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Courtesy on the Whitefish Trail

The magical call of the loon evokes feelings of solitude and wildness across northwest Montana. Many lakes surrounding Whitefish are home to these black and white, goose-sized birds that nest and raise their chicks before returning to the coast for the winter. There are known nesting areas on Spencer Lake and loons have been seen at Woods and other lakes in the Beaver Lakes area.

What many don’t realize is how sensitive these birds are to human disturbance. If repeatedly disturbed by watercraft, motorized and non-motorized, loons will often abandon their nests. Once the chicks hatch, the young birds may also be abandoned as the parents try to defend their territory. Montana’s loon population is only around 200 birds, and of the 65 pairs that attempt to nest, only about 25 pairs successfully raise 1 or 2 chicks annually.

We ask boaters, swimmers and anglers to not come within 150 yards of a loon or posted nesting site. While we are request you to be aware of loons in areas where you recreate, we also want to emphasize ways that everyone can respect and be a WT FRIEND to other trails users, wildlife and neighbors of the Whitefish Trail.

The Whitefish Trail is a multi-use trail and with the busiest summer months upon us, we must be especially attentive when using the trail.  Bikers should yield to hikers and both must yield to horseback riders.  Step off the trail on the downhill side to allow horses to pass. Because bikes move quickly and relatively quietly, please let others know when you are approaching, control your speed, and never startle wildlife.

Dog walkers must have control of your dog at all times and dogs should never chase wildlife. If your dog is not under strict voice control, they must be leashed.  Please always remove pet waste and be aware that mutt mitts are provided at all trailheads.

Portions of the Whitefish Trail travel through private property. Please respect private lands and stay on the trail corridor. Roads leading to trailheads also travel by private residences and we ask that you control your speed and be mindful of dust. If there’s dust behind your car, please slow down!

With the heat of the summer, vegetation is quickly drying out. Be aware that ashes from smoking can easily start a fire. The trail is day use only and campfires and fireworks are not allowed.  Additionally, shooting a firearm is not allowed within ¼ mile of any trailhead.

The Whitefish Trail is a user supported trail and we all need to respect the rules, neighbors, and other users.  As you get outside and enjoy the Whitefish Trail, don’t forget that we rely on each of you to renew or pledge your financial support as a “Friend or Family” of the Whitefish Trail. Donate online today at

Come celebrate the Whitefish Trail on Friday, August 22nd at the annual Hootenanny in Depot Park from 5-10pm. Mark your calendars now for an evening filled with live music, kid’s activities, raffles and fun! It’s summer…ON the Whitefish Trail.


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