Where the Locals Go

Catch the local vibe in Kalispell.

The locals have it – the knowledge and the history to experience a place at its most authentic and best self. And Kalispell locals will gladly share their gems of information — their hospitality extends well beyond the meeting room and reception desk. They’ll invite you to pull up a chair, find out what your interests are and tell you stories of quiet hikes with the most amazing views, the best brews of the season and the events worth your time.

But you don’t need to wait to arrive to get the local insight. These residents, who we call our Kalispell Discovery Guides, have shared a few of their nuggets to help you plan your trip:

Amy Pearson: hike into the wilderness
Local poet and professor at Flathead Valley Community College Amy Pearson spent a summer as a fire lookout in the Bob Marshall Wilderness that inspired her book of poetry, “100 Days of Solitude.” Like Amy, Kalispell locals are passionate about the outdoors and preserving and enjoying the spectacular unspoiled wilderness that surrounds the small city. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex lies to the east of Kalispell spanning more than 1.5 million acres and borders Glacier National Park to the north. To get an incredible view into the complex, a favorite hike of locals is the Scalplock Lookout Trail near the small town of Essex on the border of Glacier and “the Bob,” as the locals call it. Hiking up to the Scalplock Lookout, you’ll experience 360-degree views of your own pure mountain solitude.

Gabe Mariman: experiment with beer tasting
General manager of Bias Brewing, Gabe Mariman, is at the forefront of downtown Kalispell’s transformation into a place that combines historic resiliency and modern entrepreneurship. The burgeoning craft brew scene has been a big part of that transformation. Bias Brewing is the newest cornerstone of what locals are calling the “Beer-Muda Triangle,” along with SunRift Beer Co. and Kalispell Brewing Co.  To experience the full variety of local brews along the very walkable triangle, Gabe recommends a tasting at each one. Each has its own unique brew style: Bias is known for its experimental brews, like the Mango Milkshake IPA. Kalispell Brewing goes old school with classic German brews, including Two Ski Brewski Pilsner. And SunRift plays with hop and malt flavors, from its Sundown Honey Brown to Blonde Bomber.

Dawn Jackson: dive into local culture
Discover Kalispell’s own Dawn Jackson is a local expert of all things to do and see in Kalispell — after all helping groups organize their events, meetings and conventions is her professional role. But there is no one more passionate about sharing insider tips for creating a true local experience. Dawn’s advice is to take in at least one local event that features the diversity of Northwest Montana’s Western heritage.

Every July the Flathead Indian Reservation hosts the Standing Arrow Powwow in Elmo, south of Kalispell. Attending a powwow is an ideal way to immerse yourself in local Native American culture and learn about the tribes’ traditional dancing, dress and food. Visitors of all cultures are welcome. Other regional powwows include North American Indian Days in Browning and Arlee’s 4th of July Celebration.

Kalispell is also cowboy country, and every Thursday evening during the summer, you’ll find local rodeo fans at the Blue Moon Rodeo arena in Columbia Falls, just northeast of Kalispell. The series, called Brash Rodeo, features regional cowboys and cowgirls competing in bull riding, saddle bronc, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and chute dogging.

And if find yourself in Kalispell on another Thursday evening between late June and August, head downtown to the lawn of the Museum at Central School for Thursday!Fest. This is where locals gather to enjoy live music, local food vendors and a favorite beverage in the wine and beer garden. Kids are welcome and kept entertained with face painting and a climbing wall.

For more insider tips, meet all of our Kalispell Discovery Guides here.

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