Hit the Deck

Spectacular sunsets and leisurely living on some of the finest patios featuring alfresco dining with lakeside views

By Tristan Scott
Customers dine on Flathead Lake at Acqua Pazza in Lakeside on July 16, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Some would argue that the most stunning sunsets are the hardest earned, dazzling only those hearty souls who pitch steep ascents up mountainsides, rewarding their pursuits to craggy, bench-cut overlooks with an electric horizon dancing in the distance.

Or better yet, while gazing out across the silver-smooth surface of a remote, high-alpine lake, a slippery spectrum of colors shimmering like a shoal of tetras, the cool contact of bare feet pressed against the pebble-strewn shingle beach.

Maybe so.

But let us not dismiss the depraved bliss of lounging idly in the lap of luxury while seeking purchase on a patio, relishing new heights of decadence while hanging out down low in the valley, and watching with satisfaction as that orange orb sizzles against the skyline, even if you’ve done nothing more to earn the view than cut the grass.

If you’ve just finished a quad-crushing hike or a heart-pounding bike ride, then enjoy the well-deserved respite. But if your prerogative is to cap off an unproductive day of frivolous loafing simply by loafing frivolously, you’ll be well served to do it at one of the following locales.

The Flathead Valley and surrounding area has a suite of options for dining al fresco, snacking, sipping cocktails, and drinking in the sunset, ranging from lakeside lounges and riverside roosts to outdoor oases and sidewalk seating.

Here are a few summertime favorites that will satisfy all stripes and sizes.

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

1380 Wisconsin Ave., Whitefish

Even the most seasoned deck aficionado will be blown away by the double-barrel action afforded by The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, which offers sweeping, eye-popping views of its namesake body of water as well as dueling decks for dining and drinks.

Whether you’re inclined to sit dockside near the bustling boat slips and enjoy cocktails and a light menu at the Tiki Bar and Grill, or sit up on the enclosed patio deck outside the Boat Club Lounge, the views of Whitefish Lake are unrivaled and the sunsets are guaranteed to offer a vivid kaleidoscope of pinks and tangerines.

For sharing, try the barbecue chicken pizza with the Lodge’s signature brick-oven crust, paired with a Caesar salad and bottle of wine from the Lodge’s extensive selection. Boat chips and thin-cut sweet potatoes are the perfect snack, while a Moscow Mule in a copper cup will slake your summer thirst.

Need a suggestion for an appertif, a recommendation for a hike or the answer to just about any Whitefish-related piece of trivia you can muster? Chat up longtime lead bartender Chappy inside the lounge. He’s a veritable fount of stories and information.

The Raven

25999 MT Highway 35, Bigfork

The Raven is situated on Woods Bay, where a pair of lakeside docks ushers boaters up to the bar and restaurant’s patio and arguably one of the hottest spots on Flathead Lake – and not just because the deck is heated for those cool summer evenings.

The Raven has been a Flathead Lake staple for years, with its lively atmosphere, cocktail menu and eclectic eats appealing to all comers.

Flip flops and sandals are the standard fare, but the casual dress doesn’t compromise the quality of the food and craft cocktails and margaritas, which stand out in their own right.

Belton Chalet

12575 Highway 2 East, West Glacier

This gem of West Glacier is known for its unique, Swiss-chalet style architecture, phenomenal food and, most importantly, a wrap-around veranda with views into Glacier National Park.

The menu is designed by executive chef Melissa Mangold and features duck confit tacos, emu tartare, a Montana meatloaf, and a glut of other entrees, dishes and bowls perfect for sharing. The historic Belton Chalet also offers Blackfoot IPA on tap and a full bar.

A wait staff adorned in starched whites, which is the perfect complement to the chalet’s upscale yet accessible vibe, and the dress code of patio-dwellers appeals to all manner of style and panache, from Bohemian cruise wear to bait shop chic and river-rat regalia.

The Belton flanks the western entrance to Glacier National Park and is open for the summer season May 23 to Oct. 3, with the taproom open daily at 3 p.m. offering cocktails and a light menu, and dinner available 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in June and 9 p.m. later in the summer.

The Lodge at McGregor Lake

112555 U.S. Highway 2, Marion, 59925

This deck offers beautiful views of McGregor Lake and the surrounding mountains, hearty but inexpensive breakfasts and prime rib on the weekends. The restaurant and bar is open year round, seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Kila Pub

4220 U.S. Highway 2 West, Kila

Both a vestige and restoration of its former self, the Kila Pub retains the charming exterior of the now-defunct Cottage Inn while also maintaining its terrific location on the outskirts of Ashley Lake, amid a mystical, marshy wetland that is only accentuated by the clutch of locals who frequent the bar and restaurant.

Acqua Pazza

7135 U.S. Highway 93 South, Lakeside

Another Flathead Lake favorite, Acqua Pazza’s patio dining in Lakeside does not disappoint. The summer season begins June 15.

Flathead Lake Brewing Company Pubhouse

116 Holt Dr., Bigfork

Already one of the most hyped-about spots overlooking Flathead Lake, the new brewery and pubhouse is entering its first summer and, if this spring was any indication, its expansive patio is going to be the place to be during the dog days.

Many Glacier Hotel

1 Route 3 (Many Glacier Road), Babb

Situated on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake on the east side of Glacier National Park and staring some of the park’s towering peaks in the face, this century-old hotel, while remote, is among the most spectacular structures in the west.