Best Things to do in Whitefish, Montana

The 15 Best Things to do in Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish is a magical mountain town nestled in the northern portion of the Flathead Valley in northwest Montana. Although small – the population is only around 8,500 – there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Whitefish, Montana!

From exploring Glacier National Park to shopping in the cute downtown area to swimming in Flathead Lake, there’s a reason so many people flock to Whitefish every year. This little town has so many activities! Glacier National Park alone has so much to see that your “must-do” list will only grow with each visit.

Whitefish has almost every outdoor activity possible. Okay, well, not every single one, but almost! Parasailing? Check! Rock climbing? Yep! What about skiing and snowboarding? Of course!

But if the outdoors aren’t really your thing, Whitefish has plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants to keep you busy. You’ll find tons of art galleries, theater performances, live music, town festivals, and so much more.

Keep in mind that winter is long in Montana, and Whitefish is no exception. Although it’s usually not as cold as the eastern part of the state, this little town in the heart of the Rocky Mountains still gets plenty of snow (which makes it a great destination for snow sports). If you’re lucky, you’ll get sunshine, usually in July, August, and September. But definitely prepare for cooler weather, just in case!

With so many different things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Whitefish for you. Stick to this fun and unique Whitefish bucket list, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an incredible time in this quaint Montana town!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Whitefish, Montana

1. Ski or Hike at Whitefish Mountain Resort

Cool Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Whitefish Mountain Resort

If you love the outdoors, head straight to Whitefish Mountain Resort. In the winter, you can ski (of course) to your heart’s content. With 100+ trails, there’s a route for every skill level at this ski resort. You can also practice tricks at the terrain park or try night skiing for a unique experience.

If you visit in the spring, summer, or fall, you’ll still have a plethora of fun activities to choose from. You’ll find classics like hiking and mountain biking, as well as more unique recreation opportunities, like ziplining on the longest zipline in Montana. Check out the Aerial Adventure Park or ride down the alpine slide to get your adrenaline pumping.

Hike one of the many trails, like the popular Danny On Memorial Trail, which goes from the village to the summit of the mountain. If you want something a little more exhilarating, mountain biking is one of the most fun Whitefish activities! 

In the summer, the resort adds bike racks to the chair lifts and gondolas. This way, you can ride the lift to the top and bike back down on the 30 miles of trails. Either bring your own bike or rent one from the resort.

Take the gondola to the top for some seriously awe-inspiring views, no matter what season you visit. You’ll be pretty high in elevation at the top: 6,817 feet! Once you reach the top of the mountain, chow down at The Summit House Restaurant while you take in the scenery.
So you don’t have to deal with parking, Whitefish offers free public transportation in the winter between the downtown area and the resort. It’s known as the SNOW Bus Whitefish Shuttle.

Book your stay at Whitefish Mountain Resort


2. Take a Day Trip to Glacier National Park

Must do things in Whitefish, Montana: Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is world-renowned, and for good reason! It’s absolutely beautiful and one of the top things to do in Whitefish. 

Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most popular sightseeing activities, with bucket list stops like the Continental Divide on Logan Pass and the impossibly clear Lake McDonald. Driving this twisty road takes about two hours. In the spring, the road is closed to cars, which makes this the perfect time to bike it!

The higher elevation portions of Going-to-the-Sun Road close once the snow starts to fall. There’s only a short window of time that the Logan Pass portion is fully open, usually from late June to early October.

You have to make a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road during the summer. However, you won’t need a permit to visit Many Glacier or Two Medicine, so you can always go there if reservations are full during your desired dates!

Glacier has 700 miles of hiking trails, with everything from easy jaunts to multi-day treks. Some popular hikes include Hidden Lake Overlook, St. Mary Falls, Avalanche Lake, Iceberg Lake, Ptarmigan Tunnel, and Highline Trail.

It’s easy to get from Whitefish to Glacier National Park. The town is only about a 40-minute drive from the West Glacier entrance, the most popular place to enter the park. In the summer, expect Glacier to be busy (really busy), so if you want to avoid the crowds, plan your adventure after Labor Day weekend or before the July 4th holiday.

Experience a Glacier National Park Scenic Raft Trip


3. Play in the Water at Whitefish Lake

Whitefish, Montana Things to do: Whitefish Lake

Whitefish Lake is a rather large freshwater lake, spanning 7 miles in length. If you visit in the summer, the most popular Whitefish Lake activity is swimming, of course. But the recreation opportunities don’t end there: you can rent a boat, stand-up paddleboard, kayak, go fishing, or even try parasailing. These are some of the coolest things to do in Whitefish in the summer!

City Beach is probably the most popular part of the lake, so expect lots of crowds if you visit during summer. It’s a great place for families with kids since the swimming area is roped off and very shallow before getting deeper further out. The many tables and gazebos make it a great picnic spot, too!

Fortunately, the lake is big, so there’s plenty of places to go to avoid crowds. Check out Les Mason State Park, or if you want to camp, head to Whitefish Lake State Park. This popular destination has 25 campsites to choose from!

In the winter, usually around late January, the lake freezes over. Ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are some of the best things to do in Whitefish in winter. Double-check with the rental staff to ensure that the ice is thick enough before you venture out, though!

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4. Attend the Huckleberry Days Arts Festival

Unique Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Huckleberry Days Arts Festival

Although huckleberries are actually Idaho’s state fruit, they’re known as the “Unofficial State Fruit of Montana” (fun fact: Montana doesn’t have an official state fruit!) for good reason. People – and animals, especially grizzlies – in Montana love huckleberries!

And since huckleberries thrive in northwestern Montana, it makes sense that there’s a festival commemorating the popular berry in Whitefish. The Huckleberry Days Arts Festival usually takes place at Depot Park in mid-August, when the huckleberry season is in full swing. 

One of the most exciting parts of this festival is the huckleberry bake-off, where judges determine the best huckleberry treat. Partake in the festivities by eating as many huckleberries as possible, listening to live music, and perusing goods for sale from over 100 artists and vendors.

Fun Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Huckleberry Days Arts Festival

You can also go huckleberry picking from late July through early September, with the peak occurring in August. To make your search easier, check out the Huck Report from Whitefish Mountain Resort. They share the status of huckleberries on the mountain, so you’ll know exactly when they’re ripe! This is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Whitefish.

Grab huckleberry-themed desserts around town, like huckleberry ice cream at Sweet Peaks and huckleberry pie at Loula’s Café. Gift shops often sell items made with the famous berry, like huckleberry honey or jam. Even if you’re not in town during huckleberry season, there’s still a way to get your fix!


5. Wander Around Downtown Whitefish

Best Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Downtown Whitefish

Whitefish’s downtown area is definitely worth checking out. It’s easily walkable and home to many unique stores, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Sweet Peaks, an ice cream parlor with both classic and rotating specialty flavors. You definitely need to try the classic Huckleberry ice cream, made with real Montana (and sometimes Idaho) huckleberries! Other notable classics are Mountain Mint, infused with locally grown mint, and Wustner Bro’s Honey Cinnamon, created with honey from beehives near Missoula, Montana.

Looking for something to sip? Grab a unique cocktail from Spotted Bear Distillery, or attend a class to learn about their production process. If you’re visiting Whitefish in the summer, try one of the beers from Bonsai Brewing Project. They’re made in small batches, and most of them are only available at the brewery!

Downtown Whitefish, Montana, is the perfect place to shop ‘til you drop, and places like Sage & Cedar and The Toggery are popular. Hungry from all that shopping? Grab coffee at Montana Coffee Traders, breakfast at Loula’s Café, lunch at Amazing Crepes, and dinner at Mackenzie River Pizza Co.


6. Chill Out on Flathead Lake

Best Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake is only about 30 minutes from Whitefish but is much larger than Whitefish Lake. The drive around the lake is absolutely stunning, with plenty of unobstructed views of the water and mountains surrounding it. If you’re looking for mellow outdoorsy things to do in Whitefish, spend a day on Flathead Lake!

Similar to Whitefish Lake, recreation opportunities abound on Flathead Lake, no matter what season you visit. Because it’s so large, it usually doesn’t freeze completely. This means that most of the winter activities you can do on Whitefish Lake, like cross-country skiing and ice skating, aren’t safe to do on Flathead Lake. 

However, some companies offer year-round excursions. For example, you can still go on a guided kayaking tour in winter with See Me Paddle!

Cool Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Flathead Lake

Definitely take a boat to Wild Horse Island, the biggest land mass on the lake. It lives up to its name: several wild horses still roam the island! Who knows, you might get lucky and spot one from the 3-mile walking trail that encircles the island.

Summer is cherry season, and Flathead cherries are famous in Montana. Grab some from the roadside stands all around the lake. This fruit is so popular that it has its own celebration: you can attend the Flathead Cherry Festival in Polson, at the south end of the lake, in late July. Don’t miss the cherry pie-eating contest!​​

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7. Learn About the History of Whitefish at the Whitefish Depot

Unique Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Whitefish Depot

Whitefish Depot, also known as Whitefish Amtrak Station, is an old half-timbered building steeped in history. It was originally built in 1928 as a stop along the Great Northern Railway and deserves a spot on everyone’s Whitefish bucket list.

Today, the Whitefish Depot still operates as a station – but also houses a small (and free!) museum, in which you’ll learn about the history of Whitefish and the surrounding area. Preserved by the Stumptown Historical Society, the building’s historical significance even earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. This makes it one of the best things to see in Whitefish.

Depot Park is next to the station and is a pretty place to walk around or have a picnic if the weather’s nice. You can also shop for local produce here at the farmer’s market in the summer!


8. Dance All Night at the Under the Big Sky Festival

Whitefish, Montana Bucket List: Big Sky Festival

Under the Big Sky Festival is a 3-day music festival that takes place on a 350-acre ranch in mid-July. The festival’s name pays homage to Montana’s nickname, “Big Sky Country.” You’ll have to see them for yourself, but Montana’s skies truly do seem endless!

With past performers like Lord Huron, Shakey Graves, and Billy Strings, the festival draws people from all over Montana and beyond. Expect the music to be mostly Americana, folk, alt-country, and rock. While you can’t spend the night on the grounds, there are plenty of places to stay nearby.

Fun Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Big Sky Festival

Bring your lawn chair or picnic blanket and set up on the grassy field. Relax to good music and mountain views in every direction. And because Whitefish is so far north, summer days seem to stretch on forever. The sun sets around 10 pm during that time of year, so you can really make the most of each day!


9. Celebrate the Winter Season at the Whitefish Winter Carnival

Cool Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Whitefish Winter Carnival
Images courtesy of Linda Ray

What better way to get through the long, cold Montana winters than to celebrate them? And residents do just that during the Whitefish Winter Carnival, which takes place every year on a weekend in early February!

The carnival is loosely based on the legend of Ullr, a Norse god associated with winter activities. Ullr fell in love with Flathead Valley, only to realize it was already home to a band of hostile Yetis. Every year at the Whitefish Winter Carnival, the Yetis try to disrupt the festivities. Ullr and his loyal followers scare them away, and Ullr once again reigns as the master of winter sports.

During this event, you can attend parties, a grand parade, and even a penguin plunge. While penguins do not live in Montana (unfortunately), the event refers to people who jump into the cold waters of Whitefish Lake. Check out the pie social, where you can buy pie and coffee. Or, take part in the mountain-wide scavenger hunt at Whitefish Mountain Resort!

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10. Take a Hike on the Whitefish Trail

What to do in Whitefish, Montana: Whitefish Trail

Whitefish has an extensive trail system called the Whitefish Trail. This network is made up of 15 trailheads and 45+ miles of trails, all waiting to be explored! Just check out the map to plan your outing.

Lion Mountain is a short trail that packs a punch: you’re treated to a scenic overlook of Skyles Lake at the top of the 3-mile loop, which is one of the best sights in Whitefish. Beaver Lakes is home to picturesque lakes and vistas and has several hiking options, from shorter to longer trails.

Or start your adventure at the Reservoir Trailhead, only a couple of miles from downtown. This trail offers a short interpretive loop that discusses the history of the area, as well as an overlook with views of Whitefish Lake and Blacktail Mountain.

No matter which trail you choose, you’ll quickly discover why so many people fall in love with Whitefish. The sparkling lake, vast evergreen forests, and endless mountains make it hard to leave!


11. Try Your Hand at Rock Climbing

Must do things in Whitefish, Montana: Rock Climbing

Whitefish has plenty of opportunities for rock climbing. And if you’ve never climbed before, don’t worry! Rock Climb Montana offers guided tours for beginner climbers ages 4 and up. This makes rock climbing a great activity for families, too.

Choose from half-day or full-day trips, either from a set itinerary or a customized trip. Rock Climb Montana also offers harder routes for more advanced climbers and can provide all the necessary gear.

What to do in Whitefish, Montana: Rock Climbing

If you visit in the winter, it’s still possible to go climbing indoors. RockFish Climbing & Fitness is a bouldering gym in Whitefish. With bouldering, you climb shorter routes that don’t require a harness or rope. A soft mat (called a “crash pad”) is underneath you if you fall, making it a safe activity for all ages.

If you love adventure and trying new activities, definitely add rock climbing to your Whitefish bucket list!


12. See a Show by the Alpine Theatre Project

Don’t miss a chance to see a performance by the Alpine Theatre Project (ATP)! Founded by three Broadway veterans, the group puts on live theater shows with both an adult and youth theater group.

Just because Whitefish is a small town doesn’t mean you should underestimate the local talent. Together, the actors have performed in over 190 Broadway performances and won a slew of awards, from Emmys to Golden Globes and even an Academy Award!

ATP’s past shows include Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Killer Queen. Every December, ATP puts together a “Yuletide Affair,” during which they mix holiday music with irreverent satire.

Productions usually take place at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center or the Mountain Center. If you’re wondering what to do in Whitefish and love live theater, definitely make it a point to see one of their shows while you’re in town!

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13. Go Whitewater Rafting on Flathead River

Cool Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Flathead River

Montana is known for its rivers – they’re the main reason fly-fishing is so popular here – and Whitefish is no exception! If you’re visiting in summer, whitewater rafting is easily one of the most fun things to do in Whitefish.

There are two popular places to go rafting near Whitefish: the Middle Fork and the North Fork of the Flathead River. Both spots are just outside of Glacier National Park.

The Middle Fork has a larger variety of rapids, ranging from class II to IV (class I rapids are the calmest, while class VI are the most turbulent), while the North Fork is much calmer. Great Northern Resort has trips on the Middle Fork, while Glacier Raft Company goes to both forks.

Most companies offer half-day and full-day excursions. If you want to get the full experience, you can even try a multi-day rafting trip. You’ll raft during the day and camp under the stars at night. It’s a really unique way to soak up all of the nature that Whitefish has to offer!


14. Check Out an Art Gallery

If you love art, head over to some of Whitefish’s art galleries! Many of them partner with local artists and sell pieces influenced by Montana’s landscape and culture. Artwork is a great way to remember your trip!

Sunti World Art Gallery almost seems more like a museum than an art gallery. Sculptures and paintings decorate the space, interspersed with homey touches like tables, chairs, and plants. They sell pieces from artists in North America, Africa, and Asia. 

If you’re looking for original jewelry, check out Going to the Sun Gallery. You’ll also see lots of bronze structures and paintings from Canadian, American, and local Montana artists. The Dick Idol Signature Gallery is another popular spot. In addition to paintings and sculptures, they sell unique works involving antlers, skulls, and taxidermy animals.

If you’re in town from May to October, check out Whitefish Gallery Nights! Every first Thursday of the month, participating galleries bring the Whitefish community together with artist exhibitions, entertainment, food, and drinks. It’s easily one of the most fun things to do in Whitefish!


15. See the Sights on Horseback at Bar W Guest Ranch

Unique Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Horseback at Bar W Guest Ranch

You’re in Montana, after all – what better way to explore than on horseback? In the spring, summer, and fall, Bar W Guest Ranch gives visitors the opportunity to feel like a real Montana cowboy/girl with 2-hour long trail rides. You’ll venture through the woods and marvel at the mountains surrounding you, all while riding your trusty steed.

This experience is suitable for riders ranging from beginner to advanced – even if you’ve never ridden a horse before. They cater to families, too, and accept kids who are at least 7 years old and will feel confident riding a horse on their own.

Fun Things to do in Whitefish, Montana: Horseback at Bar W Guest Ranch

On a couple of weekends each year, you can even take part in a cattle drive at the ranch. You’ll help move the cattle and participate in other aspects of traditional cattle roundups over the course of five days. This is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Whitefish, so don’t miss the opportunity if your dates line up with the roundup!

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So there you have it! The 15 best things to do in Whitefish, Montana. What’s your favorite thing to do in Whitefish?


Planning a trip to Montana? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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