Post Summary: The best things to do in Whitefish, Montana in the winter, and a quick guide to planning a Whitefish winter getaway.
Looking to delight in a winter wonderland without the crowds and hassle of other popular winter towns? Whitefish, Montana in winter is where your powder-loving heart needs to go.
Located in Northwest Montana, this snowy enclave averages 73 inches of snow a year, so it stands to reason that visiting Whitefish in winter means time spent playing in the snow. That’s not all there is to do! There are plenty of other fun Whitefish winter activities that don’t include cold snow. Dining on elk sliders? An alpine arnica deep tissue massage?
But if you do love snow…you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re snowshoeing in Glacier National Park, dog sledding in the Stillwater State Forest, or ice climbing up Bad Rock Canyon, your winter love affair will be complete in Whitefish, Montana.
Here’s our list of 12 fun and adventurous things to do in Whitefish in the winter.
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A QUICK GUIDE TO WHITEFISH, MONTANA IN WINTER
Before you hit the slopes or snowshoe the trails, here’s a rundown of essential things to know about Whitefish, Montana in winter.
HOW TO GET TO WHITEFISH
Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is the closest airport to Whitefish. Located in Kalispell, Montana, it’s an easy 15-minute drive to Whitefish, Montana. While it’s possible to do buses and private tours as a mode of transportation, a car rental is best, especially if you’ll be doing excursions outside of Whitefish like dog sledding or Glacier National Park. Car rentals are available at Glacier Park Airport.
Another option is to arrive by train on Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Two daily stops into Whitefish drop you off in the center of town and are a good option for those traveling from Chicago, Portland, and Seattle.
WHERE TO STAY IN WHITEFISH, MONTANA IN WINTER
There are a lot of fantastic places to stay in Whitefish in winter. If you’re looking for a winter resort experience, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is a beautiful hotel with on-site restaurants, a spa, rentals, a pool, a hot tub, and activities for guests. They also offer condos for anyone who wants a kitchen while they stay.
If you want something in the heart of downtown, The Firebrand is the sister hotel to The Lodge and is a sleek, modern hotel conveniently located in Downtown, Whitefish.
A more affordable option is to stay outside downtown Whitefish at the Mariott’s TownPlace Suites. It’s a five-minute drive to downtown and slightly closer to Glacier National Park. We enjoyed our time there and chose it because we like to collect points with the Mariott Bonvoy program. Every room has a kitchen, making it an excellent choice for families or travelers looking to reduce costs. We also enjoyed the heated pool and hot tub!
A home rental is another great choice of where to stay in Whitefish in winter. It allows for more privacy and can be cheaper than a hotel, especially if you are traveling in a group or will cook your own meals. Check out these cute home rentals in Whitefish below:
- Montana Condo: (One bedroom, sleeps 4, walking distance to shops and restaurants)
- Downtown Whitefish Penthouse: (Two bedrooms, sleeps 6, walking distance to Downtown)
- Spring Creek At The Quarry:(3 bedrooms, sleeps 10, hot tub, 1 day lift ticket included, garage, bunk beds)
You can also search here to find VRBO’s in Whitefish that fit your specific needs.
THINGS TO DO IN WHITEFISH IN WINTER
Get your snow pants out because it’s time to enjoy what makes Whitefish an incredible winter destination. Here’s our pick for twelve awesome things to do in Whitefish, Montana in winter.
1. Whitefish Mountain Resort
For anyone who loves skiing or snowboarding, first up will be exploring one of the best ski resorts in Montana. With 300 inches of annual snowfall and 3000 acres of skiable terrain, this low-key ski resort is a gem in a sea of crowded resorts. Located 15 minutes from downtown, getting to Whitefish Mountain Resort is a breeze. The day we visited, the crowds were modest, and there was ample space to enjoy yourself. Of course, it goes without saying if you’re visiting during the winter holidays or the winter carnival, that might not be the case. Overall, it’s an under-the-radar resort that offers fantastic skiing. Enjoy it while you can!
TIP: If you don’t want to deal with parking, a free S.N.O.W shuttle takes you back and forth between Whitefish and the resort multiple times a day. It operates from 7 AM To 11 PM every day. You can view the full schedule HERE.
2. Cross Country Skiing
The Glacier Nordic Center is a fantastic ski area for cross-country enthusiasts. Serving the local community, visitors to the area can buy a day pass and rent skis. Located at the Lake Golf Course, it’s for skiers only, so you’ll have nicely groomed trails with no foot traffic obstructing your path. Here’s a map of the trails that also includes the daily pass fee.
Glacier Nordic Club also manages the Big Mountain Trails, a big terrain of trails that offers beautiful cedar groves and stellar views of the mountains and Whitefish Lake. This section does not have a fee. We stuck to the easier routes, but there are many excellent trails for intermediate to advanced skiers.
One of the top winter activities in Whitefish for non-skiers is to don some snowshoes for a brisk winter hike. It’s a fun choice for families traveling with young kids who might not be ready for a full day of skiing. We went snowshoeing on the Big Mountain Trails and stuck to the easy trails, although we did manage to snowshoe out to The Overlook with a four-year-old. In general, the trails are best for older kids. Parking is available at the Big Mountain Trailhead. Here’s a map of the trails in the area.
If you’re looking for gentler snowshoeing trails, the trails at Round Meadow in the Flathead National Forest offer easier options. You can get directions and a map here.
TIP: If you don’t have your own cross-country skis or snowshoes, there are numerous spots in Whitefish that offer rentals. Your hotel might even provide free snowshoes!
4. Explore Downtown Whitefish
A trip to Whitefish needs to include some time exploring the cute downtown area of Whitefish. You’ll find everything from cute bakeries, art galleries, Montana-inspired clothing, jewelry designers, coffee shops, and specialty stores. If you love food, you’ll want to check out Trovare, a boutique store showcasing a fantastic selection of gourmet foods. We loved sampling from their wall of olive oils and balsamic vinegar from the Montana brand Olivelle. I couldn’t leave without buying the Anjou Pear Balsamic and the Black Garlic Tamari Balsamic.
The highlight of our time in Whitefish was hands down dogsledding. We opted for Dog Sled Adventures because it’s family-friendly, and any age can participate. That doesn’t mean it’s low on adventure, though! The tour is about an hour and a half and takes you on a magical 12-mile ride through the Stillwater State Forest. The ride is simultaneously thrilling and serene as the dogs glide you through snow-drenched cedars, and every once in a while, you hear the low growl of the musher yelling, “GOOD DOG!” The owner, Jeff, has been mushing since 1979, and it’s clear he’s a passionate dog lover. Nearly all of the 200+ dogs that call the doghouse home are rescue dogs.
Another option is Winter Woods Dog Sled Tours. They are a smaller operation and only allow ages 12 and up. Unlike Dog Sled Adventures, it’s a more physically challenging experience since you won’t be sitting in the sled but standing up and helping to drive.
6. Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride
For a truly magical winter wonderland experience, you’ll want to visit the Bar W Guest Ranch to go on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow. It’s a 45-minute ride with hot chocolate and cookies offered at the end—a perfect Whitefish winter activity for families or the young at heart.
7. Fat Tire Biking
Biking in the snow? Yup. A fat tire bike is essentially an off-road bike with oversized tires that can handle unstable terrains like sand, mud, and snow. You can rent fat bikes from Glacier Cyclery where they can help guide you to the best trails for your ability. The Whitefish Bike Retreat is a trailside lodge that is a haven and community for biking enthusiasts. If you don’t plan to stay at the lodge, they also allow for day use of their groomed trails. You can also rent fat tire bikes from them.
Whizzing through the backcountry trails of Montana on a snowmobile is something every adventure-loving person needs to try once. With over 2,000 miles of Forest Service roads and over 200 miles of groomed trails, there are plenty of spots to explore on a snowmobile. If you’ve never been snowmobiling, we highly recommend you do a tour with someone who knows the area and can safely guide you. Action Rentals offers tours that leave from their Olney, Montana (20 minutes from Whitefish) office. You can read reviews and buy the tour here. They also offer straight rentals for anyone who prefers to go alone.
9. Ice Climbing
One of the coolest and most unique things to do in Whitefish in winter is without a doubt ice climbing! Whether you’ve never done it before or are looking to improve your skills, Whitefish Vertical Adventures is the place to go for ice-climbing adventures in Whitefish. Bad Rock Canyon is a half-day tour that includes scaling a 30-40 foot ice climb. A great option for anyone who also wants to visit the nearby Glacier National Park on the same day.
10. Dine on Montana Cuisine
For a small town, Whitefish offers a great assortment of restaurants and casual eateries. For some local flavor, you’ll want to look for places serving huckleberry, elk, or Rocky Mountain Rainbow Trout. Head to Tupelo Grille, a mainstay in the Whitefish food scene, and try their Elk Meatloaf with roasted garlic whipped potatoes, a huckleberry demi-glace, and crispy onion rings. For breakfast lovers, Loula’s, located in the Historic Masonic temple building in downtown Whitefish is the place to go. Make sure to leave room for pie or there Lemon Stuffed French Toast, topped with sweet raspberry sauce.
11. Visit Glacier National Park
Located 26 miles away from Whitefish is one of the best National Parks in the West. While most people visit in the summer, Glacier National Park in the winter is a sight to behold. While a day trip is enough to get a feel for the park, winter-loving adventurers will love gazing at Lake Mcdonald and exploring the empty park for a couple of days. The park is a fantastic place to go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or winter hiking.
READ NEXT: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO VISITING GLACIER NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER
12. Spa Rejuvenation Time
After a few days of winter hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing, you might be ready for a spa treatment. While I didn’t end up getting a treatment, after our third day of hiking, I kept thinking, NOW would be a good time for a massage and sauna. The Spa at Whitefish Lake is a retreat-like spa that offers everything from facials, body scrubs, and massages. With your treatment comes day use of their outdoor hot tub overlooking the lake.
BONUS: Whitefish Winter Festival
Every February, Whitefish celebrates with a big Winter Carnival that takes over the city. One of the biggest events of the winter, various activities include a polar plunge, live music, snow sculptures, a parade, and more. It’s a family-friendly three-day party that celebrates the community and winter. If you plan to attend the winter carnival, it’s best to get your lodging in advance.
That’s our list of the best things to do in Whitefish, Montana in winter. Enjoy your time in gorgeous Montana!
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