One of the best parts about taking the overnight train from Everett, Washington, to Whitefish, Montana, was that we arrived in Whitefish around 8 a.m. with the whole day ahead of us!
The weather forecasts were calling for rain both in Whitefish as well as in Glacier National Park so we decided to head straight to our first destination and experience what we could before the wet weather set in.
That first stop was Whitefish Mountain just north of town where my parents had recommended taking one of the ski lifts as far up as allowable for views of the surrounding area. We lucked out that it was the last weekend they were offering off-season lift rides up the mountain—they were just about to switch things over for ski season!
After a little investigation as to how to collect our keys and rental car agreement at Whitefish Station, we found our car, acclimated to the area just around the station, and then headed north out of town toward Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Once we arrived at the resort we were able to follow the signs and navigate through the sprawling complex to the lifts, which weren’t quite open when we arrived. We had no trouble parking and spent a little time rearranging our bags and layering on warmer clothes in anticipation of our chilly ride up the mountain.
We wandered over to the lifts where a few employees were slowly starting to warm up the equipment. In addition to the two lifts they were running—one that terminated where we were waiting and the one we were planning to take up the mountain—there was a toboggan-esque shoot with little one-person cars you could take down the hill.
As we were taking in the views and waiting for the ticket booths to open, one of the employees grabbed a leaf blower, climbed into one of the cars, and set off down the shoot, blowing debris out of his way as he went! He looked hysterical, the cars looked like a blast, and we decided we would have to give them a go when we got back from our hike!
Before we knew it, the lifts were ready to go. We opted for one of the open lift on our way up and while it was windy and a bit chilly in the open air, the ride was peaceful and quiet.
We were the only ones there so it felt like we had the whole mountain and lift system to ourselves. We gently swayed up the side of the mountain, pointing out the hiking and biking trails below until we arrived at the top.
Stepping off the lift, there was a large lodge to our right along with signs for the different trailheads. The sky was getting darker and the mountain tops we could see from the landing below we already blocked by the clouds rolling in. It looked a bit foreboding so we decided to head off on a short hike nearby before the rain set in.
To get to our trailhead, we had to carefully slide our way down a steep, rocky hill that we quickly realized would have been much better for skiing than hiking. We made it down in one piece, and I tried not to think about how much fun it would be hiking back up!
Our trail wrapped around a nearby wooded outcropping and we set off through the trees and along the ridge, admiring the views below. The loop was short and relatively flat and easy.
Just as we finished our loop, random drops of rain started plopping down and we picked up the pace, scurrying up the rocky incline toward the lodge. It was just as painful as I had imagined and before too long my lungs were burning and it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the others before we were caught in the downpour.
Brian was kind enough to stride ahead, shouting words of encouragement and taking pictures of my pain. Thanks, honey! 😊
We made it to the lodge just as the sky opened up and were quickly joined by the groups of people making their own way up the mountain both via the trails and the lift system. Everyone was congregating inside and trying to figure out how long they would need to wait out the storm.
The upstairs had bar and restaurant areas as well as a back patio and wraparound porch, and the lower level had additional seating and a small museum area that were closed for the off season. We explored the open spaces, walked around the covered areas outside and finally decided to call it and head back down the mountain, this time in one of the enclosed lifts!
On the way down we spotted our first wildlife—a doe and fawn nearly hidden in the colorful bushes grabbing a snack! Our lift was fogging up but we took a few pictures and tried to keep an eye out for other signs of life through the rain drops.
While the lifts were still running, the toboggan cars had closed by the time we reached the base of our ride. The rain didn’t appear to be letting up any time soon so we decided we would have to save those for our next visit.
We didn’t get to explore Whitefish Mountain as much as we had hoped, but I am glad we headed there early and squeezed in our ride and hike before the weather turned. There is a great deal more to experience at the resort—even if you’re not staying there—and I’m sure the views of Glacier National Park are incredible on a clear day. If you’re planning to visit Whitefish, I would definitely add it to your list!