When you see this sign along Montana Highway 35 along Flathead Lake, turn here!!!
Bigfork Montana is an incredibly charming Montana resort town found in a gorgeous bay along the northeast end of Flathead Lake. We call Bigfork "The Gem of Flathead Lake" because it is such a darling resort community with such a wonderful downtown. Bigfork Montana wraps itself around a gorgeous cove as the magnificent Swan River runs directly through town just before it flows into Flathead Lake, and the monstrous Flathead Lake flows into Flathead Lake just to the north of the town. Bigfork is truly a remarkable little community that truly shines as one of Montana’s premier resort towns. Only about 4,300 people live in Bigfork, but this town is all about quality and not quantity, as you will quickly discover once you get here.
Bigfork rests at the base of the towering Swan Mountain Range, and has a classic resort town main street, with shops, art galleries, restaurants and more. There are several Bigfork Lodging Opportunities, such as hotels, motels, guest ranches, resorts and nearby campgrounds. Wayfarers State Park is located near Bigfork which is a popular destination for boaters and campers. There is also a splendid 27 hole golf course at Bigfork, and what makes this place even more magic besides the jaw-dropping scenery in all directions is the fact that there are charming cherry orchards found throughout the area that produce the legendary Flathead Cherries.
Bigfork Montana is located on the northeast corner of Flathead Lake, where Montana Highway 35 runs directly through town. Montana Highway 35 basically follows the east shore of Flathead Lake, and rejoins U.S Highway 93 at the southern tip of the lake at Polson Montana. The mighty Swan River flows out of the legendary Swan Valley to the east, and literally enters Flathead Lake in the center of town! And just north of Bigfork Montana, the Flathead River enters this gigantic lake. Kalispell is about 18 miles to the northwest, and West Glacier, the west entrance to Glacier National Park, is 39 miles to the northeast via Highway 2. Whitefish Montana is 35 miles to the northwest via Montana Highway 35.
Downtown Bigfork Montana.
Bay that Enters Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the United States aside from the Great Lakes, and is a major outdoor recreational destination. Bigfork Montana is among several small towns found around this massive, beautiful pristine lake, and in our opinion is one of the most charming. The amazing cove (bay) that Bigfork wraps itself around is a great place to dock motor boats and sail boats, where they enter the main body of Flathead Lake after going under a bridge that suspends Montana Highway 35 above the mouth of the bay.
This is the mouth of the Bay at Bigfork, and the Swan River where it enters the massive Flathead Lake. Boaters must go underneath Montana Highway 35 to reach the lake.
Flathead Lake, with the Swan Range dominating the skyline. Bigfork Montana rests directly at the base of these beautiful mountains.
Bigfork Montana is wrapped around this gorgeous cove (bay) right next to Flathead Lake.
Brief History of Bigfork Montana: Cherries!
The first reported homestead in the Bigfork Area was in 1885. Then, in 1892 Everit L. Sliter grew 500 cherry, plum, pear and apple trees here, and also become the area’s first postmaster in 1901.
Sliter created the townsite of Bigfork at the mouth of the Swan River, and the area since then has become not only a major tourist destination, but also a major cherry-growing area.
At the relatively low elevation of 2,730 feet above sea level, and with it's mild summers similar to the Pacific Northwest's Cascade Range, the climate is ideal for growing famously delicious cherries, known around the world as Flathead Cherries.
This is a view of the Swan River just before you reach Bigfork on State Highway 83 in the Swan Valley.
Boating on Flathead Lake is definitely one of the most popular activities for visitors enjoying the Bigfork Area.
Local Entertainment and Events..
Bigfork might be small, but packs a huge punch with its entertainment and events!
Live Professional Theater: Bigfork Summer Playhouse
Celebrating its 59th season this year (2018), world-class live theatre by professional actors is one of the entire Flathead Valley Areas top entertainment destinations. The quality of these performances are second-to-none, and several famous Hollywood actors have spent many season here before moving on to stardom. For example, J. K. Simmons, academy award winning actor (Whiplash) appeared in various roles and also directed at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse from 1977 through 1982. Known as the “Theatre By The Bay”, the Bigfork Summer Playhouse is a past recipient of the Montana Governor’s Award for the Arts, and is among the top live theatre production companies in the entire Northwest. A variety of performances run all summer long,and the venue is beautiful with its 435 seat air-conditioned theater with a wonderful fly space, large lobby with a concession area, and extremely comfortable continental style seating for hundreds of people. Personally, all we can say is that you’ll be astounded at the talent, and you will be thoroughly entertained during your evening at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse.
Photo courtesy of Bigfork Summer Playhouse/Kay Bjork
Bigfork Festival of the Arts
One of the main events that has been an annual celebration for over 40 years is the Festival of the Arts. Over 140 booths representing art by nationally and internationally recognized artists. Over 6,000 people attend this fun event.
Bigfork Film Festivals
Bigfork is also the home to two film festivals, one a classic film festival and the other an independent film festival. So if you love the Golden Age of Hollywood or prefer to watch independent modern films by Northwest Montana filmakers, Bigfork Montana has you covered. Held in the Bigfork Center For the Performing Arts in Downtown Bigfork, these two events are perfect for the classic and/or modern fim enthusiast.
Bigfork Whitewater Festival
This is the longest running event in Bigfork, where it has now been celebrating extreme whitewater action for the past 43+ years. Whitewater enthusiasts from around the world to race at this popular Flathead Valley event, and spectators from around the world watch the action and drama unfold! The final mile of the Swan River, before it enters Flathead Lake in the center of Bigfork Montana, is known as “The Wild Mile”, where this class IV+ section of whitewater is the perfect place to hold such an event. There is a beautiful, scenic nature trail that parallels the north side of the river here, providing spectators an outstanding view of the action. There is also a large steel bridge in the center of Bigfork where spectators can stand literally directly above these world-class whitewater experts during the races.
This metal bridge is located at the end of main street at Bigfork, and crosses the Swan River. Spectators can watch world-class whitewater experts from this bridge during the Bigfork Whitewater Festival. This marks the end of "The Wild Mile".
This is a view of the Swan River from the metal bridge as it heads for the bay and then into Flathead Lake.