Early April Trail Report

The Whitefish Trail has become a small beacon of light for our community as we adjust and navigate the unknown. Aren’t we lucky to have a backyard trail system that provides solace to body and mind? The trail has become even more important as the ski hill, local gyms, and yoga studios have closed to combat the spread of Covid-19. Luckily, our community trail system and local public lands remain OPEN for your mental and physical well-being. Help us keep this essential community asset available to the Flathead Valley, and follow these guidelines on the Whitefish Trail:
Vault toilets at all trailheads have been locked to help slow the spread of Covid-19, so plan ahead when going out on the trail. Mutt mitts and garbage service are still provided. If you arrive at one of our 14 trailheads to a full parking lot, consider driving a short distance to another trailhead. We are lucky to have 43 miles of trails just minutes from town accessed from so many locations.
This past weekend’s dusting of snow and cold temps have left most of the trails covered. Expect melting throughout the upcoming week as temps rise and we see glimpses of the sun. We are still working to remove downed trees from Swift Creek and ask that you limit trail use during muddy conditions. Stepping around muddy and/or icy spots can widen the trail corridor and create lasting damage. During the spring thaw/freeze cycle, morning is the best time to use the trail while the ground is frozen. The DNRC will be managing the downed timber at Smith Lake, and we do not expect the area to open until the summer.

Lion Mountain 

The winter snowpack has melted out at Lion Mountain, and trails are frozen in the mornings and soft and wet in the afternoons.The tread is still not quite ready for biking, especially in the afternoon when tires can create long lasting ruts in the trail. This parking area is often full, so if you find limited space, try visiting Skyles, Beaver Lakes, or South Spencer for a hike or trail run.

Skyles

Skyles only has parking for 6 vehicles, as per our agreement with private landowners and the DNRC. Help us respect this parking limit and try another trailhead if it’s full. Skyles is mostly melted from the Two Bear Road crossing all the way back to Lion Mountain. Conditions are similar to Lion Mountain with typical damp spots becoming soft and muddy in the afternoons. Snow still exists in ‘Goguen’s Gulley’ as you travel across Two Bear Road towards Beaver Lakes. This dark and shady section always holds snow well into April.

Twin Bridges and South Spencer

North aspects at Spencer Mountain are still holding patches of snow and ice. Neither the Whitefish Trail nor the freeride Spencer Trails are ready for biking. Twin Bridges is a great trailhead for a hike or walk, but watch for snow and ice along the access road. South Spencer is mostly melted off and the west side of the 8-mile Whitefish Trail loop is dry and perfect for running, hiking, or dog walking. Take your time through some ice and snow remaining on north facing and shaded sections.

Swift Creek and Smith Lake 

Trails at Swift Creek and Smith Lake are still mostly inaccessible from extensive downfall. The first half-mile from the Swift Creek trailhead to the Swift Creek Overlook has been cleared, but that’s all. Because of the extent and complexity of the downfall, we are working with the DNRC to determine next steps. Thanks to everyone who has offered to help, but some of the trees are just too tangled and dangerous for volunteers. See DNRC’s proposed salvage harvest below.

Beaver Lakes

Beaver Lakes is still holding lots of snow, especially farther out towards Woods and Dollar Lakes. The South Beaver loop is melting out, but other trails are still packed snow and ice. Again, the best time to use these trails is the morning when the ground is frozen.The road out to Woods Lake, Dollar Lake, and the North Beaver Connection is just barely drivable with studded snow tires or four-wheel drive. The snow-packed road has turned into an icy skating rink in spots and is not recommended.

Reservoir and Big Mountain 

Haskill is the last section of the trail system to melt out as it’s much higher in elevation, very shaded in spots, and is packed down from winter use on upper sections. Starting from the Reservoir Trailhead, south-facing sections up to the Valley Overlook are melted out but are still very soft. North-facing and shaded aspects still hold snow. Everything above the Valley Overlook to the Big Mountain Trailhead is 100% snow. Glacier Nordic has stopped grooming at the Big Mountain Trailhead, but it will be slow to melt out with our wintery conditions as of late.

Lupfer

Lupfer is still holding snow and has some downfall along the 4-mile loop. This trailhead is the farthest from town and is a great place for a quiet, family-friendly walk.
As you get out to explore the Whitefish Trail this spring, we’d love to see your photos and hear your trail reports!