Flathead Trails Association to Host Second Trails Fest

More than two dozen groups comprising the Flathead Trails Association will be on hand for an afternoon of music, food, festivities and trail talk

By Micah Drew
People explore the Harrell Forest Community Trails during the opening ceremony for the new public parcel in Bigfork on Sept. 22, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead Trails Association (FTA) will host the second annual Flathead Trails Fest on Sunday at Haskill Creek Farms to bring together the myriad nonprofit groups, land management agencies, outdoor-adjacent businesses and, hopefully, droves of recreation enthusiasts.

It’s been more than 18 months since FTA hosted what was initially called the Flathead Trails Fair in the fall of 2022. The event saw crowds of people come out and try their hand at a cross-cut saw, high five Smokey Bear and mingle with the individuals responsible for curating many of the recreational opportunities available to residents of and visitors to the Flathead.

With weekends during the fall stacked with events — including many trail-adjacent ones, such as the Whitefish Trail Blazer, Le Grizz Ultramarathon, the Whitefish Trail Hootenanny — organizers decided to shift the collaborative festival to the spring when many people are just beginning to shift their recreational habits to single track.

Several dozen trail partners will be on site during the festival, which will include free beer, food trucks, live music, family-friendly activities, raffles and the chance to sign up as a trail volunteer.

Flathead Trails Association map, pictured Nov. 9, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead Trails Association was established in 2019, solidifying what had been a loose coalition of like-minded groups that helped advise on Flathead County’s trails plan into an umbrella organization to share resources and ideas. In recent years, the group has worked on increasing its public-facing visibility and impact by hosting the inaugural Flathead Trails Fair in 2022, launching a website and hiring a part-time coordinator.

Last fall, FTA released a comprehensive illustrated guide to the Flathead Valley’s recreational opportunities . The FTA maps aren’t your traditional wayfinding maps, rather they’re intended to orient people to the outdoors community at large. Among the illustrated version of the Flathead Valley, designed by former FTA coordinator Allie Maloney, are markers for the various trailheads maintained and operated by more than a dozen different nonprofit and government organization, educational facts about the region and insights into how the various groups’ visions are woven together.

The maps include more than 30 illutrations of flora, fauna and recreational users scattered around a regional map color-coded by land management agency. Trailheads, campgrounds, boat ramps, ranger stations and fishing access points are all marked, and historical facts and educational notices — such as bear aware principles — are scattered throughout. The back of the map includes mission statements of FTA’s 26 partner organizations, many of which publish their own detailed trail maps for various regions, and QR codes that link directly to their websites.

It’s this coalition of partner organizations that will be on hand during the Flathead Trails Fest to inform the community of the work they do, educate trail users on how to be good stewards, and engage with interested volunteers. The last goal is a driving force behind the festival, as each group relies heavily on volunteers to build, maintain, brush, groom and steward hundreds of miles os trails around the valley.

The Flathead Trails Fest will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at Haskill Creek Farms in Whitefish. To learn more, visit www.flatheadtrails.org/events/fta-trails-fest.