Content Produced in Partnership with Explore Whitefish
Growing up in northwest Montana, I always thought I lived in a beautiful spot, but it took becoming an adult and moving away for me to fully grasp and appreciate what an incredible place it really is. If you called me up and invited me on a trip out to Whitefish this fall, I’d say, "Yes!” in a heartbeat. Between the fishing and the fall colors, the hiking and the biking trails, there's so much to see and do in and around Whitefish and Glacier National Park, and while narrowing down the list was tough, these six experiences should definitely be at the top of your must-do list.
Mountains of Gold
Unlike the rest of the country, Montana has its own unique form of fall colors due to the overwhelming amount of pine and deciduous trees in the area. As a result, the area gets some incredible autumn colors in the tamarack pines because their needles actually change a rust or bright yellow color each year. During a hike to Stanton Lake (pictured above), you'll be able to see the pines erupt in a shower of gold. Aside from the pines, you'll see plenty of changing leaves in other tree types, including my personal favorite: the quaking aspens. It's a real treat to drive around Flathead Lake and see thousands of those little bright leaves shaking in the breeze.
Crown of the Continent
Only 27 miles outside town, no trip to Whitefish can be complete — no matter the season — without a trip to nearby Glacier National Park. I say “no matter the season” without a hint of sarcasm or hype. You don’t know what beautiful is until you’ve gone cross country skiing in Glacier during the winter or have seen the golden hues of the larch trees in Flathead Valley during late September. While all seasons have their own charm in Glacier National Park, I've always favored fall. Most of the tourists have already gone home by autumn, and I personally love the crisp air for hiking up to Avalanche Lake. If you're in the mood for a drive, Logan Pass is an unforgettable experience and Flathead Lake is always a must.
With few crowds and cooler temperatures on your side, fall is truly one of the best times to plan a cycling trip in Whitefish. Conveniently located two miles from downtown, there are more than 42 miles of mountain bike trails on The Whitefish Trail system. There are a lot of great mountain biking trails to choose from, and you can even take the easy way out by using the ski lift at Whitefish Mountain Resort to go up to the top and ride all the way down. If you're more of a roady like myself though, grab some road bikes from one of the downtown vendors and ride around the scenic Whitefish Lake and on Star Meadows Road. No matter where you choose to ride, you're guaranteed miles of scenic roadways and stunning views of the changing larch trees.
Hop in the Saddle, Dude
If you’re going to go to Montana, there is one thing you have to do besides fishing, and that is getting in touch with the cowboy roots of the area. I used to love seeing the wild forests of the area on my uncle’s horses. It's easier than hiking, and those horses have a personality all their own that makes for an entertaining time. The people at Bar W Guest Ranch would set us up right to have that authentic dude ranch experience. Located just outside Whitefish with easy accessibility to Glacier National Park and Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort, their guided horseback riding trips give wanna-be cowboys the chance to fully explore the scenic mountains, foothills and meadows of Big Sky Country. At the end of the day, be sure to stick around for a bonfire and a good ol’ fashioned hobo dinner and s'mores (of course) — it's how the cowboys do it.
Falling in Love, with a Parachute
If you're in need of a adrenaline rush, there’s no better way to take in the majesty of those Rocky Mountains than from 10,000 feet up and falling into their loving embrace while skydiving. The terrain is so mountainous that it's hard to truly appreciate how vast and impressive it is until you get up above it. This is a must-do on our list, and Skydive Whitefish is a great way to make that happen.
River and stream fishing is open until November 30th, which leaves plenty of time for some great fall fishing. Between the lakes and the rivers, there is so much water to explore in Whitefish that it could be daunting to decide where to go. If you want decent fishing and the best possible views, I would take you to the North Fork of the Flathead River. Great for fly fishing, rainbow and cutthroat trout can be found throughout its estuaries. If you don't catch anything, you'll still have a great day out on the water enjoying the mountain views.