Flathead National Forest: Whitefish

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

The Flathead National Forest covers over 2.4 million acres, with 1 million acres designated as wilderness. Pinchot, the first chief of the US Forest Service, promoted ‘managed conservation’ (rather than preservation like the National Park Service) for our public lands, allowing for responsible, partial commercial use of National Forests.


The Forest Service permits the 1.4 million non-wilderness acres of Flathead to be used for two ski resorts, logging, limited berry harvesting and cattle grazing.


Our flight landed in Kalispell, Montana in the early afternoon. Not quite ready to take on Glacier National Park, we headed over to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Whitefish Mountain Resort is inside the boundaries of Flathead National Forest, which shares its Northern border with Glacier National Park.


We rode the ski lift to the Summit House. We had a choice of open chair lifts or enclosed gondolas and opted for the open chair. It was 57 degrees Fahrenheit and windy at the summit.


The Summit House opened in 1990 and houses a nature center with a Forest Service Education Center in the basement. We stopped in the gift shop for a souvenir pin.


Outside, we took in the views of the surrounding Rockies and Flathead Valley. There was still quite a bit of snow, even in late June. We walked a little on some of the clear trails at the top, enjoying the smell of pine that wafted in the air.


We tried to hike the Danny On trail back down to the lodge, but found it closed due to snowy conditions. The Danny On Memorial Trail is a National Recreation Trail, with the shortest route to the base lodge being 3.9 steep miles. This is why the trail is closed when ice and snow are present.


So we improvised and took the chair lift halfway down the mountain. The best views were on the lift ride down the mountain. Then we rode the alpine sled back down to the lodge.


Location: 3808 Big Mountain Rd, Whitefish, MT
Designation: National Forest
Date designated/established: February 27, 1897
Date of my visit: June 22, 2018