A fall trip to Whitefish.
One crisp morning, you look up at the surrounding mountaintops and notice something new: a fresh dusting of autumn snow. For some it can’t come soon enough, but others look for ways to postpone the inevitable. Because just as surely as snow is white, so too will it fly as the season wanes on. Though we can’t run from it forever, there are some particularly pleasant places to enjoy the peace and solitude that autumn achieves. Whitefish is one of those places.
Like other vacation destinations in Montana, tourism in Whitefish slows down at the end of the summer. That leaves most of the fun and games for locals, or astute tourists in the know. Whitefish also has some of the best fall colors in Montana. What better way to spend the fleeting days of fall by chasing the ever-elusive foliage? Whether you like to hike, drive, or ride, there are plenty of ways to experience the best Whitefish has to offer.
First things first: hiking and camping in the fall can be complicated. For gear and advice, drop by the Fohloh shop in Whitefish. They’ve got everything you need feel comfortable on the trail and at the campground. Make sure you’re equipped for big swings in temperature from day to night, and even one moment to the next. You’ll want base layers and versatile jackets to swap between as the weather dictates.
Now that we’ve got that covered, you’re ready to get settled in. Camping is always great, but can be especially tough this time of year. Hotels and lodges are luxurious, but you lose the intimacy with your surroundings. Cue Baseglamp—the perfect middle-ground between closeness with nature and comfortable amenities.
Hit the Trails
If you’re staying at Baseglamp, Lupfer Trailhead is right around corner. This is a solid warm-up hike to get a lay of the land. You’ll get a nice overlook and great views of the surrounding area. Glacier View Mountain is another nearby hike, with a spectacular vantage of the valley. Towards Firebrand Pass, you’ll find many trails leading into Glacier National Park.
Hit the Saddle
Had enough hiking for the weekend? Give your legs a rest and take to the trails on horseback at the Bar W Guest Ranch. Experienced riders and complete novices alike can tag along with expert guides to see the landscape in a whole new way. Located right at the foot of Spencer Mountain, Bar W is in the heart of the most beautiful terrain Whitefish has to offer. Explore the lush mountain forest through tall larch trees on singletrack trails.
Hit the Road
Time to get real settled in as you drive one of the most scenic roads around. Going to the Sun Road is renowned for its breathtaking views and access to Glacier National Park’s higher reaches. In the summer, cars line up bumper-to-bumper just to get a glimpse of the epic landscape that makes Glacier so famous. But this time of year, you have a much better chance at seclusion. Just be sure to keep an eye on the weather when planning your drive. Conditions often change on a dime, which can lead to dangerous conditions and road closures. Typically, the road stays open through October (however, in 2022, the road will close on October 1 for construction). If you'd rather just sit back and enjoy the ride, without worrying about logistics or the driving itself, check out Sun Tours. They offer daily interpretive tours on Blackfeet culture along Going to the Sun Road—land that is part of the Blackfeet's ancestral territory—along with private tours.
Hit the Town
You’ve earned a nice, relaxing evening after some long days out on the trail. There are plenty of great places around the area in which to kick back and get a taste of the local fare. One such place is Glacier Distilling’s tasting room, just out of town. Their spirits stand chin-to-chin with the best. I recommend you try the Trapline Rock & Rye. The orange spice is sure to remind you of the changing colors you saw earlier in the day.
So what do you say? Whether you want to hold onto the season a bit longer, or you’re just looking for a unique road-trip this fall, make your way up to Whitefish before the snow flies.
Like most beautiful mountain towns, Whitefish is being loved to death. With the increased traffic, wear and tear is inevitable—but we can each do our part to minimize our impacts by simply being mindful of our surroundings. Explore Whitefish has created the Friend of the Fish Campaign to ensure the town operates sustainably. Give their checklist a run through to see how you can help preserve one of Montana's best places.