The Flathead Valley lies in the heart of the Rocky Mountains between the Salish Mountains to the west, and the Whitefish, Swan and Mission Ranges, rising eastward to the continental divide. These are no gentle inclines, but sudden, towering slopes that provide a very definite sense of place for the townships below. The valley floor sits at an elevation of 3,000 feet, while the tallest mountain peak soars to about 10,000 feet on the eastern flank.
Despite its elevation and latitude, the climate is considered mild. The high mountains on all sides protect the valley from harsh weather. The numerous lakes also keep temperatures moderate in summer and winter. As the summer and fall are modestly dry, the winter and spring are reasonably wet. Summer temperatures range from the 70’s to the 90’s. In the winter, temperatures usually linger around the 20s and 30s.
The Flathead Valley is the western gateway to Glacier Park, one of the jewels in the crown of the National Park system. There’s nothing better than exploring the natural splendor and the spectacular beauty of Glacier National Park on foot. Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road serves as a 52-mile trailhead for more than 700 miles of groomed hiking trails. But that’s not all. From nature trails to national and state forests, the Flathead Valley offers hiking options for every age and ability. Enjoy seeing snow-capped peaks, alpine lakes, lush forests, and a bounty of wildlife while you explore the great outdoors. The valley also lies adjacent to more than 1.7 million acres of federal wilderness in the form of the Great Bear – Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. In fact, the Flathead Valley is surrounded by wilderness areas totaling the combined size of Vermont. Other outdoor highlights include the National Bison Range and the Jewel Basin Hiking Area.
To the North is Whitefish Mountain Resort at Big Mountain. Big Mountain is known for its quality skiing on fresh powder and biking/hiking in the summer. Blacktail Ski Area lies farther south just to the west of Flathead Lake. Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, is also among the cleanest large lakes – perfect for sailing, cruising, swimming, and fishing.
Conditions on the rivers and lakes of the Flathead Valley range from the placid water of Ashley Creek to raging whitewater. Among the popular whitewater runs are the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near West Glacier, and the North Fork of the Flathead River north of Columbia Falls.
Fishermen love the Flathead Valley too! Flathead Lake and the three forks of the Flathead River are well known. However, there are also smaller lakes and streams just waiting for your boat, fly or lure.
The Valley boasts eight championship golf courses offering a season from April through October. Publicly owned courses feature impressive log cabin clubhouses built 50 years ago by Depression-era loggers under the direction of the federal Works Project Administration. Within the Valley area you will also find 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, world class hunting, indoor and outdoor tennis, swimming and health facilities.
The Valley is not just the Valhalla of sport enthusiasts. Flathead has more than its share of creative types who have found in the Valley an environment and community conducive to creating works of art. Their work can be seen in studios, galleries and other outlets throughout the Valley, particularly in Bigfork, Kalispell and Whitefish. Other cultural highlights include The Bigfork Summer Play house offering professional theater all summer, and the Whitefish Theater Company fostering a professional standard of excellence in the theater arts.
Hike the backcountry, camp, fish, raft, bike, ski, mountain climb, sail, ride horses, boat or just plain sightsee and eat great food. You won’t find a better place to enjoy outdoor recreation and splendor anywhere.