Call me a clueless tourist, but on my first visit to Schweitzer mountain, I found the parking situation extremely confusing.
That’s because Schweitzer has multiple parking lots, and they’re not nearly as well marked as other ski resorts. And while parking at Schweitzer isn’t terrible, it is getting busier in recent years.
To save others from my stressful start at Schweitzer, I thought I’d put together a quick guide about how to find the best parking on the mountain.
By the end of this post, you’ll know how to easily park at Schweitzer. And more importantly, how to quickly hit the slopes… stress free!
A Quick Overview for How to Park at Schweitzer
Schweitzer has three different parking lots on the mountain, plus a shuttle lot 10 miles away from the village.
Map of Parking Lots at Schweitzer
Here’s the parking map from Schweitzer’s website that confused the heck out of me on my first visit:
If that looks crazy overwhelming, then I agree. So, to help you out, I’ve taken the liberty to zoom-in and highlight the three lots:
The interesting thing to note about this map is that all three lots are actually accessed off the same road. As you drive up Schweitzer Mountain Road, you’ll eventually see a (small) sign telling you to turn right for the first parking lot, aka the Lakeview Lot. If this first lot is full, another sign will direct you to continue along the same road to the second lot, Gateway Parking Lot. If that lot is full, there will be a third sign directing you to continue along the road until you turn into the last lot on the mountain, Fall Line Parking Lot.
We’ll now run through each lot’s location, popularity, and some local tips on how to use each one.
Lot 1: Lakeview Parking Lot
This is the closest parking lot to the village. Parking in the Lakeview Lot allows you to walk on a flat surface, directly from your car to the main village. (This village is where you’ll find the ticket office, Schweitzer’s ski school, and the two main lifts up the mountain, Basin Express and Great Escape Quad.)
The exact walking distance is about 800 feet from the middle of the lot, and it’s all flat.
Naturally, this lot fills up the fastest. On weekend days (perhaps all days?) it’s also a pay lot.
My experience: For reference, when I visited on a Thursday at 8:45 AM (15 minutes before mountain opens) this lot was already full.
Lot 2: Gateway Parking Lot
This is the second lot you’ll come across on your drive.
This lot is much bigger than the Lakeview Lot. It’s located about 3/4 of the way to the top of the Musical Chairs chairlift, which means you’ll have to walk about 500 feet up a steep hill to reach the village. (Protip: The locals call this “Heart Attack Hill.” The easier way is to just walk out of the parking lot’s flat section and ski down to the Musical Chairs lift. Zero uphill hiking required, and you get in an extra run!)
This lot is also 100% free.
My experience: On my Thursday visit, this lot was less than half full by 8:55 AM. But on my Friday powder day visit, this lot was already completely full by 8:45 AM.
Lot 3: Fall Line Lot
If the first two lots are full, you’ll see a sign directing to you to the Fall Line Lot.
To get there, you’ll keep following the signs for about 1/2 a mile until you’re told to pull off onto Telemark Road, which then meanders another 1/4 mile into the Fall Line Lot.
This is the biggest lot of the three, and I’m told it usually only fills up on the weekends.
This lot is an easy, flat walk to the Musical Chairs double. However, keep in mind that since Musical Chairs is a slow, double chairlift, it can create a bottleneck on busy mornings, and a lengthy line can develop as everyone unloads their cars and takes the same slow lift into the village.
To combat this problem, Schweitzer frequently runs shuttles from the Fall Line Lot to the village during busy days. If the lift line looks bad, grabbing the shuttle could save you a lot of time.
My experience: On my powder Friday visit, by 9:00 AM I was directed to the Fall Line Lot and was one of the first 30-40 cars in the lot. I then waited about 5 minutes in line before heading up the mountain. When I left in the afternoon, it looked like this lot had eventually filled up.
Option 4: The Schweitzer Shuttle at Red Barn Park & Ride
Of course, there’s one option that can have you avoiding the parking headache completely.
7 days a week, Schweitzer runs a free shuttle from the very base of the mountain directly into the village. The shuttle starts at 6:30 AM and runs every half hour until the end of the day.
You can easily find the lot by searching “Schweitzer Shuttle Parking Lot” on Google Maps. I’ve also attached a map below:
As a bonus, if you choose this option, you can also leave Schweitzer’s 10 mile mountain road in the hands of the capable bus driver. I talk more about this in my guide about how to get to Schweitzer Mountain.
In general, I think the best strategy for parking at Schweitzer mountain is to count out the Lakeview Lot completely.
You’re better off heading straight to the Gateway Parking Lot or Fall Line Parking Lot. Whether or not you can expect them to be full will depend on when you’re arriving:
- Most weekdays, you should be able to find spots in either the Gateway or Fall Line Lot.
- On weekends or busy weekday powder days, the Gateway Lot seems to fill up before 9 AM. So if you’re arriving after 9 AM on a weekend or busy powder day, you should plan on heading straight to the Fall Line Lot.
- If you’re arriving later or otherwise don’t want to hassle with parking, the free Schweitzer Shuttle is an easy option!
In any case, get that car parked so you can enjoy some fantastic skiing!