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OUTSIDE THE PARK Trip Ideas Around Glacier Park

Trip Ideas Around Glacier Park

It’s no secret that Glacier National Park is a popular vacation destination, and therefore can become very busy during peak tourism months. If you’re planning to visit, it’s wise to have a backup plan for adventuring outside the park, just in case. The greatness of Glacier doesn’t end at park borders—epic landscapes, charming small towns and unforgettable adventures can be found throughout Western Montana, so even if the park is at visitor capacity there’s still plenty of Glacier Country fun to be had. Here are some suggested outside-the-park itineraries.

Family Day Trips on the West Side

Coram, Hungry Horse, Columbia Falls: 10 miles

(Note there will be road construction along this stretch during the 2021 season.)

  • Begin the day by renting bikes at Sky Eco Rentals in Coram and set out to bicycle the 7-mile Gateway to Glacier Trail, which runs from Hungry Horse to West Glacier. 
  • For lunch, head to the Huckleberry Patch in Hungry Horse, where you'll find plenty of options for the whole family at the Patch's Alpine Grill. Choose from burgers (including elk and bison), sandwiches, wraps, salads and finger foods, plus a kids' menu. Top off lunch with Huckleberry pie or a huckleberry shake.
  • Spend a thrilling afternoon in an outdoor funpark like Glacier Ziplines in Columbia Falls, the Amazing Fun Center in Coram, or Glacier Highline, also in Coram. You'll find high-flying adventures, waterparks, pools, go-karts, and more.
  • After a day of outdoor play, make your way to Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls for some finely crafted Montana beer and excellent eats—don't miss the House Pretzels. The kids will love drinking a “fizzy,” created with house-made flavored syrups.

Whitefish

  • Spend the day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Whitefish Mountain is so much more than a winter ski destination. In the summer, take your pick of zipline tours, an aerial adventure park, summer tubing and the alpine slide.
  • Don't miss a ride on the scenic lift for views of Whitefish Lake, the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park.
  • Before you head back down the mountain, settle in at the Summit House—Montana's only mountaintop restaurant. Take in incredible views and delicious food.
  • Take a post-lunch hike back down the mountain on the 3.8-mile Danny On Memorial Hiking Trail, working your appetite back up for dinner back in town at Casey's. Everyone will love the extensive food menu, and the adults will enjoy the well-crafted cocktails.

Bigfork

  • In the storybook village of Bigfork, explore the adorable downtown area. Grab breakfast at Pocketstone Café—the cinnamon rolls are HUGE. Then stop by Mady and Max children's boutique before strolling across the one-lane bridge overlooking the Swan River to Sliter's Park and playground. 
  • Have lunch on The Raven's lakeside deck and enjoy Flathead Lake views as well as a burger or salad, or even the irresistible Montana Yak Meatloaf, which is wrapped in bacon and topped with cherry BBQ sauce.
  • Post lunch, visit Wayfarers State Park nearby—one of many park units in the Flathead Lake State Park system. The rocky cliffs along the shoreline provide excellent views of Flathead Lake. If you're up for it, jump in for a family swim.  Or, gear up for an afternoon paddle on Flathead Lake. Rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards from Base Camp Bigfork.
  • For excellent food and award-winning Montana brews, head to Flathead Lake Brewing Company for dinner at their Pubhouse.

Kalispell

  • Begin the day with a refreshing hike on the trails at Lone Pine State Park, where you'll find fabulous views of the Flathead Valley. On a clear day, you can see Flathead Lake, Big Mountain, the Jewel Basin and Glacier National Park.
  • Now that you've worked up an appetite, grab some lunch at Norm's Soda Fountain—the only old-fashioned soda fountain in the Flathead Valley—and shop the selection of more than 800 kinds of candy. Take note—their motto is “Eat Dessert First.”
  • Spend the afternoon at Woodland Park, Kalispell's oldest city park, and let the kids work off that sugar high at Woodland Water Park.
  • Make it a pizza night at Moose’s Saloon (yes, kids can visit a saloon in Montana). Moose’s has been serving up their world-famous pizza for decades. People come from far and wide to enjoy this legendary pie.

Day Trips on the East Side

There are three entrances to Glacier National Park on the east side—Two Medicine, St. Mary and Many Glacier—however, only the St. Mary entrance accesses the Gong-to-the-Sun Road. The road to the Many Glacier entrance will be under construction in 2021 so expect delays and plan ahead.

Many Glacier to Babb, Browning: 51 Miles

  • Buy a tribal permit and fish Duck Lake for brown, bull and rainbow trout or drive Chief Mountain International Highway for breathtaking views. Please note that you will have to turn around after approximately 20 miles at the Canada border.
  • Have lunch at Two Sisters Cafe in Babb where they serve up hand-made food made with locally sourced ingredients. Don't miss the pie! Afterward, mosey on over to Thronson's General Store.
  • In Browning, visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and get to know the history and culture of the Tribal people of the Northern Plains. Also check out the Lodgepole Gallery and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery. For souvenirs and American-Indian-made finds, shop at Faught's Blackfeet Trading Post and Western Curios.
  • For dinner, head to the Cattle Baron Supper Club in Babb. This rustic, locally-owned steakhouse serves up some seriously mouthwatering steaks.

St. Mary, Babb, Browning: 44 miles

  • Begin the day with a scenic drive along Lower Saint Mary Lake to Babb.
  • Stop in at Thronson's General Store for a warm western welcome and have lunch at Two Sisters Cafe in Babb where you'll find made-from-scratch options using locally sourced ingredients.

  • Post lunch, drive to Browning or East Glacier Park.
    • In Browning, visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and get to know the history and culture of the Tribal people of the Northern Plains. Also check out the Lodgepole Gallery and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery. For souvenirs and American-Indian-made finds, shop at Faught's Blackfeet Trading Post and Western Curios.
    • Explore East Glacier Park by horseback with Glacier Gateway Trail Rides or play a round of golf at the historic and scenic Glacier Park Lodge.
  • At day's end, pull up a chair at Johnson's of Saint Mary in St. Mary where everything is homemade and everything is delicious.

East Glacier Park, Browning: 13.5 miles

  • Explore East Glacier Park by horseback with Glacier Gateway Trail Rides or play a round of golf at the historic and scenic Glacier Park Lodge.
  • From there, drive to Browning, but on your way stop at the viewing area on U.S. Highway 2 to look for free-roaming bison on the Blackfeet Nation Bison Reserve.
  • In Browning, visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and get to know the history and culture of the Tribal people of the Northern Plains. Also check out the Lodgepole Gallery and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery. For souvenirs and American-Indian-made finds, shop at Faught's Blackfeet Trading Post and Western Curios.
  • Plan on dinner at Serrano's Mexican Restaurant in East Glacier Park, or drive south on U.S. Highway 2 for an unforgettable steak dinner at Summit Mountain Lodge & Steakhouse.

Cut Bank

  • Begin your day with a hike along the scenic Cut Bank Creek Coulee via the Cut Bank Trail System.
  • Then explore downtown Cut Bank and keep an eye out for the murals that commemorate the town's history. Time your visit to coincide with the Wednesday afternoon farmers market.
  • Fuel up at Folklore Coffee inside Rose Petal Floral and dive into the past at the Glacier County Historical Museum and Archive.
  • Cool off at the Cut Bank Creek Brewery, touting good people, good beer and good life. In addition to tasty Montana microbrews, you'll find The Messy Apron food truck on-site.
  • Don't leave Cut Bank without hamming it up for a selfie beside Cut Bank's 27-foot-tall penguin.

Adult Day Trips on the West Side

West Glacier, Columbia Falls: 19 miles

(Note there will be road construction along this stretch during the 2021 season.)

Whitefish

  • Rent bikes from Glacier Cyclery & Nordic and pedal the Whitefish Trail or rent stand-up paddleboards from Paddlefish Sports and paddle Whitefish Lake. 
  • For lunch, make your way to Bonsai Brewing Project's outdoor beer garden. Their menu consists of thoughtfully house-made comfort food and small-batch brews like the Oh Snap! Sour Golden Ale. 
  • Next up, get your shop on in downtown Whitefish, where you'll find quaint boutiques and specialty stores. Seek out items made by local farmers and artists.
  • For dinner, you can't go wrong at Abruzzo Italian Kitchen. This Whitefish gem serves the kind of authentic Italian pizza you want to pair your wine with and their scratch pasta is incredible. We recommend the Carbonara pizza or the Wild Boar Ragu.
  • Close out the evening with some live entertainment—take in a show at Alpine Theatre Project or Whitefish Theatre. 

Bigfork

  • Explore this charming storybook village on the northeast corner of Flathead Lake. Downtown Bigfork is known for its shops and art galleries. Or, hike Mount Aeneas, the highest peak in the Flathead National Forest. It's a 6.3-mile round trip, so plan accordingly and enjoy the views.
  • You'll need a hearty meal after that hike, so head to Echo Lake Cafe where they serve lunch and breakfast all day.
  • After you've filled up, rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards from Base Camp Bigfork and spend the afternoon paddling Flathead Lake, taking in the sparkling water, warm sunshine and epic views.
  • Cap off your day with drinks at Whistling Andy Distillery and have dinner at Bonfire, where you'll choose from entrées like braised bison short ribs and smoked rainbow trout.

Kalispell

  • Gear up for a morning bike ride. Rent a mountain bike from Sportsman Ski Haus and ride the trails in the Foys to Blacktail Trails system. You'll find multiple routes to choose from.
  • Unwind with lunch and beers on the rooftop patio at Kalispell Brewing Company overlooking historic downtown Kalispell with views of the Swan Mountains. The Handle Brews food truck is parked right outside and their flatbread sandwiches are delicious.
  • Saddle up for an authentic Montana horseback ride in the Flathead National Forest with Artemis Acres Paint Horse Ranch.
  • Post ride, wind down with a winery tour. Kalispell boasts four wineries: Glacier Sun Winery, MontaVino Winery, Tailing Loop Winery and Waters Edge Winery & Bistro—a full-production urban micro-winery sourcing grapes from the finest growing regions on the planet.

Flathead Lake Loop: 104 miles

  • Start the day off right with a farm-to-table breakfast at The Knead Café in Kalispell. You'll find classics like eggs Benedict, vegetarian-friendly options like the veggie frittata and sweet treats like pecan-crusted pancakes.
  • Explore the storybook village of Bigfork situated at the northeastern corner of Flathead Lake. Here you'll find a quaint downtown with eclectic shops and multiple art galleries.
  • Have lunch at Mrs. Wonderful's Café in Polson, where you'll find locally grown organic menu options, organic baked goods and handmade gourmet products.
  • Spend your afternoon one of three ways: Explore downtown Polson and relax on one of several beaches in this charming little community; from Lakeside, take a boat cruise on Flathead Lake with Far West Boat Tours; from Somers, rent stand-up paddleboards from Paddle Board Outfitters and cruise around the lake.
  • Make your way back to Kalispell for dinner at SunRift Beer Company. No matter what you eat for dinner—we recommend The Cow Tipper sandwich with beer gravy—start with the Beer Biscuits, also with beer gravy.
Recreate Responsibly Plan Ahead, Play it Safe, and Leave No Trace.
News from Glacier National Park Currently, 50 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.

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