Montana : Safety by City
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Kalispell, Montana, is one of several fast-growing cities in Big Sky Country on the edge of a mountainous national forest and national park.
Montana has seen a surge of newcomers in a post-pandemic world where working from home and avoiding big city taxes allows more freedom.
That has caused housing rates to increase and tourism to skyrocket.
A city that was once considered in the “middle of nowhere” is now of the trendiest places to be.
It’s not hard to see why.
The historic downtown brings charm and an Old West Vibe while constantly adapting to modern entertainment needs.
The “middle of nowhere” is still readily accessible and offers some of the most stunning night skies you can see in the Continental U.S.
This is also a four-season destination, with the bitterly cold winters being embraced instead of avoided.
Scenic drives await those who don’t want to get into the elements, and outdoor adventures await from the Flathead Valley to the mountain peaks.
If the Crown of the Continent holds one million acres of land to explore, then Kalispell is definitely one of the crowned jewels.
One of the biggest challenges when visiting Montana is choosing which city to visit, and you’re in good company in Kalispell.
Warnings & Dangers in Kalispell
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk with a crime rate that warrants keeping an eye on. However, with so many safe spaces to explore and outdoor things to do, you won't get bored and have to seek out fun.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
To experience the best of the Flathead Valley, you'll want your own rental car. Taxis and rideshares can get you around town. The Mountain Climber is the public transportation system to get you around Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Whitefish. All options are low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Just two pickpockets were reported from 2018 to 2021. That's a low risk but be advised that there's a greater chance your car will be broken into if you leave it unlocked or loaded with personal items or outdoor supplies.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
This is a medium risk due to an onslaught of potential severe weather and natural disasters. Wildfires, avalanches, winter storms, extreme temperatures, drought, severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, and the occasional tornado all warrant being updated on the weather before making a travel adventure selection on any given day.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Since 2011, the city hasn't had more than 11 robberies in a year, and 2021 had just two robberies. This is a low risk but always watch your back. If you are renting a home, don't leave the doors unlocked or windows open.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is a low risk, despite all the brouhaha over the Chinese balloon flying over Montana in early 2023. It's a small town surrounded by rural areas. You can stay updated on terrorism risks by signing up for Homeland Security's Terrorism Advisory Bulletins.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The risk is low as long as you use common sense, like not giving banking information to someone who calls you pretending to be from a bank. Never offer information if you didn't initiate a call to a banking institution or tourist attraction. Use the Chamber of Commerce to find reliable rental services.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women face a low risk here but should use all the standard cautions they'd use in a big city. They should also know wilderness safety and survival skills if they plan to visit the mountains or lakes.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. I strongly urge you to review the "Local Water Quality Issues" on the city's website to read about the stream contamination problems. Four streams or rivers are rated as unhealthy or impaired by the Department of Environmental Quality.
Safest Places to Visit in Kalispell
Discover Kalispell is one-stop shopping for tourism information in this fine city.
The “Plan” section is filled with must-know information from navigating the roads to helping you pack for each season.
You’ll find a list of downloadable scenic drives and hiking trails.
If this is your first time in Kalispell, consider the safety of a guided tour.
Options range from horseback rides to jeep tours to fishing adventures to float trips and beyond.
Downtown Kalispell is a great place to start while enjoying the charming streets with mountain views and having plenty of shopping options to pick up some outdoor supplies or an extra pair of socks.
New businesses are always opening in this growing part of town.
It might also help to visit the Northwest Montana History Museum before you see too many sights, as you’ll appreciate the locations that much more when you learn about the rich history here.
Pair it with a trip to the Conrad Mansion Museum that celebrates Kalispell’s founding father.
Art lovers and history buffs alike will adore the Hockaday Museum of Art for this architecture and abundant gallery exhibits of landscapes captured by famed artists.
At Montana Modern Fine Art, you might even find a piece you want to purchase and take home.
Glacier National Park is 45 minutes from Kalispell, but you’ll need more planning time for the busy summer tourist season.
Flathead National Forest is 30 minutes away from the Hungry Horse Reservoir.
Flathead Lake has more than 185 miles of shoreline surrounding the largest freshwater lake in the West.
You can get to the lake through more than a dozen public access points.
Places to Avoid in Kalispell
From a crime perspective, there aren’t dangerous parts of town or neighborhoods you should be fearful of after dark.
While it always makes sense to stay on main roads and highways, there’s a low risk you’ll be in a place you aren’t welcome.
In fact, Montana was ranked as the most friendly state in 2023.
You do want to avoid planning an adventure beyond your skill or experience level.
For example, backcountry skiing and camping come with their own set of safety challenges.
When in doubt, start easy and work your way up.
Take a webinar on packing for the outdoors, so you bring the right amount of stuff to survive in case of an accident but not too much that it will be hard to carry.
Even sporting goods stores will have employees happy to help you plan for the trip.
Weight the costs of the guided tours against the value of having a memorable experience.
If you can’t figure out a compass, you shouldn’t be in charge of the raging river rafting trip.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Kalispell
- Kalispell has its own police force, and Flathead County Sheriff’s Office picks up in the unincorporated areas. The national park and forest will have their own law enforcement.
- Kalispell Police Department posts weekly crime data on its website in the form of an interactive map. The best part is that you can use the Heat Map function to see the safer and more dangerous parts of town during that time.
- Use the Notify Me email signup on the city’s website to get alerts in the city, from road construction to water main breaks. You can customize your selections, so you don’t get bogged down with things like the city council agenda.
- The Flathead County Office of Emergency Services has a list of Emergency Plans for even possible natural or man-made disasters. It’s smart to review these before you go, as there are a lot of details too in-depth to summarize here.
- MTfireinfo.org should be booked and checked daily as this will update the wildfire risks and activity on a given day. Even if the skies are clear in the morning, it’s important to know the winds and Red Flag Warnings that might be in place. Wildfires can move faster than most people realize, especially in low humidity and high winds.
- The Flathead Avalanche Center is a bookmark needed from fall through spring. The Avalanche Danger Scale shown on the interactive map helps you plan the safest place to visit.
- Download the National Park Service app to get information about Glacier National Park. You can also download maps from there that will work with GPS when you’re out of mobile phone range. Check with your mobile provider to see a coverage map before you go.
- There are four areas in Glacier National Park that require a reservation, even if you’re just driving through. You’ll book those through Recreation.gov.
- The tourism bureau suggests that guests book a rental car as early as possible, as the influx of tourists and a limited number of cars can lead to a shortage. If you can’t find a car online, call the local agencies before giving up.
- Review the Recreate Responsibly Montana website before you visit. From your own safety to learning the safety advice for dealing with a black bear vs. a grizzly bear, there’s a lot to know in this wilderness-rich state.
So... How Safe Is Kalispell Really?
Literally and figuratively, Kalispell is in the middle of the most dangerous and safest cities in Montana.
By April 2023, the city still hadn’t released 2022 crime data, so we can only go with 2021 information.
The violent crime rate was 30% lower than the national average, according to data provided by the police department to the state, yet the official FBI report shows a rate 9% higher than the national average.
There are some growing pains as departments adapt to the new NIBRS system from the previous UCR system.
We highly recommend checking the updated crime map on the police department’s website before you visit.
You’ll be able to see the crime and traffic hot spots with more current concerns.
In 2021, 40% of violent crimes happened against strangers.
23% of all thefts were car break-ins or accessory thefts, with a theft rate about 10% higher than the national average.
Growth is a benefit and a cruise to this area, as Montanans are widely critical of their state becoming too much like California.
The population rise is creating more high-end housing and pushing some people out of their homes due to the cost of living.
“What I really need people to know is our greatest increase in individuals is the elderly population; our elderly population needing a warm safe place greatly increased.
We were literally handing out walkers to help individuals that we were serving at the warming center,” said Flathead Warming Center Executive Director Tonya Horn.
Keep that in mind if you fall in love with your visit and consider a move.
Drugs are another problem with the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area saying the state has seen a 1,300% increase since 2020.
Kalispell had 88 drug crimes in 2021.
Kalispell is truly a gem in a gorgeous landscape, but common sense, situational awareness, and minding your own business will go a long way.
How Does Kalispell Compare?
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- Visas - Whether you're crossing the Canadian border or flying into the United States, the requirements are still the same. International travelers need a passport and visa. Some might qualify for a visa waiver, and that information is on the U.S. State Department's website.
- Currency - Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here, and it's smart to bring some cash with you in case there are some businesses that don't accept credit cards. Exchange currency at home or the airport, so you don't have to spend time looking for an option in this small town.
- Weather - Dress for the great outdoors in all four seasons. This is a rugged and rural region requiring hiking or snow boots. Dress for the season, but err on the side of it being cold. Winters might not get above freezing for a few months, and those freezing low temps can start as early as September or run as late as May. Summers will be beautiful, with an average high of around 82°(F). Dress in light, loose clothing, and bring sunscreen.
- Airports - Glacier Park International Airport is 12 miles north of Kalispell. It is served by six different airlines, giving more options than you'll find in many small, rural regions.
- Travel Insurance - Traditional travel insurance is a must since weather can cause delays or cancelations but consider adventure insurance too. Most tours and parks you'll visit will require you to sign a liability waiver, meaning you'll be responsible for any accidents or injuries.
Kalispell Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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Montana - Safety by City