If anyone knows the ins and outs of summer season activities in Whitefish, Montana, it’s Andrew “Bear” Barinowski, a resident of the area for more than 10 years and one of its most ardent paddlers and pedalers. Growing up squirt boating in Boone, North Carolina, he fell in love with Whitefish after coming out west to paddle. “We searched for a new sports-oriented town for about six months and couldn’t find anywhere that came close to Whitefish,” says Barinowski, co-owner of cabinet shop Architectural Woodwork. As if to back up the claim, his 7-year-old boy, who is always on the go just like his dad, thinks he has the best wheelie in town.
Here are a few of Barinowski’s favorite things about Whitefish:
Aspect of the area in the off-season: The shoulder seasons are great here, always bringing about change and expectations. Every eddy, trail, and mountain is vacant, so it’s all yours to explore.
Place to mountain bike: This list could go on forever, but to me the best areas are Whitefish Trail and Spencer Mountain and Whitefish Mountain Resort. They have the best mountain bike race series in the west–$60 for seven races, plus tons of prizes. I especially like Trail 800 and the A7 trail close to the town of Whitefish. The Flathead Fat Tire folks are a great resource for local rides.
Place to road ride: Around Whitefish Lake. The “Wednesday Night Worlds” ride, which heads out the North Fork leaving from Great Northern Cycles at 6 p.m is a good one. Another great one is the “Triple Crown,” which heads out Reservoir Road, Iron Horse, and Big Mountain. I also like doing the Highline Hammer, 138 miles around Glacier National Park. You can also ride up to the summit and back, and even do it on a full moon. But the best is doing the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park before it’s open to vehicles.
Place to ride with the family: Again, Whitefish Trail. It’s amazing and growing, and perfect for families of all walks. We also have a great dirt jump park and skate park.
Place to paddle (flatwater): Whitefish Lake, the Whitefish River, or any of the hundreds of lakes around.
Place to paddle (whitewater): The Middle Fork of the Flathead River. All of the forks are great, but the Middle Fork comes out of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. You can get dropped off there by plane and slowly paddle your way back into society. I also love the Wild Mile in Big Fork for a quick whitewater fix.
Place to paddle with the family: Hit Whitefish Lake in the evening for the perfect sunset float.
Place to refuel: The Buffalo, where the buffalo burger is unmatched, and the chef has great specials every night–or the Naked Noodle (try the Pad Thai). You can also refuel at Second Street Pizza with three buck slices and buck PBRs.
Place for a beer afterwards: Casey’s Bar or the Great Northern Bar–they each have drink and food specials every night (you have to drink at least a six pack of Kokanee to blend in). The Bierstube at Whitefish Mountain Resort is also a mandatory stop.
Photos of Bear and Whitefish courtesy both parties