Scenic drives that will take your breath away
Explore the Flathead Valley, the western gateway to Glacier National Park.
The Swan, as it’s referred to by locals, is a scenic corridor along Highway 83 southeast of Kalispell. Within this narrow heavily forested valley are numerous lakes, abundant recreation, and majestic views of the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range. Grab a picnic lunch at Montana Coffee Traders in Kalispell and head for Swan Lake, approximately 40 minute drive. The Swan Lake day use area offers picnic tables, restrooms, a great beach with shallow lake entrance for swimming, and pets are welcome on a leash.
HUNGRY HORSE RESERVOIR
The Hungry Horse Reservoir is located 20 miles northeast of Kalispell. At 564 feet the dam is the 10th highest in the U.S.and helps control water flow on the Flathead River and stores water for the Columbia River Power System which includes the Grand Coulee Dam. The reservoir is 34 miles long, surrounded by more than 25 mountain peaks with approximately 170 miles of shoreline – a recreational gem within the Flathead National Forest. A recommended day trip is a drive, or ride, on the west side of the reservoir which is paved for the first 11 miles. Bring a picnic and stop at one of the recreational areas and leave time to go for a hike, fish or swim. The Hungry Horse Visitor center is open daily between May-September and offers guided tours of the dam. In winter, vehicles can access the road on west side over the dam.
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 apparently around sunset. Plan the day and take in some of the memorable stops which include great restaurants, museums, galleries, breweries, 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 Reservation. 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.