Kalispell is one of the most beautiful places in America. It is located in the northwestern part of Montana, only a few hours from the Canadian border. It’s the largest city in the northwestern part of the state, having a population of ~24K as of 2018. After years spent visiting the area, my husband and I decided to make Kalispell our home. The following information is provided for those of you considering a move here. Here’s why this is such an amazing spot.
The word Kalispell is a Salish word meaning the “flat land above the lake” which of course refers to Flathead Lake. Flathead Lake is 30 miles long and nearly 15 miles wide. It is the largest freshwater lake in the western United States. The lake boasts 160 miles of shoreline, 200 square miles of water, and is 300 feet of depth in some places. The Flathead River and Swan River feed the lake all year long.
The area is a great spot for boating, fishing, sunbathing, picnicking and special events. For example, in 2012, the first Dragon Boat Festival was held. This is a race with 22-person boats who complete a 200 or 500-meter race to raise money for charities. In the 2012 event, 3,000 people were in attendance. The Dragon Boat Festival is now held annually, although the location of the race has changed from Lakeside to Big Fork. Having personally attended the festival in 2019 (overview available here) I can attest that it is a wonderful way to spend a September weekend.
Another Flathead Lake attraction is Wild Horse Island, which is a 2,000 acre state park only accessible by boat. History indicates the Salish-Kootenai Indians used the island to pasture their horses and keep them from being stolen by other tribes. The park is now used by hikers, swimmers, bird-watchers and photographers, to name a few. Only day-use is allowed. The park has bighorn sheep, birds, waterfowl, mule deer, falcons, bald eagles and of course wild horses.
There are also parks located around the lake for swimming, picnicking and camping. Please note, most have seasonal camping so make sure to check with the park first prior to making plans to visit.
- The Wayfarer’s State Park is located in the BigFork area. This 67 acre park provides nature walks, campsites, tent pads, a boat launch, playground, grills and swimming, to name a few options. The beach front is a bit rocky, so bring something to lay on if you are planning to get some sun.
- West Shore State Park is located on the west side of Flathead Lake, south of the town of Lakeside. As with Wayfarers Park, this park is great for swimming, boating, fishing and camping. Kayaking rentals are available from Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours during the late spring and summer. Seasonal camping is available. There are 31 campsites, including 7 for tents. The shoreline of this park is rocky as well. There is also a relatively short trail system in the park which has a few steep sections but is mostly an easy walk.
- Big Arm State Park is located on the southwestern part of Flathead Lake. This 217 acre park has a pebble beach for sunbathing and swimming. There is a 2.5 hiking trail with views of surrounding mountains. In addition, this park provides opportunities for boating, swimming, bicycling, water-skiing, fishing for lake trout, camping and more. The campground includes 41 campsites and three yurts.
- On the southern part of Flathead Lake, near Polson, is Boettcher Park. The park has a children’s playground, three covered areas with tables, a dock, swimming area, restrooms and an outdoor cafe.
- Flathead Lake State Park is located on Finley Point on the southern side of Flathead Lake. This 28 acre park provides swimming, boating, hiking, and camping for 18 RVs and 4 boat camping slips with electricity, 12 boat slips with no electricity and 7 tent sites. The fishing for lake trout and lake superior whitefish is supposed to be excellent.
- Yellow Bay State Park is a 15 acre park on the eastern side of Flathead Lake. The eastern side of the lake also has a large area of the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge, with small towns. Therefore, this park might be less crowded than some of the parks near on the western shores (please note, this is this author’s opinion, not a fact!) At the Yellow Bay park, you can find fishing, boating, 5 tent campsites and swimming. If you are interested in fishing, you would need to obtain a joint state/tribal fishing license first.
Enjoying the Outdoors
Whenever someone mentions Montana, the first thing most people think of is the great outdoors. Montana is a treasure trove of outside activities including hiking, downhill skiing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, skating, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, all kinds of events, and more. Here are a few highlights:
There is no way to share information about every single possibility for hiking in the Kalispell area. The Salish Mountains to the west of Kalispell and the Swan Range to the east both provide almost-countless opportunities for hiking. Here are just a few highlights:
In the Swan Range, the Jewel Basin is a popular site for hikers. This area has over 15,000 acres, 35 miles of trails and 27 lakes. Motorized vehicles and horses are not allowed in the area. I can personally attest that the hiking in this area is amazing. Some of the trails get very little traffic and are somewhat overgrown. You could walk miles on a weekday and not see another person. Other times, you may run into some hikers or bikers and can trade some thoughts about the trails. And the views! The above photo was taken during a hike to the Twin Lakes area of Jewel Basin several years ago. This year I had the pleasure to try a different Jewel Basin hike, this time to Birch Lake. Details of the road into the hiking area, and information regarding the Birch Lake hike can be found here. And a map of the Jewel Basin can be found here. This is a great place to explore!
Also in the Swan Range is Alpine Trail #7. This is a 54 mile-long trail that starts at Columbia Mountain, which is east of Columbia Falls. It passes through the Jewel Basin, and ends at Inspiration Point, a 7,552 summit which is located near the southern end of Flathead Lake.
In the Salish Mountains, there are more than 4,000 square miles of forests, hills and mountains. The mountains in this range are not as high as those found in the Eastern part of the area. If you are interested in climbing, the Stone Hill Rock Climbing Area provides over 300 climbing routes. In terms of hiking, there are multiple hiking trails in the Salish Mountain Range. Trailheads are located at Ashley Peak, Lupine, Blacktail, Wild Bill, Elk Mountain and more. One park, only minutes from the center of Kalispell is Herron Park. I was able to explore the park in 2019 and more information can be found here. The best way to find trails in the Salish area is to purchase a Kootenai and East Half Kaniksu National Forests map.
An important note on hiking in the Montana area. Bear spray is a “must.” The spray can be purchased in many locations in and around Kalispell. Check with sporting stores first (Cabelas, REI, Sportsman & Ski Haus). And when you buy the bear spray, make sure to read the directions and know how to use it, and don’t forget to make sure it’s easily accessible. Bears run fast!
Also, don’t forget to bring a lot of water. Even when it’s cool, the air is dry and you need to ensure you hydrate often.
Hiking can be done almost year round, but winter’s special activity is skiing. The area includes opportunities for both downhill and cross-country skiing. The two ski areas closest to Kalispell are Whitefish and Blacktail Mountain. Whitefish Mountain Resort is about a 45 minute drive from Kalispell, and the Blacktail Mountain Ski area is about an hour away.
Whitefish has 105 marked ski trails, bowl and tree skiing, and covers 3,000 acres. On average, the Whitefish area gets about 333 inches of snow per year. They have 11 chairlifts and several T-Bars. In the summer, the area provides mountain biking trails. The Glacier Nordic Club provides cross-country skiing opportunities in the Whitefish ski area.
Blacktail Mountain provides views of Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park and several mountain ranges. The 1,000 acre area gets about 250 inches of snow per year. Blacktail Mountain also offers cross-country trails. The trailhead and parking area for cross-country are located approximately 8 miles up from route 93. The trails are groomed between December 1st and March 31st seven days a week. If using the trails between those dates, you must use cross-country skis. No snowshoes, snow bikes or vehicles are allowed.
Thoughts of Montana aren’t complete without thinking of riding a horse through the country side. There are several options for horseback riding in the Kalispell area. An Internet search may provide more, but a few options follow.
Artemis Acres Paint Horse Guest Ranch is located at 610 Patrick Creek Road. The ranch has eighty acres of their own, but also has access to hundreds of timber company acres providing miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. In addition, their trails also connect with thousands of acres of Forest Service land. The ranch has a few bed and breakfast rooms available as well, with traditional western food: hearty breakfasts, picnic lunches and barbecued meat with trimmings for dinner. The ranch also offers BBQs in the summer, with live music and entertainment. I’ve been to them, and admit they are a fun way to spend an evening!
Lonesome Dove Guest Ranch is located at 1805 Haywire Gulch. They offer bed and breakfast facilities, as well as allowing riders to bring their own horses if desired.
Fishing and Hunting
I am definitely not an expert in the areas of hunting and fishing personally, but know plenty of people who are! Here is what I can share.
Regardless of whether you prefer lake fishing or stream fishing, you can find it near Kalispell.
Some of the options for lake fishing include Bull Lake, the Chain Lakes, Jewel Basin lakes, Koocanusa Reservoir, Lake Koocanusa, Lion Lake, Lupine Lake, the North End Lakes, Noxon Rapids Reservoir, Sylvia Lake, Tally Lake and the Wilderness Lakes. The type of fish in each varies. You can find westslope cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon, bass, perch, bull trout, rainbow trout, lake trout and pike, to name a few. If stream fishing is more your style, the Kootenai River and the North, South and Middle forks of the Flathead River can provide days of fishing fun. More details on all these options can be found at the Go-Montana website.
Because fishing is such a popular Kalispell area activity, there are plenty of Outfitters and Fishing Guide companies in the area that can help you get out on the water. Whether you envision floating down a river in a drift boat with pole in hand on a sunny afternoon, wading into a stream with your freshly made or purchased fly fishing lures, or heading into the lake on a fishing charter boat, there are choices for you! A quick online search will provide many options.
While the exact dates can change from year to year, sometime in early September archery season for big game starts. General hunting for black bears and wolves follows in mid-September, and the general season for deer and elk in mid to later October. The general season usually goes to late November, and there can also be some youth-only days prior to the start of general season.
In Montana, many species can be hunted with proper approval. Hunting for white trail deer, mule deer, black bear, elk, wolves, mountain lions and game birds are all possible. Also antelope, big horn sheep, bison, moose, mountain goat and turkey.
Hunting in Montana, as with many other states, requires that hunters are licensed and have the proper tags. If a black bear tag is requested, hunters must also pass a bear identification test that proves they know the difference between black bear and grizzlies, since the latter cannot be hunted. Also, resident and non-resident license costs can vary dramatically (for example, $125 for a resident versus $1250 for a non-resident).
The other things to keep in mind in Montana is hunting requires vigilance for bears. Hunt with a buddy and keep an eye out when finding carcasses. Also, hunting on private land is only doable if the landowner provides consent. For more information on hunting in Montana, see the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website.
Kalispell MT Places to Live
One of the most interesting things about the Kalispell MT area is the variety of choices for homes. If you want an off-the-grid cabin in a remote forest location, you can have that. If you are interested in living in a brand new ranch home on a golf course or a five bedroom two-story home in the valley, you can do that as well. There are condominiums, rental homes, ranches, log homes, and even vacant land for new construction projects. You can also live in a specific community if you desire. A few of the Kalispell communities are highlighted below, but there are many more options available. (Future site of link to Kalispell Homes for Sale – planned for October 2019.)
East Valley Estates can be found east of Kalispell. If taking route 35 from Kalispell towards Big Fork, East Valley Estates is about 4 miles east of the route 35 and route 2 intersection. Between the Phase I and Phase II developments, there are 45 homes in the community. Homes were built, starting in 2006 and there are still a few available parcels (as of this writing in September 2019). Each ranch home has between 1/2 to nearly 2 acres of property. The area includes gorgeous views of the mountains. The homes can be found on McWenneger Drive, Aeneas View Dr, Snowcrest Court, Montford Way. More information and current listings can be found here.
Glacier Commons is located on the northern part of town, convenient to all major shopping, the Kalispell medical center and community college. The 82 homes are all relatively new and range in size from 2,200 square feet to over 5,000. Click here for more information and current listings.
Silverbrook Estates is located on the north end of Kalispell near Stillwater River. The community will include Riverside South (83 homesites), Creekside South (181 homesites) and the Cottages (41 homesites). The area will include a clubhouse, pool, fitness center, basketball and tennis courts and walking paths. More information and current listings can be found here.
Stillwater Estates is located on the northern part of Kalispell. The 128 homes sites offer mature landscaping, some mountain views and an HOA. The location is also in close proximity to all Kalispell’s shopping and restaurants. For more information and current Stillwater Estate listings, click here.
Village Greens is a community in Kalispell MT that provides golf-course living (Village Greens Golf Club). Homes range in size from 936 to 2810 square feet, and include both single family homes and townhouses. Some of the homes are right on the Flathead River, and there are still some lots available for new homes. More information can be found (link to be provided shortly).
West View Estates is a development of single family homes located in the north valley of Kalispell with views of the Swan Mountains and convenient to everything. This community is still being built at the time of this writing, so home buyers can purchase a brand new home. There are monthly HOA fees. More information and current listings can be found here.
Whitetail Meadows is a community nestled at the bottom of Swan Mountains east of Kalispell. Homes have five acres of land to enjoy, many options to enjoy the great outdoors, and is only 20 minutes from the center of Kalispell. For more information and current listings, click here.
Links to the above communities, as well as to other developments will be added over the next few months.
Living in Kalispell MT
Once you’ve purchased your new home in Kalispell MT, there are so many additional things to know such as how to dispose of garbage, where to get your news, where to grocery shop and the like. Following are answers to some of those questions.
How do I dispose of garbage/recycling materials in Kalispell MT?
Glass items can be delivered to New World Recycling, located at 3452 Hwy 93 South, Building 4. New World Recycling will also make arrangements to pick up your aluminum, paper, cardboard and glass items. As of January 2019, the fee was $12 – 17.50 based on a monthly pickup.
Valley Recycling is another option, located at 1410 Highway 2 West. They are open Monday-Friday only from 7:30am to 4:30pm. Several drop off sites can be found on their website. Valley Recycling accepts non-waxy cardboard, newspaper, office paper, magazines, shredded paper, aluminum cans, aluminum foil and aluminum pie dishes.
The Flathead County Landfill site is located at 4098 Highway 93 North in Kalispell. You can bring items such as construction debris, appliances, refuse, used motor oil, brush and yard waste to this site. They will also retrieve junked vehicles. Household Hazardous waste can also be delivered to the landfill site, but only on every third Saturday and registration is required. Also, four passenger vehicle tires per year can be delivered at no charge, and more can be dropped off with a small fee.
Your household garbage can be delivered to various drop off sites as indicated in the Flathead County Solid Waste link provided here. You can put Latex paint in the regular garbage as long as it is hardened. If it isn’t, it will be accepted once cat litter or sand or sawdust is added to absorb the moisture.
Where can I get my news?
There are several local newspapers which are online and can help you get acquainted with the area before you move here. Once you are here, you can arrange for delivery of the actual paper if you so desire. The first is the Flathead Beacon which is published in Kalispell and covers news from Northwest Montana. In addition to their reporting of news, events, outdoors and arts and entertainment, the publication includes a sometimes humorous view of the police blotter. This is a free weekly paper which is available at newspaper racks. If you want it delivered, it’s $5.00 per issue with a six month minimum subscription.
A daily source of information about the area is the Daily Inter Lake, which is also published in Kalispell. In addition to local news, sports and classifieds, this paper also includes a section called “The Best of the Flathead” which highlights restaurants, places to stay, local businesses and more. Digital and print subscriptions are available.
If you want to know more about the most important part of Montana, the outdoors, you can also subscribe to a magazine called Montana Outdoors. It provides amazing photos of wildlife and nature and is stock full of information about the local environments. their website can be found here for more information.
Where can I buy groceries?
There are many options in the area for grocery shopping. You can also buy wine and beer at grocery stores in Kalispell. That’s great news for anyone coming from an area without that capability. One-stop shopping indeed!
You can purchase your groceries at:
Albertsons is located at 900 W Idaho Street. You can find a bakery, deli, flowers, pharmacy, produce, meat and more here.
Rosauers Food & Drug is located at 2150 US Highway 93 South. This store is open from 5am to 11pm. It has a pharmacy which is open 9am – 9pm during the week and shorter hours on both Saturday and Sunday. They have a bakery, produce, deli, and all the usual grocery store departments including of course beer and wine.
Smith’s Food and Drug store is another option. This store is located at 195 Third Ave East N. This centrally located store, in addition to all the normal grocery options, has online ordering for deli and bakery. You can also sign up online for an account and get digital coupons and discounts. This happens to be my favorite store in part because they have two cheese displays (I love cheese).
Super 1 Foods is another grocery option. There are two stores in the Kalispell area. One at 1346 Highway 2 East and one at 55 N 1st Avenue East. Both have all the typical grocery departments and are good choices.
There is also an oriental market in the area – the Mabuhay Oriental Market which is located at 1085 US Highway 2W. I haven’t yet tried this store, so cannot personally share any insight, but it has great reviews.
If you like organic products, you might want to try Mountain Valley Foods at 25 Commons Way. Their website indicates they offer “organic groceries, gluten-free foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats, vegan, vegetarian, beverages, water, and bulk grains, nuts, seeds and herbs.” They also have vitamins, supplements, minerals, and personal care items.
There is also a Walmart Supercenter at 170 Hutton Ranch Road. The store has a pharmacy, photo center, vision center, grocery pick-up, and all the normal food and non-food items that one would find at a Walmart.
Reach out to me directly if you have any Kalispell MT questions that were not answered here. You may call or text me at 406-270-3667 (cell) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.