Test your fortitude


On, in and in between its rugged peaks, pristine valleys and inspiring vistas, Northwest Montana is no doubt a recreation paradise. You can choose to hit the trail solo to experience its tranquility. Or if you’re energized and motivated by the company of others, check out the region’s group activities and competitions that not only star the area’s sheer beauty but get the heart racing and the competitive spirit flourishing.

Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, paddler or extreme sports devotee, athletes of all kinds are sure to find an event in Kalispell and its surrounding communities that inspires and exhilarates. Here are just a few, and if you’d rather cheer from the sidelines, all are spectator friendly and welcoming:

Jump over fire / Slide under logs

If you love the unique challenges of an obstacle race or have always wanted to try one, the Montana Spartan Race should be on your list. Produced by Reebok, the Spartan Race is the global leader in the sport of obstacle racing — inspiring extreme athletes and everyday people to test their fortitude and physical ability to jump over fire, crawl under wire and conquer numerous adrenaline-pumping obstacles. The Montana race is the only Spartan Race held in the northern Rocky Mountains and has been one of six races selected recently (from the 170 races produced by Reebok worldwide) to be featured on NBC Sports. Race producers have called the Montana course one of the most picturesque in Spartan Race history; it is held on the grounds of Averill’s Quarter Circle Ranch just above the shores of Flathead Lake and south of the village of Bigfork and the city of Kalispell.

Attracting Spartans by the thousands from nearly every state in the union plus international competitors, the Montana race offers both the Spartan Sprint — a 4-mile, 24-obstacle race — and the Spartan Beast — a 14.2-mile course over harsh terrain, 5,000 feet of elevation gain and 38 obstacles. And don’t leave the kids behind, the Spartan weekend includes half and 1-mile races for children ages 4 – 13.

Montana Spartan Race: May 5 – 6, 2018, register online.

Paddle the “Wild Mile”

On the north end of Flathead Lake in the peaceful village of Bigfork, a mighty river roars, and every year kayakers descend to test their skills and bravery on one of the wildest miles of river in the Northwest. The Bigfork Whitewater Festival celebrates the town’s infamous “Wild Mile,” a class IV section of whitewater where the Swan River spills into Bigfork Bay. Kayakers compete in International Canoe Federation-style slalom races — navigating gates through the continuous class IV rapids. The festival also includes four-man whitewater rafting races and a triathlon: 4-mile paddle, 14-mile bike ride and 4-mile run.

Bigfork Whitewater Festival, May 25 – 27, 2018; register online. 

Race the trail

Just 10 minutes from downtown Kalispell, the Herron Half Marathon / 10K / 5K offers a scenic and challenging trail run through Herron Park near Foy’s Lake. The race is entirely on trails and old dirt roads with no worries of vehicular traffic. The mostly forested half marathon course takes you up and down more than 2,000 feet of vertical gain and the 10K 800 feet of elevation gain. All race proceeds benefit the Foy’s to Blacktail Trails effort to secure permanent public access to the popular recreation area.

Herron Half Marathon / 10K / 5K, June 3, 2018; register online

Run the Glacier Half Marathon

With the goal of exposing runners and families to the jewels of our country’s national parks, Vacation Races last year added Glacier National Park to its lineup of national park half marathons. Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks, the Glacier Half Marathon course will follow Montana Hwy. 49 on the park’s east side and along stunning Lower Two Medicine Lake, and on to the quaint village of East Glacier.

Glacier Half Marathon, June 16, 2018; register online.

Bring the family

All the aforementioned events welcome spectating “support crew” families and kids — an awesome way to introduce your child to trail running or kayaking, or to show off your ability to climb a rope over a mud pit. And if your kids would like to test their own abilities to compete in swimming, biking and running, the Flathead Valley Kids Triathlon is designed for youth ages 4-13 years, held July 14, 2018, in Kalispell’s Woodland Park.

Start organizing the team

The Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake on Sept. 12, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

If you love team sports, check out the annual Montana Dragon Boat Festival coming up September 7 – 9, 2018. The only dragon boat race in Montana is held on the west shore of Flathead Lake in Lakeside, attracting teams from throughout the U.S. and Canada. The ultimate team sport with 20 paddlers, a steersman and drummer race in heats of three teams, each in a 46-foot Hong Hong-style dragon boat with a dragonhead at the bow and tail at the stern. Learn more about this unique sport and register online.

The Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau, which organizes the annual festival, was forced to cancel the 2017 event due to unsafe air quality caused by forest fire smoke from wild fires burning throughout the greater region.

And when the ice freezes on Foy’s Lake, the Montana Pond Hockey Classic comes to Kalispell. The only Pond Hockey Classic tournament in the western United States brings together teams of hockey players and fans from all over North America. Adults of all ages and abilities are welcome for the 2019 Montana Pond Hockey Classic to be held January 2019. Learn more online.

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