Best Things to Do While Visiting Columbia Falls, MT
Nestled between the Rockies and Flathead National Forest, Columbia Falls, Montana is a charming town that offers outdoor adventure, stunning scenery, and a warm community spirit. But most people become aware of Columbia Falls because of its close proximity to Glacier National Park. However, this little town is well worth spending some time in and not just driving through to or from the famous national park.
While visiting Columbia Falls, you can enjoy outdoor adventures plus visit some attractions that are fabulously unique to Columbia Falls.
About Columbia Falls, Montana
Columbia Falls is a small town with a population of less than 6,000. Columbia Falls is located in northwest Montana, roughly halfway between the western entrance to Glacier National Park and the city of Kalispell.
Originally founded as a logging town in the late 19th century, Columbia Falls quickly grew as a hub for timber and agriculture. Today, it is known for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities as well as being a popular base for visitors traveling to Glacier National Park.
Best Things to Do, See, and Eat in Columbia Falls
Now let’s go over all the things you must add to your itinerary while traveling through Columbia Falls. We’ve included the attractions Columbia Falls is especially known for, plus off-the-beaten-path locales, where to shop, and delicious places to eat and drink.
Amazing Fun Center
The name says it all. This family-focused center is fun and it’s also pretty amazing! The center offers mini golf, water bumper cars, and a go-kart course. But its main claim to fame is the incredible maze.
The 2-level wooden maze is the first of its kind in the country. Spanning over 2 acres, the maze at Amazing Fun Center is basically like a human-size 3-D puzzle. As visitors navigate their way through the maze, the goal is to find the hidden stamp in each corner and then figure out how to get out of the maze.
Amazing Fun Center is a seasonally operated attraction in Columbia Falls and typically opens for the season in mid-May.
Big Sky Waterpark
Big Sky Waterpark is a popular family-friendly attraction in Columbia Falls perfect for those looking for a way to beat the heat or just to have some water-centric fun while in Glacier Country. It’s the biggest waterpark in Montana and features a variety of thrilling water slides, a lazy river, and a wave pool. Visitors can also enjoy mini golf, bumper cars, and a rock climbing tower plus plenty of food options at the concession stands.
One of the highlights of Big Sky Waterpark is the 7-story tall “Geronimo Speed Slide,” which sends riders plummeting down at high speeds. For those seeking a more relaxed experience, the twister slides are slower (yet still exciting) tunnel slides that lead in to 4-foot pool. The Shredder Extreme and Big Splash River Ride are also fun water slides for more thrills.
The grassy picnic area is a great way for families to sprawl out in the sun and enjoy some food or some sunbathing.
Montana Vortex & House of Mystery
The Montana Vortex and House of Mystery is a unique and fascinating experience located right in Columbia Falls. This popular tourist attraction features a natural vortex, which is a spot where the laws of physics seem to be altered. Visitors can take a guided tour of the area and experience the strange and unexplainable phenomena for themselves. Learn about auras and gravitational pulls.
At the House of Mystery, visitors can explore a tilted cabin where people seem to shrink and grow before your very eyes. Is it a natural phenomenon or cunning optical illusions? You’ll have to visit for yourself to decide!
River’s Edge Park
River’s Edge Park is the largest community park in Columbia Falls, spanning over 20 acres. The park is situated along the Flathead River, providing stunning views of the water and surrounding mountains. River’s Edge Park is especially popular due to the scenic walking trails throughout the park that offer a leisurely stroll along the river. Both paved and dirt or gravel trails wind around the entire park.
River’s Edge also has a little fishing pond, perfect for kids to try their hand at reeling in a fish. After some family fun fishing, eat a meal or snack at one of the picnic tables or check out the community garden.
The park is open year-round and in the winter, it is a popular spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
River’s Edge Park has a restroom and parking on-site.
Marantette Park is a beautiful outdoor recreational area in Columbia Falls that’s great for families. The park features several amenities, including a playground, restrooms, picnic shelters, an outdoor stage that sometimes plays host to concerts and other events, and a large grassy area. Marantette Park also has pretty views of the surrounding mountains and trees.
Glacier Zip Lines
Columbia Falls is home to an excellent zipline adventure at Glacier Ziplines, which offers visitors a unique way to experience the beautiful scenery of the area and get some thrills.
The scenic lookout tower is a highlight for most visitors since it has awesome views of the valley from 80 feet up. Then get ready for some excitement as you race from the tower down a 721-foot zipline. The course features seven different ziplines in all.
Glacier Ziplines is open seasonally, from June through September, but be sure to double check open times and dates before you arrive. Reservations are also highly recommended.
Hungry Horse Dam
Columbia Falls is just 20 minutes from the impressive Hungry Horse Dam, a concrete arch dam that was completed in 1953 and is used to generate hydroelectric power, as well as to regulate the flow of the South Fork of the Flathead River. The dam creates a reservoir, which is popular for fishing, boating, and other recreational activities.
At 564 feet tall, Hungry Horse Dam is one of the tallest dams in the United States and offers stunning views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Drive across it to feel the awe of the water’s power and to see the serene Hungry Horse Reservoir.
Best Places to Eat and Drink in Columbia Falls
Columbia Falls has several places perfect for a delicious meal or a relaxing drink after a busy day exploring Glacier National Park.
Backslope Brewing is a popular Columbia Falls brewery known for its high-quality craft beers and delicious food menu, making it a favorite spot among locals and tourists alike.
The brewery features a rustic and welcoming atmosphere, with a spacious outdoor patio and fire pit for guests to enjoy. In addition to their regular lineup of beers, Backslope Brewing also offers seasonal and experimental brews, ensuring that there is always something new and exciting to try.
Nite Owl and the Back Room
If you want excellent food and service while visiting Columbia Falls, head to the Nite Owl and the Back Room. It’s a roadhouse style eatery that’s popular with visitors and locals alike and is it a bit like two restaurants in one.
The original cafe, the Nite Owl, has homestyle country fare, including some delicious old-fashioned ice cream for dessert. The Back Room has more of a focus on bbq comfort foods like ribs, chicken and shrimp combos, plus pizza and a thoughtfully curated wine list.
Gunsight Saloon has a lively atmosphere and western charm. The saloon features a full bar with a wide selection of beers, wines, and spirits, as well as a menu of classic pub fare like burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers. The décor is rustic and inviting, with wood paneling, western-themed chandeliers, and vintage photos adorning the walls.
In addition to being a great place to grab a drink and a bite to eat, Gunsight Saloon is also a hub for live music and entertainment in the warmer months on its outdoor patio, which has a beer garden vibe. Local and regional musicians take to the stage on a regular basis, playing everything from country and bluegrass to rock and roll.
Three Forks Grille
Located in the heart of town, Three Forks Grille offers a cozy atmosphere and a menu that features locally sourced ingredients to create Italian dishes with a Montana flair. The rustic decor in the restaurant also pays homage to its mountainous surroundings, while wine lovers will enjoy the wine tasting menu.
This is a local coffee shop chain in the Flathead Valley and one of its five locations is in Columbia Falls with a convenient drive-through kiosk just south of downtown.
Cowgirl Coffee has a full espresso menu plus smoothies and energy drinks. For some extra nourishment, get the Cowgirl Bowl, which blends berries with coconut milk and topped with almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and honey. You can also add granola to it. Yum!
Best Places for Shopping in Columbia Falls
Columbia Falls has a great selection of shopping options, whether you’re looking for art, gifts, or unique finds.
- Station 8 – This is a locally-owned antique and gift store located in the old train depot. It is one of the best spots in the Flathead Valley to find unique, vintage goods ranging from books to home decor to furniture and one-of-a-kind gifts like Montana made jewelry and artwork.
- Columbia Falls Community Market – If you’re looking for fresh produce, handmade crafts, and other local goods, the Columbia Falls Community Market is the place to go. It take place on Thursday evenings from May through September.
- Glacier Clothing Company – This is a great place to get some cool Montana-themed t-shirts and other accessories designed and printed in-house.
- Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply: If it’s some authentic western clothing you’re looking for, head to Murdoch’s where you’ll find cowboy boots and other western wear.
Where to Stay in Columbia Falls
We’ve rounded up some of the best places to stay in Columbia Falls. These accommodation options provide a variety of ambiance settings and price points for travelers.
Cedar Creek Lodge is a fantastic newer hotel in Columbia Falls that was built in 2016. It is part of the Xanterra Travel Collection, which operates some of the most popular lodges in Glacier National Park.
Though this accommodation is not within the park’s borders, Cedar Creek Lodge is still a great option for those visiting the park because it’s close to the west entrance of Glacier, but offers many amenities the lodges inside the park don’t have, such as air conditioning, spacious rooms, and modern amenities such as an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center. Cedar Creek Lodge is also in close proximity to restaurants and bars, including an onsite restaurant.
This resort offers a range of accommodations, from cozy hotel rooms to spacious condos. The rooms are comfortable and well-equipped, with everything you need for a relaxing stay. The resort has a golf course, outdoor pool, and hot tub, as well as a restaurant and bar. It’s located just a short drive from Glacier National Park and other local attractions.
This lodge offers a unique experience, with cozy cabins and glamping tents nestled in a beautiful wooded setting. The cabins are rustic but comfortable, with all the basic amenities you need for a comfortable stay. The lodge has a communal kitchen and dining area, as well as outdoor fire pits and a hot tub. It’s located just a short drive from Glacier National Park and other local attractions.
In a secluded area of the woods surrounding Columbia Falls is a truly majestic and unique place to stay, high up in the trees. Yup, this is a legit treehouse built around the sturdy trunks of Douglas fir pine trees. The multi-story treehouse has luxurious appointments with two decks and one bedroom plus an extra convertible sleeping area that can accommodate an additional two people. You have to see this place to believe it — or read the reviews here from those who stayed and adored it!
On the same property but still with privacy is the Ravens Treehouse, which has two bedrooms and can sleep six. Its A-frame construction around living trees provides endless architectural awe during your stay.
The Montana Treehouse Retreat is on the more expensive side, but you get your money’s worth. Many people think it’s worth the stay and it books up many months in advance so plan ahead if you want to stay here while visiting Columbia Falls during your Montana vacation.
The Moss Mansion Inn is a historic bed and breakfast that offers a unique and charming experience. Guests can choose from a variety of rooms, each tastefully decorated with antique furniture and period pieces that transport visitors back in time. The inn also boasts modern amenities such as free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and private bathrooms, ensuring that guests have a comfortable stay.
Breakfast is served each morning in the elegant dining room, featuring a delicious spread of freshly baked goods, fruit, and hot coffee. There’s also a peaceful solarium, perfect for relaxing after a busy day exploring Columbia Falls or Glacier National Park. Click here to see pictures of the solarium!
Need more space? This lovely, well-stocked vacation rental is recently renovated (originally built in 1929!) and conveniently located in downtown Columbia Falls. Relax in the cozy living room or get the whole group together to roast marshmallows around a bonfire in the private yard. Or use the provided bikes (both adult and kid bikes are available) and go explore Columbia Falls.
With world-class hiking, fishing, and rafting, plus ample opportunities to explore local shops, galleries, and eateries, Columbia Falls is a hidden gem in Montana worth discovering. It’s a great destination whether you’re seeking a relaxing getaway or an action-packed vacation close to Glacier National Park.