Glacier Country. What can you say?! This stunning section of Montana is home to majestic mountains, glacially carved lakes, wonderful people, and more adventure than you can know what to do.
I had the chance to visit this spectacular area and show off everything to do in Kalispell (because there’s a lot!). Throughout this article, I highlight my favorite parts; how to plan a trip and other pertinent information you need to have an incredible time.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!
An Outdoorsy Guide to Visiting Kalispell, Montana
Because of the Glacier National Park Reservation system, some people may plan trips to Montana but not get the sought-after permits. Thankfully, there are many things to do in Kalispell, so you won’t get bored!
What you need to know before planning a trip to Kalispell
Where to stay in Kalispell, MT
I enjoyed Kalispell’s location to Flathead Lake, Jewel Basin, and the rock climbing just west of town. I stayed at the Hampton – Inn, which was super accessible and allowed me easy access to all the top things to do in Kalispell, Montana.
Plus, they had a long breakfast (6-10 am), which let me sleep in and still get food after long nights hiking.
Is Kalispell Worth Visiting?
It honestly is. This entire region on the western side of Glacier is so beautiful, relaxed, and totally worth visiting. While Whitefish gets a lot of the love as it’s closer to the ski resort, Kalispell is more affordable and has the massive Flathead Lake within 20 minutes. Plus, the stunning Jewel Basin hiking area (see below) is only an hour away.
So if you’re looking to find beautiful hiking without the crowds, Kalispell is a great launching point!
How to get to Kalispell, Montana
There are two ways to get in – drive or fly. The airport is split between Kalispell and Whitefish, so you have about a 15-minute drive into downtown Kalispell. Not bad one bit.
I flew in from Seattle, which was about as easy a flight as ever. The flight time right at one hour, from lift-off to landing, didn’t even let me watch an entire movie. Once on the ground, it was easy to navigate, and the rental car offices were mere feet away from the terminal.
Speeding through all of this helps maximize your time enjoying the best things to do in Kalispell.
Flight times from popular destinations to Kalispell, Montana:
- Denver – 2.25 hours
- Los Angeles – 3 hours
- Phoenix – 2.5 hours
- Seattle – 1 hour
- Chicago – 3.25 hours
- Dallas – 3.5 hours
What’s the weather like for each season in Kalispell?
Winter: It’ll get cold. Let’s get that out of the way up front. With highs around freezing and lows in the high teens or low 20s, you’ll consider booking a trip to Hawaii. However, there are a lot of outdoor snow activities to enjoy and keep you active (and warm). They see about 12-20 inches of snowfall each winter, most of it from mid-December to mid-January.
Spring: Spring seems to be pretty nice, with only an inch of monthly rain, with May getting 2.5 inches. As for temperatures, it warms up nicely, ranging from the 40s in March to the 60s and 70s in May.
Summer: This is prime visiting time, though the temps can get into the 90’s. However, being out on the lake or in the mountains will be much cooler and lead to unforgettable memories. This is the best time to maximize all of the things to do in Kalispell and truly understand what makes Glacier Country so incredible!
Fall: Autumn also is excellent and allows you to do tons of the best things to do in Kalispell. With great weather still hanging around until October, you can recreate for quite a while. Lastly, they don’t get a ton of rain in the fall either, still sticking around the 1-inch per month range.
Basically, if you can withstand the winter onslaught, you’ll be just fine!
What To Pack for your Kalispell Trip
You’re going to want a lot of activewear to enjoy all the things to do in Kalispell. Furthermore, Montana’s weather can be very finicky. Make sure to have a rain jacket and warmer clothes in case a storm rolls in.
Montana is notorious for having sunny skies, a huge storm, and then perfect weather in consecutive hours.
You cannot fly with Bear Spray. Instead, use the Wilderness Edge.
It’s against federal law to fly with bear spray, but it’s a hassle to buy it and then not use it, and then what do you do? Cue up RightOnTrek Wilderness Edge. They’re a new service that lets you rent hiking, camping, and backpacking gear instead of flying with it. And yes, this includes bear spray.
Reserve your gear and pick it up after landing (5 minutes north of the airport). It’s easy. Then, when your trip is over, drop it off in the lockers, lock it up, and you’re done!
10 Amazing Things to Do in Kalispell
1. Rock Climbing Kila Crags
I’m not an experienced rock climber by any means, but I did a 1:1 guided activity with The Mountain Guides – Montana for a half day of Crag Climbing. It had been a while since I’d harnessed and roped up, and they did a phenomenal job teaching the basics and getting me ready to hit the wall.
We did a couple of warm-up routes before tackling a 70-foot wall.
While I had never done a wall that size before, it wasn’t too daunting. But the crux at the top was a bit challenging with few hand and foot holds. But after enough pondering, I was able to get to the top!
2. Go Kayaking on Flathead Lake to Wildhorse Island
Anytime you can get out on the water, it’s a good time. For this trip, we left Dayton Harbor and paddled two miles to Wildhorse Island. Best of all, this trip is great for all skill levels and doesn’t require you to have any pre-kayaking skills.
Once on the island, you’re free to hike around. The group saw full her of Rocky Mountain Sheep who live there but sadly didn’t spot any of the wild horses.
Overall, the trip was from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, consisting of four miles of kayaking and three miles of hiking. Additionally, we could hang out on the island and go swimming if you wanted!
3. Hike or Backpack into Jewel Basin
Glacier’s called the Crown Jewel of the Continent, and this area was the Crown Jewel of my trip. I only had time to summit Mt. Aeneas, which overlooks Jewel Basin, but I still fell in love with the area. There are a half dozen lakes in the region (at least that I could spot from my high perch), and the peaks lit up in the most gorgeous light.
I can’t more strongly recommend a hike into this area. You’ll love it!
If you have more time, I’d recommend the full loop, which takes you near the lakes, to the summit, and then back to the parking lot.
4. Adventure in Glacier National Park
It’s not a trip to Glacier Country if you don’t visit Glacier National Park. With reservations now in place during the busy summer months, getting into the park is a little more challenging. However, you can still access Glacier’s pristine areas during off hours. The park is open to everyone before 6 am and after 3 pm.
You’ll have to wait a bit to get in, as that’s when those who didn’t have reservations will all flood in. Expect the drive time from Kalispell to Logan Pass to be around two hours if there’s no sizeable line to get in.
Five hikes to do in Glacier National Park
- Bowman Lake Trail
- Avalanche Lake
- Grinnell Glacier
- Hidden Lake Overlook
- Iceberg Lake
Even if Glacier isn’t the main focus of your things to do in Kalispell, try to get up there for one day to see how magical it is!
Related: Best Hikes in Glacier
5. Enjoy the Breweries in Town
Good beer. Good times!
Grabbing beers with friends is one of the better things to do in Kalispell. And you have a decent amount to choose from. Just a note about Montana state laws: Breweries don’t serve beer past 8 pm, and you are only allowed 48 oz.
In Kalispell, you have Bias Brewing and Sunrift Beer Company. I had Bias Brewing, and now I’m a bit biased, haha. It was delicious.
Additionally, Big Sky Beer, Patriotic American Brewery, and Sacred Waters Brewing are a smidge out of town to the North. For those wanting a spot closer to Glacier National Park, I swooped by Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls for dinner and a flight. Their food and drinks were also A+!
6. Get off the Grid in the Bob Marshall Wilderness
The Bob Marshall Wilderness outside Glacier offers some of the country’s most remote and untouched forests and trails. There are endless possibilities if you’re okay with not seeing another human outside your party.
Make sure to come fully prepared for your treks, as this is truly off the Grid!
7. Play Golf
Most people who come to Glacier Country are coming for the hikes, not the links. However, I’m sure some of you would enjoy a day off from hiking but still spend it outside. There are several golf clubs and courses north of Kalispell to play at.
8. Explore Lone Pine State Park
Lone Pine State Park has something for everyone! With 7.5 miles of trails for mountain biking, snowshoeing, hiking, and horseback riding, you can pick what adventure you want. And it’s only 12 minutes from downtown Kalispell.
Furthermore, with stunning views of the city, lake, and mountains across the valley, this is a great place to watch the sunset or take a morning hike away from the crowds.
Lone Pine State Park offers a free Action Trackchair All-Terrain Wheelchair to help individuals of all abilities explore the area.
9. Check out the Hungry Horse Reservoir
In between Kalispell and West Glacier, Hungry Horse Reservoir is a beautiful body of water with lots of recreation potential.
A little bit about the area via Visit Montana:
Hungry Horse Reservoir is located high in the Rocky Mountains, less than 30 miles from the Continental Divide and is surrounded by more than 25 mountain peaks. The reservoir is about 34 miles long and 23,800 acres and offers excellent opportunities for fishing, boating, water skiing, and swimming. Available fish species are cutthroat trout, bull trout, and whitefish. The surrounding mountains are popular big game hunting areas and several of the small tributaries have their headwaters in nearby alpine lakes.
10. White Water Rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River
One of the most beautiful rivers in the western US, the flathead river cuts near Glacier National Park, offering rafters stunning sights and wicked rapids as they cruise along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
I’ve only done the scenic float, and it was super fun and fabulous for the entire family. But if you’re looking for a thrill, level up to the white water rafting and have a fantastic experience.
Wrapping Up – Things To Do In Kalispell
I will admit, of the things to do in Kalispell that was the most surprising, hiking above Jewel Basin blew my mind. I had never heard of the area, and it was incredibly stunning. So pick that area if you’re looking for a hike closer to the city. You won’t be disappointed.
Lastly, you’re going to love your trip here. Glacier Country is beautiful and magical, and there’s something for everyone to appreciate! Be safe, and enjoy your trip!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.