Glacier Country Biking Vacation

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

H.G. Wells, Author

Surprisingly, good locations for a Montana biking vacation are not easy to find. There is so much distance to cover between towns and such low population density that the only feasible routes throughout much of the state are highways with long mileage required each day. In fact, most of the larger bicycle tour companies don’t even offer bicycle tours that take place in Montana.

Our advantage is we are based here. So after scouring the state for what would be the best Montana biking tour location, we found it in Glacier Country, the area around the cute small town of Whitefish.

The beauty of this area of Montana is the stunning and varied scenery packed in one manageable area. We cycle through the agricultural Flathead Valley, formed by the twisting and winding Flathead River. We cycle in the dense evergreens of Flathead National Forest, with laden huckleberries bushes (in season) tempting us to stop en route. We have views throughout of the Swan, Salish, and Whitefish mountain ranges but the elevation changes are limited. The towns of Kalispell, Bigfork, Columbia Falls, West Glacier, and Whitefish (one of our top three towns in the state) are all in the same region, making this a tour that is manageable by most ability levels and yet with hundreds of miles of cycling for those looking for a challenge.

Our roads are primarily small, paved side roads that are ideal for bicycle touring. We do use gravel roads when needed to avoid highways or to reach certain scenic locations and so provide rental bikes that are suitable for both surfaces.

Nearby Glacier National Park is the crown jewel (and namesake) of the region. We include one half day in the park via car and foot or optionally just outside the park rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. But we recommend you spend extra time before or after this tour to enjoy Glacier more thoroughly, perhaps on our Glacier National Park Hiking Vacation.

Yes, Montana is known more for its national parks and its hiking than its road biking. But this Glacier Country region in the northwest corner of the state, with its excellent routes, beautiful scenery, and abundant small towns, makes for a perfect Montana biking vacation.

Main Image Credit: City of Whitefish

Private Tour Info

Private tours can be arranged for groups as small as four people.

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Details

  • Activities: Biking
  • Duration: 5 days
  • Price Per Person
          4 - 5 people: $2,850
          6 - 7 people: $2,600
          8+ people: $2,450
  • Single Supplement: $700
  • Other Info:
    > Bike rental $40/day or $70/day for e-bikes is additional charge.
    > Third or fourth persons in the same room receive a 15% discount

  • Public Tour Date: n/a

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Trip Highlights

  • Bicycle on the flat agricultural roads of the Flathead Valley, next to the winding Flathead river with mountain views to your side
  • Cycle along Whitefish Lake, to Glacier National Park, and through the Flathead National Forest on five days of riding
  • Spend three nights in the cute small mountain town of Whitefish, Montana - one of our three favorites in the state
  • Spend a half day either white water rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River or exploring Glacier National Park
  • Enjoy both down home and upscale cuisine in the local cafes and surprisingly sophisticated restaurants of the area
DAY 1

We meet after lunch in Kalispell, Montana, either at Glacier International Airport (the main regional airport) or at a hotel in the city center if you arrive the day before. We shuttle to the start of our first ride where we receive and fit our bikes (if you are renting) and go over a few details of the tour. It is then onto our bikes for a ride on the paved, car-free Great Northern Historical Trail, 22 miles of fun with mountain views on all sides and ending on the shores of Flathead Lake, the country's largest natural freshwater lake west of the Continental Divide. Please note that on this and most days, your professional local guide will be in the support vehicle providing assistance along the way. Our home for the night is in the small town of Bigfork and we'll celebrate our first day at a restaurant with views overlooking the lake. Distance: 22 Miles

DAY 2

We will walk to breakfast at the nearby Pocketstone Cafe before checking out and meeting for our first ride. We start on the Swan River Nature Trail, which runs for two miles along River Road and the Swan River. We then head north on agricultural roads through the long, flat valley formed by the winding Flathead River. We'll be on both paved and gravel roads and the traffic we pass will as likely be tractors as cars. The route options are endless, in case you are need of more distance, in this, one of the nicest valleys in Montana for bicycle touring. At the top of the valley we cycle through the small town of Columbia Falls and on to our home for the next three nights, Whitefish. Whitefish is one of the cutest towns in the state (it was actually second choice for our world headquarters after Red Lodge) and you'll love the classic western streets of the downtown area. Distances: 19, 32, or 43 Miles with more mileage available

DAY 3

Today on the middle day of our Montana biking vacation we have choices to make. In the morning, we will bicycle from Whitefish to the town of West Glacier, the main entrance point to Glacier National Park. Our route takes us primarily on small roads through evergreen forest, although we do have a three-mile section on the paved Gateway to Glacier Trail and another section on a busy road but with a wide shoulder for bikes. You'll have time in West Glacier to visit one of the local restaurants for lunch on your own. In the afternoon, you can choose between one of three options: river rafting on the scenic and exciting Middle Fork of the Flathead River, take a scenic drive into Glacier National Park with the option to do short walks, or bicycle back to Whitefish. Distances: 10, 29, or 58 Miles

DAY 4

Today we cycle on one of the classic road rides enjoyed by Whitefish locals: Star Meadow Road. The paved road starts west of Whitefish and climbs for 9 miles through the Flathead National Forest with very little traffic en route. The morning will be a challenge, as we gain 1,000 feet on the way up before cruising back down. You can choose to complete the ride and return to Whitefish for a late lunch on your own and a little shopping or sightseeing in town. Or you can complete the Tally Lake Loop Ride on gravel roads and ride all the way back to Whitefish for an epic ride through the national forest. Distances: 18, 29, or 42 Miles

DAY 5

We have reserved one of the most scenic biking days for last, as we are on a narrow, paved forested road that runs along the east and north edge of Whitefish Lake. Along the route you'll catch gorgeous views of the lake and bike past cascading streams and lakeside residences. As the road is a dead end, it is really only locals and recreationists on the route. Those looking for a final challenge can take the spur road up to Whitefish Mountain Resort, the local ski area. The out and back route from our hotel makes for a nice morning ride, giving you time to return to Whitefish to shower, check out, and eat lunch before we offer a shuttle to the Glacier International Airport for your trip home or to the rental car counter so you can continue your Montana vacation. Distances: 10.5, 21, or 30.5 Miles

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHT 1 >> BRIDGE STREET COTTAGES / BIGFORK, MT

This cute collection of luxury cottages in Bigfork are complete units onto themselves, situated on the Swan River and in a grove of Ponderosa pine trees. The cottages are only a few steps from restaurants, art galleries, and shops in the center of town.

NIGHTS 2, 3 & 4 >> FIREBRAND HOTEL / WHITEFISH, MT

This new, upscale hotel is offering modern luxury in classic western Montana style. The hotel offers a rooftop bar and hot tub, exercise facility, coffee & smoothie bar, spa, and restaurant on site. However, we like it best for the perfect downtown location, right smack in the middle of Whitefish's walkable streets.

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Arrival & Departure

We meet you just after lunch at Glacier International Airport or at a local Kalispell hotel if you arrive early. We then shuttle straight to our first biking route so you'll want to dress ready to ride. On the last day of the tour, we'll have time for a morning ride and a quick shower before we check out of the hotel, eat lunch on your own in Whitefish, and head to the airport, arriving by 2:00 pm. For private tours, we can adjust the pickup and dropoff times.

What's Included?
  • One local Travel Montana guide will accompany each trip. Additional guides added depending on group size. Note on this trip, the guide will primarily be driving a support van during the biking portion each day.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners and breakfasts are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included. In general, we leave lunches open so that you have time to explore and enjoy the local flavors en route.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All fees and permits are included.
  • NOT INCLUDED Beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses and travel to and from the destination.
When To Travel

This tour works best between the months of May through October. Average high temperatures at the beginning and end of this period are around 55 degrees, so you have the risk of some cool cycling days. In the summer, average high temperatures are above 80 degrees. May and June tend to get more precipitation than July through October. Keep in mind, too, that summer months are more crowded in the area, although that doesn't affect our biking much. For an epic ride for serious cyclists, consider planning your trip for early May to be able to ride the Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park after it is plowed yet before it is open to motor vehicles.

Extending Your Stay

By far and away, the best thing to do in this area of Montana is to visit Glacier National Park. While you have the option to spend 1/2 a day on this tour in the park, it is not really enough. We suggest spending an additional two or more days just in the park or, even better, combine this tour with our Glacier National Park Hiking Vacation.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.  

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