it also included relationship building, yoga workshops, music and massages. HIGHLANDER also donated $1 for every mile covered by Hercules participants to a veteran charity, “Folds of Honour.”

Participants also committed to “Erase the Trace” as part of HIGHLANDER’s collaboration with Responsible Stewardship. As a result of this stewardship commitment, the trails were left cleaner and more pristine after HIGHLANDER.

“We were all very impressed and pleasantly surprised with the Highlander group,” said P. Ryan Langson, President and CEO of Flathead Ridge Ranch. “They respected our personnel and the property, and even helped clean up the area.”

 “We really enjoyed working with the Highlander team and engaging with a large variety of Highlanders,” said Jessi Wood, General Manager of Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. I love that this event aims to teach outdoor enthusiasts how to recreate responsibly and gives them the tools to do so. At Blacktail, we strive to offer access to mountain experiences the authentic Montana way and Highlander does just that.”

Surplus food from the event was donated to the Flathead Food Bank. Plus, many participants came early and stayed late to experience Kalispell, pumping out-of-market spending into the local economy.

Several partners came together to make the event a success, including Responsible Stewardship, Zpacks, Timex, Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, Right on Trek, Glacier Institute, Glacier Outfitters, Bias Brewing, Budget Rental Car and Red Lion Hotel. The event also took the cooperation of several entities, including Flathead National Forest, Montana State Parks, Flathead Ridge Ranch, DNRC, Aspen Meadow Farms, Diamond Hangin T Ranch, Discover Kalispell, Foys to Blacktail Trails and Flathead County Fairgrounds.

“DNRC appreciated that Highlander event organizers helped to clean up state trust land prior to the event. Highlander also made sure that that area was left clean after the participants camped,” said Dave Poukish, DNRC Kalispell Unit Manager. “We hardly knew that 100 people were there the night before.”

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About Discover Kalispell

Discover Kalispell, the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau, is the designated marketing organization for the city of Kalispell and is a division of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce. The organization is funded by the state accommodations tax and the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) fee. Anchoring the Flathead Valley, Kalispell is a destination that combines accessible amenities, touchable history and a charming downtown with Montana’s wide-open spaces and endless outdoor recreation. It’s also located within minutes of Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, the Jewel Basin and many public parks and trail systems. More information can be found at or on social media at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as #DiscoverKalispell.

Contact: Tia Troy


[email protected]