12 Things You Can’t Miss Doing in Whitefish, MT — No Matter the Season
Heading to Whitefish, Montana? Lucky you! Even us Montanans love getting away to gorgeous Whitefish as often as we can.
Whitefish is a stunning city. It’s close to Glacier National Park, plus Whitefish has so many things to do; no matter the season you’re visiting, you can find plenty of activities to do and places to see to easily fill your day in Whitefish.
Whitefish is located in Montana’s gorgeous Glacier Country, just roughly 30 minutes from Glacier National Park and 20 minutes north of Kalispell.
The Travel Montana Now team loves Whitefish — Nancy spent summer vacations there in high school and college; Jackie loves all the boating, hiking, and snowshoeing opportunities around Whitefish; and Gina is a fan of the cute downtown area, kid-friendly main beach, and pristine mountain views. We even just had a little family reunion at Whitefish Mountain Resort and can’t wait to go back! And now we’re excited to share our favorite things to see and do in Whitefish with you.
Top 12 Things to Do in Whitefish, MT
First, a quick Whitefish layout lesson. Downtown Whitefish is located in a small valley at the base of the Whitefish Mountain Range. The downtown area is just a couple miles from pristine Whitefish Lake, which is a water lover’s playground in the summer and has a fantastic beach area.
Overlooking downtown Whitefish and the lake, and up a steep mountain road, is Whitefish Mountain Resort, one of the premier ski resorts in Montana. To fully get a taste of all the things to do in Whitefish, you’ll want to spend your time both at the bottom and the top of the mountain.
Now let’s get to those things to do, starting with the wonderfully artsy downtown Whitefish.
Walk Around Downtown Whitefish
Whitefish has been called one of the 25 most charming small towns in America. Make sure you soak in this charm by taking an amble around the downtown streets.
Whitefish’s Main Street is home to rugged architecture with wooden beams and Wild West accents. Within those buildings you’ll find a number of restaurants and bars plus shops selling local handicrafts and other goods that make for perfect souvenirs.
Whitefish is one of just a dozen Amtrak stops in Montana, and the century old building that the train station is located in is beautiful and worth visiting even if you’re not taking the Amtrak to Whitefish.
In addition to the old-fashioned architecture, there is a small museum inside the Whitefish Depot that is free to tour. It teaches visitors about the history of Whitefish and has several Native American artifacts on display.
Waterskiing & Downhill Skiing, SUPing & Snowboarding
Thanks to Whitefish’s close proximity to both a lake and ski resort, you can find some exciting ski adventures whether you visit Whitefish in the summer or winter.
For those who prefer one board to navigate instead of two skis, standup paddle boarding is a popular lake pastime; you’ll find water sports offering rentals and even SUP yoga classes right in Whitefish.
And snowboarders will also find their slice of heaven in Whitefish thanks to the terrain parks at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Read More: Where to Ski in Montana
Cross-Country Skiing in Whitefish
When it comes to snow skiing, Whitefish isn’t just for downhill skiing. Whitefish is one of the most popular places to go cross-country skiing (also called nordic skiing) in Montana. That’s because the area is home to several locations that are specifically groomed for nordic skiing.
Check out Glacier Nordic Center, located just a half-mile from downtown Whitefish and home to over seven miles of trails. Big Mountain Nordic Trail near Whitefish Mountain Resort is also a great place to do some cross-country skiing with daily groomed trails that cover 14 miles, some of which are steep to provide more of a challenge for expert nordic skiers.
Jet Skiing in Summer and Snowmobiling in Winter
Another summer vs winter thing to do in Whitefish is jet skiing on Whitefish lake in the summer and snowmobiling through backcountry plains in the winter.
The best way to start out your snowmobile adventure in Whitefish is to visit the Tally Lake Ranger District Office in Whitefish. There, you’ll be able to pick up one of office’s many maps for snowmobiling routes in the area and get more information about rules and regulations for snowmobiling in the area.
If you want something convenient and easy to understand where you can go — sign up for a snowmobile tour. Swan Mountain Snowmobiling is a well-known company in Glacier County that offers snowmobiling adventures starting at many trailheads near Whitefish.
For jet ski rentals, check out the marina that’s part of the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
Whitefish Theater Co.
Local theater is a big part of the culture of western Montana. In Whitefish, you can discover plays and other performances put on by local troupes at the Whitefish Theater Company.
The theater is located right on the outskirts of downtown Whitefish and is a brief walk from Whitefish Depot.
Bonsai Brewing Company
This unique brewery started out as a kickstarter to bring a community-focused, sustainable nano brewery to Whitefish. The craft brewery typically has at least ten locally made brews on tap and you can try a tasting platter in the taproom (located in a converted old house) or get a pint of your favorite to enjoy in the beer garden.
In addition to beer, you’ll find a variety of comfort foods on the menu. Bonsai Brewing Company is open for both lunch and dinner.
Sweet Peaks Ice Cream
If ice cream is more your thing than beer, head to Sweet Peaks Ice Cream (or…head to both; that’s what we’d do!). This local ice cream shop is run by two Montanans who put an emphasis on local ingredients. The ice cream is created using Montana dairy and the ingredients mixed into the ice cream are locally-sourced where possible and inspired by Montana itself, like the Huckleberry flavor.
Sweet Peaks Ice Cream has expanded to several locations around Montana and Idaho, but Whitefish was the original shop.
Hike Whitefish Trail
Whitefish is close to dozens upon dozens of hiking trails, but for a quintessential Whitefish hiking experience, head to the aptly named Whitefish Trail. An initiative headed by the Whitefish Legacy Partners, the Whitefish Trail aims to protect the natural surroundings of Whitefish and make it accessible to the people in a manner that protects the nature that makes such beautiful and relaxing hiking possible.
The Whitefish Trail has 12 different trailheads that connect to over 42 miles of trails that take you past gorgeous mountain and lake scenery.
Read More: Activities Guide for Flathead Lake
Fat Biking on Whitefish Trail or Mountain Biking Down Whitefish Mountain.
Did you know you can go mountain biking in winter? You can thanks to fat tire bicycles. These bicycles have thicker than usual tires that are made for all-weather terrain. In winter, they make it possible to navigate over snowy trails.
To rent a fat bicycle while in Whitefish, check out the rentals from Whitefish Bike Retreat, Sportsman Ski Haus, and Glacier Cyclery & Nordic.
Embrace Whitefish’s Artistic Side at Stumptown Art Studio
The Stumptown Art Studio is a non-profit community art center in Whitefish, and it’s a cool place to get in touch with your artistic side.
Stumptown Art Studio offers art courses and classes for both kids and adults, but if you’re just visiting, you’ll want to take advantage of their walk-in experiences. You can show up anytime during opening hours to paint your own pottery or fuse your own glass in the studio, and create your own souvenir to bring home with you to remember your time in Whitefish by.
My girls also had fun using the chalk outside their doors to create some artwork right on the sidewalk!
Stumptown Marketplace in Whitefish
Support local artisans and get some unique souvenirs with a visit to Stumptown Marketplace in Whitefish. In addition to shopping, you can get a farm-to-table bite to eat or a drink like a ginger brew.
Quick History Fact: If you’re wondering why “stumptown” keeps coming up in names of businesses in Whitefish, it’s because that was the nickname for the town when it was first cleared of trees to build the train station and town center. Lots of tree cut down meant lots of tree stumps, many of which had to be painstakingly cleared for roads and buildings.
Have Fun in Whitefish!
P.S. If you’re doing things in Whitefish, there’s also a good chance you’ll be making your way up to Glacier National Park at some point. Here’s our guide for the top things to do in Glacier National Park.
Hope you enjoy your time in one of our favorite Montana cities!