WHERE TO EAT
For a logging burg derisively but affectionately known as "Stumptown," Whitefish has a remarkable variety of restaurants. There is no buffalo on the menu at Buffalo Cafe, only a wealth of hearty morning fare that makes this one of the better breakfast joints west of the Mississippi. Tupelo Grille is a lively Cajun spot where the chef will be delighted to kick up your jambalaya or étouffée with extra spice. For sushi lovers, Wasabi gets much of its fish flown in daily and serves a "Montana Roll"—smoked rainbow trout and local whitefish caviar. Truby's offers pasta and wood-fired pizzas in a casual atmosphere. But let's face it: Most folks don't mosey to Montana for ethnic cuisine. For steaks, ribs, buffalo and the like, there's no better bet than the Grill at Grouse Mountain Lodge. The restaurant's rustic decor—distressed pine flooring, a towering stone fireplace and the inevitable animal mounts—says "Montana" as much as the menu does.
In summertime, Whitefish offers the usual accoutrements of any ski town—and a good deal more. Visitors can take a gondola ride to the top of Big Mountain or enjoy the Walk in the Tree Tops, an elevated boardwalk sixty-five feet in the air, guided by a naturalist. Great fishing abounds at Flathead Lake and Whitefish Lake, and fly-fishing central is the north and middle forks of the Flathead River.
But when off the course in Whitefish, one destination lords above all others: Glacier National Park. Situated twenty-five miles from town, Glacier is sometimes referred to as the Crown of the Continent. In terms of active pursuits, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding and, of course, hiking one of the park's imposing peaks are all popular. But if nothing else, you should drive the winding, fifty-two-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects the park. This gorgeous byway—one of the nation's most scenic drives—weaves and climbs its way past snowcapped mountains reflected in the turquoise waters of glacier-fed lakes and culminates at Logan Pass. From there, you can take an easy hike to the Hidden Lake Lookout, past fields of unforgettable wildflowers. Keep an eye out for mountain goats, bighorn sheep and grizzlies (though the bears, thankfully, tend to get no closer than binocular range). And be sure to take a mental picture of the views—they're half the reason you ventured to Montana in the first place.
TRIP PLANNER: WHITEFISH
WHERE TO PLAY
Eagle Bend Golf Club, 800-255-4651. Yardage: 6,711. Slope: 124. Greens Fees: $41-$71. Architects: William Hull Jr., 1984; Jack Nicklaus Jr., 1995. T+L Golf Rating: ****
Whitefish Lake Golf Club, 406-862-4000. Yardage: 6,579 (North); 6,551 (South). Slope: 120 (North); 119 (South). Greens Fees: $34-$41. Architects: Various, from 1935 on. T+L Golf Rating: ****
Big Mountain Golf Club, 800-255-5641. Yardage: 7,015. Slope: 126. Greens Fees: $34-$49. Architect: Andy North, 1996. T+L Golf Rating: ***
Buffalo Hill Golf Course, 888-342-6319. Yardage: 6,584. Slope: 121. Greens Fees: $29-$45. Architect: Robert Muir Graves, 1978. T+L Golf Rating: ***
Meadow Lake Golf Resort, 406-892-2111. Yardage: 6,718. Slope: 124. Greens Fees: $29-$52. Architect: Dick Phelps, 1984. T+L Golf Rating: ***
Village Greens Golf Club, 406-752-4666. Yardage: 6,401. Slope: 114. Greens Fee: $33. Architect: Bill Robinson, 1992. T+L Golf Rating: ***
WHERE TO STAY
Grouse Mountain Lodge, 877-862-1505. Rooms: $99-$229. Suites: $149-$259.
Kandahar Lodge, 800-862-6094. Rooms: $99-$259. Suites: $359-$550.
WHERE TO EAT
Buffalo Café (Breakfast), 406-862-2833. $
The Grill at Grouse Mountain Lodge (Steak), 406-862-3000. $$
Truby's (Italian), 406-862-4979. $
Tupelo Grille (Cajun), 406-862-6136. $$
Wasabi (Asian/Seafood), 406-863-9283. $$
Walk in the Tree Tops; 406-862-2900, bigmtn.com
Glacier Park Boat Company; 406-257-2426, glacierparkboats.com
Montana Raft Company and Glacier Wilderness Guides; 800-521-7238, glacierguides.com