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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Discovering Outdoor Kalispell

My trip to Kalispell last month was chock full of fun activities, including lots of outdoor fun. I enjoyed my short visit and hope to make it back to see more in the future. Let me help you make the decision to add Kalispell, Montana to your travel wish list. In case you worry that the small town doesn't have much to offer, remember that their motto is "Discovery in every direction." They aren't wrong, as there are plenty of things to do within 10 miles of downtown, so you can easily fill your days with a variety of activities and delicious foods.

outdoor activities in Kalispell

Kalispell is surrounded by beautiful landscape and outdoor spaces and we explored just a fraction of them. Head north to Whitefish or south to Bigfork for even more activities, but Glacier is the most popular and just 30 miles away. For somewhere closer and less crowded, put on some walking shoes and pack a picnic to visit Lone Pine State Park. It is one of only two state parks in Kalispell and has a few hiking trails where you can bring your pup. 

Rikka isn't much of a hiker, so she walked along some and then rode in her sling for part. Lone Pine is perfect for those of you who like to get outside, but aren't super outdoorsy, like me. There are short trails and easy uphill hikes to the overlook.

There are a little more than 7 miles of trails, which  vary in length and difficulty. Parking is just $6 per car, which you pay by cash before entering. There's an archery field as well as well as trails for horseback riding and covered tables for enjoying a picnic. We visited in the morning before many people were out and had the park mostly to ourselves.

We parked and headed up to the interpretive/visitor center, which is small, but a great stop. 

Inside you'll find a few activities and exhibits that show how wildlife is affected by people and how we can keep ourselves safe and allow them to not depend on people for survival. They even allowed me to bring Rikka inside on her leash. (You'll also find potty bags and a water dish outside.) We walked around and looked at the exhibits, purchased a few things from their little gift shop (because huckleberries!) and used their clean restroom before taking a map and hiking the short way up to the overlook.

Check out this view! You can see all of the Flathead Valley from the viewpoint and it's perfect for getting great pics of where you've been, where you're going and just seeing how spread out things are.  

That's me on Cappy with Diane from the Convention & Visitor Bureau. Look at that view!

Just 5 miles from downtown, and still in Kalispell, is a wonderful place to go horseback riding. While you can do this in Glacier National Park, it can get quite crowded and touristy. Artemis Acres is an easy drive from town and feels like you're far from the city. The ranch is beautiful and serene, plus doesn't get any WiFi, which means you can really unplug and enjoy your ride. If that sounds awesome to you, you can also stay at their lodge to get away from it all just a short ways away from "civilization". Rates start at just $125/night.

Each ride takes you 6 miles in 2 hours and there are multiple trails, so if you want to go for more than one ride, you have a different experience each time. You can tell the horses are happy and well taken care of as they frolic around in their field. They are trained well, too, so you don't have to give them much direction if you're a newbie and worried about being inexperienced. One follows right behind the other on the trail. You'll get a quick tutorial before you head out though. You'll take a quick rest at the top (halfway through) to give the horses a break and you time to take photos of the surrounding area and the magnificent view of the Valley. There are longer rides you can take as well. 

This cutie is Leroy. He is super friendly and loves his horse friends and runs along on all trail rides, finding exciting things of his own along the way. A two-hour ride runs $65, which is a great price for being able to explore the ranch on a happy horse. Our guides were fantastic and very knowledgeable and really easy to talk to. One came all the way from Florida with Leroy and her two rescue horses for a total change of scenery. The other just started this season and was already happily settled into her job. I didn't get to meet the owner, but I could tell he really cared about his animals and their environment. I'd highly recommend splurging on a visit to Artemis Acres. Everything else in Kalispell is super affordable to make up for it.

So, I'm going to talk more about Glacier National Park in another post, but I wanted to show you a few pictures of what you can expect. If you already have a National Parks Pass, you won't need to pay admission, but if you don't, you can expect to shell out $30 at the gate for a 7-day pass, because they don't offer daily passes. Luckily, there's a ton to do there. Here I am on the pier next to the boat dock. In the summer, this place is really hopping, with swimmers, boaters, kayakers and more. Also, look at those mountains! Gorgeous.

There is no shortage of rivers and streams in Glacier and the park has endless hiking opportunities. If you aren't into hiking, you can take a tour in your car as well as taking a Red Bus tour, which I will include in my other post. Unfortunately, there was flooding and a landslide right before my trip, so the Going To The Sun Road was mostly closed, but when it's not, you can enjoy a great drive with incomparable views. Driving the road is the best way to go with your dog, as they are only allowed in certain parts of the park due to wild animals. 

Around every corner is something new and interesting, including this one-lane road and bridge that makes you feel like you're the only one in the park.

Just two blocks from our hotel was Depot Park. This is where you'll find the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. It's also pet-friendly and has lots of places to sit. In the summer, they hold free concerts at the gazebo: On Tuesdays at 7pm and on Wednesdays at lunchtime (11:30am). In the future there may be more activities here as well. 

I love the sculpture here and that there are plenty of trees that you can enjoy both the sunny spots and the shade. We spent quite a bit of time here, since it was so close and I could run around with the dog. There are also public restrooms on site (that little building on the left), though I didn't go in to investigate. Another plus: there are tons of trash cans everywhere, so there's no excuse to leave your garbage lying around.

A short drive from Kalispell finds you at Somers Bay. The town of Somers is tiny, but they have just about everything you could need, including the Somers Cafe, which I'm told is quite good. I'll have to check it out next time I'm there, since I didn't seem to have any free breakfasts or lunches. In the summer, you can watch sailboat races and dragonboat races along the shores of Somers Bay, but you can also take your boat out, go swimming or engage in other water activities as well.

Set aside your Tuesday and Friday evenings to watch sailboats (slowly) race across the bay. Races start at dusk and it's a perfect excuse to get outside and relax with a bottle of wine and al fresco dinner. September brings the Dragon Boat Festival to Lakeside, which may actually draw more boaters than the races we have here in Portland for Rose Festival. There's outdoor food stalls and more, so you can make a day of cheering for your favorite teams. 

This is just a small selection of the things that Kalispell (and the surrounding valley) has to offer for outdoor adventurers. Summer is a great time to visit to take advantage of great weather and the visitor season, but winter is also a perfect time to visit, with ski season and super affordable lift tickets at Blacktail Mountail Ski Area. Just $40 all day for adults or free if you can prove it's your birthday! 

There really is Discovery in every direction, so whether you stay two days or two weeks, you're sure to have a jam-packed visit...or really relaxing, depending on the sort of vacation you're looking for. What outdoor activity sounds the best to you?

Disclosure: My visit to Kalispell was sponsored by the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau, but all opinions are 100% my own.

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