Hiking in Northwest Montana
Kalispell, the Perfect Launching Point for Hiking Trails
With its location in the Flathead Valley, Kalispell sits at the epicenter of incredible hiking and recreational adventures that can be found in every direction. From Kalispell, it’s easy to find plentiful hiking destinations, from Glacier National Park to Jewel Basin and the Cabinet Mountains.
Glacier National Park
PLEASE NOTE: Glacier National Park is instituting an online reservation system (ticketed entry) for the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor between the park’s West and St. Mary Entrances from May 28 to September 6, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gtsrticketedentry.htm
With more than 1 million acres and 734 miles of hiking trails, it’s no wonder Glacier National Park is thought of as the ultimate hiking destination. The park’s beautiful trails lead to jaw-dropping views of glacial-carved terrain, rushing waterfalls and backcountry wonders, making it ideal for both day hikes and overnight adventures. A few trails of note: Trail of the Cedars (which is ADA accessible), Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake, the Highline Trail and the dramatically beautiful Dawson-Pitamakan Loop Trail.
You can see the full list of hiking trails in the park here. If you prefer to go with a guide, the knowledgeable crew at Glacier Guides and Montana Raft offers overnight backpacking trips, nature walks and day hikes.
Flathead National Forest
Surrounding Kalispell is the Flathead National Forest and its 2.4 million acres. Within the forest’s boundaries are abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, including trails, campsites, rivers and lakes. It’s also home to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Jewel Basin Recreation Area and the Middle, North and South forks of the Flathead River. Many trails are mixed use and are shared among hikers, riders, and bikers, with some (like Jewel Basin and Danny On Trail) being designated as hiker-only trails.
A local favorite, Jewel Basin is a 30-minute drive from downtown Kalispell. Perfect for day hikers, the Jewel has 35 miles of well-marked and well-maintained trails, 35 lakes, plenty of wildlife and stunning views from the top of Mount Aeneas. Prepare for your hike in the Jewel Basin with this PDF hiking map.
With 2,249 miles of trails that lead hikers and adventure lovers to mountain peaks and along lush river bottoms, there are five areas within the forest that have various trail uses, including Glacier View, Hungry Horse, Spotted Bear, Swan Lake and Tally Lake. A few local favorites: Stanton Lake, Lion Lake Trail and Danny On Trail (located at Whitefish Mountain Resort).
Other Recreational Areas
Lone Pine State Park provides panoramic views of Kalispell and the Flathead Valley, with 6 miles of developed trails that are shared by hikers and mountain bikers. The trail traverses through gorgeous wooded terrain, with fantastic views from the top. The onsite visitor center also has full-service rest rooms, a drinking fountain and gift shop, as well as an ADA-accessible loop.
A short drive from downtown Kalispell, Herron Park has hiking and walking paths, as well as single track mountain biking trails, that lead into the 13.5-mile-long Foy’s to Blacktail Trail. See a full trail map here.
Located on Big Mountain, Whitefish Mountain Resort has various hiking routes that lead to the 7,000-foot summit, complete with 360-degree views of the Cabinet Mountains, Glacier National Park and Flathead Valley. The Danny On Trail is designated for hiker-use only and leads from the village to the summit of the mountain. Hiking trails can be accessed by a gondola/chairlift ride or from the village.
The Swan River Nature Trail is Bigfork’s 2-mile-long gravel trail that leads to views of the Wild Mile of the Swan River. To access the trail, head into Bigfork from Montana Highway 35 on Grand Drive and continue straight past Electric Avenue; the trailhead sits at the top of the short hill.
Additional trails can be found at Hike Montana Wild, provided by the Montana Wilderness Association.