Whitefish Divide (Smokey Range) In Montana

Here is everything you need to know about the Whitefish Divide (Smokey Range):

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Montana
  • Length: 11 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: dirt
  • Managed By: US Forest Service
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: Info not available.

The Whitefish Divide, also known as the Smokey Range, is a prominent mountain range located in the northwestern part of Montana, United States. This rugged and picturesque range has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The area has been inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Salish, Kootenai, and Blackfeet, who relied on the abundant natural resources of the region for their sustenance.

European exploration of the Whitefish Divide began in the early 19th century when fur traders and trappers ventured into the area. The Lewis and Clark Expedition, which aimed to explore and map the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, passed near the range in 1806. However, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that permanent settlements began to appear in the region.

The discovery of gold in the nearby Kootenai River in the 1860s brought a wave of prospectors to the Whitefish Divide. The lure of riches led to the establishment of mining camps and towns, such as Libby and Troy, which still exist today. The mining industry played a significant role in the development of the region, attracting settlers and providing economic opportunities.

In the late 19th century, the Great Northern Railway, under the leadership of James J. Hill, constructed a rail line through the Whitefish Divide. This opened up the area to further settlement and facilitated the transportation of goods and resources. The railway also brought tourists and outdoor enthusiasts to the region, drawn by the stunning natural beauty and recreational opportunities offered by the mountains, lakes, and forests of the Smokey Range.

Today, the Whitefish Divide continues to be a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and skiing. The range is also home to the Whitefish Mountain Resort, a renowned ski resort that attracts visitors from around the world. The historical significance of the Whitefish Divide, combined with its natural beauty, makes it a cherished part of Montana’s heritage and a beloved destination for both locals and tourists alike.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Whitefish Mountain Resort: Located near Whitefish, Montana, this popular ski resort serves as a trailhead for various hiking and biking trails along the Whitefish Divide.

2. Lion Mountain Trailhead: Situated near Whitefish, this trailhead provides access to Lion Mountain Trail, which connects to the Whitefish Divide.

3. Beaver Lake Trailhead: Located in the Flathead National Forest, this trailhead offers access to the Beaver Lake Trail, which intersects with the Whitefish Divide.

4. Tally Lake Campground: Situated near Tally Lake, this campground serves as a starting point for hikers and bikers looking to explore the Whitefish Divide.

5. Red Meadow Lake Trailhead: Located in the Flathead National Forest, this trailhead provides access to the Red Meadow Lake Trail, which intersects with the Whitefish Divide.

6. Columbia Mountain Trailhead: Situated near Columbia Falls, this trailhead offers access to the Columbia Mountain Trail, which connects to the Whitefish Divide.

7. Whitefish Divide Trailhead: Located in the Flathead National Forest, this trailhead serves as the starting point for the Whitefish Divide Trail, which traverses the entire divide.

8. Hay Creek Trailhead: Situated in the Flathead National Forest, this trailhead provides access to the Hay Creek Trail, which intersects with the Whitefish Divide.

9. Coal Ridge Trailhead: Located in the Flathead National Forest, this trailhead offers access to the Coal Ridge Trail, which connects to the Whitefish Divide.

10. Big Creek Trailhead: Situated in the Flathead National Forest, this trailhead provides access to the Big Creek Trail, which intersects with the Whitefish Divide.

Transportation Available

1. Whitefish Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from Whitefish Divide.
2. Smokey Range Taxi – Taxi service offering convenient transportation in the Smokey Range area.
3. Divide Express – Express bus service connecting various locations near Whitefish Divide.
4. Range Rides – Local transportation service specializing in rides around the Smokey Range.
5. Divide Car Rentals – Car rental agency providing vehicles for exploring the Whitefish Divide region.
6. Summit Cabs – Cab service offering reliable transportation options in and around the Smokey Range.
7. Divide Biking – Bike rental service for those looking to explore the Whitefish Divide on two wheels.
8. Range Hiking Shuttles – Shuttle service catering to hikers, providing transportation to trailheads near the Smokey Range.
9. Divide Adventure Tours – Tour company offering guided transportation and exploration experiences in the Whitefish Divide area.
10. Smokey Range Helicopters – Helicopter service providing aerial transportation and scenic tours around the Whitefish Divide.


The Whitefish Divide (Smokey Range) is a mountainous area located in Montana. While it is a natural and remote area, there are limited amenities available. Here are the amenities that can be found in the vicinity:

1. Restrooms: There might be primitive restrooms or pit toilets available at designated camping areas or trailheads. However, it is advisable to bring your own toilet paper and practice Leave No Trace principles.

2. Parking: There might be parking areas available at trailheads or designated camping spots. However, it is recommended to check with local authorities or the managing agency for specific parking regulations and availability.

3. Camping Sites: The Whitefish Divide offers dispersed camping opportunities, but there might not be designated or developed camping sites. Visitors can find suitable spots for camping along the trails or in open areas. It is important to follow Leave No Trace principles and obtain any necessary permits or permissions.

4. Picnic Areas: There might not be designated picnic areas within the Whitefish Divide. However, visitors can find suitable spots along the trails or at scenic viewpoints to have a picnic. Remember to pack out all trash and leave no trace.

5. Water Sources: Natural water sources such as streams, rivers, or lakes might be available for drinking water or fishing. However, it is essential to treat or filter the water before consumption to avoid any potential contaminants.

6. Trails: The Whitefish Divide offers various hiking and backpacking trails, providing opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the area’s natural beauty. These trails might have trail markers, signage, or maps available at trailheads.

7. Wildlife Viewing: The Whitefish Divide is home to diverse wildlife, including bears, elk, deer, and various bird species. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing opportunities, but it is important to maintain a safe distance and respect their natural habitat.

It is crucial to note that the amenities mentioned above might vary depending on the specific location within the Whitefish Divide and the regulations set by the managing agency. It is always recommended to check with local authorities or the managing agency for the most up-to-date information before visiting.

Nearby Services

1. Whitefish Mountain Resort – Ski resort offering lodging, dining, and emergency services.
2. Grouse Mountain Lodge – Rustic lodge with comfortable accommodations and on-site dining.
3. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake – Luxury lakeside resort with various dining options and emergency services.
4. Firebrand Hotel – Boutique hotel with modern amenities and a restaurant.
5. Hampton Inn & Suites Whitefish – Contemporary hotel with complimentary breakfast and emergency services.
6. Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge – Cozy lodge with a hot tub and complimentary breakfast.
7. Whitefish Hostel – Budget-friendly hostel with shared accommodations and kitchen facilities.
8. Casey’s Whitefish – Casual restaurant serving American fare and offering takeout options.
9. Loula’s Cafe – Quaint cafe serving breakfast and lunch dishes.
10. North Valley Hospital – Local hospital providing emergency medical services.

Whitefish Divide (Smokey Range) Difficulty Notes

The Whitefish Divide in the Smokey Range presents a challenging and exhilarating experience for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its rugged terrain and steep inclines, this trail demands a high level of physical fitness and endurance. The trail is known for its rocky sections, narrow paths, and occasional exposure to heights, making it suitable for experienced hikers seeking a thrilling adventure. The difficulty level of the Whitefish Divide is further intensified by unpredictable weather conditions, including sudden changes in temperature and strong winds. However, the reward for conquering this challenging trail is the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, making it a truly unforgettable experience for those who dare to take on the Whitefish Divide.

Features And Attractions

Info not available.

Usage Guidelines

– No pets allowed on the Whitefish Divide (Smokey Range) trail.
– Seasonal restrictions may apply, such as closures during winter months or during specific wildlife mating seasons.
– Campfires may be prohibited during certain times of the year or in designated areas.
– Leave no trace principles should be followed, including packing out all trash and minimizing impact on the environment.
– Hunting or fishing may be allowed in designated areas and subject to specific regulations.
– Off-road vehicles or motorized vehicles may be prohibited on the trail.
– Permits or passes may be required for camping or accessing certain areas of the Whitefish Divide (Smokey Range).
– Respect wildlife and do not approach or feed them.
– Stay on designated trails and avoid venturing into restricted or closed areas.
– Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted by the managing authority or landowner.

Seasonal Information

The Whitefish Divide, also known as the Smokey Range, is a stunning mountain range located in Montana, offering breathtaking views and a variety of outdoor activities. The best times of the year to visit the Whitefish Divide largely depend on your preferences and the activities you wish to engage in.

During the summer months, from June to August, the Whitefish Divide is at its peak in terms of accessibility and weather conditions. The snow has melted, and the trails are open for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The temperatures are generally pleasant, ranging from the mid-60s to mid-70s Fahrenheit (around 18-24 degrees Celsius), making it an ideal time for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the range. The wildflowers are in full bloom, adding vibrant colors to the already picturesque landscape. However, it is worth noting that summer is also the peak tourist season, so popular trails and camping spots may be crowded.

As autumn arrives, typically from September to October, the Whitefish Divide transforms into a stunning display of fall foliage. The mountains are adorned with vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold, creating a breathtaking backdrop for hiking and photography. The temperatures start to cool down, ranging from the 40s to 60s Fahrenheit (around 4-15 degrees Celsius), making it a pleasant time to explore the range. However, it is important to note that as the season progresses, some facilities and services may start to close or reduce their operating hours, so it is advisable to check for any seasonal closures before planning your visit.

During the winter months, from November to March, the Whitefish Divide is a winter wonderland, offering opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and even backcountry skiing for the more adventurous. The range receives a significant amount of snowfall, creating a pristine landscape that is perfect for winter sports. However, it is important to be well-prepared and have the necessary equipment and knowledge to navigate the snowy terrain safely. Some trails and facilities may be closed during this time, so it is essential to check for any seasonal closures and plan accordingly.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Whitefish Divide depend on your preferred activities and the experience you seek. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of summer, the stunning fall foliage, or the winter wonderland, each season offers its own unique charm and opportunities for outdoor exploration. Just be sure to check for any seasonal closures and plan accordingly to make the most of your visit to this beautiful mountain range.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Trails: The Whitefish Divide offers wheelchair accessible trails that are paved or have a smooth surface, allowing individuals with mobility challenges to enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.
2. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available near trailheads and other points of interest, ensuring convenient access for individuals with disabilities.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms equipped with features such as grab bars and wider doorways are provided at various locations within the Whitefish Divide.
4. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and benches are available, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy outdoor dining and relaxation.
5. Accessible Visitor Centers: Visitor centers within the Whitefish Divide are designed to be accessible, featuring ramps, wide doorways, and accessible exhibits to accommodate visitors with disabilities.
6. Accessible Campgrounds: Campgrounds in the area offer accessible campsites with features like level ground, wider paths, and accessible picnic tables, ensuring a comfortable camping experience for individuals with disabilities.
7. Accessible Lodging: Some lodging options near the Whitefish Divide provide accessible rooms with features like wider doorways, roll-in showers, and grab bars, catering to the needs of guests with disabilities.
8. Accessible Viewing Areas: Scenic viewpoints and overlooks along the Whitefish Divide have accessible viewing areas, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy the breathtaking vistas.
9. Accessible Fishing Platforms: Fishing platforms with accessible features, such as lowered railings and wider spaces, are available for individuals with disabilities to enjoy fishing opportunities in the area.
10. Accessible Interpretive Trails: The Whitefish Divide offers interpretive trails with accessible features like tactile exhibits, braille signage, and audio descriptions, providing an inclusive learning experience for individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

1. Weather conditions: Be prepared for rapidly changing weather, including strong winds, thunderstorms, and potential snowfall even in summer.
2. Trail conditions: Expect rugged and steep terrain, with loose rocks and uneven surfaces, requiring proper footwear and caution.
3. Wildlife encounters: Be aware of potential encounters with bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife; carry bear spray and know how to use it.
4. Water sources: Plan your water supply carefully as there may be limited or unreliable water sources along the trail; consider carrying a water filter.
5. Navigation: Carry a detailed map, compass, or GPS device, as the trail may be poorly marked or difficult to follow in certain sections.
6. Altitude: The Whitefish Divide reaches high elevations, so be prepared for altitude-related challenges such as shortness of breath and fatigue.
7. Lightning safety: Thunderstorms are common in the area, so avoid exposed ridges and seek shelter in lower areas during storms.
8. Leave No Trace: Practice responsible outdoor ethics by packing out all trash, minimizing campfire impacts, and respecting the natural environment.
9. Emergency preparedness: Inform someone of your itinerary, carry a first aid kit, and be prepared for self-rescue in case of emergencies as help may be far away.
10. Physical fitness: The trail can be physically demanding, so ensure you are in good physical condition and gradually increase your endurance before attempting it.

Conservation Notes

The Whitefish Divide, located within the Smokey Range, is an area of significant conservation concern. This region is characterized by its diverse ecosystems, including alpine meadows, subalpine forests, and pristine lakes. The conservation status of the Whitefish Divide is currently classified as vulnerable due to various threats to its unique biodiversity.

One of the primary concerns for the conservation of the Whitefish Divide is habitat loss and fragmentation. Human activities such as logging, mining, and infrastructure development have resulted in the destruction and degradation of critical habitats within this area. As a result, many species that rely on these habitats for survival, including rare plants and animals, are facing significant population declines.

Additionally, the Whitefish Divide is also threatened by invasive species. These non-native plants and animals outcompete native species for resources, disrupt natural ecosystems, and can cause irreversible damage to the delicate balance of the region. Efforts are being made to control and eradicate invasive species within the Whitefish Divide to protect the native flora and fauna.

Furthermore, climate change poses a significant threat to the conservation status of the Whitefish Divide. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and melting glaciers are impacting the delicate alpine ecosystems and the species that depend on them. These changes can lead to shifts in species distributions, loss of habitat, and increased vulnerability to diseases and pests.

To address these conservation concerns, various organizations and government agencies are working together to implement conservation strategies within the Whitefish Divide. These efforts include habitat restoration, invasive species management, and monitoring of key species populations. By prioritizing the protection of this unique and ecologically important area, there is hope for the long-term conservation and preservation of the Whitefish Divide within the Smokey Range.

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