With wide-open spaces, glacial-carved landscapes, miles of trails, long daylight hours and plenty of room to roam, it’s likely no surprise that locals and visitors spend as much time outside as possible during the summer. And to be honest, we don’t blame them. Kalispell, Montana is an ideal destination for travelers who are ready to venture boldly in our fresh mountain air, combined with western hospitality.
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 six 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 for various of the park, including the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor, the North Fork, Many Glacier and Two Medicine. What this means: if you haven’t snagged a reservation, you need to be flexible with your travel plans so you can head in later in the day after a reservation is no longer needed or book a reservation 24 hours in advance starting May 25. (If you do plan to visit Glacier National Park in 2023, here’s what you need to know.) 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, moose 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. Prior to heading into the outdoors, learn more on how to recreate responsibly.
3. Plan ahead. We’re just going to say it – summer in northwest Montana and Glacier National Park are busy. Be prepared to encounter other people while you’re here, as there are lots of people who are here to soak up the great outdoors and have 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, there are a variety of experiences – from easy to exhilarating – just waiting to be explored. Take a guided boat cruise on Flathead Lake, paddle the rapids of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River with a raft company, set out on a horseback trail ride, cruise the forest on an ATV adventure, hike Jewel Basin or zipline at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Go local and dig into Montana-style grub at one of our local restaurants, breweries, cideries and bakeries.
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, and learn more from our resident grandma here.
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 as prepared as possible. For more information, check out our packing list.
To help visitors learn how to #recreateresponsibly, we also launched a campaign called “Treat it Like Grandma’s House” and did a series of videos. Get tips from our resident gram here.
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.
Most of all, remember that 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.