Flathead Lake

Largest Natural Freshwater Lake in the West

Thousands of years ago the glaciers that carved the knife ridges and sharp craggy peaks in the park pushed their way down the Flathead Valley. And when they retreated, they left behind quite a gift. Flathead Lake is a sprawling blue jewel at the base of the Swan and Mission ranges. It covers nearly 200 square miles, has more than 160 miles of shoreline and reaches a depth of 370 feet. But numbers alone can’t begin to describe its beauty or describe the childlike wonder you’ll feel when you first dip your toes into its cool, clear water.


A drive around Flathead Lake offers breathtaking views, tasty brews, and colorful culture. It’s recommended to start the drive around the lake on the west side, for reasons that will become vividly apparent around sunset. Plan the day and take in some of the memorable stops which include great restaurants, museums, galleries, breweries, a distillery and winery, and several state parks for swimming and rock skipping. The southern half of the lake is part of the Salish Kootenai Indian reservations. Summer events include the Standing Arrow Powwow in Elmo. For many, Flathead isn’t just a lake, it’s also a cherry. In early May the cherry orchards that rim the lake are in full bloom. July-August is harvest time when numerous roadside stands are open to feast on the juicy goodness. After Polson at the south end of the lake, head north towards Bigfork and Kalispell on the east side highway. With higher peaks and steeper shoreline the east side offers a dramatic experience as you roll past orchards, agricultural land, and views of sailboats gliding across the lake. Grab dinner and take in the sunset in Bigfork and West Shore State Park before the short drive back to your lodging in Kalispell.

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