Whitefish is truly a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts, with ski slopes, hiking trails, watersports opportunities, and Glacier National Park just down the road. For all kinds of outdoor equipment or apparel, check out Sportsman & Ski Haus at the Mountain Mall (tel. 406/862-3111). The Wave, 1250 Baker Ave. (tel. 406/862-2444; www.whitefishwave.com), is a first-rate new aquatic and fitness facility, with several pools, weight machines and free weights, massage therapists, and much more.
Although there are some road-biking opportunities here, biking in Whitefish really means mountain biking. The same old logging roads that make the hiking only average make the mountain biking excellent. Whitefish Mountain Resort has 20 miles of single-track bike trails. The trails are free, but the area offers a ride to the top on the chairlift for you and your bike for $13 to $19 for two rides. The Whitefish Mountain Resort (tel. 406/862-2900) offers five graded mountain-biking trails, the longest of which, graded as intermediate, is 8 miles. There's also a short half-mile trail for beginners and two expert trails of about a mile each. The resort also offers full-day passes ($16-$24) and bike rentals ($19-$39 per day).
For a less challenging ride, you can make the 20-mile round-trip on paved roads from downtown Whitefish to the head of Whitefish Lake. Most of the route follows East Lakeshore Drive and offers views of the lake. Glacier Cyclery and Fitness, 326 E. 2nd St. (tel. 406/862-6446; www.glaciercyclery.com), provides excellent service and maintenance as well as rentals ($19-$39 per day), area maps, and up-to-date information for the serious mountain biker. This outfit has been ranked among the 100 best cycle shops in a pool of 6,800 independent dealers.
Boating & Swimming
The boating is excellent on Whitefish Lake, and the lifeguard-staffed City Beach abuts the west side of town. You can rent water-skiing boats, fishing boats, paddle boats, and personal watercraft from the marina at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake (tel. 406/863-4000) between mid-May and mid-September. Options range from a canoe or kayak to a water-ski boat. There are also sunset yacht cruises on many evenings. For kayaking clinics ($60 per person for 3 hr.), kayak rentals ($35-$45 per day), and kayak tours of Whitefish Lake or Flathead Lake ($80 per person for 6 hr.), contact Whitefish Sea Kayaking (tel. 406/862-3513).
The Whitefish Mountain Resort offers 7.5 miles of very challenging cross-country trails. The Glacier Nordic Club (www.glaciernordicclub.wordpress.com) maintains about 6 miles of trails on the Whitefish Lake Golf Course near the Grouse Mountain Lodge. These provide an excellent outing on the hilly golf course. A small donation allows skiers to enjoy both sides of the street, and yearly passes are available. For information, contact the Grouse Mountain Lodge (tel. 406/862-3000). The Flathead Convention and Visitor Bureau (tel. 406/756-9091) provides a free outline of trails in or near Whitefish, as well as a list of equipment sales and rental operations.
Dog-Sled Adventures (tel. 406/881-2275; www.dogsledadventuresmontana.com) lets you explore the mountains around Whitefish "at the speed of dog." The guided 12-mile rides in two-person or family-size sleds run through Stillwater State Forest, 2 miles north of Olney. Each trip takes about 1 1/2 hours and the sleds are equipped with blankets to keep you warm. Many of the dogs pulling the sleds were rescued by the owners from unwanted homes or animal shelters and trained as sled dogs. A sled ride costs about $90 per adult, $45 for kids 13 and under, and includes a cup of hot chocolate and homemade cookies at the end of your ride.
It's not the Madison Valley, but Whitefish does have some hot spots for anglers wanting to try their hand. Tally Lake is a deep hole (Montana's deepest lake, actually) located north of Whitefish off U.S. 93. Five miles north of town, turn left onto the Tally Lake Road (signs will direct you). You can expect cutthroat, rainbow, kokanee, brook trout, and whitefish.
In town, across the viaduct toward Whitefish Mountain Resort, lies Whitefish Lake. If you can handle the summer bustle, the lake offers some pretty good lake trout. Northern pike can be found here, and rainbow and cutthroat can be nabbed on dry flies in the evening. The Lakestream Flyshop, 334 Central Ave. (tel. 406/862-1298; www.lakestream.com), is the best resource in town for information about fly-fishing the Flathead River and local streams. It's also a great spot for a fly-fisherman to construct a wish list, since the store sells all types of fly-fishing equipment, clothing, books, flies, dust catchers, and memorabilia. The staff here provides full-service fly-fishing, tying, and rod-building services, in addition to clinics and good advice. Guided trips are $449 a day, $299 for a half-day.
The Whitefish Lake Golf Club, U.S. 93 N. (tel. 406/862-4000; www.golfwhitefish.com), is the only 36-hole golf course in the state. Built in the 1930s, the golf club's trees have grown up considerably in the time since.
While not especially long, the course offers a wide variety of shots that will require you to use all the clubs in your bag (and maybe some you forgot). Almost all the fairways are lined with trees. There are few fairway bunkers, but they have strategic placement around the greens. Both 18-hole setups measure a little more than 6,500 yards from the tips. There is also a driving range and putting green. This course may not be as good as Meadow Lake, but it is a very fun track. Greens fees are $32 to $49 for 18 holes, $21 to $26 for 9 holes. Carts rent for $30 for 18 holes, $18 for 9.
The hiking in the immediate Whitefish area is not great. For the most part, trails either stay in the woods so that you don't see anything except trees, or they go along old logging roads -- which make for good mountain biking, but less interesting hiking. The most popular trail in town is the Danny On Trail to the summit of the Big Mountain. Named for a Forest Service ecologist who was killed in a ski accident on the Big Mountain in 1979, it begins in the mountain village and ascends over 2,500 feet up the south face of the mountain on four different paths. There's about a 4-mile trek from the top of the lift along the ridge to Flower Point and back. It takes about 2 hours. The most demanding walk is 5.75 miles from the base of the ski area to the top of the hill and then along the ridge. You can ride the lift back down. Snow can be a problem in late spring and even the early months of summer. In progress is Whitefish's "A Trail Runs Through It" project, which will eventually connect downtown Whitefish with a network of trails hikers can take into beautiful state forest land.
Snowboarders will find kindred spirits -- as well as an extensive line of boards and apparel -- at Stumptown Snowboards (tel. 406/862-0955) at 128 Central Ave. The staff here will fill you in on the local snowboarding scene at Whitefish Mountain Resort (where the shop has a smaller annex) and other spots in the Flathead Valley. Locals love the White Room Mountain Shop, 130 Lupfer Ave. (tel. 406/863-7666), offering tuning and waxing, gear, and advice.
Contact the Flathead Snowmobile Association (www.flatheadsnowmobiler.com) for current conditions and advice. The Flathead Convention & Visitors Bureau (tel. 406/756-9091) prints a brochure, "Snowmobiling Montana's Flathead Valley," with information on guides, trails, and snowmobile-friendly accommodations. For rentals contact J&L RV Rentals in Columbia Falls (tel. 406/892-7666; www.jandlrvrentals.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.