Made famous by movies like “A River Runs Through It,” Whitefish is one of Montana’s best-kept secrets. Featured on the Today show as one of the top spots in the country for fall foliage as chosen by editors at Travel + Leisure, Whitefish is actually a great year-round destination. A charming small town with big hospitality, see why it was also chosen by National Geographic Adventure as one of the "World's 25 Best Ski Towns." Just 25-miles from Glacier National Park, Whitefish offers close access to the hanging valleys and emerald peaks of this World Heritage Site that beg you to get exploring. You'll find plenty to do no matter what season you come.
Fall – Get Cultured
Nestled in the heart of the Glacier National Park region, Whitefish is often referred to as the Crown of the Continent. Fall days in this region are still warm and the western larch turn a brilliant gold providing endless opportunities to explore the millions of acres of protected lands surrounding Whitefish. Whether you want to get off the beaten path by foot, bike or horseback, or choose to simply stroll through the welcoming downtown, there is a perfect autumn day waiting for you. Sometimes, exploration calls for a more relaxed pace. A stroll down the covered sidewalks of Central Avenue reveals local boutiques, art galleries and cafes. Discover fine artisan jewelry made with Montana-native gems, sip on some locally-roasted coffee and pick up some huckleberry products to take home. All shops are independently-owned.
Art adorns the sides of historic buildings, connecting generations. Hundreds of sculptors, craftsmen, photographers, painters, authors and other artisans call Whitefish home while many of the shops are filled with their work. During Whitefish Gallery Nights, the art community comes together to showcase featured art exhibits and entertainment on the first Thursday of the month from May through October. Shops and galleries are open late and feature light refreshments to encourage mingling and connecting with featured artists. The non-profit, community-supported Stumptown Art Studio invites the public to walk-in at any time to pursue a creative endeavor. Supplies for glass fusing, ceramic painting and mosaic making are provided daily or sign up in advance for a workshop on precious metal and clay, encaustic painting or furniture making.
Winter – Snowy Paradise
In the 1930s, locals hiked the steep ridge above Whitefish so they could ski powder snow on the “big mountain” that towers above the town. From those dreamy first runs, a ski resort was soon born. Times have changed, but the passion for skiing and mountain life has remained the same. Whitefish Mountain Resort serves as a backdrop to a town that celebrates adventure, community and friends.
With 3000 in-bound skiable acres, Whitefish Mountain Resort is one of the largest ski areas in the nation. Famous for snow-laden trees called snow ghosts, skiers and snowboarders are treated to 300 inches of annual Rocky Mountain snowfall on groomers, glades, and bowls. On a clear day, skiers are rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views that include Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies. Consistently rated one of the top ski resorts in the nation, visitors also soon discover the combination of moderate elevation, higher humidity, as well as a milder climate, allows for increased stamina and more restful sleep —which translates into more ski time.
Travelers can also wander the miles of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails that bend through the forests and rolling hills near Whitefish. The Glacier Nordic Center has more than seven miles of Nordic trails that meander over the 36-hole golf course, just outside downtown. Glacier Cyclery's Nordic Shop, located on the course, offers lessons and equipment rentals, plus many of the trails are lit at night. Just north of Whitefish, Stillwater Mountain Lodge offers over 12 miles of groomed Nordic skiing around the Beaver Lake area. Ski through old growth forests, over ridge tops and along lake shores, plus enjoy several groomed tracks for skiers and their dogs. Or rent a fat bike and see why biking is becoming a year-round sport. The free SNOW Bus runs daily through the winter between the resort village and downtown Whitefish.
Spring – Find Serenity
Spring is definitely the quieter season, but still offers plenty of things for the discerning traveler. One of the best-kept secrets is when the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to cars, it is still open to bikers and walkers, providing a quieter glimpse into the heart of the park. Glacier's Going-to-the-Sun Road has been called "the most beautiful piece of mountain road in the world" for good reason. It's an engineering marvel that spans 50-miles through the park's wild interior. The deep snow melt becomes beautiful waterfalls to chase. In addition to biking the park, you can also bike the "Fish Trails," a network, which winds in and around the edge of the Whitefish River, through town and loops into quiet forests.
Summer – Playtime
Housed in the restored Central School Auditorium, the Alpine Theatre Project is Montana’s only professional equity summer theater, and is billed as “Broadway’s Second Home.” Founded by three Broadway veterans, ATP brings theater professionals and productions fresh off the boards of New York and other major cities, to the intimacy of Whitefish.
For your more outdoor education, more than 700 miles of well-marked trails provide an incredible variety of hiking to explore mountain lakes, glaciers, plant life, and glimpses of the full-time residents such as grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, and deer. Whitefish Lake is all that remains of an ice age glacier and perfect for water sports, from paddling and swimming, to waterskiing with three public access points. Golf in the Whitefish region is nationally recognized and the Whitefish Lake Golf Club is the only 36-hole course in Montana.
Summer at Whitefish Mountain Resort offers open chairs and enclosed gondolas to whisk you on a 15-minute scenic ride from the Mountain Village to the summit of Big Mountain. Experience the canopy of the forest from a boardwalk up to 70-feet above the forest floor on The Walk in the Treetops. Or strap on a paragliding-style harness, click into the cable trolley, and you're flying on a zip line tour more than 300-feet off the ground at speeds of up to 50 mph. Then grab a sled, ride the lift, and race down the Alpine Slide, controlling your speed through straight-aways and around banked curves.