Montana's Small Sweet Towns
From West Glacier to Kalispell.
Apr 11, 2022 at 8:00 AM in Things to Do by
Montana knows how to do small towns right. All of the communities you’ll find in this area are full of charm and authenticity.
Below I’ll take you on a tour of the Flathead Valley’s best hidden gems!
West Glacier, Montana is the smallest of towns located at the west entrance of Glacier National Park. Here you can access the renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road. Aside from the actual entrance to this magnificent park, Belton Chalet is the main attraction here. Originally built in 1910 as the first Great Northern Railroad hotel at Glacier National Park, today it is a Registered Historic Landmark and its assemblage of buildings ranks as tops among Montana’s most historic properties.
Adventurous types will enjoy a stay at the Great Northern Whitewater Raft & Resort where, as the name indicates, you can experience firsthand all the outdoor thrills that the area has to offer. Whether you spent a day touring in your vehicle or rafting or fishing on one of the “River Runs Through It” spots in the region, throw one back afterward at the Glacier Distilling Company and/or sit down for a tasty meal at Josephine’s Bar & Kitchen.
Originally known as Stumptown because of the abundance of tree stumps left in the streets from the logging industry and the building of the railroad, today Whitefish exudes a vibe that would marvel the early settlers. From a happening sushi place (Wasabi Sushi Bar & Ginger Grill) to a French bakery (Fleur Bake Shop), there’s something for everyone in this happening town. Shopping here is fun, too, and if you only have time for one place go to Chill Clothing Co., a small boutique label that started out by selling their clothing and accessory creations at farmer’s markets and art shows. In addition to Whitefish, Montana, they also have a store in Kailua Kona, Hawaii–doesn’t that say it all?
Whitefish, of course, is known for Whitefish Mountain Resort, a ski resort that also offers tons of summertime fun.
Where Flathead River and the Swan River flow into Flathead Lake, lies Bigfork. All this water makes this town especially scenic. It also makes the surrounding area super fertile. The climate here is mild,, which makes the region particularly well suited for the growing of produce. As early as 1892, in fact, an abundance of fruit trees were planted here on Flathead Lake’s eastern shore. The tradition continues today at farms such as Bowman Orchards, where you can delight in all kinds of sweet treats, including cherries and chocolates.
If the weather permits, head out onto the lake with Flathead Lake Sailing & Charters. A tour on one of this company’s historic boats is a great way to embrace the full grandeur of the West’s largest natural freshwater lake, and the majestic peaks that stretch into Glacier National Park. So many great photo opportunities!
Kalispell also offers access to Flathead Lake and all the glorious vistas it promises. From here, you can take a cruise with Far West Boat Tours or buzz out on a seaplane for some views from above with Backcountry Flying Experience.
With a population of over 20,000, Kalispell is the largest of the small towns within the Flathead Valley. This makes it a recreation center where you can line up all kinds of outdoor adventures.
Kalispell also has many shopping, arts and dining opportunities, as well as many craft breweries and distilleries, so there’s no end to the fun you can have here.
Line up a Big Sky Brews Cruise, a fun and safe way to tour and taste the many house-made brews within the region, including in Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and the overall Flathead Lake area.
Just make sure you don’t have to wake up too early in the morning for a fishing or ski trip!