Laid-back vibes and outdoor fun await you in Kalispell, a town frozen in time, tucked between Montana’s Swan and Salish mountain ranges. Here, you can feel at home spending a morning casting your line for rainbow trout, then relaxing with a burger and brew or a craft cocktail after a tour of a perfectly preserved historic mansion or art gallery. Late spring and early summer form a particularly wonderful stretch, when you can take in wildflowers and spot big game from uncrowded roads and trails.
Things to Do
In May, Glacier National Park will likely still have snowy peaks and rain showers, but that means lighter crowds within its one million acres of wilderness. Look for baby animals and wildflowers, and plan to hike at lower elevations to avoid snow. Going-to-the-Sun Road opens to full cross-park travel in mid to late June (weather permitting); before then, Camas Road should be open, with incredible views along the way. June brings summer programs and events to the area, as well: Guided day hikes by the Glacier Institute feature experts on topics such as wildflowers, birding, and geology. The Native America Speaks program offers an opportunity to learn about history and culture from Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribal members. Held at several locations in and near the park each summer, it is the longest-running Native speaker series in the national park system.
The new, accessible Kalispell Parkline Trail runs through historic downtown, an easy meander. Then it connects to the rail-to-trail Great Northern Rail Trail, with 22 miles of paved multi-use path, for those who want to continue onward. Get a bird’s-eye view of the entire Flathead Valley and surrounding mountains at one of several overlooks in Lone Pine State Park, which also has a wonderful visitor center with wildlife walk-through displays.
One of the largest natural freshwater lakes west of the Mississippi, at nearly 200 square miles, Flathead Lake is only a 10-minute drive from downtown Kalispell. Enjoy the mountain views as you paddle through glacial waters, fish for massive trout, or take a boat ride to Wild Horse Island. Keep your eyes open for the remaining handful of its namesake horses, as well as other wildlife such as bears, bighorn sheep, and mule deer.