Wintertime in Whitefish, Montana is one of the most beautiful seasons to enjoy the small ski town and all it has to offer. This town doesn’t slow down after a winter storm, it celebrates it! Are you thinking about exploring this hidden gem for a weekend getaway? This article will give you the perfect weekend itinerary for what to see and do while you’re here.
8:30 am – Breakfast at Buffalo Cafe
A local favorite, Buffalo Cafe offers amazing breakfast options to keep you energized for your full day ahead!
10:00 am – Ski on Big Mountain
A trip to Whitefish is never complete without a day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Endless slopes and an approachable mountain offers a day of fun for all level of skiers and snowboarders.
3:00 pm – Apres Ski at Hellroaring Saloon
After hittin’ the slopes, enjoy an apres-ski drink and nachos at Hellroaring Saloon, located next to the village on the mountain.
5:00 pm – Massage at the Spa at Whitefish Lake
You’re bound to be sore after a day on the mountain, so treat yourself to a massage at the beautiful Spa at Whitefish Lake!
7:00 pm – Dinner at Tupelo Grille
Be sure to book a table here, and be ready for one of the best meals in town. Featuring local cuisine influenced by cajun and southern flavors, the superb service completes a meal here.
8:30 am – Breakfast at Loula’s Cafe
Loula’s breakfasts include the standard fare as well as popular originals like Lemon Stuffed French toast with raspberry sauce or Eggs Benedict with white truffle oil.
9:45 am – Pick up a Packed Lunch from Montana Coffee Traders
Before you head off for the day, pick up a packed lunch from Montana Coffee Traders. They offer a variety of sandwiches and snacks that you can bring with you to the park which is helpful because most restaurants in West Glacier are closed in the winter!
10:00 am – Drive to Glacier National Park to snowshoe
The beautiful Glacier National Park is only a 30-minute drive away from Whitefish and offers miles of scenic snowshoeing trails. You can rent snowshoes from multiple places in town as well as outside of the park.
7:00 pm – Dinner at Abruzzo’s
Finish off your day with a delicious traditional Italian meal at Abruzzo’s. They offer extensive selection of shared plates, grilled steaks, fresh seafood, and a small but decadent dessert list, all prepared in-house and served alongside an Italian-focused cocktail program and an Italian-centric wine list.
If you went to school in the 80’s or 90’s you probably played the computer game The Oregon Trail. While on your exciting and fateful journey you learned about dysentery and getting run over by a wagon. Luckily, on this journey you have very little chance of those things happening. However, there is a high chance you will learn about our ancestors and have a bit of fun. So let’s get started…
We’re going to begin our journey west in Independence, Missouri. All of the historic trails—Oregon, Santa Fe, and California, started at or near Independence. This was a popular “jumping off” point where the pioneers
could stock their wagons before their arduous journey. Spend some time getting acquainted with the trail at the National Frontier Trails Museum. This museum researches, interprets, and preserves the history of the pioneers who traveled along the trials. After seeing the museum head to the Independence Courthouse Square, this was the official start of The Oregon Trail. Walk around the square and try and get a sense of what it was like to have all of your earthly possessions crammed into a wagon to set off on a dangerous journey across the continent.
Make your way west to Rock Creek Station which is near Fairbury, Nebraska. Rock Creek Station was a Pony Express station and road ranch that served the
pioneers along the trail. It is here where Wild Bill Hickok shot his first man. You can see reconstructed buildings, pioneer graves and trail ruts. While in the area you should definitely check out the wonderful Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, Nebraska.
Keep heading west to Kearney and The Great Platte River Road Archway, one of the coolest spots along the trail. The monument is a museum that honors the people who followed the historic trails and built America.
After visiting The Archway head to the south side of the interstate to visit Ft. Kearney. This was an important outpost along the trail, it allowed the pioneers to resupply and offered them a safe resting area in a sometimes harsh territory.
Continue on brave pioneer, you’re 15% finished with your journey!
We are next headed to the Scottsbluff area and there is A LOT to see here so make sure you have some snacks. This would also be a great area to make your home base for a few days. The first landmark you can see from a distance is Courthouse and Jail Rocks.
These are the first rock formations that the pioneers would have seen on their journey west. At one time there was also a Pony Express station located here.
Just a mere fifteen miles further west stands Chimney Rock.
One of the most awe inspiring and famous landmarks along the trail, Chimney Rock rises over 300 feet above the valley. Do you have some quarters in your pocket? If one is a Nebraska state quarter then you will see a wagon in front of this majestic landmark. While you’re here make sure to check out the pioneer cemetery.
After Chimney Rock head over to see the fabulous landmark Scotts Bluff National Monument. Scotts Bluff encompasses over 3,000 acres and towers 800 feet over the valley.
Visitors to the monument can walk in the footsteps of the pioneers of the Oregon Trail, drive to the top of the bluff via the Summit Road and stand in awe at the sight of the bluffs rising up from the prairie.
Before you leave Scotts Bluff pay your respects to an Oregon Trail pioneer, Rebecca Winters. Her grave lies on the eastern side of the town of Scottsbluff at the corner of South Beltline Highway and US Highway 26. Rebecca died in 1852 after contracting cholera, a friend chiseled her name on an iron wagon tire which still stands on her grave today.
Keep heading west, pioneer, to Ft. Laramie. You’ve made it to Wyoming! You’re a quarter of the way there! The fort was constructed in the 1830’s to support the fur trade and it soon became the largest and most important fort on the frontier. Travelers would stop here for several days to rest, mail letters home, and resupply. Today you can stroll the grounds and visit some of the many restored buildings and ruins.
Just down the road a bit from Ft Laramie is the town of Guernsey where you can see Register Cliff and the Guernsey Trail Ruts. Register Cliff contains the engravings of hundreds of trail pioneers in the soft sandstone. Register Cliff, along with Independence Rock and Names Hill, is one of three prominent “recording areas” in Wyoming.
The Guernsey Trail Ruts, or the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site, is an amazing section of preserved trail ruts. Decades of pioneers, wagons, and animals wore down the sandstone two to six feet. Take some time and walk in the ruts.
Next on our journey is the town of Casper, Wyoming. This would be an excellent place to rest for a couple of days. While you are here make sure to visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. This museum showcases the several different trails with artifacts and interactive displays.
Just a few miles away is Ft Caspar, this is a military post that was named for Caspar Collins who was killed during the Battle of Platte Bridge Station. Yes, Caspar really spelled his name that way.
Independence Rock, which lies about an hour southwest of Casper, is a large, rounded monolith that is known as the “register of the desert.” The rock was a major landmark for the pioneers, they needed to make it here by July 4th to ensure they made it across the Rocky Mountains. If you walk all the way around the rock you’ve walked about a mile. Also try and climb to top so you can see the many pioneer inscriptions.
Head west on Highway 287 and south on Highway 28 you’ll see some of the most gorgeous Wyoming landscapes, you’ll be traveling through what’s called South Pass. This is also the half way point of the journey west. Hopefully, you’ll get to witness the graceful antelopes bounce through the sage. Make sure to stop at some of the roadside pull offs where you experience both the past and present.
Next you’ll want to make your way over to Montpelier, Idaho and visit the National Oregon/California Trail Center. This is a living-history center, which sits directly on the site of the historic Clover Creek Encampment on the Oregon Trail. The center contains displays and artifacts and depicts the pioneers’ journey along the trail.
Fort Hall is just a short drive from Montpelier but it would have taken the pioneers several days to get there. The fort was originally used as a fur trading post but soon became a major resupply center for the pioneers. They had been traveling for weeks since a resupply and hundreds of thousands of immigrants made use of Fort Hall.
Keep cruising along, pioneer, we are almost there!
Just west on I84 is Three Island Crossing. This was a major point for the pioneers. It was here where they had to decide on whether or not to cross the dangerous Snake River. If you remember from the Oregon Trail game many pioneers never made it across.
The last stop on this Oregon Trail journey is the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. Yes, you made it to Oregon! This 500 acre site features original Oregon Trail ruts. The center also features dioramas, artifacts, and theater presentations.
Well, pioneers, you’ve made it to Oregon! Hopefully, no one drowned, died of dysentery, or got bit by any snakes. There are many more amazing places to see along the trail, hopefully you’ll be inspired to go on your own manifest destiny across the plains, prairies, and mountains of the west.
Every year more than 318 million people visit our National Parks (NPS). What many call our nation’s “best idea”, National Parks have been treasured by Americans for over a century. Some might say we’re even loving them to death.
I have spent the last 10 years living and working in multiple National Parks including Olympic, Glacier, and, most recently, Yosemite. As both a resident of and tourist to the Park’s, I have a unique perspective of the intersection between natural and human communities that call these special places home. Both your experience and the impact you have on the National Park(s) you chose to visit will be greatly improved if you avoid these 5 classic missteps.
Driving like a Tourist
The chance to see a wild animal, especially from the safety of our cars, is a thrilling experience. And sometimes the beauty of a place can cause you to forget you’re driving at all. However, the temptation of stopping in the middle of the road to take a picture, swerving into oncoming traffic while your gaze stays on the “wild” deer, driving so slowly that the ground squirrels can keep up with you is not only a bother to the locals but is actually dangerous. We know it’s beautiful. We know it’s exciting. Just please pull over.
Picture: An example of “tourist driving” (Washington Post)
2. Dismal Bathroom Etiquette
This misstep is the main reason that you cannot drink straight from a mountain stream without fear of giardia. It’s not the animal poop that will make us gut wrenchingly sick, it’s our own human feces. So please, PLEASE, bury that poop! The vast majority of people either choose not to or are uninformed of this critical Leave No Trace protocol. Also, pack out your toilet paper if you choose to use it. “Paper lilies,” as they are sometimes referred to, not only pollute the environment but are a major eye sore while hiking.
Picture: The dreaded paper lilies (Pacific Trail Crest Association)
3. FOMO (fear of missing out)
A large draw of our country’s remaining open, undeveloped spaces is the silence. Many seek to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and connect with nature. If you are coming to the National Parks for “solitude” and “relaxation,” do not fall into the trap of FOMO. The hoards generally start hiking around 10:00 a.m. and all go to the same “can’t miss” trails. If you really want some solitude, start your hike either before 9:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. and put in the effort to hike the longer trails.
Picture: Glacier’s famous Hidden Lake Overlook Trail at its worst (NPS)
4. Domesticating the Wildlife
Yes, they are cute– and their fur makes them seem so cuddly! But please, don’t be the person who feeds mountain goats skittles. Not only is human food unhealthy for wild animals, feeding wildlife can disrupt their natural foraging rhythms, causing them to starve in the winter months. Or worse, animals that become aggressive towards humans often have to be put down by Rangers. Resist the urge! Save a bear.
Picture: The first director of the National Park Service, Steven Mather, feeding a bear in 1923 (PBS). We know better now. Read the “Night of the Grizzlies” if you still think feeding bears (or any other wildlife) is a good idea.
5. Accidental Death
There is a 607 page book called “Death in Yosemite.” Do not make the book 608 pages! A major rising cause of accidental deaths in recent years is, you know it, the “selfie.” Though selfies appear innocent and safe, if you’re trying to get that –perfect– shot dangling over a 2,000 ft. waterfall luck may not always be on your side. The quest for extreme selfies killed 259 people between 2011 and 2017…don’t be the next selfie victim! (BBC)
Think a little outside of peak season when camping.
I’m personally a fan of mid-May and September.
Consider backpacking. Yes, it is a bit more work but it is also 100% worth it.
Waking up to a backcountry sunrise is an unbeatable feeling.
Get your backcountry permit early! It is surprising how quickly these go and there are limited sites. If you’re unlucky and don’t get a permit you might be forced to find a different hike or abandon your backcountry plans altogether.
Check out apps like AllTrails
We went backpacking in the Mission Mountain Wilderness on the 4th of July and it was one of the best ideas we’ve had. There weren’t many people, the weather was perfect, and we were away from the National Park chaos.
Holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day are major camping holidays. Opt-out of the beer and think whiskey and backpacking. Look for trails that are more under the radar. There might be some like-minded people like you on the trail but far less then if you were to try to claim your stake on Seeley Lake or Flathead.
Be flexible! If a site seems too busy, don’t be afraid to look for a different one. Some of my favorite camping sites have been found after leaving a less exciting one behind.
Checking a map for a water source is a good way of finding a good site. Chances are that if it’s near a river or lake that it’ll come with a view as well.
Avoid geotagging on social media. If you like a site because there weren’t many people there, don’t expose it.
This might be controversial but I really do believe every little bit helps in preserving the things we love. It’s one thing to tell a few friends but if you have 1,000 followers on Instagram, you could possibly be telling around 1,000 people about this newfound gem. Mum’s the word
I also think part of the joy of camping comes from discovering new spots on your own. It has become too easy to look everything up, it’ll mean more to you if you find it yourself.