Play on Montana’s Flathead Lake
Thousands of years ago, the glaciers that carved the stunning landscapes of Glacier National Park pushed their way down into the modern-day Flathead Valley and sculpted Flathead Lake. The largest natural freshwater lake in the West, Flathead Lake sits in northwest Montana and is a sprawling blue jewel at the base of the Swan and Mission mountain ranges. Encompassing nearly 200 square miles, the lake has 185 miles of shoreline and a depth of 370 feet.
Day Trips to Flathead Lake
From Kalispell, it’s easy to get to Flathead Lake for a day trip or an afternoon adventure. A 10-mile drive south will take you to the northern end of Flathead Lake and the start of a round-the-lake day trip. Begin by traveling south along the west side of the lake on Highway 93 and once you get to Polson, return north along the east side of the lake on Highway 35 for a full loop tour.
A drive around the lake will take you to breathtaking views, charming towns and colorful culture in small towns that sit along the lake. When planning your day trip, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to check out restaurants, museums, galleries, breweries, a distillery and a winery, as well as several Montana state parks that provide access to water recreation, camping, boating and more. As you make your way around the lake, be sure to keep an eye out for fruit orchards—including Flathead cherries. In May, the cherry trees are in full bloom while July and August bring roadside stands to roads around the lake where you can pick up locally grown cherries and fruit.
Things You Need to Know
The southern end of Flathead Lake is on the Flathead Indian Reservation—which is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. When recreating on the southern half of the lake, be sure to purchase a tribal recreation permit.
Flathead Lake is also home to Montana folklore—like the Flathead Lake monster—beautiful islands (including Wild Horse Island and its day-use state park), epic fishing and various places to access the water.
When recreating in Montana, protect our waters by following these aquatic invasive species laws. The three steps of Clean, Drain, Dry greatly minimizes the risk of spreading Aquatic Invasive Species into new locations. All watercraft (motorized & non-motorized) must stop at open inspection stations. Non-residents must be inspected and purchase a Vessel AIS prevention pass.