It was barely May before the calls started, friends and family dialing us up to see if they could reserve a room in the house for their seasonal visit to the Flathead. After a long, cold winter, the thrill of seeing new people in the valley is exciting, but for many of us, begins to wear on us like traffic wears down Main Street in Kalispell.
With that in mind, here’s a collection of activities for your houseguests to enjoy if you need a couple hours to regroup or just sit quietly with your thoughts.
Good luck out there, and when in doubt, suggest Avalanche Lake.
Where: Up the North Fork
Time it buys you: At least half a day
Send your guests to Columbia Falls, where they can shop and dine before heading up North Fork Road. The rutted and scenic trip is slow going, but Polebridge sits about 35 miles up the road and offers a bakery, incredible views, educational opportunities, and an entrance into the northwest corner of Glacier Park. They can continue their adventures there, or make their way back to town.
Big Sky Waterpark
Where: Just off Highway 2, east of Columbia Falls
Time it buys you: Hours to a full day
Who can resist a great waterpark during the summer? Your houseguests will love the 75-foot-tall Geronimo slide, or its little sibling, the 35-foot-tall Bonzai slide. A whirlpool, kid’s activity pool, miniature golf course, and bumper cars help round out the entertainment, which is guaranteed to tucker out the kids. For more information, visit www.bigskywp.com.
Amazing Fun Center
Where: Off Highway 2 in Coram
Time it buys you: At least half a day
Stop by this gem of an amusement center either on your way to or from the park, or it can be a destination in its own right. There’s a maze, go-carts, basketball, miniature golf, and bumper boats to start, along with plenty of space for kids to let off a whole bunch of steam. For more information, visit www.amazingfuncenter.com or call 406-387-5902.
Where: Between Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse on Highway 2
Time it buys you: An hour or two
Send your guests to get their minds blown at the Montana Vortex and accompanying House of Mystery, where they will learn about the realities of quantum physics and the mysteries still inherent in the world. It’s also a good stop on the way to or from Glacier Park, if your home base is the Flathead Valley. For more information, visit www.montanavortex.com or call 406-892-1210.
Whitefish Mountain Resort Zipline Tours
Where: Whitefish Mountain Resort
Time it buys you: Hours to half a day
Want a place with amazing views and enough thrills to keep the adrenaline pumping long after it’s done? Head to Whitefish Mountain Resort, where your houseguests can zip along the seven-line tour. One line goes as far as 1,900 feet and soars 300 feet above the forest floor. A five-line tour is also available. It’ll be an introduction to the valley they won’t forget. For more information, visit www.skiwhitefish.com or call 406-862-2900.
More High-Wire Fun
Where: Glacier Ziplines near Columbia Falls; Glacier Highline in Coram
Time it buys you: Half a day to a full day
Glacier Ziplines offers eight lines on a canopy tour east of Columbia Falls, as well as a lower zipline with no hiking required. All told, an adventurer will travel nearly a mile of lines during this tour. For more information, visit www.glacier-ziplines.com or call 406-892-8020.
In Coram, Glacier Highline offers 47 rope courses for a different kind of challenge, along with a giant swing with a water drop for the extra adventurous. For more information, visit www.glacierhighline.com or call 406-387-5007.
Where: West Glacier
Time it buys you: Half a day to a whole day
Take advantage of the local waterways and send your houseguests on a thrilling rafting tour with one of the valley’s many experienced guides. The folks at Glacier Raft Company (www.glacierraftco.com), Flathead Raft Company (www.flatheadraftco.com), Wild River Adventures (www.riverwild.com), and Glacier Guides (www.glacierguides.com) should be able to find them a trip that suits their needs.
Horseback Trail Rides
Where: Glacier National Park, surrounding forest land
Time it buys you: Hours to a whole day
Saddle up your houseguests and send them into Glacier Park with the park’s only trail-riding concessionaire, Swan Mountain Outfitters, who offer rides in the park and West Glacier. For more information, visit www.swanmountainoutfitters.com. There are also many local ranches and guides offering private trail rides that can also include dinner packages.