Measuring Whitefish Trail Use

The outdoor recreation and the economic impact of Whitefish Trail use in Whitefish, Montana.

This research on Whitefish Trail use was produced in partnership with Whitefish Legacy Partners and the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau to understand the trail’s impact on local businesses and residents’ quality of life.

Summary findings are below, and two following data visualizations detail users, seasonality, spending, and recreational use on Whitefish area trails.

  • Outdoor recreation is the most important reason why visitors come to Whitefish and why locals stay in the community.
  • The Whitefish Trail contributes to $6.4 million in annual spending by visitors who come to enjoy the trail and by locals who purchase or rent outdoor gear at local stores. Spending by visitors who use the Whitefish Trail translates to 68 additional jobs and $1.9 million in labor income in Whitefish.
  • Spending by people visiting Whitefish mainly for outdoor recreation in the area amounts to approximately $101 million in spending, 1,460 jobs and $41.1 million in labor income annually.

Whitefish Legacy Partners manages the Whitefish Trail with diverse public and private partners. The City of Whitefish holds all of the licenses and easements for the trail while Montana DNRC, the Flathead National Forest, and numerous private parties own the land. The Flathead Area Mountain Bikers partners with the City of Whitefish and DNRC to manage the freeride Spencer Trails at Spencer Mountain.

Headwaters Economics also produced a full report, with extensive findings and methodology; as well as a printable executive summary.

Trails can bring a wide range of benefits to communities, including increased business, higher property values, and improved public health. Headwaters Economics has created a Trails Benefits Library with more than 130 studies on trails, searchable by impact, use, year, and region.

In addition to the Whitefish Trail use analysis, we also have published a variety of research on how trails impact specific communities.