A Perfect Day in Whitefish - December
December is a transition month in northwest Montana as the snow begins to accumulate and people’s minds turn to the preparing for the holidays, conditioning for ski season, and maybe just cozying up at home.
Go ahead and indulge that longing to hibernate by sleeping in a bit, then head to The Firebrand for a delicious made-to-order breakfast sandwich and a Montana Coffee Traders’ custom roasted espresso drink. Be sure to pick up a house-made pastry for later.
One of my favorite things to do is get out into nature, and early to mid-December is a great time to enjoy areas that tend to be “too busy” during warm season. Now is the perfect time to enjoy the Avalanche Lake trail, one of Glacier National Park’s most popular and easily accessed hikes. In December, traffic on the trail is notably low, yet the scenic beauty is still spectacular!
The late autumn forest is dramatically open, allowing one to appreciate the large variety of mosses covering the forest floor, framed by the massive and ancient red cedar and western hemlock trees. It’s striking how green this forest is, well after leaves have turned and fallen for the season.
Avalanche gorge slows the early part of the hike, as it draws one’s attention to observing the crashing glacial waters in the narrowly carved gorge. Take some time to linger here and experience the powerfully meditative quality of the gorge.
As you continue up the path, the sound of the surging water follows. You’ll pass through an avalanche area, the many downed trees offering another testament to nature’s power.
As you gain elevation, the snow depths increase and trail becomes icy in patches. I highly recommend hiking poles or Yaktrax for confidence and ease of travel. The very first views of Avalanche Lake are breathtakingly beautiful, so take a few minutes here to reap the rewards of your efforts.
I recommend continuing along the trail traversing the west shore to the head of the lake. More silence and serenity is in store along the way as the views of the lake and surrounding mountains evolve. The overcast sky lends a black and white quality to the world. There is no better time to experience quiet nature in this area of Glacier.
After your hike, a quick car ride back to Whitefish delivers you to the downtown scene with many options for enjoying some well-deserved refreshment! Stop into Spotted Bear Spirits for a refreshing cocktail; I recommend the “so fresh and so clean” made with gin. It seems a perfect reflection of the day’s outing!
Round out the afternoon with a massage at the Spa at Whitefish Lake followed by a soak in the lakefront hot tub.
Finish up the day with live music, food and drinks in the Boat Club Lounge. Cheers to a perfect December day!
- Edna W, Averill Hospitality