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.

In this article, we will take a closer look at Whitefish, Montana, including attractions, accommodations, and culture, so that you can make the most of your next visit.

Your Guide to Whitefish, Montana

whitefish montana
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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 recreational 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 a 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


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

When is the Best Time to Visit Whitefish?

In general, spring and summer are the best times to visit Whitefish if you’re not looking to spend time skiing or participating in other winter recreation.

Whitefish has long and cold winters, with winter-like weather lasting in some years from October to May. Summers in Whitefish are short but delightfully pleasant.

Many of the area events and community activities are scheduled during the warm summer months.

whitefish arts festival event details

  • Best Time to Book Hotels: Whitefish has plenty of lodging options that range from budget, chain hotels to luxury options and even Airbnbs. During shoulder seasons you can easily book rooms with little pre-planning. Even during winter ski months hotel availability is good. If you’re planning to visit Whitefish for one of the many festivals that occur in the summer, particularly the Big Sky Festival, you will want to plan ahead and book as soon as you can.
  • Best Time for Sightseeing: Montana is one of those states where no matter the season, the views are amazing. Winter brings snowy peaks with bluebird skies. In the summer, snow transforms valleys into lush, green meadows full of wildflowers and rivers and creeks full of water. However, if sightseeing is your goal, and you want great photo opportunities, while visiting Whitefish, summer and fall are the best times to visit. With tons of hiking trails that lead you to breathtaking vistas and highways that have never-ending perfect views, you’ll find it hard to run out of ways to see more in Whitefish when the weather is great.
  • Best Time for Shopping: Downtown Whitefish is filled with great shops that you can hit year-round. However, the best deals and the arrival of the Whitefish farmers market make spring and summer the best times to shop in Whitefish. Not only can you find great items like local art, clothing, and gear, but you’ll also be able to fill your table with fresh foods from local farmers.
  • Best Time for Festivals & Events: You’ll find that because the weather is good, most of the festivals and events in Whitefish occur during the spring, summer, and early fall when people want to be outside. However, there are a few holiday-related festivals that you can enjoy during the winter.

Whitefish Travel Seasons

High Season (June through August)

high season

With long and frigid winters that are best for only the heartiest of visitors, many people don’t want to visit Whitefish when it’s cold.

When things warm up, and the snow is melting, the visitors arrive. High tourist season in Whitefish runs generally from June through August.

Whitefish is a great road trip destination in the summer thanks to clear, easy-to-drive roads and temperatures that linger in the 70s and 80s, which might be just about perfect.

Shoulder Seasons (Mid-April to Early June and Late August to Early October)

If you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures and wearing a sweater while exploring Whitefish, then the shoulder seasons are a great time to visit.

Generally, the shoulder seasons in Whitefish are mid-April to early June and then late August to early October.

If you’re not into crowds or if you just want a more relaxed visiting experience, these warmer months with fewer people offer easier access to lodging, quiet hiking trails, and some fun early and late-season events and festivals.

Spring in Whitefish is beautiful with fresh green leaves, blooming trees, and a crispness to the air.

September and October see kids heading back to school and leaves turning to shades of yellow, orange, and red, making for amazing photography moments.

Low Season (Late October Through Late March)

low season

From October to March, the weather in Whitefish isn’t great if you’re not a local or here to ski or snowboard.

The weather during the winter in Whitefish can be challenging for visitors that aren’t prepared. Temperatures can dip below zero, and roads are often icy and difficult to pass.

Whitefish Weather by Month

whitefish weather by month


January, for most visitors, is a difficult time to travel to Whitefish. Though this is the peak of ski season, the weather in January in Whitefish can be described as snowy and frigid.

The average high temperature in Whitefish is 33°F with the average low around 19°. The snowfall in Whitefish averages over 7 inches, but the surrounding mountains see much more.


Things start to warm up a bit in February, but it’s still cold in Whitefish. February brings more consistent cloud cover and snow. However, as the temperature starts to creep up, the snowfall starts to decrease.

The average temperature high temperature in Whitefish in February is 40°F with average low temperatures sitting right about 24°F. February’s average snowfall is about 4 inches.


March in Whitefish brings a bit of a reprieve from the cold. As the days get longer, and the clouds start to move out, hints of spring start to arrive. But don’t be fooled by these improvements.

Whitefish can still get snow in March, and the average snowfall for the month is around 3 inches. Towards the end of March snow will often give way to rain showers.

Temperatures in Whitefish in March look like average highs around 51°F and daily lows around 31°F.


April in Whitefish sees the end of snow showers (mostly), but daily there is a good chance of rain and clouds.

Daytime temperatures in April in Whitefish are pretty pleasant, but you’ll want to have a sweater or jacket with you as daily high temperatures may reach 61°F but afternoon showers can turn the day chilly.

Nighttime temperatures drop into the upper 30s with an average low temperature of 37°F.


The old adage of “April showers bring May flowers” is in full effect in Whitefish in May.

Spring rains wake up the plants in Whitefish, and the valley turns a vibrant, lush green. May has an almost daily chance of rain in Whitefish so bring a raincoat or umbrella. Surprisingly, May is also one of the cloudiest months in Whitefish.

The average daily high temperature sits at 69°F, with the daily average low around 45°F.


June sees the departure of daily rain and clouds, and the sun really begins to warm things up in Whitefish. With longer days and mild temperatures, Whitefish becomes a bustling tourist town.

The average daily high temperature in June is 77°F, and the low hovers around 49°F. Don’t leave the jacket at home however, evenings are still chilly, and there is still a good possibility of rain.


Welcome to summer in Whitefish! July is the most pleasant of months in Whitefish, and the town and tourist season is in full swing.

July’s average high is 84°F, with the low temperature at 52°F. There is a low chance of rain in July, but do bring a sweater or light jacket because the evening can be chilly.


August brings the hottest temperatures of the year in Whitefish, but also a noticeable decrease in temperature as the month carries on.

Early August temperatures can easily hit 85°F or more. By the end of August temperatures in the 70s are typical. The average low temperature in Whitefish in August is 46°F.


Fall arrives in Whitefish in September. Temperatures start to decrease significantly as does the cloud cover.

The chance of rain increases, and if you’re visiting Whitefish in September, you’ll need a coat, umbrella, and maybe even a warm hat for the evenings. The average daily high temperature is 64°F, with a daily low average of 38°F.


Winter arrives in Whitefish at the end of October. In the early part of the month, you can still expect rain showers, and clouds become almost constant in October.

Shorter days mean colder temperatures, especially toward the end of the month. October also sees the first snowfall of the season. Daily high-temperature averages 47°F, with the average daily low around 30°F.


We’re back in ski season again in Whitefish. By the time November rolls around, the mountains surrounding Whitefish have plenty of snow for a good base, and the town has its own covering of snow.

Temperatures start to dip below freezing at night, and clouds dominate the sky 68% of the time. Look for average daily highs around 34°F, and daily average lows near 23°F. The average snowfall in November is about 5 inches.


Unless you are a dedicated skier, you’ll probably not love the weather in Whitefish in December.

With a daily average high of only 29°F, an average low of 17°F, December is the coldest month of the year in Whitefish. Average snowfall is 7 inches and you’ll rarely see the sun in December.

Whitefish Events & Festivals

whitefish events

Warmer weather means more activities. So, it makes sense that most festivals and activities in Whitefish happen during the summer. There are however a few fun winter activities, mostly surrounding holidays.

Whitefish in February

Whitefish Winter Carnival

This fun winter festival is a local favorite. Whitefish residents don’t mind the snow and cold, and this festival is all about Whitefish.

Something like a homecoming celebration the Winter Carnival has fun activities like a parade, adult-only activities, themed parties, and even a Carnival King and Queen.

Flathead Sled Dog Days

The end of February brings the dog days of winter to Whitefish. Literally. Whitefish plays host to the Flathead Classic sled dog race.

Visitors to Whitefish will get to see amazing canine athletes and their humans race through the valley. The Flathead Classic is one of a handful of sled dog racing events in North America.

Whitefish in April

Whitefish Pond Skim

If you really want to be entertained, head up to Whitefish Mountain Resort in early April to experience the Whitefish Pond Skim.

This event tests the skills of skiers and snowboarders, on both the snow and the water. Competitors ski or board down a hill where they skip across a pond of chilly water as far as they can.

This festival brings out crazy costumes, bands, and plenty of laughs.

Spring Brewfest

If you aren’t into crazy skiers and snowboarders, then maybe the Spring Brewfest in the Whitefish Mountain Resort village is more your style. For $25 guests can enjoy beers and food from local breweries and restaurants.

This is one of the most popular festivals in Whitefish, with crowds growing each year to enjoy good beer, food and local entertainment.

Whitefish in May

Whitefish Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K

A classic foot race through the Flathead Valley. Runners from across the country come to run up to 26.2 miles through some of the most beautiful terrains in Montana.

The race offers a 5K, a half-marathon, and a full marathon. The finish line has local vendors, entertainment, food, and beer.

Whitefish in June

Summer ArtFest at Whitefish

With Glacier National Park in the background, the Summer ArtFest at Whitefish is one of the most well-known art festivals in the country.

Visitors will enjoy art from Montana artists as well as renowned artists from the Western U.S. and other parts of the country. The festival also has great food and local entertainment.

Whitefish in July

July 4th Fireworks on Whitefish Lake

A local tradition, and a family favorite. The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce puts on an amazing fireworks display over Whitefish Lake.

While the fireworks are the culmination of the day, Whitefish City Beach is busy with activities all day long.

Whitefish Arts Festival

Sponsored by the Whitefish Christian Academy this event is another highlight of the 4th of July weekend in Whitefish. Wander through booths featuring high-quality local arts and crafts.

The festival also has a juried art show that many local artists participate in.

Under the Big Sky Festival

Located at Big Mountain Ranch near Whitefish, the Under the Big Sky Festival is likely the biggest festival in Whitefish.

This country music festival brings some of the biggest names in country music to the Flathead Valley. Combine great music with a rodeo and round-up and you have a great weekend under the Big Sky in Whitefish.

Whitefish in August

Bigfork Riverbend Concert Series

Every Sunday through the summer Whitefish residents can enjoy amazing concerts in Bigfork’s Riverbend Park.

Just a short drive from Whitefish, this summer concert series is a local favorite and features Montana artists as well as up-and-coming entertainers from around the country.

Huckleberry Days Arts Festival

As you visit Whitefish, you’ll soon learn that the Huckleberry is a local fruit that everyone uses. It’s popular on menus, and the town of Whitefish even has an annual festival dedicated to the humble huckleberry.

At the Huckleberry Days Arts Festival, you’ll enjoy foods with huckleberries, local arts and crafts vendors, and local entertainment.

Whitefish in September

Great Northwest Oktoberfest

Like many communities around the United States Whitefish celebrates the start of fall with its own Oktoberfest celebration.

Spanning one of the last weekends in September, Whitefish Oktoberfest is all things German. German food, German clothes, German beer, and yes, even polka.

Whitefish Songwriter Festival

For three days in September, Whitefish hosts up-and-coming songwriters from around North America.

Twenty songwriters will set up shop in restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, and bars around Whitefish sharing their stories and creativity with Whitefish.

Whitefish in December

Whitefish Christmas Stroll

Early December is the perfect time to gather with Whitefish locals, friends, and family and enjoy the spirit of the holiday season.

The Christmas Stroll is a long-standing tradition in Whitefish that features music, entertainment, food, arts and crafts, and even fun contests and games. The real start of the Whitefish Christmas stroll is of course Santa.

Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade

Whitefish Mountain Resort welcomes Santa and his elves to Whitefish with a candle-lit parade. Resort employees carry torches as they escort Santa to the resort village down the ski mountain.

Arrive at the village early for a great seat and to enjoy a warm beverage while you wait and watch for Santa. As Santa makes his way through the village, he hands out gifts to local children.

Activities Near Whitefish

Recreation Activities

National Parks and Forests

County and State Parks


Performing Arts

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