Kalispell, Montana is the perfect jumping-off point for a visit to Glacier National Park. You can fly into Glacier Park International Airport and stay in this scenic mountain town for good food, local breweries, and outdoor Montana adventures. When you’re ready for a day trip to the national park, the drive to the West Glacier entrance only takes about half an hour.
Top Things To Do in Kalispell, Montana
Located 32 miles from Glacier National Park and 10 minutes from Flathead Lake, Kalispell is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. From this Flathead Valley hub, you have access to miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, and to rivers and lakes for scenic floats, whitewater rafting, and kayaking.
Here are a few fun ways to explore Kalispell and beyond.
- By bike. Wheaton’s Cycle offers rentals in its downtown Kalispell shop. Hop on a bike and cruise 22 miles of paved trails along the Great Northern Rail Trail. You’ll pedal past views of the Mission, Swan, Salish, and Whitefish mountains.
- By foot. Lone Pine State Park is four miles from Kalispell on Foys Lake Road with 7.5 miles of hiking trails.
- By golf cart. Head to Buffalo Hills Golf Club for a picturesque golf course with panoramic views of the northwest Rocky Mountains.
- By horse. Head to Montana Horse Works for a 1.5-hour guided trail ride on private land. Meet your horse, saddle up, and enjoy a ride through the woods with a breathtaking vista view at the mid-point.
- By kayak. Take a guided kayak or stand-up paddleboard tour of nearby Flathead Lake with Glacier Treks Outdoor Adventures. The company also offers winter snowshoeing and cross-country skiing tours.
- By llama. Hike alongside a llama friend as it carries your supplies for a mid-trek treat of wine and cheese. Swan Mountain Outfitters will pack a scenic picnic box for you to enjoy by a creek while your llama takes a break. You can also try a half-day walk to a waterfall.
The history of Kalispell comes to life through its museums. Both of these are worth a visit.
- Conrad Mansion Museum. Hear the story of Kalispell founder Charles Conrad on a docent-led tour of his elaborate 26-room home. The well-preserved estate with 13,000 square feet of living space is a time capsule of the Conrad family’s life in the 1890s.
- Hockaday Museum of Art. Stop by the only art museum between Missoula and Spokane. Housed in a 1903 Carnegie library building, the Hockaday is dedicated to preserving the artistic legacy and cultural history of the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park.
Stroll down Main Street to support the local shops and boutiques in Downtown Kalispell.
- Old fashioned soda fountain. Stop by Norm’s Soda Fountain for an ice cream and peruse the walls lined with jars of candy.
- Thousands of cowboy boots. Shop for a cowboy hat and boots at Western Outdoor, a store that sits under what used to be an opera house dating back to 1896.
- Home decor souvenirs. Buy an artistic knick-knack to take home from Honey Home and Design, a beautiful store filled with “really, really pretty things.”
- Farm-to-table retail. You’ll have to hop in your car for this one, but it’s interesting to see all the local products for sale. The Rancher’s Daughter sells goods produced by local farmers and ranchers.
Where To Eat in Kalispell, Montana
Northwest Montana is the land of huckleberries, so no matter where you go, there will be huckleberry treats to try.
- Head to Ceres Bakery for sweet and savory pastries. Try a sweet potato sticky bun, a tomato pesto turnover, or a huckleberry bun. Pair your treats with a coffee and sit inside by the plant wall.
- For a heartier meal, follow the locals to Sykes. This diner piles plates high with choices like Hungryman’s Biscuits and Gravy or Prospector’s Breakfast with chicken fried steak. You might be hard-pressed to clean your plate, but you won’t go hungry.
- Don’t miss the chance to fill up on Montana barbecue at DeSoto Grill. Housed in a former blacksmith shop, DeSoto is packed even on a weekday, and for good reason. The cornbread is to die for and the stuffed baked potato is, well, stuffing.
The surprise delight at this former forge is a dish of pork belly “PBJ” bites. This addictive plate has brown sugar pork bites to dip in Thai peanut butter and, you guessed it, huckleberry jam.
When all is said and done, you won’t have room for the peanut butter pie. But you should order it anyway.
- Before dinner, sneak in a cocktail (or two) at Glacier Distilling, a small craft distillery located about half an hour out of Kalispell. Everything here is made onsite. Nate Connors of Glacier Distilling says, “When you buy one of our products, there was a Montana farmer involved in that product. We’re as local as local can be.”
You can try Bearproof Huckleberry Whiskey, Bearclaw Huckleberry Cream, Huckleberry Gin, or Huckleberry Liqueur. Or, a non-huckleberry option like Trailblazer — a refreshing drink made with Fireweed Cherry Bourbon, house-made blood orange rosemary shrub, sparkling water, fresh orange, and rosemary.
- For a relaxed evening meal, head to Moose’s Saloon. This Kalispell favorite has been around for more than 60 years, with an Old West feel and a sawdust floor. Order a pitcher of beer and build your own pizza — it’s bound to be tasty no matter which toppings you pick.
- Or dress up and head to Mercantile Steak. “The Merc” provides a fine dining experience with Tiffany-style lamps, stained glass windows, and a copper-tinned ceiling in the historic Kalispell Mercantile building. Order a steak, some popovers, and shareable sides. For an “afterward drink,” you can try a huckleberry milk punch.
- If you’re not all huckleberried out, head to Sweet Peaks for some huckleberry ice cream.
Road Trips from Kalispell
For more fun things to do, hop in the car for a full-day drive around beautiful northwest Montana.
- Bigfork. Less than half an hour from Kalispell, Bigfork offers more hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting by Flathead Lake.
- Wild Horse Island. Only accessible by boat, this island park in Flathead Lake is still home to a handful of wild horses.
- Whitefish Mountain Resort. This ski resort is in the Flathead National Forest, half an hour north of Kalispell. Columbia Falls is halfway in between and a nice town to stop for a meal.
- Flathead River. Raft, fish, and float along the river with views of Glacier National Park.
Where To Stay in Kalispell
When visiting Kalispell and the surrounding area, SpringHill Suites Kalispell is an ideal home base. This hotel was recognized as the best of the all-suites hotel brand in the country in 2023, winning the Best SpringHill Suites award. It has special touches like West Elm in-room decor and an excellent fitness room. Staying here, you can enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast at the hotel and get back to the airport in just five minutes.