CONNECTING COMMUNITY THROUGH FREE OUTDOOR RECREATION
The Whitefish Trail
THE CITY OF WHITEFISH & WHITEFISH LEGACY PARTNERS HAVE BUILT
47 Miles of Non-Motorized, Multi-use Trail & 15 Trailheads
The cornerstone of Whitefish Legacy Partners’ work, the Whitefish Trail is a regional, multi-partner project established in 2010 to develop a 55+ mile recreational trail system encircling the community of Whitefish and Whitefish Lake.
The Whitefish Trail is the gateway for hikers, bikers, runners, skiers, and equestrians to beautiful forests, prime wildlife habitat, sweeping vistas, pristine lakes, and inter-connected recreation areas.
This community-driven and donor-supported project is a collaboration between Whitefish Legacy Partners, the City of Whitefish, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, US Forest Service, Montana State Parks, and many local private conservation and recreation champions.
2010 • Lupfer
Trails at Lupfer were added to the Whitefish Trail System to provide trail users yet another opportunity for recreation. A quiet and less-traveled 4 mile loop and scenic overlook provide panoramic views of the Stillwater Valley.
2010 • Lion Mountain & Skyles
Lion Mountain & Skyles
The popular trailheads of Lion Mountain and Skyles Connection were the first pieces of the Whitefish Trail to open in 2010. Lion Mountain provides over three miles of stacked loop trails to a scenic overlook. The Skyles Connection serves as a vital access point between Beaver Lakes and Lion Mountain. Users can explore west to the Beaver Lakes area or head east back to town through Lion Mountain. In 2015, the WT Learning Pavilion was completed at Lion Mountain to anchor outdoor education programs on the Whitefish Trail.
2011 • Beaver Lakes
The Beaver Lake area offers trail users the opportunity to explore 6 pristine lakes through a permanently protected landscape. The Beaver Lakes trailhead opened in 2011, and expansion of the Woods Lake trails and trailhead and the North Beaver Connection provides users better access. The Dollar Lake trails opened in October of 2015, and provide users yet more destinations to explore. Overall, the Beaver Lakes area contains approximately 20 miles of newly built trails.
2015 • Spencer Mountain
The eight-mile WT loop at Spencer Mountain officially opened in summer of 2015. The Whitefish Trail at Spencer Mountain has a different character than other parts of the trail system because most of the trails are historic. Some new trail building in South Spencer has helped make vital connections, and in spring of 2016, we were happy to open a new East-West Connector Trail. This newly licensed trail cuts the once arduous eight mile loop into two, smaller 4-5 mile loops. Spencer Mountain is also home to the Freeride mountain bike trails developed and maintained by Flathead Area Mountain Bikers (FAMB).
2017 • Haskill
Haskill serves as the eastern gateway to the Whitefish Trail. In May of 2017, we broke ground on 5.5 miles of new trail and two trailheads connecting Whitefish to Whitefish Mountain Resort. The Big Mountain Trailhead, in partnership with Glacier Nordic, has groomed cross country ski access during the winter. This project was funded by the Land, Water, and Conservation Fund, the Montana Recreation Trails Program, the Forest Service Resource Advisory Council, and local community donors. Final construction ended in 2018 with the addition of a scenic boardwalk and viewing platform at Haskill Lake.
2012 • Swift Creek
Swift Creek at the head of Whitefish Lake, serves as a critical outpost for completing the trail system around Whitefish Lake. Swift Creek trails currently meander through old-growth forest with scenic overlooks and expanding view of the Whitefish Range. Access to a serene Smith Lake was also secured. Swift Creek will be the vital connection between connecting to Beaver Lakes to the south and Haskill Basin to the east.
2021 • Holbrook Overlook
In 2019, Flathead Forest Service approved the Taylor Hellroaring Project that celebrates the many stacked uses of National Forest Lands on the southern Whitefish Range including timber management, recreation development, and habitat improvements. WLP, the City of Whitefish, and Flathead National Forest have partnered to develop the historic Holbrook Overlook on Big Mountain Road with 3.8 miles of new non-motorized, multi-use trails, a formal trailhead, a scenic overlook, and an interpretive trail with benches and picnic tables. The million dollar views look south across Whitefish Lake to Beaver Lakes and the Salish Mountains. Phase I of the project opened in 2021, and the project will be completed in 2022.
Close the Loop
The Whitefish Trail not only provides outstanding recreation opportunities close to Whitefish, it also connects vital corridors on private land to larger swaths of public land. To date, Whitefish Legacy Partners has partnered to protect over 6,000 acres of local land permanently. These conservation easements support sustainable timber industry jobs, protect the land from parceling and development, and maintain the vibrant outdoor tourism economy of Glacier Country.
The community’s vision outlined in the Whitefish Area Neighborhood Plan and the Whitefish Trail Master Plan is to create a 55+ mile recreation loop trail around Whitefish Lake, starting and finishing in Whitefish. To date, WLP has developed 47 miles of trail accessed by 15 close-to-town trailheads. Closing the Loop of the Whitefish Trail is a top priority for the community, and Whitefish Legacy Partners is leading the charge to complete the project.
Beaver Lakes to Swift Creek
Montana DNRC owns a continuous corridor of land connecting the Beaver Lakes area, across the Whitefish Lake Watershed to Flathead National Forest and the Upper Whitefish Range. In early spring of 2017, WLP and the City of Whitefish submitted a proposal to the DNRC to purchase a permanent easement for 480 acres of permanent conservation surrounding Smith Lake and for a trail from the North Beaver Connection to the Swift Creek Trailhead. In early 2019, the State completed their environmental assessment finding ‘no significant impacts’ and allowing WLP to move forward with the project. WLP and project partners are completing additional due diligence for the project.
Swift Creek to Haskill
Connecting Haskill Basin to Swift Creek will provide a mid-slope corridor through private land, Flathead National Forest, and Montana State Forest. In 2019, Flathead National Forest approved the Taylor Hellroaring Project allowing for timber management, trail development including 3 miles of the Whitefish Trail, and habitat improvements to begin. WLP, the City of Whitefish, and private landowners will determine a route through various private parcels and work to secure necessary easements.
Connecting community forests and our legacy lands remains a top priority for the local community, and securing a corridor through these landscapes will prove invaluable for both human populations and the local ecosystem. Trails at Spencer Mountain are currently under a 10-year license with the DNRC, and our long-term vision is to place the area into permanent conservation.
Whitefish Trail Endowment
The Whitefish Trail Endowment safeguards the long-term health of our community trail system for now and future generations, ensuring that families of the Flathead Valley can forever enjoy free recreation access to our local lands. Revenue produced by the endowment is restricted to support Whitefish Trail annual maintenance tasks including trail tread work, sign replacement, trailhead maintenance, access road repair, snowplowing, and toilet pumping.
The Whitefish Community Foundation manages the WT Endowment Fund ensuring sustainable growth of the principal and a reliable disbursement every year. Make a legacy donation that will enrich the Whitefish Trail forever, and receive a 20% MT State Income Tax Credit by donating to a MT Qualified Endowment.