Kalispell, Montana - Discovering Montana (2024)

Kalispell, Montana is a charming community located in the northwestern part of Montana. Surrounded by mountains, glacial lakes, and stunning views, this community is an amazing combination of the old west and bustling tourist center.

Kalispell as it’s known today became a city in 1891. The site of the town was chosen by the Great Northern Railroad, and with the first train, Kalispell quickly became a booming business center and popular location for tourists.

While the community was originally supported by agriculture, flour mills, and timber mills, the main business today is tourism. Located on the edge of Glacier National Park, Kalispell is a world-renowned destination for outdoor enthusiasts, game hunters, and those in search of blue-ribbon trout fishing.

Today, the town is home to approximately 20,000 residents but plays host to visitors from all over the world, who are looking for adventure and a taste of the old west.

In this article, we will look take a closer look at Kalispell, Montana including activities so you can make the most of your visit.

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Main Attractions in Kalispell

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While there are plenty of things to keep visitors to Kalispell busy, there are a few “can’t miss” attractions in the Kalispell area. Kalispell is surrounded by amazing outdoor spaces, so many of the main attractions in this area are focused on enjoying the outdoors.

Downtown Area

Downtown Kalispell is a slice of the old west combined with art, history, and amazing restaurants and craft breweries. The historic downtown is home to plenty of historical buildings, dating from the 1890s, along with museums, art galleries, and restaurants.

Spots you shouldn’t miss in downtown Kalispell include the Hockaday Museum of Art, the Conrad Mansion Museum, and the Kalispell Grand Hotel. These amazing places not only tell the stories of Kalispell and northwest Montana, but they give visitors a peek into a time gone by.

Flathead Lake

Located south of Kalispell along highway 93, Flathead Lake is a crystal clear, a glacial lake that is home to some of the area’s best summer recreation along with world-class fly-fishing. Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States.

The lake has 185 miles of shoreline and is 200 square miles in size. Visitors to Flathead Lake will enjoy not just the beautiful lake, but the views of the surrounding mountains will take your breath away. Flathead Lake is a short 10-mile drive from downtown Kalispell.

Glacier National Park

Northeast of downtown Kalispell is Glacier National Park. One of the first established national parks in the United States, this park amazes visitors with towering mountain peaks, expansive meadows, unique wildlife, and of course the namesake glaciers.

Take a drive down the Going-to-the-Sun Road which gives you a perfect view of many of the park’s glaciers along with some of the most spectacular mountain views in the country.

Keep your eyes open for the park’s famous wildlife including grizzly bears, moose, wolves, and deer.

Recreation Activities in Kalispell, MT

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Outdoor recreational opportunities abound in the Kalispell area. While many people find their way to Kalispell as a stopping point before going to Glacier National Park, many people come just to enjoy the wide variety of recreational activities that the area has to offer.


Kalispell is a mecca for hikers. The area boasts hundreds of miles of designated hiking trails. Visitors can hike within Glacier National Park or pick a quieter route in Flathead National Forest.

Locals like the Jewel Basin area in Flathead National Forest. This area has 35 miles of well-marked trails that lead to amazing views, wildlife viewing, and stunning lakes. Jewel Basin is just a 30-minute drive from downtown Kalispell.


For those that would rather hit the trails at a faster pace, Kalispell has tons of opportunities for road and mountain biking. You’ll find plenty of places to rent equipment if you haven’t brought your own, and bike shop employees will gladly give you the scoop on the area’s best single-track trails and safe yet challenging road rides.

Locals love Foy’s to Blacktail trails, a network of meticulously maintained and signed single-track trails. Another favorite single-track trail is the Beardance Trail. This is one of the highest-ranked single-track routes in the area that is challenging but also has some of the best views of Flathead Lake.

Road bikers will enjoy the Rails to Trails system that uses old railroad paths of the Great Northern Railway. These trails are relatively flat, making them perfect for families and folks that just want to have a nice leisurely ride with plenty of great views.


Kalispell and the surrounding area are known for their amazing fly-fishing streams and lakes. Local fly-shops can give you the scoop on the best spots to cast your line.

Make sure that you get your Montana fishing license before you head out. Information on fishing regulations and purchasing a license can be found on the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

Skiing and Snowboarding

Kalispell is perfectly situated equal distance between two amazing ski areas. Depending on your preference you can spend the day on the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly Big Mountain Resort), a full-service ski resort with all of the slope-side amenities including lodging and restaurants.

Or, if you long for a quieter spot to hit the slopes, try Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. This spot has world-class skiing and boarding that is perfect for intermediate skiers and riders, without all the fancy extras.

What Is The Cost of Living in Kalispell?

Compared to the rest of the country, Kalispell’s cost of living is 2-4% lower than the U.S. average. Housing is likely to be the main issue cost-wise with prices quite a bit over the national average at 117 (with 100 being the average).

The median home value is in the region of $214,100 compared to the national median home value of $204,900.

Is Kalispell Safe to Live in?

Kalispell ranks a reasonable 17 on the crime index score, with 100 being the safest. This may still seem low, but considering some of the other rankings in Montana (Butte is a 1) this is one of the best. It makes Kalispell one of the safest places to live in as far as the state goes.

From a total of 675 recorded annual crimes, 597 of those were related to property. There are no real surprises there when you consider the property prices in the town, and thankfully the odds of a violent encounter are quite low.

What is Kalispell Known for?

The largest city in Northwest Montana attracts visitors for various reasons. Outdoor recreation is one of the main attractions, and Flathead Lake is a 15-minute drive from the town.

The premier hiking spot Jewel Basin is also just 30 minutes out of the town. Other local recreation features include Lone Pine State Park, Woodland Water Park, and Herron Park.

Historic cultural aspects like the Conrad Mansion and the Northwest Montana History Museum may hold further interest for many visitors. For more cultural exploits the Hockaday Museum of Art.


Since Kalispell is a slightly larger community in Montana, it has a wide variety of lodging options. Some of the best lodging options in the area offer something for every traveler, whether you want a luxury experience or a place to stay that is perfect for kids and parents.

When is the Best Time to Visit Kalispell?

Kalispell tends to have short, mild summers and long, freezing winters. Most activities and events happen during the warmer months when everyone is out and about.

  • Best Time to Book Hotels: You can book hotels easily year-round in Kalispell. There are many hotels in the area for every budget, including Airbnbs. If there is a popular event coming to town, like the Montana Fair in August, you may need to plan ahead and book a room in advance.
  • Best Time for Sightseeing: If you’ve ever been to Montana, you know that every season change brings new breathtaking views. From winter with white-capped peaks and frosted trees to summer with lush green and rippling water. If you want to make the most of your time in Kalispell, come for the best photo ops and access to gorgeous mountain scenery during the summer and fall. During the summer, you can hike the trails and stand on peaks to fully view the trees and rivers below. You can stroll the parks and trails during the fall while watching the leaves turn fiery red and orange.
  • Best Time for Shopping: You can expect access to the finest shopping Kalispell offers from late spring to early fall. Peruse the farmers’ markets, buy local produce, shop in the bustling area on Main Street, and find treasures in antique stores. During events at the fairgrounds, you can purchase handmade gifts and treats.
  • Best Time for Festivals & Events: Most festivals and events in Kalispell happen during the summer, but special events occur during major holidays like Christmas and Easter. Kalispell can get slow-going during the winter because of freezing temperatures and slick roads. When summer hits, everyone is outside, enjoying nature and having a good time at local festivals, markets, and concerts.

When to Visit Kalispell – Travel Seasons

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Peak Season (June through August)

The busiest time to visit Kalispell is during the summer (June through August). Because winters in Montana are frigid and last around five months, people don’t tend to visit the area until the weather clears up.

Kalispell, like most of Montana, is a perfect destination for road trippers during the warmer months because the roads are clear, and there are many things to do.

During the summer months, Kalispell stays in the 70s and 80s, a perfect temperature.

Shoulder Season (Mid April to Early June and Late August to Early October)

Should season is often the sweet spot for tourism. There aren’t as many people crowding the parks and other attractions, but the weather is decent enough to enjoy your time.

In mid-April, the weather gets nicer, the snow goes away, the leaves sprout, and flowers bloom.

By early June, the air is warm, everything is green, and activities are popping up everywhere. As everyone heads back home, the crowds die down to start the new school year in late August.

By September, there is a chill in the air, and the leaves begin to turn. September and October are excellent times to catch the fall foliage, and the snow won’t set in until late October.

Off-season (Late October Through Late March)

Kalispell deals with freezing temperatures, clouds, and snowfall for five months of the year. The ski season in Montana begins in late November and runs until early March.

This is a perfect time for skiers and snowboarders to book a trip to Kalispell and hit the slopes! Be careful of road conditions if you’re traveling by car, especially on mountain passes.

When to Visit Kalispell – Weather by Month

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While January is peak ski season, for most travelers, it is a difficult time to travel to Kalispell. January in Kalispell is frigid with considerable cloud cover and a chance of snow.

The average high temperature is 33°F while the average low is 19°. The snowfall is over 7 inches on average for January.


February in Kalispell is still freezing with constant cloud cover and possible snow.

Temperatures begin to rise slightly, with an average high of 40° and a low of 24°. Snowfall begins to decrease as well, with an average of 4 inches.


In March, you start to see a slight shift from winter to spring. The days get a little longer, and the climate goes from freezing overnight to very cold during the day.

The cloud cover is not as constant in March, although you still see around 3 inches of snow, and the rain starts to increase. The average daily high is 51°, and the low is 31°.


By mid-April, the chance of snow is almost zero percent, but there is still a 20% chance of rain and clouds.

Temperatures at night are very cold in April and turn slightly cold by afternoon. You can expect an uptick in the wind starting in April, although still relatively calm.

By the end of the month, trees and flowers should be blooming. The average high is 61° with a low of 37°.


Vegetation will sprout to life in May with the rainfall, which begins the growing season in Montana.

You will experience constant cloud cover and a rapid rain increase (bring your umbrella). The average high temperature is 69°, and the low is 45°.

Although temperatures increase, it can still get very cold overnight and early morning.


The days are much longer by June, and the clouds and rain are rapidly decreasing. The city has come to life with milder weather and green everywhere.

The nights are still chilly, but the days are the perfect temperature. The average high is 77°, and the average low is 49°


Kalispell is in full swing of summer by July! The weather is warm with a low chance of rain and clouds during the day.

Nights during the summer still get cool, so bring a light sweater. The average high is 84°, and the low is 52°.


In early August, you can expect the hottest temperatures in the upper 80s. By mid-august, though, temperatures will start to decrease.

Cloud cover will increase slightly, but the chance of rain will remain relatively low. In August, the average high is 77°, and the average low is 46°.


By September, you can expect fall-like weather conditions. The temperature decreases and the cloud cover and rain begin to increase.

By late August, the tourists have left, and everyone is back in school. The average high is 64°, and the low is 38°.


The weather turns cold by October, with the chance of snow increasing later in the month. The days grow shorter, and the clouds cover the sky over 50% of the time.

You can expect an average high of 47° and a low of 30°.


Before you know it, it’s ski season again and back to freezing temperatures.

The average high is 34°, and the low is 23°. Cloud cover is at 68%, and the average snowfall will end the month at around 5 inches.


December is the coldest month in Kalispell, with a high of 29° and a low of 17°.

You will experience constant freezing temperatures every day with continuous cloud cover and around 7 inches of snow for the month.

Kalispell Events & Festivals

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Unfortunately, Kalispell does not have significant events during the winter months. Most events run from late spring to late fall.

Kalispell in May

Brash Rodeo – Every Thursday night from May through September, you can experience a real Montana rodeo. Catch events like bull riding, team roping, and barrel racing.

Kalispell in June

Taste of Kalispell – Listen to live music as you sample the best food and drinks in Northwest Montana.

Picnic in the Park – This summertime tradition takes place every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer. Bring a blanket to spread on the grass, eat delicious food from street vendors, and listen to live music.

Kalispell in July

Kalispell Fourth of July Parade – Enjoy the patriotic festivities with food, music, floats, and fun entertainment for the whole family. End the night with an impressive fireworks display!

Kalispell in August

Northwest Montana Fair – This Montana fair is the most significant time of the year in Kalispell! The fair typically runs for five days in mid-August and will feature rodeos, concerts, carnival rides, farm animals, and incredible fair food.

Kalispell in September

Flathead Celtic Festival – Kalispell has a robust Celtic culture, and it honors the heritage through music, dancing, crafts, and food.

Kalispell in December

Kalispell Christmas Parade – Enjoy this festive time of year at the annual Christmas parade. Stroll down the main street, and take in all the lights and decor while sipping hot chocolate and munching on fresh-baked treats. Don’t forget to let the kids meet Santa!

Activities Near Kalispell

Recreation Activities

National Parks and Forests

  • Glacier National Park
  • Flathead National Forest

State Parks

  • Lone Pine State Park
  • Foy’s Lake Park
  • Whitefish Lake State Park
  • Les Mason State Park
  • Wayfarers-Flathead Lake State Park


  • Northwest Montana History Museum
  • Conrad Mansion Museum
  • Hockaday Museum of Art

Ski Areas

  • Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort
  • Blacktail Mountain Ski Area


Related Articles

  • Montana Towns
  • Things to Do in Kalispell
  • Best Restaurants in Kalispell
  • The Best Hotels in Kalispell

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Kalispell, Montana - Discovering Montana (2024)


What is special about Kalispell, Montana? ›

Kalispell and the Flathead Valley are home to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, championship golf courses, two ski resorts, unlimited trails for hiking and lakes and streams for fishing, outstanding arts and culture, charming small towns and warm western hospitality.

What is the history of Kalispell Montana? ›

Kalispell, Montana, began as a railroad town and this fact shaped its history for many years. The townsite was platted in the spring of 1891 in order to serve as the division point for the Great Northern Railway that was being constructed from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington.

Who discovered Flathead Lake? ›

Historians suggest that the first Euro-American to explore the Flathead Watershed region in the late 1700s was Hudson's Bay Company surveyor, Peter Fidler.

What does Kalispell mean in Salish? ›

"Kalispell" is a Salish word meaning "flat land above the lake".

What celebrities live in Whitefish Montana? ›

Two of the areas most in vogue are Whitefish and Flathead Lake (where property buyers include comedian Shecky Greene; actors Dirk Benedict, John Lithgow, Jan-Michael Vincent and Charlie Sheen; golfers Craig Stadler and Lon Hinkle; Phoenix Cardinals quarterback Timm Rosenbach; and Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson.

Why are people moving to Kalispell? ›

A welcoming business environment and outstanding quality of life make Kalispell and the surrounding Flathead Valley one the most attractive communities in the West. The City of Kalispell and the Flathead Valley are recipients of numerous state and nationwide acknowledgments and awards.

What is Montana oldest town? ›

Fort Benton is a city in and the county seat of Chouteau County, Montana, United States. Established in 1846, Fort Benton is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in Montana.

What happened at the Kalispell dump? ›

KALISPELL - A man died over the weekend following a single vehicle accident at the Flathead County Landfill. Jeff Kruckenberg, who worked for 25 years with the Flathead County Solid Waste District, was involved in a single-vehicle accident shortly after 7 a.m.

How far is the canadian border from Kalispell mt? ›

Kalispell is located in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana, about an hour south of the Canadian border.

What celebrities are on Flathead Lake? ›

Two of the areas most in vogue are Whitefish and Flathead Lake (where property buyers include comedian Shecky Greene; actors Dirk Benedict, John Lithgow, Jan-Michael Vincent and Charlie Sheen; golfers Craig Stadler and Lon Hinkle; Phoenix Cardinals quarterback Timm Rosenbach, and Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson).

Whose body was found in Flathead River? ›

On September 6th, 2021 at approximately 1050 hours a rafter called the Flathead County Sheriff's Office to report they had located human remains. The location was determined to be on the Flathead River near the area of Addison square.

What is the lake monster in Flathead Lake? ›

The Flathead Lake Monster

Since the first sighting reported in 1889, 79 accounts of a large-sized objects have been documented. People describe a large eel shape creature that is 20 to 40 feet long. It is round, brown to blue-black in color, and has very obvious steel-black eyes and undulating hips.

Is Kalispell an Indian name? ›

Kalispel people are thought to have come from British Columbia. In the 18th century, the Niitsitapi people pushed them from the Great Plains to Pend d'Oreille River and Lake Pend Oreille. The town of Kalispell, Montana is named after the tribe.

What Native American tribe lived in Kalispell MT? ›

The Pend d'Oreille or Pend d'Oreilles (/ˌpɒndəˈreɪ/ PON-də-RAY), also known as the Kalispel (/ˈkæləspɛl/), are Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Plateau. Today many of them live in Montana and eastern Washington of the United States. The Kalispel peoples referred to their primary tribal range as Kaniksu.

What was the original name of Kalispell? ›

Kalispell, previously called Ashley, was made the county seat of Flathead County in 1894. The Great Northern Railroad was extended through Flathead County in 1891-92.

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