America's Best Trail Towns: Whitefish, MT

Hike to a giant stone wall, and take a dip afterward.
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Hike to a giant stone wall, and take a dip afterward.
trail towns

Glacier National Park (pictured: Bowman Lake) sits just north of town. Photo by Chuck Haney

Take everything that makes Montana awesome—saw-edge peaks, huckleberry-covered slopes, expansive lakes, and grizzlies galore—toss it into one contiguous wilderness, and you have the backpacker dreamland of Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. A backyard like that draws the royalty of the outdoors. “The depth of experience is very high here,” says local Dave Chenault. “You go to the brewery and the person sitting next to you is a former national champion mountain bike racer.” For all its star power, Whitefish remains a down-to-earth mountain community. “It’s a great place to have a beer and listen to music—it’s not this fake ski town,” says resident Kellsey Perkins.

Why You’re Here “The Bob,” as Montanans call the vast Bob Marshall Wilderness, is a million acres packed with giant rivers, steep cliffs, and layer-cake peaks—and its centerpiece is the Chinese Wall, a 1,000-foot-high, 22-mile-long stone escarpment. You could beeline it straight there, but you’re in the Bob: Stop and smell the beargrass. The 115-mile, 8-day traverse from Lion Creek to Swift Reservoir Campground gives you a taste of the Bob and an off-trail hike to the top of the wall. Trailhead Lion Creek Permit None Contact

On the Town

PERK Montana Coffee Traders deals in bocadillos (toasted wraps filled with eggs, veggies, and various meats), muffins, and organic coffee. 110 Central Ave

PUB Great Northern Bar and Grill is a neighborhood hangout with old trail signs on the walls, Montana beers on tap, and friendly locals on the next stool over. “Here, you can go out solo and have zero problem meeting people,” Perkins says. 27 Central Ave.

TREAT Sweet Peaks turns milk from Montana cows into creative ice cream flavors like lemon dill and banana cayenne. 419 ½ Third St.

SEE Take a dip in Whitefish Lake from City Beach on the lake’s southern shore. 70 Lakeside Blvd.