Rocky beach along Flathead Lake in Montana

Ultimate Guide to the Top Things to Do, See & Eat in Bigfork, Montana

Bigfork, Montana is located on the northeastern edge of Flathead Lake and is an unincorporated community in Flathead County. If you are planning a Flathead Lake trip, dedicate some time on best things to do in Bigfork, an area known for its quaint village, history, and outdoor activities.

While in Bigfork, you’ll have easy access to some of the best activities Flathead Lake has to offer, from outdoorsy pursuits to artistic endeavors. Read on for the top 10 you won’t want to miss doing in Bigfork.

Stroll Around Bigfork Village 

Bigfork, MT

Bigfork is one of the most charming little towns in Montana, and the quaint village area is a big reason why. The buildings along Bigfork’s Main Street exude a quaint old-timey vibe with wood paneled exteriors and welcoming shops signs, just beckoning you to come in and browse. 

Tour Bigfork’s Local Art Galleries

Patrons outside of ArtFusion, an art and jewelry shop in Bigfork, MT.

When you’re walking around town, be sure to stop in some of its many art galleries and check out the work of local artists. Bigfork has a sizable artist population and it’s interesting to see all the different artistic mediums come into play — from paintings to ceramics and more — and how the nature and cultural backgrounds of Montana reflect upon the artwork.

Electric Buffalo gallery with western and geological artwork on display. Located in Bigfork, Montana.
Electric Buffalo Gallery

I especially enjoyed browsing at Bigfork ARTFusion, which has over 70 Montana artists on display. Electric Buffalo Gallery was also impressive with its colorful and unique art creations for sale.

Bigfork Festival of the Arts

If in Bigfork the first weekend of August, you’ll be timing your trip with the Bigfork Festival of the Arts, which takes place in Bigfork Village each summer. The streets are filled with the booths of many craft, artisan, food, and other exhibitors. Live music and other entertainment is also part of the festival.

Bigfork Summer Playhouse

The art scene in Bigfork doesn’t stop with physical products; you can also watch the art of theater performances thanks to one of the most popular summer things to do in Bigfork: see a show at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse.

If you’re not there in the summer, but still want to experience some of Bigfork’s performance art, then check out what shows are playing at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.  

Sliter’s Park

My kids loved playing on the playground at this park when I took them to Bigfork. It’s easy to get to from downtown Bigfork (just need to cross the bridge, which kids also love) and is tucked away on a flat grassy area with ample parking in front.

Do a Hike Near Bigfork 

Bigfork is close to a number of great hiking trails. Strap on your boots or tie up your hiking shoes and head to one of these stellar trails in the Bigfork area.

  1. Swan River Nature Trail (aka “The Wild Mile”)
    • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
    • Scenery: This scenic trail offers a delightful experience for hikers of all ages and skill levels. It follows the Swan River’s energetic flow, known locally as “The Wild Mile” for its lively whitewater sections. Hikers can enjoy the soothing sounds of the river, observe local wildlife, and indulge in the lush greenery that surrounds the path. The Swan River Nature Trail hike is a couple miles to the end and then double that to get back, and you’ll see a few paths along the way that cut down to the river, otherwise you’ll get to enjoy gorgeous river views from above.
    • Trailhead Location: The trailhead can be found on Grand Drive in Bigfork, near the Bigfork Dam. There is parking available, making it easily accessible for everyone looking to explore the natural beauty of Montana.
  2. Crane Mountain Trail
    • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
    • Scenery: Crane Mountain Trail is perfect for those seeking a more challenging hike with rewarding views. As you ascend, the path takes you through a diverse landscape, featuring dense forests, alpine meadows, and rocky outcrops. The summit offers breathtaking views of Flathead Lake, the Swan Range, and, on clear days, even Glacier National Park in the distance. Wildlife sightings, including deer and eagles, add to the trail’s allure.
    • Trailhead Location: The trailhead is located about 25 minutes south of Bigfork. Drive south from Bigfork on Highway 35, turn right onto Highway 83, and after a few miles, turn left onto Crane Mountain Road (Forest Service Road #498). Continue for about 2 miles to the trailhead parking area.
  3. Bear Dance Trailhead
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Scenery: This trail is a hidden gem that skirts the eastern shore of Flathead Lake, weaving through mature cedar forests and alongside dramatic cliffs. The Bear Dance Trailhead is known for its access to springtime display of wildflowers and the enchanting views of Flathead Lake. It connects with Interpretive Trail #77 and the Beardance picnic area. The trail also offers access to several secluded beaches, providing a perfect spot for a peaceful break or picnic.
    • Trailhead Location: Located less than 15 minutes south of Bigfork Village off Highway 35. Look for the Bear Dance Trailhead parking area on the east side of the highway. The trail starts across the road from the parking lot, marked by a sign.

Each of these trails offers a unique glimpse into the natural beauty and diversity of the Bigfork area. Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll, a moderate hike with stunning lake views, or a challenging trek to a mountain summit, Bigfork’s trails deliver an unforgettable outdoor experience. Remember to check local conditions before heading out and to leave no trace to preserve these beautiful trails for future hikers.

Jewel Basin Hike

The Jewel Basin Hiking Trail takes you through pretty forest scenery, up to stunning mountain vistas, and past serene lakes. The main trailhead is by Camp Misery, where you’ll find parking, but it can be crowded on weekends and during peak season so try to get there early to save yourself the “misery” of finding parking.

Go Fly Fishing Near Bigfork

Fly fishing is a quintessential Montanan thing to do and Bigfork is a great place to try it (or keep honing your craft if you are already an avid fly fisherman…or woman).

There are numerous fly fishing outfitters who will take you on a guided expedition or will make it easy for you to rent the equipment you need. Popular places to go fly fishing near Bigfork include the Flathead River and Swan River.

Flathead River Valley in Montana
Flathead River Valley

Remember that you’ll likely need a Montana fishing license if you’re looking to cast a line during your trip to Bigfork.

If regular fishing from a boat or dock is more your thing, Flathead Lake is also well-known for its fishing, especially for the lake trout that can get up to twenty pounds. Read our whole guide to Flathead lake fishing here.

The Jewel Basin Hiking Area is also home to over 20 lakes where you can do some fishing.

Wayfarers State Park 

Picnic table by Flathead Lake in Wayfarers State Park near Bigfork, Montana. Visiting Wayfarers State Park is one of the top things to do in Bigfork.
Wayfarers State Park Picnic Site

One of the most popular parts of the Flathead Lake experience is checking out its six state parks, one of which is adjacent to Bigfork: Wayfarers State Park.

Wayfarers State Park is known for its campground and picnic areas plus the waterfront walk that takes you along the rocky shoreline and to one of the best places along Flathead Lake to see the sunset. 

Race Down Whitewater Rapids

Bigfork is an excellent place to do some whitewater rafting thanks to its close proximity to Flathead River. If you’re not experienced, there are guides who will take you out on rafts and teach you how to safely navigate the rapids. 

If you’re already an avid whitewater rafter, then you also might want to time your trip to Bigfork for Memorial Day Weekend when the annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival is held. 

Paddle Around Lakes and Rivers

One of the best ways to experience the wonders of Flathead Lake is to paddle around it on a standup paddleboard or in a kayak. In Bigfork, you can rent watersports equipment right by the shore and set off on a paddle across the lake. 

Kayaking and standup paddle boarding is possibly even beyond the lake thanks to the Swan River and Flathead Rivers nearby. Be sure you check with your rental equipment outfitter or consider going with a guide to ensure you access parts of the river with rapids appropriate for your difficulty level. 

Mountain Biking in Bigfork

Get off the beaten path with a mountain biking experience in Bigfork. While in Bigfork, you’re close to many trails that are prime for traversing with a mountain bike. Strap your own mountain bike to your car and road trip with it across Montana, or rent a mountain bike from one of the many rental shops in town. 

Beardance Tail is an especially popular trail for mountain biking in Bigfork due to its varied terrain and exciting to navigate obstacles. The trail is just under 14 miles to the top and back down. 

Get a Pint at Flathead Lake Brewing Co.

Try a local brew at the Flathead Lake Brewing Co. Pubhouse located right in the middle of Bigfork off of Holt Drive with views overlooking the lake. 

Flathead Lake Brewing Co. Pubhouse also serves gastropub-style appetizers and entrees upstairs and Chicago-style pizza in its downstairs area called the Cellar. Also, don’t try to go on a Monday or Tuesday; they’re closed. But fear not if those are the only two days you’re in Bigfork and you really want to try one of the breweries craft beers; you can also find their beers sold in most liquor stores around the Flathead Lake region.

Whistling Andy Distillery

Another place to try a local craft drink is at Whistling Andy’s Distillery in Bigfork. This is a can’t miss thing to do in Bigfork if you’re a liquor connoisseur. You’ll find cocktails mixed with the housemade rum, gin, whiskey, and vodka. The grain used to create each spirit is sourced from local farmers.  

You can also join one of the tours that takes you behind the scenes of the distillery and teaches you some of the inner workings of craft distilling. 

Go Bird Watching along Flathead Lake’s Northshore

The northern edge of Flathead Lake is often referred to as the Northshore, which connects with the northwest side of Bigfork. It’s great for a walk along the public areas of the shoreline, especially if you’re an avid bird watcher. The Northshore is home to a number of different types of waterfowl and they are even protected as part of the Flathead Waterfowl Production Area. 

Best Winter Activities to Do in Bigfork, MT

Cross-Country Skiing in Bigfork

One of the best winter activities to do in Bigfork is cross-country skiing. The Bigfork Community Nordic Center is an especially popular place to do so thanks to its varied terrain with something for all levels. You’ll need a Montana Conservation License to access the trails.

The Blacktail Mountain Nordic Trails are also a great option as they’re groomed daily between December and March and cover over 15 miles at an elevation of up to 5,000 feet. 

Say Mush with a Dog Sledding Experience

Always wanted to try being pulled on a sled by a pack of adorable huskies? Bigfork is a great place to do so. 

Base Camp Bigfork is a tour company that offers many different excursions in the Bigfork area, and one of those is a dog sledding experience. You’ll have the opportunity to go mushing with an actual sled dog team and learn how the harnesses work and how the dogs are cared for. Half-day and full-day dog sledding tours are offered.

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