We hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy at home during these trying times. The Whitefish Trail and our local open lands are so incredibly important to our community as we all cope with closures, economic downturn, and an unknown future. We encourage you to get outside to stretch your legs and ease your minds on the Whitefish Trail. Time spent outside in the natural environment can do wonders. Read the latest trail report and up-to-date guidelines for recreating on the Whitefish Trail.
Whitefish Trail Report - Early April 
by Alan Myers-Davis, WLP Director of Development 

The Whitefish Trail has become a small beacon of light for our community as we adjust and navigate the unknown. Aren't we lucky to have a backyard trail system that provides solace to body and mind?  The trail has become even more important as the ski hill, local gyms, and yoga studios have closed to combat the spread of Covid-19. Luckily, our community trail system and local public lands remain OPEN for your mental and physical well-being. Help us keep this essential community asset available to the Flathead Valley, and follow these guidelines on the Whitefish Trail:

Murphy Dog at Lion Mountain 
Vault toilets at all trailheads have been locked to help slow the spread of Covid-19, so plan ahead when going out on the trail. Mutt mitts and garbage service are still provided. If you arrive at one of our 14 trailheads to a full parking lot, consider driving a short distance to another trailhead. We are lucky to have 43 miles of trails just minutes from town accessed from so many locations.

This past weekend's dusting of snow and cold temps have left most of the trails covered. Expect melting throughout the upcoming week as temps rise and we see glimpses of the sun. We are still working to remove downed trees from Swift Creek and ask that you limit trail use during muddy conditions. Stepping around muddy and/or icy spots can widen the trail corridor and create lasting damage. During the spring thaw/freeze cycle, morning is the best time to use the trail while the ground is frozen.  The DNRC will be managing the downed timber at Smith Lake, and we do not expect the area to open until the summer.  

Lion Mountain 
The winter snowpack has melted out at Lion Mountain, and trails are frozen in the mornings and soft and wet in the afternoons.The tread is still not quite ready for biking, especially in the afternoon when tires can create long lasting ruts in the trail. This parking area is often full, so if you find limited space, try visiting Skyles, Beaver Lakes, or South Spencer for a hike or trail run. 

Skyles only has parking for 6 vehicles, as per our agreement with private landowners and the DNRC. Help us respect this parking limit and try another trailhead if it's full. Skyles is mostly melted from the Two Bear Road crossing all the way back to Lion Mountain. Conditions are similar to Lion Mountain with typical damp spots becoming soft and muddy in the afternoons. Snow still exists in 'Goguen's Gulley' as you travel across Two Bear Road towards Beaver Lakes. This dark and shady section always holds snow well into April. 

Piper Dog cooling off
Twin Bridges and South Spencer
North aspects at Spencer Mountain are still holding patches of snow and ice. Neither the Whitefish Trail nor the freeride Spencer Trails are ready for biking. Twin Bridges is a great trailhead for a hike or walk, but watch for snow and ice along the access road. South Spencer is mostly melted off and the west side of the 8-mile Whitefish Trail loop is dry and perfect for running, hiking, or dog walking. Take your time through some ice and snow remaining on north facing and shaded sections.

Swift Creek and Smith Lake 
Trails at Swift Creek and Smith Lake are still mostly inaccessible from extensive downfall. The first half-mile from the Swift Creek trailhead to the Swift Creek Overlook has been cleared, but that's all. Because of the extent and complexity of the downfall, we are working with the DNRC to determine next steps. Thanks to everyone who has offered to help, but some of the trees are just too tangled and dangerous for volunteers. See DNRC's proposed salvage harvest below.

Lego Dog at Dollar Lake
Beaver Lakes
Beaver Lakes is still holding lots of snow, especially farther out towards Woods and Dollar Lakes. The South Beaver loop is melting out, but other trails are still packed snow and ice. Again, the best time to use these trails is the morning when the ground is frozen.The road out to Woods Lake, Dollar Lake, and the North Beaver Connection is just barely drivable with studded snow tires or four-wheel drive. The snow-packed road has turned into an icy skating rink in spots and is not recommended.

Reservoir and Big Mountain 
Haskill is the last section of the trail system to melt out as it's much higher in elevation, very shaded in spots, and is packed down from winter use on upper sections. Starting  from the Reservoir Trailhead, south-facing sections up to the Valley Overlook are melted out but are still very soft. North-facing and shaded aspects still hold snow. Everything above the Valley Overlook to the Big Mountain Trailhead is 100% snow. Glacier Nordic has stopped grooming at the Big Mountain Trailhead, but it will be slow to melt out with our wintery conditions as of late. 

Greta Dog at Lupfer 
Lupfer is still holding snow and has some downfall along the 4-mile loop. This trailhead is the farthest from town and is a great place for a quiet, family-friendly walk. 

As you get out to explore the Whitefish Trail this spring, we'd love to see your photos and hear your trail reports! 

Wear Your Whitefish Trail Buff with pride!

With the latest CDC Guidelines recommending wearing cloth masks in public, we have PLENTY of WT Legacy Run buffs to give out. Not only are they incredibly stylish AND keep your face warm during these April snow showers, they are now recommended as a measure to help slow the spread of Covid-19. Before you head out for an adventure on the Whitefish Trail, follow these important health and safety steps:
  • Use the restroom (because the the vault toilets at the trailheads are locked)
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds!
  • Fit your washed and clean buff over your nose and mouth. Wash hands again and do your best not to touch your buff.
  • Enjoy a local adventure on the Whitefish Trail, maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet.
  • Wash your used buff so it's ready for your next adventure. 
If you would like a WT Legacy Run buff (or three!), send us an email, and we can drop them in the mail. 

DNRC Public Scoping - Swift Creek and Smith Lake Timber Salvage and Harvest Sale

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) is seeking public comment on a proposed salvage and timber harvest at Swift Creek and Smith Lake. On March 14, 2020, a significant wind event occurred and blew down 300 acres of mature timber. The primary objectives of the 3,350-acre proposed project are:
  • Salvage and capture the value of the down and damaged timber for the MT School Trusts
  • Reopen roads, trails and recreation areas such as the Whitefish Trail and the Smith Lake Disc Golf Course
  • Reduce the amount of debris to decrease potential wildfire hazards as this area is within Flathead County's Wildland Urban Interface
  • Reduce the spread of the Douglas-fir bark beetle whose favored habitat is large-diameter, windthrown Douglas-fir
  • Rehabilitate the area to the extent practical by planting trees, tipping back root wads in highly visible areas, chipping limbs, etc.

Submit comments by April 13, 2020: 

Department of Natural Resources and Conservation 
Attn: Mike McMahon, DNRC Stillwater Unit 
P.O. Box 164 Olney, MT 59927 
mmcmahon@mt.gov (406) 881-2670

If you have been enjoying the Whitefish Trail recently, we need your help with our 2020 fundraising!

Be a WT Friend or Family this year and make an investment in the future of our local lands. 

Bears are waking up! Be Bear Aware this Spring

With Spring in the air, bears are emerging from their winter dens. It's a good time to refresh bear safety measures as we also start exploring local trails and open lands.

  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it 
  • Recreate in groups 
  • Lock all food and other bear attractants in your vehicle. Do not feed wildlife
  • Control your dog at all times
  • Never approach wildlife and keep a safe distance
Remote Learning Ideas - Whitefish Trail Field Trips and Live Streamed Learning

Spring is usually the time when we are busy with busloads of students arriving for field trips on the Whitefish Trail. With schools closed and students learning from home, we're looking for new ways to engage youth with nature. We have prepared independent field trips for grades K-2 and 3-5 for families to complete while enjoying a hike on the Whitefish Trail or even in your backyard! P lease observe appropriate social distancing. 

We hope you enjoy learning on the Whitefish Trail!

We are also offering live-streamed learning on FaceBook. This week, we taught the important lesson of protecting our local watershed. We have several more live-learning events planned including our Spring Bear Aware presentation in partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks. Stay tuned!

Thank you to our Corporate Sponsors
The Whitefish Trail relies on the generosity of trail users, conservation-minded supporters, and local businesses to create a year-round, sustainable asset for future generations.    

Dr. Sara Boilen of Sweetgrass Psychological joined the team as a Corporate Sponsor in 2016 and then adopted the Woods Lake Overlook Loop in 2017.  Sweetgrass offers therapy and psychological assessment for anyone on the journey of becoming the brightest version of themselves. 

Thank you Sweetgrass Psychological  for being a WT Adopt-A-Trail Sponsor!
Whitefish Animal Hospital has been a Corporate Sponsor of the Whitefish Trail since 2013 and have since adopted trails at Lion Mountain. They play an  integral part in the relationship between their clients and  pets by providing the highest quality veterinary care possible. 

Thank you Whitefish Animal Hospital for being a WT Adopt-A-Trail Sponsor!