Whitefish is a historic town in the northern Flathead Valley on the southern end of Whitefish Lake. Whitefish was founded in 1905 as a stopover for the Great Northern Railroad. Traditional industries in Whitefish have included logging, ranching, and farming.
Today the town offers recreational activities including skiing, water sports, climbing and exploring. Whitefish Mountain Resort to the north of town offers excellent skiing in the winter, and Glacier National Park to the east is a major hiking and camping destination. Flathead Lake to the south is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi and features many opportunities for water sports and boating.
For commercial flights, the nearest airport is:
2 Glacier Park International Airport (FCA IATA) (located roughly 11.5 mi (18.5 km) southeast of town on U.S. Highway 2.). The nearest commercial airport to Kalispell, Whitefish and Glacier National Park is served by the following:
Horizon Air as Alaska Airlines (Seattle); Seasonally to/from Portland
Allegiant (Las Vegas; Seasonally from Los Angeles and Oakland)
Delta and Skywest dba Delta Connection (Minneapolis-St Paul and Salt Lake City)
Gojet and Skywest dba United Express (Denver)
There is no public transportation available from the airport into town. It's either by rental car, taxi or ride sharing. The airport is also the nearest U.S. airport for going up to Calgary and Edmonton in Canada.
To access Whitefish from the south, you can take either Exit 96 on I-90 near Missoula and head north on U.S. 93.
Whitefish is accessible from Canada at several border crossings. From Calgary, the fastest route is to go southwest on the Crowsnest Highway 3, passing through Fernie. Continue south on Hwy 3 until it crosses with Hwy 93. Take that south through the Roosville border crossing and the town of Eureka until hitting Whitefish. Driving time is about 5 hours.
Whitefish is accessible several ways from Regina. One could take the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 west to Calgary and then follow the route explained above, which would take about 12-13 hours. Another is to take Hwy 6 south to Plentywood, and take Hwy 16 south to Culbertson. Take Hwy 2 west through Glasgow and Havre until eventually hitting Whitefish. This takes approx. 13 hours.
- Airport Shuttle Express, ☎ . Scheduled bus & shuttle services between Kalispell, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and the Calgary Airport as well as local sightseeing tours for group charters.
- 3 Flathead Transit, (Bus stop) Whitefish Amtrak Station @ 500 Depot St (Bus stop in front of the train station), ☎ , . Bus operated by the Confederated Salish & Kootnai Tribes with the help of Montana D.O.T. and in partnership with Greyhound Lines (as booking agent) for travel up to Whitefish through Avaro, Arlee, Ravalli, St Ignatius, Pablo, Paulson, Lakeside and Kalispell along US Hwy 93. Passengers transfer to Jefferson Lines in Missoula to get to additional destinations. $31 one way.
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
Amtrak serves Whitefish with its Empire Builder route, which runs west to Spokane and Seattle/Portland and east through the northern Plains, terminating at Chicago. The historic 4 Whitefish Amtrak, built in a Tudor Revival style is the busiest in Montana and is located at 500 Depot Street, near downtown.
Walking, driving, or biking are ways to get around Whitefish. The local taxi service, Drive 4 U (http://www.drive4u.org), can aid in getting around Whitefish and the surrounding area and does shuttles to and from the airport and amtrak stations. During the ski season there is a snow bus shuttle from the town to the ski resort.
- Big Mountain Commercial Association's SNOW Bus and Glacier Park Express, ☎ . The Big Mountain Commercial Association is a non-profit public trade association that raises funds to pay for common services and programs. These include funding for the SNOW bus, Glacier Park Express, Big Mountain Road winter maintenance, the Big Mountain Summer & Spring Brewfest, and the Winter Winefest.
- Flathead County Eagle Transit, ☎ . M-F 7AM-6PM (check schedules). Local buses between Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Whitefish and in-town shuttle within Whitefish and Kalispell. $1 per ride.
- Whitefish Lake is on the NW corner of the town. Walking distance to downtown, there is a state park and city beach on the shores. It is roughly 3300 acres and popular in summer for boating. There are public access boat launches, with a small marina at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake. The Lodge also rents boats and jet skis.
- Glacier National Park is 27 miles (43 km) to the west of Whitefish along US 2 to West Glacier. Many backpackers and adventurers use Whitefish as a staging point for expeditions into the park.
- Whitefish Museum, 500 Depot St, ☎ . Winter: M-Sa 11AM-3PM; summer: M-Sa 10AM-4PM; call about Sundays in summer. Historical museum operated by Stumptown Historical Society. Learn about the logging and railroad industry and the impacts they had on Flathead Valley. Free.
- 'Whitefish Mountain Resort (known formerly as Big Mountain), just north of the city on the aptly named Big Mountain. Offers a wide variety of terrain, from moguls to powder to bunny hills. Many businesses, including a few hotels, operate at the base of the hill.
- Golf Big Mountain also operates as a golf resort in the summer. The Whitefish Lake Golf Club, just west of the city on the lake is also worth checking.
- Hike and Bike Big Mountain has several hiking and biking trails in the summer. Glacier National Park has 735 miles (1180 km) of trails. Glacier Guides offers day-hiking and multi-day backpacking adventures in Glacier National Park.
- Fish Fly fishing is the choice in and around Whitefish. Close to the Flathead River, trout fishing is ample during summer and fall. There are two fly shops in Whitefish. There are many lakes in the area that support fishing, though rivers are better. Montana Raft offers guided fishing trips on the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead Rivers.
- Boating Water sports form kayaking down the lazy flowing Whitefish River to water skiing across Whitefish Lake can be enjoyed. Boats can be rented from local business. Montana Raft offers guided rafting or raft rentals for the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead Rivers.
- 1 Whitefish Mountain Resort. - located in Whitefish
The downtown area has many family-run stores. In the southern part are larger chain stores such as Safeway. In the same area is a small shopping mall, which includes a Super 1 supermarket and a cinema.
For cross-border shoppers, the commercial area just south of the city in Kalispell on Highway 93 has all the national big-box chains you need.
Fast food options in Whitefish include McDonald's, Taco John's, Wendy's, and Dairy Freeze. Pizza by the slice can be purchased at 2nd Street Pizzeria.
- Great Northern Bar and Grill.
- McKenzie River Pizzeria. Gourmet pizza and pastas.
- Bulldog Saloon.
- Quickee's Sandwich Shop.
- Pescado Blanco. Mexican food.
- Mambo Italiana. Italian.
There are also several standard pizza places that offer delivery. These are 2nd Street Pizzeria, Stageline Pizzeria, Downtown Pizzeria and Pizza Hut.
For breakfast; Loula's Cafe, The Buffalo Cafe and The Red Caboose Diner are all options.
With the exceptions of Pizza Hut and Stageline Pizzeria, all of these options are in or within walking distance of the downtown area.
There are a few luxury dining options in the Whitefish area. The Boat Club and Whitefish Lake Restaurant offer a standard selection of entrees. Tupelo's is a Cajun-themed menu.
- The Boat Club.
- Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
- Whitefish Lake Restaurant (at the golf course).
- 1 The Great Northern Bar and Grill, 27 Central Ave (Cnr 1st and Central Ave), ☎ . Two full bars and a kitchen (consisting of burgers/sandwiches mostly). An outdoor deck is provided to allow for smoking, which is prohibited inside the bar. Live music three times a week, pool tables, shuffleboard and ping pong provide the entertainment. Usually is the busiest bar in town.
- 2 The Great Northern Brewing Company, 2 Central Ave #1. In the downtown area at the former Black Star Brewing Company, it does not have tours, but operates a tasting room open from noon to 8PM. It can be rented out for private functions. Also provides wireless internet access.
- 3 Bulldog Saloon, 144 Central Ave. It is smoke-free, and children are welcome.
- 4 Remington Bar and Casino, 130 Central Ave (two doors down from The Bulldog). Containing two full bars, it has two poker tables, shuffleboard and three pool tables. It also has the only dartboard (electronic) in town.
- 5 Palace Bar, 125 Central Ave, ☎ . A small bar across the street from the Remington. A popular hangout for locals and those looking to escape the throngs, The Palace maintains a good crowd throughout the week.
- 6 Caseys, 101 Central Ave (across 1st St from the Great Northern Bar and Grill), ☎ . The oldest building in Whitefish. Casey's is busiest on the weekends when it employs a DJ to play hip-hop and attracts a younger crowd.
There are many lodging options available in and around Whitefish. They range from four star luxury, to budget, to vacation homes and condominiums.
- 1 Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge, 6510 Highway 93 South (1 Mile South of Downtown Whitefish), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. The Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge offers rooms with king or queen sized beds. Suites-featuring a fire place, hot tub, and wet bar- are also available. This pet-friendly hotel has specially designated rooms available for guests who wish to travel with their dogs and/or cats
- 2 Glacier Mountain Lodge, 2347 Middle Rd, ☎ .
- 3 The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, 1380 Wisconsin Ave. The Lodge is a full service resort a few miles from the heart of Whitefish. There is an outdoor pool and hot tub, full service day spa, concierge service, marina and private beach. The Boat Club restaurant is fine dining and there is also a full service bar, both offer spectacular views of the lake.
- 4 Grouse Mountain Lodge, 2 Fairway Dr. 3 miles west of downtown. The Whitefish Lake Golf Club is directly across the street. An indoor pool, driving range, tennis courts, and sauna highlight the amenities. They also provide a free shuttle service to downtown. Dining at the resort ranges from casual to formal.