I found some pretty cool things to do around Kalispell

kalispell hiking

As I drove down Highway 93 from Canada to my photography assignment for the Chamber of Commerce in a city I’d visited once or twice as a child, I had no idea how many awesome things to do in Kalispell I was about to discover.

If you look at a map, Kalispell, MT, is a dot just south of the Canadian border that sits at the junction of two squiggly yellow lines (highways) that wind through enormous swathes of green (national parks) and splotches of blue (lakes). Notable points of interest on the map have names like Lonepine, Lost Trail, and West Glacier.

It’s almost like the people who named these places were trying to make it sound as desolate as possible.

That’s my kind of place.

As a child I visited the area to snowboard at the local mountain, Whitefish, but this would be my first non-winter visit. It was May, so it was still chilly, but the only remaining snow was high in the mountains.

I expected to spend a week in the middle of nowhere, but I was about to learn that Kalispell is actually right in the middle of the coolest things to do in Montana: mountains webbed with hiking trails through a patchwork of unique ecosystems, torrid rivers for rafting and kayaking, vast lakes for boating and stand up paddleboarding, a surprising number of craft beer breweries and boutique restaurants, and a a cast of quirky, friendly locals straight out of a TV sitcom.

I picked up a few new outdoors sports accessories, like quick-dry shirts, pants, and socks (just in case) and I was primed and ready to go.

Here are my favorite things I did in Kalispell.

Exploring Herron Park

Herron Park, Kalispell

Herron park is is a 44-acre public park just southwest of Kalispell that contains 15 miles of hilly trails (vertical gains of up to 1000 feet) making it exceptional for both mountain bike riding, hiking, and finding brilliant vistas of the Flathead Valley.

The park is the trailhead of the ambitious Foy’s to Blacktail Trail (still under construction) also borders on another 5000+ acres of pubic access timberland owned by Weyerhaeuser, so it’s a great jumping off point for local exploration.

It’s literally minutes from downtown. I visited it twice. The drive took about 10 minutes.

Here’s the view from the 6 mile loop I hiked on my first afternoon.

Herron Park, Kalispell


Herron Park, Kalispell





Trail Riding In The Salish Mountains


When I travel I focus almost exclusively on human-powered adventures like surfing, biking, hiking, climbing, etc. But it’s hard to visit to cowboy country without going for at least one horseback ride.

The Salish Mountains are a short drive southwest of Kalispell, just a little farther than Herron Park. The geography is rocky with lots of wildflowers and pine – excellent geography for a leisurely horseback climb to a peak with a panoramic view of the Flathead Valley and adjacent Flathead Mountain Range.

Usually horse tours like this are pretty boring — mainly because the horses are trained to walk single-file and riders have little freedom.

That was not the case on this trip.

The horse provided by my guide, Artemis Acres, was one of the best I’ve ever ridden on a a tour. My guide was in no hurry and took me on a couple of off-trail jaunts through the woods where I was actually piloting the horse, rather than just sitting on a horse trained to follow the leader.

She even gave me a quick lesson and took me (at my request) for a brief gallop up the road because I mentioned I had never learned the proper form for fast riding.

Kalispell-Artemis-Acres-Horesback-Riding-4Your author on his trusty steed.





Stand Up Paddleboarding Flathead Lake


May isn’t what most people would consider an ideal time to put on their bathing suit and try to balance on a plank above a lake whose waters get as cold as 2.3°C (36°F).

But, I’m definitely not most people.

Besides, the whole point of stand up paddleboarding is not to fall off the board. Blisteringly frigid water just ups the ante.

It was cloudy and cool out when I met Chris Hogan from Paddle Board Outfitters. He was a great guy – originally a surfer from Hawaii and now a family man who builds and sells stand up paddle boards and provides rentals and tours on Flathead Lake.

SUPing is a meditative sport, kind of like cross-country skiing, You find a comfortable rhythm and just cruise around in a silent, beautiful place. In that respect, Somers Bay was a sweet place to do it.

There was no boat traffic at all. There are a few tiny islands in the bay and the east shore has an abandoned building and two rows of weathered extending into the bay, the remnants of an obsolete pier.

Yes, my feet got a bit cold in the water, but I managed to avoid falling. The scenery was spectacular and the photos we got were totally worth it.

10/10 would do it again.





Trekking Glacier National Park


I grew up in a small town in the Canadian Rockies a few hours north of Kalispell and had lived a year in Banff – thought by many to be the most beautiful part of the Canadian Rockies. So, I’m kind of a mountain snob.

I’ve been spoilt. It’s hard for me to feel impressed by anything less than the majestic mountain ranges.

Since it was just a few hours drive south of my hometown, I didn’t expect Glacier National Park to be dramatically different from the mountains I’d spent most of my life in.

I was wrong.



Glacier National Park didn’t have the same jagged ‘temples that just exploded straight up out of the ground’ kind of effect that the Rockies in Alberta do.

Whereas the mountains in my area are massive slabs of rock thrust skyward by the clashing between tectonic plates, the mountains in Colombia Glacier National Park were more rounded and had the valleys had an organic flow to them.

My guide from Glacier Guides, Andrea, suggested we hike to Avalanche Lake. It looked like it was going to rain, which is why we chose the hike to Avalanche Lake. It’s a relatively short hike. so if it started to rain hard we could rush back to the car a and make sure my camera gear didn’t get too wet.

The hike to Avalanche Lake (mostly pictured here) is on the easternmost edge of the Pacific Northwest temperate coastal rainforest. So, the hike was very similar to the ones I used to do as a University student on Vancouver island. The vidid colors of the cedars highlighted by the ubiquitous bright green moss make a soothing and energetic palette for a landscape.

If you want a beautiful hike that’s not too long (especially if you have kids) then I highly recommend Avalanche Lake.



Getting Lost In The Mountains


I and my friends, growing up in a small town in British Columbia, really had only one major pastime; exploring the mountains. Sometimes we’d hike. Sometimes we’d cycle. Sometimes we’d snowboard. Sometimes we’d drive. There is something simple and pure about spotting a particular peak and deciding, “I’m going to figure out how to get up there today.”

Kalispell is surrounded 360-degrees by mountains. There are some gorgeous panoramic views Kalispell literally right next to the city in Lone Pine State Park.

Of course, there are plenty of trails in nearby Glacier National Park. But my favorite part was taking my rented Toyota 4Runner out into the back roads to see what I could find.

Remember when I mentioned Herron Park at the beginning of this article? Herron Park is the trailhead of the Foys to Blacktail Trail. Blacktail is a peak about 10 miles south-southwest as the crow flies.

A local rancher who works on the project told me that the view from the trailhead was amazing.

That man was many things. An amateur historian, a Tibetan yak rancher (no, I’m not kidding), a libertarian, and an environmentalist.

One thing he was not, was an exaggerator. The selfie above is from the top of Blacktail Mountain.

So is this photo.

untitled-1-9There is a small ski resort on Blacktail Mountain.

On Blacktail Mountain, I discovered my own treasures. Sometimes the fact that you did a thing yourself is more important than the thing itself. That was the case for me.

If you’re like me and you prefer to blunder out into the wilderness and chase peaks picked at random without map or a plan, then you’ll probably love Kalispell.

It’s surrounded by 360 degrees of prime treasure hunting.

Below are a few more of my favorite discoveries from the trip.






Kalispell Travel Pro Tips

Kalispell Accommodations

I stayed at Hilton Homewood Suites, which as a remote worker is perfect. They have family suites with desks and lots of room for me to spread out my gear. One thing to be aware of: the free wifi is pretty slow so if you need to do significant work you will need to pay to upgrade it.

Kalispell Restaurants & Brewpubs

Desoto Grill is an americana-style restaurant in a rad old-timey saloon looking building. The food is all americana with a unique twist and they are well-known for their brisket. It’s worth visiting even if just for the atmosphere.

Sykes Diner is a local institution. It’s in a historic building and is run — as far as I can tell — by a benevolent owner who wants the townsfolk to have a place where they can congregate for coffee. I mean that literally. Breakfasts are cheap and hearty and all-you-can-drink coffee is just 10 cents.

Tamarack Brewing located just south of Kalispell this is a big bar/restaurant/brewpub. The food is good. I can’t even list all the awards the beers have won. Just make sure you try the IPA’s. They’ve won numerous awards for them.

Oh, and the legendary hockey player Lanny McDonald‘s daughter is part owner. He lives down the street and stops in all the time. He stopped by when I was there. I may or may not have taken a selfie with him.

Kalispell Brewing is a great brewpub downtown and worth a visit for their German specialty brews. Just be sure to show up early. As a brewpub without a separate pub license they’re only open until 8pm.

Things To Do In Kalispell

As mentioned above I went SUPing with Paddle Board Outfitters. I highly recommend them. Chris, the owner and guide is a very chill guy and an expert paddleboarder. He is keen on providing instruction on proper form and helped me improve considerably.

Artemis Acres is a great little family-owned trail riding tour company. It has a very down-home hospitality about it and I found them to be much better than bigger operations I’ve ridden with. I’d especially recommend them to more advanced riders.

Glacier Guides are one of the best-known guiding outfits in the park. You could tell they run a tight ship and the service was very professional. Although I only mentioned my hike with them, they also took me whitewater rafting, but I didn’t mention it because I didn’t have any photos to accompany it.


Did you enjoy these photos? You can see over 100 more available for viewing and purchase in my Kalispell, MT photography archive.

Have you visited Kalispell?

Do you have any suggestions for other rad activities, restaurants, bars, or other things to do?

If so, let me know in the comments!


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80 thoughts on “I found some pretty cool things to do around Kalispell”

  1. Oooo it does look really nice! I have been to Glacier National Park and Whitefish – both of which I loved, but didn’t make it to Kalispell. The Canadian Rockies are one of my happy places so anywhere that is similar, I am sure I would love.

    • Yeah, Whitefish and the park draw the majority of the tourism for the area, which is a shame because people miss so much of the other awesome stuff in the area. On the upside, though, it’s not too crowded 😉

  2. Mooses Pizza on Main Street!!!! Sawdust on the floor, peanuts in the shell and carve your name in the tables and booths! The pizza and pitchers of beer….yum! First stop whenever we go back home to Kalispell!!!!

    • I heard about those, but being on a business trip I actually tried to avoid them specifically because I knew once I walked in, I’d have a really hard time leaving.

  3. I grew up in Kalispell so thank you for the beautiful pictures i sure do miss home! I have not been able to afford to go home for a visit so its been 21 years since i have been home.

    • I grew up in Kalispell too, and am still incredulous that I left! We get to go back occasionally and are super impressed with all of the new recreational opportunities. These photos are amazing and make me want to return as soon as possible! Thank you for sharing!!!

      • We never really ever seem to appreciate HOME until we leave it, do we?! I’m from a small town in Ohio (Okeana)….. I couldn’t wait to leave and now I’m always making trips back!!!

  4. Next time go to Bigfork, a few miles s. of Kalispell. You can hike, bike, paddle, swim, boat, ski, sail, stroll …… all around town, find dinner in a variety of stops, then go to a play. No matter where you are or what direction you turn, it is picture perfect. jj

  5. I grew up in Kalispell but have lived in Oregon for 45 years. Kalispell will always be home. Thank you for the pictures that brought back so many memories for me. My only regret is that you were not able to see Flathead Lake as it was before all the million $$ houses and condos blighted the shore. I also hope that one day you are able to explore Iceburg Lake in the park.

  6. You wrote a fabulous article. Of course, I’m rather prejudiced as I grew up there and still consider it home, but it has changed since I’ve lived there, so I learned many things about it. The pictures and descriptions just made me more anxious for my next trip back

  7. Tally Lake, northwest of Kalispell, is a lake unlike any other. It is the deepest lake in the state, and it is situated on national forest land so no houses!

  8. I grew up in kalispell I really enjoyed the pictures. Some other attractions are lake Blaine which I loved and Ashley creek north of kalispell past kila where we had a swimming hole and a lot of fishing. I miss it terribly,. I think the Mooses pizza is in the old cherry warehouse where I worked as a teen. I miss the beauty, I also worked at west glazier as a teen. I really miss what was when I was growing up I was born in lakeside across from the fish hatchery and moved to town at two yrs old. I do go back like every other year. It’s a beautiful town. I loved your story.

  9. Great article! I grew up in Kalispell, but learned a few things I’m interested in checking out when I visit! I used to cross country ski at Herron park, but I’ve never checked it out in the summer (although swimming in Foys Lake was a common occurance during childhood since it’s so close to town). You’ll have to explore more of Glacier in July/August, because those jagged peaks you described are absolutely a big part of the park, but that part of the Going to the Sun road doesn’t even open until around July 4. Check out Many Glacier, Sperry Chalet, Going to the Sun Road all the way from Lake MacDonald to St. Mary’s Lake, and Two Medicine. You’ll love it, and your photos will be spectacular!

  10. You only scratched the surface! I grew up in Kalispell and there are places I have yet to explore. I really need to move back. There are all kinds of awesome hike NW of town out Farm to Market Road. The best place to buy unique gifts is Sassafrass on Main Street and Creston County Store on Hwy 35 heading to Bigfork (shameless plug for my dad’s place). You totally missed Norm’s News (another Kalispell institution). There’s the Canola fields that are east of town out Holt Stage Rd. And you totally missed the fall and winter!! If you don’t go back at least another dozen times you will have only given only a miniscule snapshot of Kalispell and the surrounding area.

  11. My part of Montana- Beautiful heavenly Montana–my home. Lived in the Flathead for many years. Thought it the most beautiful place on earth. I now live in Libby, and it is just as beautiful–with as many wonderful things to see and places to go. I lived in Germany for many years–Bavaria- and the alps in Switzerland and Austria were my ideal—as I am a Native Texan-and never seen such beauty–although Texas has her own– but Montana is the best–especially the Flathead valley and Lincoln county.

  12. We spend 2 months every summer in Hungry Horse, MT…between Columbia Falls and West Glacier…the big bend of hwy 2, yellow squiggly line. In Glacier you have to do the Logan Pass to the Overlook of Hidden Lake, lots of MT goats and sometimes big horn sheep, personally have not seen a bear there, but they close the trail when they are about. The trail from Logan pass, the hi-line is above the going to the sun road and goes back toward the Loop, all down hill, but 7 miles to the chalet and then 5 miles down to the loop. There are wonderful arts and craft shows in Whitefish and Kalispell and a really big one in Big Fork where they bus you from a parking field at the edge of town. We always take in the Event at Rebecca Farms….wonderful equestrian events, free for all three days of competition, but coasts to park…goes to breast cancer research. Then there are the festivals and music events and rodeos….we have been coming for years and still have not been able to do everything….28 years, I think. We spend the remaining part of the year, mostly, in Erie, PA

  13. If you are visiting one true place that is a must-see is The Conrad Mansion. I’m a tour guide there and it is a wonderful part of what make’s my hometown so great.

  14. Lived in Columbia Falls as a child and remember the area very fondly. Lived behind the old drive-in theater before the RV park was created. Been to Glacier National Park, Sykes (10¢ a cup unlimited refills), Conrad Mansion (so cool) and many other places. I was even lucky enough to go logging with my dad and see so much more of nature’s beauty than most people. Montana is one of the best kept secrets!!!! Moved away as a child but have gone back to see the wonders of the Kalispell area. Loved the pictures!!!!!!

  15. Great
    Article, and also add Polson, on the south end of Flathead Lake! We have rafting, boating,and all the other things you mentioned also!

  16. So glad you had Alexis Clevenger as your guide on the horseback riding part of your adventure. Her enthusiasm and love of the land adds a new dimension to the experience that can’t be beat anywhere on the planet!!!

  17. Next time you must start and end your odyssey at Mooses Saloon (the center of the universe). It’s where most of the locals have spent their formative years. Great pizza, cold beer, peanuts and sawdust on the floor provide the perfect atmosphere for a place where anything can and does happen. Shoot me an email, I’ll buy you a beer.
    P.S. Well written!

  18. I thought I could never love a place like I did my home state of Idaho… until I visited the Flathead Valley. Moved here a few months later. Been here over 12 years now and have no plans to live anywhere else, ever again. It really is a treasure trove for those who love mountains and the outdoors. Thanks for the lovely article – you’ve inspired me to take my (native Montanan) daughter to Herron Park soon.

  19. Next time you’re paddleboarding on flathead lake, you’ll have to stop by the raven for a drink and amazing burgers. Its a cute little restaurant right on the waters edge. Amazing food and atmosphere. During the summers they do a lot of music and other activities there. My husband and I just watched “the big labowski” there….projector and screen with the backdrop of the lake. It was perfect. 🙂

    P.s. paddleboard rental is right across the street 😉

    • Oh I forgot to mention, the raven is in a town called woods bay…it’s about 40 minutes outside of kalispell. Its well worth the drive. You would love bigfork as well

  20. Whoa! Whoa! – It’s really not that great here. I have been putting up with this state my entire life.. been all over the place. I mean, yeah there are mountain and stuff – a few rivers and lakes.. but like I tell everyone talking about coming or moving to MT…. – It’s awful!!!! The people are mostly rude.. There’s really nothing much out here to do. Barely any game. Few if any breweries or other events. Most of the rivers are small. Ya know.. probably worth checking our another area or just supporting your own local economy. It’s cold here.. and the people are colder. Montana’s just not going to suit most people. Better to find somewhere else to hang out. 😉 We don’t have trails, or bike paths, and the ski area’s never have enough snow. Yep.. montana is just pathetic. Better not come here. tee hee.

  21. As a native Montanan who was born and raised in Kalispell, I especially loved your photos. It was also refreshing that you didn’t overwrite the story with the usual travel superlatives. Unfortunately Kalispell has changed from my childhood days, but I learned about new adventures to be experiened there, thanks to you.

  22. Boy, lots of people who used to live here. And a lot of love for Moose’s. As someone who lives here currently, I’ll give you some good pointers.

    First, I can tell you that Moose’s is cool as a tourist attraction with the unique interior, but if you want really good pizza, When in Rome and Second Street make way better pizza. It’s not even close. When in Rome does more artisan pies, while Second Street makes great NY-style food. Those are just in Kalispell. Jersey Boys in Whitefish is awesome, too. Keeping on the subject of food, go to Cafe Kandahar on the ski mountain in Whitefish. The chef, Andy Blanton, is a regular Jame Beard award nominee. Ceres bakery in Kalispell, as well as Wheat Montana and Sykes, have great breakfasts.

    There’s also about a half-dozen breweries in the area. Whitefish has Great Northern and Bonsai Brewing, Kalispell has Kalispell Brewing Company, Columbia Falls has Backslope, Lakeside has tamarack Brewing, and Bigfork has Flathead Lake Brewing. All make great beer, and exhibit varying techniques and dozens of different kinds of beer. There are distilleries, like Whistling Andy in Woods Bay/Bigfork, too. There are also a couple of wineries, Mission Mountain down in Dayton (about half an hour or so south of Kalispell).

    You already covered a good amount of the outdoor activities, but I’ll reiterate some things. The lakes are fantastic. West of Kalispell, the lakes are surrounded by mountains are are super calm. Foys Lake (the lake you saw from Herron Park) is warm, shallow, and great for boating, kayaking, swimming, etc.

    Bigfork is worth your time, too. Cool little town. And Columbia Falls is in the early stages of reinventing itself. There are really great things happening there as it transitions from a blue-collar town to more of a tourist/white collar place to live and work. And you definitely need to check out Polebridge up the North Fork. Polebrodge Mercantile has some of the most amazing pastries you will ever try, and Kintla and Bowman lakes are beautiful.

    Honestly, the whole valley should be your destination, not just one small town. It takes less than half an hour to get most anywhere from Kalispell, and it’s less than an hour from Glacier. Staying in Kalispell, you can get to Whitefish, CFalls, Lakeside, or woods bay in the time it takes to watch a sitcom on TV. So not exploring the entire area is not really an option. You can pretty much explore every town in a couple of days just to check them out, then hit up the places that interest you whenever you want.

    So in short, we have world-class winter sports. We have great food (WAY better than you would expect in a small area). We have hiking and biking. We have boating and water sports. Kalispell and Whitefish both have great turn-of-the-20th-century downtowns. And it’s a short drive anywhere in the area. Really, we have it all. Except people. There are only about a million in the state, and about 100,000 in the entire area here.

    A few days is too short a time to really enjoy the area. Plan to spend two, and you won’t regret it.

    • Wow Alex. Thanks for the serious tips! If I get a couple more like this I think I’ll just add them to the article as a ‘local tips’ section!

  23. My husband and I just met your mom and aunt Patty at Kootney Lake (beautiful) and she suggested that we check out your blog, as we are currently in Kalispell. 😉 Great Blog!!!

  24. You have a great article. I’ve never heard the term Colombia Glacier National Park. Looks like your assignment in Kalispell was rough duty for sure. (One comment for an edit, Kalispell in the heading for brew pubs needs to be edited.)

  25. Great article Matt! I was born in Kalispell and still have family there. Going for a vacation in August. I would recommend driving around Flathead Lake… so beautiful… and many places to stop and see…. like Wild Horse Island.

  26. Loved your article Matt…..beautiful photos. We have been lucky enough to visit Kalispell a couple of times and would definitely like to come back. The only problem with Kalispell is the distance from where we live AUSTRALIA, apart from that it is perfect.

  27. Kalispell is a great destination although I love Montana–could be because it was the first state I ever visited though. I live just a 100 miles north of the border between Montana and North Dakota so it all feels like home.

  28. I love heading down to the States from Fernie, whether it’s hitting up the rodeo at Eureka, the skiing at Whitefish or exploring the Flathead Valley (including Kalispell), the whole region is awesome. Plus, at times, it seems like there are more Canadians than Americans. Why don’t more Americans come visit us?

  29. Thank you so much for your essay on Kalispell. I’m planning on taking my wife there this spring.
    I enjoy your work. You have a way of describing places that excite us outdoorsmen.
    Keep it up!

  30. I grew up in Kalispell and seeing the pictures you took, make me homesick but it is always nice to come back to your hometown and visit. If you get back there, check out the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Mt. It is at the eastern edge of Glacier National Park and many hiking trails. Beautiful old rustic lodge that was built for the workers of the Great Northern Railroad as they worked on the railroad. During the winter months there are many cross-country skiers who stay there. A couple of miles east of the lodge is the great salt lick where mountains goats can be seen coming down to lick the salt off the rocks. It truly is “God’s Country”. Make sure you visit Moose’s Saloon on Main St. if you get back there.

  31. Visited relatives last year in Kalispell. What a beautiful area! the Lake looked like it could be lot’s of fun! And am looking forward to getting some of that homemade Strawberry jam they sell in town! My Mother in law lived right near the lake and worked at car dealership in town for many years. I was raised in Arizona, but told my husband I would love to retire in Montana. He keeps telling me you guys get too much snow there! hahaha. I would probably die if I had to deal with snow most of the year being I love that spring and summer are my favorite times of the year. 😉 Husband grew up in Bozeman, and surrounding areas. His sister and her husband live in Kalispell now. At least we can come and visit and enjoy the beautiful country! Nice Article written!

  32. Thank you for the great tips. I am heading out there in just 2 short weeks. I’m from New England so where else do we want to spend our cold winters but out west. Wish us luck!

  33. Hello Matt! This is such a great article! It suddenly gave me the urge to visit Kalispell. By the way, which among the activities and places you’ve mentioned would be suitable if ever I would bring my kids along? My youngest kid is 7 years old. Your recommendations will be much appreciated.

    • Glad the post inspired you! There is nothing I wrote about here that would be unsuitable for children, except of course for water activities. Those depend on your children’s abilities. The hikes were all quite accessible.

  34. This was very helpful as I am heading to Kalispell for a week the end of May! Will definitely make a list from this article!! Thanks ????

  35. Wow, this trip definitely looks like you had a great time and these pictures are making to want to visit Kalispell, I’m a writer as well and I am indeed looking forward on writing such articles for my website too.

  36. My husband and I spent a week in Kalispell last spring. We fell in love with all this town and area has to offer. If you have the opportunity to return, I would highly recommend you stay at the Kalispell Grand Hotel. Independently owned, employees grew up in Kalispell, and the lobby is a gathering place of many locals, some quite colorful.

  37. Hi I am a wash dc native and moved to great falls mt for 7 yrs. It was the best yrs of my life. Loved the weather scenery beauty and every thing there. My nexxt trip is to kalispell and flathead lake thanks for all the tips. The people in mt are the most helpful and friendly. That’s a part of the appeal


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