Now more than ever, locals and visitors alike are spending more time outside and heck, we don’t blame them. Kalispell, Montana is an ideal destination for travelers looking for fresh mountain air, western hospitality and wide-open spaces. 

Plus, with Montana’s 147,000 square miles and numerous outdoor offerings in the Flathead Valley, it’s easy to find plenty of wild places to create memories, spend quality time and enjoy public lands, all while recreating responsibly. 

To make the most of your time playing in Montana’s outdoor playground, here are 6 tips for a vacation full of incredible memories. 

1. Don’t forget that there’s more to Northwest Montana than just Glacier National Park. We know the Crown of the Continent is high on the list of many visitors and believe us, we get it. The park’s 1 million acres are home to some of the most incredible terrain we’ve ever seen, and though we get to see it often, it still blows us away and is a major draw for visitors from near and far. Glacier National Park is continuing their vehicle reservation system in summer which means that if you haven’t snagged a reservation, you will need to be flexible with your travel plans so you can head in later in the day after a reservation is no longer needed. But there’s more to explore than just the park. Check out the Flathead National Forest, hike at Herron Park, kayak (or sail) on Flathead Lake or take a day trip.

2. Keep Montana wild. If you’re not familiar with Big Sky Country, our open spaces are home to an abundant population of diverse wildlife, including bears, mountain goats, mountain lions, elk, deer and more. And chances are, if you spend much time outside when you’re here, at some point you are going to have an encounter with our wildlife and we want it to be a positive one. Give wildlife their space – do not approach them and never feed them. If you plan to hike, be sure to go with a friend, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. Learn more on how to recreate responsibly in Montana.

3. Plan ahead. Summer in northwest Montana and Glacier National Park are busy and more people are spending time outside on their vacations, soaking up bucket-list experiences. If you arrive at a trailhead and it’s overcrowded, keep going and hike another trail. Or forget the trail altogether and take a dip in one of our rivers or Flathead Lake. We also recommend adjusting the time of day you plan to hike and explore. With long daylight hours in the summer, it’s easy to hit the trails and public lands before many people are even up for the day, which means you’ll also have all sorts of routes to yourself. 

4. Try something new. Montana is always ready to push you out of your comfort zone. If you’re all about the outdoors, give one of our amazing museums a shot and book a guided tour. If you’re more into easy cruising, switch gears and consider zip lining high over the Flathead Valley on Big Mountain. Go local and dig into Montana-style grub at one of our local restaurants, breweries, cideries and shops. 

5. Fully extinguish all fires. While we could beat around the bush on this, we’re just gonna say it – we need you to fully put out any fires you have. Some wildfires are caused by natural forces (like lightning) and others are caused by humans. And while fire is part of nature’s natural ecosystem, human-caused wildfires are not. If you opt to have a campfire, be sure to watch it, start it in a fire pit, never leave it unattended and make sure it’s completely out before leaving. Additional tips: always dispose of matches and cigarette butts in a closed container, don’t park a vehicle in dry grass and use caution in wooded areas. Want to learn more? Check out these tips from the foremost official on forest safety, Smokey the Bear.

6. Be prepared. In Montana, both weather and terrain can change quickly. Be sure to have water, food/snacks, bug spray and a first aid kit. We recommend packing layers as well to ensure you are prepared as possible. For more information, check out our packing list.

Additional resources for recreating responsibly can be found at Leave No Trace, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and Be Outdoor Safe.And remember, we look forward to seeing you in Kalispell and sharing the open spaces and public lands that make up our backyard. When you get here, be sure to stop into the Discover Kalispell Visitor Information Center (15 Depot Park) and pick up travel guides and maps, as well as get suggestions for things to do, places to go and insider tips from our staff.