Don’t get us wrong, we love the jewel of the continent as much as the next person, but there is simply so much to experience outside Glacier National Park as well. Whether you want to fly high through the trees ziplining, spend the day kayaking on the tranquil waters of Whitefish Lake, or try to find for yourself the 5 wild horses that inhabit the remote Wild Horse Island, Glacier is waiting for you to find your adventure. Don’t know where to start? Here are our top 10 things to do outside Glacier National Park.
1. Whitewater Rafting on The Flathead River Outside Glacier National Park
- Glacier Raft Co. has been operating on Montana’s Flathead Rivers since 1976 and offers half-day and full-day rafting adventures on class II and III rapids. They are the only Montana river outfitter with access to the Great Bear Wilderness and the Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead Rivers outside Glacier National Park.
- Glacier Raft Co. is located within the village of West Glacier near the Alberta Visitors Center and the Gas Station.
- Rafting season is between early May and mid-September, however the Flathead Rivers water-level peaks in June. Half-day rafting trip prices are $65 for adults and $55 for children (12 and under). Full-day rafting trip prices are $125 for adults and $105 for children (12 and under). Prices can change if you choose to include dinner or lunch on your trip or other adventures such as horseback riding, adventure park, or sport raft.
- Half-day trips float 8 miles of the Middle Fork and take 2-3 1/2hours to finish depending on the month. Full-day trips cover 15 miles of the Middle Fork and take 5-6 hours to complete. For both trips, there is a 50 lb minimum requirement and child age restrictions depending on the month and water-levels.
- Good to know: Splash tops are available for any trip, but make sure to wear clothing you are comfortable getting wet because you will get wet. You’re rafting… Bring a towel, change of clothes, and an adventurous spirit. Make sure to tip your guide at the end!
- Contact: You can book online at Glacier Raft Co. or call 406-888-5454
- Glacier Raft Co. / 106 Going to the Sun Road West Glacier, MT 59936
2. Amazing Fun Center Outside Glacier National Park
- Amazing Fun Center has been in business since 1987 when a husband and wife team decided to build the first two-level maze attraction in North America. Since then, the duo has included an old-west mining themed mini-golf course, Bankshot Basketball, Bumper Boat Pond, and go-karts to their site.
- Amazing Fun Center is located seven miles southwest of West Glacier on the west side of Hwy 2 East at Coram.
- Tickets to Amazing Fun Center can be bought on site. Children age 5 and under have free admission to all attractions (besides go-karts). Most activities are priced between $4 to $7.50 for those 6and older. Fun Passes or Super Fun Passes can be purchased for $15.75- $32.00 depending on the age and pass, which grant access to most if not all attractions. Group discounts are available, just make sure to call at least 1 day in advance to schedule your outing.
- The center is open daily through mid-September. Closing time varies between May 23rd and June 22nd. Due to lack of sunlight, from June 23rd and on it is recommended that you call for the exact closing time.
- Good to know: Make a day of it and pack a lunch! There are plenty of scenic picnic spots nearby.
- Contact: Amazing Fun Center or call 406-387-5902
- Amazing Fun Center / 10265 Hwy. 2E, Coram, MT 59913
3. Kayak Whitefish Lake
- Whitefish Lake lays at the base of Big Mountain and stretches about a mile wide and 7 miles long, encompassing 3300 acres of freshwater. The lake is a popular location for a variety of water sports, but kayaking is a wonderful way to experience Whitefish and all that its landscape entails.
- Whitefish Lake is about 30 miles west of the West Glacier entrance. The drive is around 40 minutes and can take you through Coram or Columbia Falls, both of which have fantastic eateries we’ve recommended in a previous blog post (link here).
- Kayak rental shops can be found throughout the lake’s surrounding area. The Marina at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is open to the public and rental prices are $37 per hour or $110 for 4 hours. Tamarack Ski and Lake Shop as well as Whitefish Outfitters and Guides offer half-day or full-day rentals with prices ranging from $15 per 2 hours to $275 for weekly rentals.
- Unlike the Marina, Tamarack and Whitefish Outfitters do not have on-site access to Whitefish Lake. The public can use the boat ramp at City Beach as a launch site.
- Good to know: Venture to the north end of the lake to observe the more pastoral side of Whitefish, away from tourists and housing developments!
- Contact: Whitefish Lodge Marina / Tamarack Ski and Lake Shop / Whitefish Outfitters and Guides
- Kayak Whitefish Lake / Whitefish Lake, Whitefish, MT 59937
4. Gondola Ride On Whitefish Mountain
- The Gondola Ride or the “Glacier Chaser” as it is also known, is one of Whitefish Mountain Resort’s Scenic Lift transportation options. The ride takes you up to the 7,000-foot summit of Big Mountain, showcasing the breathtaking views of the Flathead Valley and outside Glacier National Park.
- You can board the gondola ride at Whitefish’s ski village located 8 miles from downtown Whitefish. Whitefish is about 30 miles from the entrance of West Glacier.
- The ride takes about 15 minutes to reach the summit and costs $20 per adult (13-64) for a round trip ticket and $12 for a one-way ticket. The enclosed gondola can hold up to 6people.
- The gondola functions during the summer from June to September as well as in the winter from October to the end of the ski season, which varies each year. For exact operating dates, it is best to call 406-862-2900.
- Good to know: For those wanting a more daring return to the Whitefish base, The Danny On Trail connects the village to the summit. You can follow the trail back for 3.8 miles as it descends 2,500 vertical feet.
- Contact: Scenic Lift Rides
- Gondola Ride On Whitefish Mountain / 1015 Glades Dr, Whitefish, MT 59937
5. Fly Fish On The Flathead River Outside Glacier National Park
- The Flathead River is divided up into three sections, the North fork, Middle fork, and South fork, all of which flow into the Clark Fork near Paradise. The North and Middle fork are the most popular areas for fly fishing and hold large populations of rainbow and bull trout, as well as Westslope Cutthroat, northern pike, and kokanee salmon.
- The North fork acts as the western boundary line for West Glacier. River access points can be found around Somers, Bigfork, Kalispel, and Columbia Falls.
- You can fish the river alone or use one of the many guide services such as Bigfork Anglers, Glacier Raft Co., Wild Trout Adventures, Northern Rockies Outfitters, or Wild Montana Anglers, for your trip. Most guide services will offer half-day or full-day trips with prices ranging from $395 to $550, not including your fishing license which is required for any guided trip and can cost between $42 to $50.
- Mayfly hatches begin in March, making spring the start of the fishing season for the Flathead River. Summer is when the river is at its prime for fishing and hatches continue throughout well into September.
- Good to know: Hatches are quite diverse near the Flathead River and influence much of the fishing. It’s important to plan your trip around these hatches.
- Flathead River Access Points: Flathead River
- Fly fish The Flathead River / Flathead River, Montana
6. Rent A Boat On Flathead Lake
- Flathead Lake is the remnant of an ancient glacial dammed lake and is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. With over 200 square miles of freshwater, Flathead provides a spacious environment for recreation encompassed by the spectacular views of the Swan and Mission mountain ranges.
- Flathead Lake is about 40 miles south of West Glacier, making it a 50-minute car ride from the park.
- Boating is a popular activity, as the lake provides ample amount of room for water skiing, knee-boarding, and tubing. Several rental shops can be found around Flathead Lake such as Riverside Rec or Big Arm Boat Rentals and Rides. Most rent by the hour and depending on the boat, prices can be from $110 per hour to $150 per hour, There are usually deals when you rent for more than 5 hours. Gas is not always included and water skis, knee-boards, and tubes cost extra.
- The boating season begins in the summer and depending on the water condition, can last until the end of September.
- Good to know: Visit Wild Horse Island when you explore Flathead Lake! The island is home to many wildlife including 5 wild horses, bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, bald eagles, and falcons. The island is only accessible by boat and is a day-use only park.
- Contact: Riverside Rec / Big Arm Boat Rentals and Rides
- Rent A Boat For Flathead Lake / Flathead Lake, Montana
7. Visit Glacier Highline
- With over 50 Highline and rope course activities (some that even tower 30 feet off of the ground), a newly-installed watercourse, inflatable course, and Tower Grill restaurant, Glacier Highline is perfect for all ages. The Highline is a family-run business and has been open since 2015.
- Glacier Highline is located in Coram and conveniently only 7 miles from the entrance of West Glacier.
- You can spend up to 2 hours ziplining through the treetops and making a splash at the watercourses. Pricing for adults (13 and up) is $58 per person and for youth (6-12) is $48 per person. Children aged 2-5 are only allowed to participate in the inflatable course for $25.
- Glacier Highline is usually open for the summer season, but have not officially released their 2021 schedule.
- Good to know: Make sure to wear closed-toed shoes!
- Contact: Glacier Highline
- Glacier Highline /10167 Hwy 2 East Coram, MT 59913
8. Horseback Riding In The Mountains Outside Glacier National Park
- Glacier National Park Unleash your inner wrangler on one of Swan Mountain Outfitters’ many guided trail rides. Since 2006, the outfitters have led guided treks through the West Glacier wilderness and are the only horseback trail service inside Glacier National Park.
- The Swan Mountain corrals within Glacier can be found in Apgar, Lake McDonald, and Many Glacier. The outfitters have one corral in West Glacier situated behind the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center.
- The West Glacier division of Swan Mountain offers 1-3 hour or full-day rides, as well as overnight trips, cowboy cookouts and ride, wine, and dine. The divisions within the park have similar options, but trail packages differ based on the corral. Rates are relatively the same across both divisions and can go from $50 to $200. Children under 8 are not allowed to participate on the East side trails (Many Glacier corral) and children under 7 are not allowed to participate on the West side trails (Apgar, Lake McDonald, and West Glacier corrals).
- Swan Mountain’s trail ride season is usually from mid-May to early October if the weather allows.
- Good to know: Tip your wrangler for good service. As the saying goes at Swan Mountain“if you liked your ride, kiss your horse, and tip your guide”!
- Contact: Swan Mountain Outfitters
- Swan Mountain Outfitters Horseback Services / West Glacier
9. Pick Huckleberries On Big Mountain
- Hand-pick for yourself the iconic berry of Montana along the Danny On Trail which connects the Whitefish ski village to the summit of Big Mountain. The trail is 3.8 miles of full huckleberry bushes during the harvest season.
- You can take the ski village’s gondola ride or ski lift to the top of Big Mountain and walk down the trail or vice versa.
- The Scenic Lift rides cost $20 per adult (13-64) and $13 per junior (7-12). There is no fee to pick the huckleberries and no limit to how many you can take back with you, but please be considerate (there needs to be enough to go around for everyone, including the bears).
- Huckleberry season is August through September and the berries tend to ripen first at lower elevations then continue to mature at higher elevations until the first frost.
- Good to know: You’ll be in bear country. Be sure to bring bear spray and travel in groups.
- Contact: Whitefish Mountain Resort Huckleberries
- Pick Huckleberries On Big Mountain / 1015 Glades Dr, Whitefish, MT 59937
10. Rent ATVs In Hungry Horse
- For those wanting to experience the great Montana wilderness at a faster pace, Glacier Ridge Runners ATV and UTV services may be more your speed. Go off-roading at the North Fork and Desert Mountain or take their vehicles up to your next hiking spot.
- Hungry Horse is 9 miles south of the western entrance to Glacier National Park.
- Glacier Ridge Runners offer full, half-day, and hourly rentals for ATVs and UTVs. Depending on the make and rental time, prices can range from $100 to $425.
- The maximum number of people for most ATVs and UTVs is 4, but smaller ones can only hold up to 2 people.
- Good to know: Ask Glacier Ridge for their recommendations of routes for ATV and UTV adventures!
- Contact: Glacier Ridge Runners
- Rent ATVs In Hungry Horse / 249 Flathead Road Hungry Horse, Montana 59919