10 Things You Need to Know Before Coming to Montana
When it comes to planning your vacation to Kalispell, Glacier National Park and northwest Montana, there are a few things to keep in mind, from road construction to new entry guidelines at Glacier National Park. No matter when you plan to visit, here are 10 travel tips to help you have the best vacation ever.
- It’s easier than you think to get here and you can fly direct. Kalispell is home to Glacier Park International Airport (airport code FCA) and not only does the airport have stunning views of the Swan Mountains, but it also welcomes regular flights from major hubs across the country. Seven airlines – including Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Sun Country and United – offer direct flights from a variety of cities, including New York City, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland and Seattle (some flights are seasonal). See the full list of direct flights here.
- Don’t be afraid to road trip. With Kalispell’s location in northwest Montana, it’s in a destination that’s perfectly suited for road trips. No matter which route you take, you’ll be welcomed with wide-open spaces, fresh mountain air, charming towns and plenty of activities – like llama trekking, small-town rodeos, trails and lakes – to keep you busy.
- Book your rental car early. The rumors about a national car rental shortage are true and Montana is no exception. Book your car rental as soon as possible (we recommend making that reservation right now). And if you aren’t finding availability online, try calling the Kalispell rental companies directly. You can find their contact info here.
- Ticketed entry into Glacier National Park. New for this year, Glacier National Park has implemented a ticketed entry system from May 28 – September 6, 2021 for the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances, as well as the Camas Road. All vehicular traffic, including motorcycles, will need to purchase an entry ticket to access any part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Be sure to check out this FAQ about the new ticketed entry system.) Due to increased interest in national parks and the limited capacity along the road and in parking areas, you may want to consider planning your Montana vacation outside of peak season, which is July/August. Consider a fall trip to Glacier National Park to see the stunning foliage or plan a spring biking trip and ride the Going-to-the-Sun Road before it opens to vehicular traffic. And if you still plan on coming in summer? Well, we don’t blame you. Summer is beautiful – just be sure to plan ahead, be flexible, have a back-up plan and be open to exploring incredible places outside the park’s boundaries. Here are 6 ways to play in the park this summer even if you don't have an entry ticket.
- Expect delays. In Montana, the warm-weather window to do construction projects is pretty tight, which means that the majority of highway work takes place during the summer. This summer, you’ll encounter large construction projects along U.S. Highway 2 on the southern border of the park, with most work being done between Hungry Horse and Essex. U.S. Highway 89 near St. Mary will also be under construction. Plan your travel accordingly and be prepared for traffic delays. For detailed information about the project visit MDOT.
- Play outside of Glacier National Park. Don’t get us wrong – we love Glacier National Park! But we don’t want to love it to death, which is why we recommend exploring all there is to do outside of the park’s 1 million acres. Rent a bike and set out on Kalispell’s extensive trail system, hike in Jewel Basin, explore the vibrant farm-to-fork culinary scene and soak up Montana history at local museums. Find more ideas here.
- The largest natural freshwater lake in the West. 10 minutes from the heart of Kalispell is Montana’s biggest unknown treasure – Flathead Lake. Covering nearly 200 square miles, Flathead Lake has calm bays, large islands and expansive water that is perfect for sailing, boating, swimming, fishing and kayaking.
- Go with a guide. While you are more than welcome to explore Montana on your own, Big Sky Country is fortunate to have experienced guides and outfitters who can introduce you to incredible experiences and keep you as safe as possible while doing so. Take a guided hike in Glacier National Park, set out on a horseback trail ride in the Flathead Valley, see Glacier on a historic wooden boat or cast a fishing line on a blue-ribbon trout stream. Be sure to make your reservations early.
- Learn how to recreate responsibly. Montana is a place that’s full of outdoor wonders, glacial-fed lakes and public lands that are wild and free. Along with these wild places, residents and visitors are tasked with learning how to recreate responsibly and safely enjoy the outdoors, while making sure to leave them better than you found them.
- Don’t forget downtown Kalispell. Around here, it’s easy for the great outdoors to take center stage. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t invite you to explore our unfiltered mountain town’s downtown. Lined with historic buildings and wide streets, downtown is the heartbeat of Kalispell. Home to local shops, farm-to-table dining, craft breweries, art galleries and more, Kalispell’s downtown is a place you’ll want to explore, wander through and soak up.