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Northwest MontanaNorthwest Montana boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. At the heart of this scenic paradise is the beautiful Flathead Valley. And the area is as diverse as it is beautiful. The Valley is bordered on the north by the Big Mountain Ski Resort, a world class destination ski resort which is consistently ranked among the top 25 ski areas in North America. To the northeast is the entrance to Glacier National Park, the "Gem of the Rockies", over 2000 square miles of mountain splendor. The majestic Swan Mountain Range forms the eastern boundary of the Flathead Valley, and the imposing Mission Mountain range can be seen on the southeastern horizon. In the southern portion of the Flathead valley lies Flathead Lake, at 28 miles in length and 6-15 miles wide, it is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Flathead County is comprised of 5,177 square miles of rich farmland, friendly communities, sparkling rivers and lakes, and rolling timbered hills, surrounded by mountain grandeur. Approximately 70,000 people (24,000 households) call the Flathead County home. The Federal Government owns over 70% of the land in the county: Glacier National Park, consisting of 640,862 acres; 1,716,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land; and 4,445 acres of U.S. Fish and Wildlife lands. Three incorporated towns form the core of the flathead Valley: Whitefish to the north, at the base of Big Mountain Ski Resort; Columbia Falls to the east, near the entrance to Glacier National Park, and Kalispell, the largest community, in the center of the valley. Unincorporated towns include: Bigfork and Somers, at the north edge of Flathead Lake; Lakeside, on the west shore of Flathead Lake; Evergreen, which adjoins Kalispell to the east; and Hungry Horse and West Glacier, at the doorstep to Glacier National park. Major shifts have occurred in the areas economy in recent years. Logging, mining, agriculture, and railroad employment have declined in the past decade while tourism based services, high tech industries, and professional services have seen a considerable increase in employment.
The recreation opportunities in the Flathead Valley are as diverse as the landscape. There is something for everyone: skiing, boating, back packing, golfing, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting, hunting, fishing, swimming, water skiing, rodeos and even car races. There are 10 golf courses in the Flathead Valley, with 184 holes of golf, including Bigfork's "Eagle Bend", designed by Jack Nicklaus, Jr.; Kalispell's Buffalo Hill course designed by Arnold Palmer; Northern Pines, designed by Andy North; the Whitefish Lake Golf Course; and Whitefish's Iron Horse, designed by Tom Fazio. Golf Digest listed the Flathead Valley as one of the top 10 most desirable golf retirement locations in America.
Consistently ranked in the top 25 ski resorts in North America, the Big Mountain Ski Resort offers 3000+ acres of skiable terrain, 67 runs, 10 lifts (including 2 high-speed quads), 2500 feet of vertical drop, over 300 inches of average annual snowfall, plus a snowboarding park and cross country trails. The slopes usually open on Thanksgiving Day. Before you plan your ski vacation, take a look at their website at bigmtn.com. In addition, Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, above Lakeside, which opened in 1998, offers 200 skiable acres, 24 runs, 3 lifts and 250" of average annual snowfall.
The Flathead Valley is endowed with more clean, clear bodies of water than the rest of the state combined. Flathead Lake, 28 miles long and 6-15 miles wide, offers excellent boating, sailing and fishing, and on it's 124 miles of scenic shoreline, are several marinas, public and private campgrounds, resorts and picnic areas. Other popular lakes for water sports include Whitefish Lake, Echo Lake, Swan Lake, Bitterroot Lake, Ashley Lake, and Hungry Horse Reservoir. White water rafting and kayaking are popular activities on the middle Fork of the Flathead River in Glacier National Park (see following paragraph for more activities in the Park).
Hiking and Camping
Glacier National Park boasts 700 miles of foot and horse trails offering views of 200 alpine lakes, 50 glaciers, 75-year old back country chalets, soaring 10,000+ feet high majestic mountain peaks and awesome wildlife. Glacier National Park was established in 1910 and the historic 50-mile long Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1933. The Park averages 2 million visitors annually. Hikers will also enjoy the 15,000 acre Jewel Basin Hiking Area on the east edge of the Valley. Jewel Basin boasts 27 lakes and 32 miles of maintained trails, most on easy to moderate terrain. The Strawberry Lake riding trails, just north of the Jewel Basin hiking area, offers terrific horse back riding opportunities.
Hunting and Fishing
Big Game season lasts approximately 5 weeks, usually including the last week of October and most of November, until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The most popular game animals are whitetail deer, elk and mule deer. Special permits are required to hung mountain goats, moose and big horn sheep. There is a winter season for mountain lions and two seasons for black bears, in the spring and fall. There is no shortage of land on which to hunt, with nearly 2 million acres of Flathead National Forest, 130,000 acres of State Land and 1.2 million acres of the Bob Marshall-Great Bear Wilderness. Fishing opportunities abound; excellent fishing habitat is provided by hundreds of miles of rivers and streams on government lands as well as numerous area lakes. Flathead Lake is a popular place for lake trout; Lake Mary Ronan and Ashley Lake offer exceptional Kokanee salmon fishing; and cutthroat trout fishing is good in the Hungry Horse Reservoir and the river upstream. Cutthroat an also often be found in many of the alpine lakes in the Swan, Mission and Whitefish Mountain ranges. Anglers are allowed one bull trout per day in Swan Lake.
Renee' Howe: 406-885-4693
Carlene Netteberg: 406-250-5361
June Coleman: 406-249-4477
Office: 406.755.4693 | Fax: 406.755.4698
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