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Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish Montana is often referred to as the “Gateway to Glacier”. This small town is located just 30 miles south of Glacier National Park making Whitefish one of the most interesting and vibrant towns in Montana.

In 1883 the first permanent European settler came to the area. However, John Morton was not the first person to settle there. Many Native American tribes lived in the area. The Kootenai Tribe lived here for more than 14,000 years spending most of their time on the west side of the Continental divide.

Prior to 1890, the Whitefish area saw a steady stream of hunters, trappers, and travelers in search of a new life on the west coast. However, it was the logging industry and the railroad that brought a permanent settlement to the area. With the Great Northern Railway, the town began to boom and was officially incorporated in 1905.

Since that time, the location has been a popular place for tourists to visit. The area has ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and is a great place to stay when visiting Glacier National Park. Whitefish is also one of the most popular stops on the Amtrak’s Empire Builder line which crosses the northern part of the United States.

The Best Hotels For Whitefish

Main Attractions

Whitefish Mountain Resort

whitefish mountain resort

Besides Glacier National Park, this is probably the most popular attraction that brings visitors to the town. Whitefish Mountain Resort is one of the most popular ski areas in Montana.

While it does offer many of the amenities that you’ll find at many ski resorts, including slopeside lodging, restaurants, and shopping, it isn’t as large or as busy as some other resorts in Montana.

If skiing isn’t your thing, the resort is also one of the most popular spots for summertime recreation as well. The 3,000 acres of the ski area are crossed with hiking and mountain biking trails. Many people enjoy Montana’s Alpine Slide which is a fun and unique summer activity.

Whitefish Lake and State Park

Whitefish Lake State Park is another great spot to visit when in the area. This large lake is popular thanks to the abundance of recreation activities. Not only can you enjoy a day on the water paddling a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard, but the park has plenty of hiking trails, camping areas, and secluded fishing spots. Entrance to the park is free for Montana residents and just $8 per vehicle for non-residents.

Whitefish Lake extends into the city limits, so if you want to enjoy the lake but don’t want to head into the park, check out Whitefish City Beach. This neat swim beach located north of downtown is popular with the locals and is a great place to cool down in the summer.

Downtown Whitefish

downtown whitefish

Did you know that Whitefish was called one of the best 25 ski towns in the world? Well, believe it or not, it was, and still is! Downtown is a fun mix of old and new, with the mix of modern accommodations with many buildings being listed on the National Historic Register.

Besides beautiful historic buildings, the downtown area has plenty of great shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, and art galleries.

Great Northern Railway Depot

Every year thousands of visitors pass through the historic Great Northern Railway Depot, also known as the Whitefish Depot. As one of the stops for the Amtrak passenger train, this busy depot is both functional and a great spot to explore.

Inside the depot, you’ll find the Stumptown Historical Museum. This museum documents the history of the town, including the logging and railroad histories, as well as the history of the native peoples that inhabited the area before European settlers.

Once you’re done exploring the Depot, head over to the Depot Park, just across the street. This small park is great for picnics and is home to a local Farmers Market in the summer.

Recreation Activities

recreation activities - skiing

Skiing

Truly this is the reason most people come to the area. With one of the best downhill ski resorts in the state, skiing is probably the most popular recreational activity in the area. Whitefish Mountain Resort is a great place to enjoy downhill skiing in the winter.

If downhill skiing doesn’t do it for you, check out the Glacier Nordic Center. This great spot has plenty of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. They even provide lessons and equipment rentals.

Hiking

Following closely behind skiing in terms of popularity is hiking. The area is home to hundreds of miles of hiking trails. You’ll find plenty of trail options within Kootenai National Forest or Flathead National Forest. Or, hit some of the shorter, easier trails in Whitefish Lake State Park.

One of the most popular hiking areas is the Whitefish Trail. This area is a volunteer-run trail system with over 40 miles of trails for hiking and trail running. This trail system is popular with families and is open to both people and dogs, so your 4-legged friends can enjoy a good hike too.

Fishing

You’ll find during your explorations around the area that besides plenty of stores for skiing and hiking gear, there are a number of fishing outfitters. Fishing in the area is a hugely popular activity. The Whitefish River is known as one of the best trout fishing rivers in the world, so tons of people come to try their hand at fly fishing the river.

If you want to sit on the dock and enjoy casting your line, check out Whitefish Lake State Park or Riverside Park, both of which have nice docks for fishing and just enjoying the water.

Oh, and don’t forget to head over to the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks website for all of the information on fishing regulations and to purchase your Montana fishing license.

Accommodations

The area has many options when it comes to lodging. Sure, there are great chain hotels, but there are also some great options when it comes to small local inns and motels. If you’d rather try something homier, you’ll find tons of vacation homes and bed and breakfasts to fit your needs.

Special Events

Though the town may have a smaller community, they do have some fun events every year that you’ll want to check out if you can.

Activities Near Whitefish

Recreation Activities

National Parks and Forests

County and State Parks

Museums

Performing Arts

What Is The Cost of Living in Whitefish?

The cost of living index based on the national average of 100 shows Whitefish at 111.8. This makes it 1.2 times more expensive to live in than places scoring the national average or less.

Housing is one of the main issues with cost in the area and it consistently ranks as one of the highest in the US as well as the state.

Is Whitefish Safe to Live in?

On the crime index rating from 100 (with 100 being the safest), Whitefish turns out to be 28% below the national average. The town scores a respectable 46 which is one of the highest ratings in the state for safety.

As is the case with most towns in Montana, property crime is the main issue in Whitefish and it affects around 10 residents per 1000. Violent crime is much less common and reportedly affects 2 people per 1000 according to annual figures.

What is Whitefish Known for?

Glacier National Park is literally 30 minutes from Whitefish which serves as an ideal base camp for exploration of the region. On top of that Whitefish is home to some world-class ski resorts with Whitefish Mountain Resort being one of the area’s main draws, and the town even has its own city beach as well as lake and state park.

Whitefish is big on culture and the arts and visitors and locals alike are drawn to shows by the Whitefish Theatre Company and the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.

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