Flathead Lake is located in Northwest Montana. The Southern half of the lake is part of the Flathead Indian Reservation, home of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. Originally, it was called Salish Lake after the tribe. As you drive north on Hwy. 93, right before you reach the picturesque city of Polson, which is on the south side of the lake, you will be taken back by the spectacular view of beautiful Flathead Lake. It is the largest freshwater lake West of the Mississippi. It is the 79th largest natural freshwater lake in the world, and also one of the cleanest. It is 28 miles long and 15 miles wide. The major population that centers around the lake are Kalispell, Bigfork, and Polson, all of which offer a complete variety of lodging, restaurants and shops. A perfect area to enjoy its beaches, trees and mountains. Flathead Lake is truly a treasure!
When it comes to fish, Flathead Lake has trophy size trout, yellow perch and whitefish. There are numerous campgrounds and boat ramps located around the lake. The Mission Mountains that are located on the East side of the lake are very impressive. They are full of wonderful hiking trails, some of which lead to lakes and even multiple waterfalls.
The mild climate allows cherries to prosper on the East shore and vineyards for wine production on the West shore. In the summer, there are multiple roadside stands along the East shore which offer a variety of locally grown fruits like: cherries, apples, and plums. If that's not enough to lure you to visit, then possibly the recreation possibilities will. Recreation on and around the lake includes: swimming, fishing, camping, boating, paddle boarding and so much more! There are numerous motels and rental cabins in addition to public campgrounds right on the lake. There are also two golf courses that offer wonderful views as you play. You can even rent a boat or hire a guide for a day of fishing or simply fun on the water.
The drive around the lake, whether you choose to use Hwy. 93 on the West side of the lake or Hwy.35 on the East side, are full of exciting scenery. During your drive you are likely to see all types of watercraft scattered around the lake such as: sail boats, jet skis and paddle boarders. There is plenty of room for everyone to enjoy their own choice of boat or personal watercraft.
During your drive you are likely to see deer, lots of deer, please be careful! The lake has multiple islands. One island is called Wildhorse Island, which is one of the state parks, and it is the largest island in the lake at 2,100 acres, and rises 1,200 feet above the lake. It is known for its wild horses, as i’m sure you guessed by its name. It also is home to Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. This island is also a wildlife refuge for multiple other animals such as birds, deer, coyotes and bears. There is also a multitude of beautiful flowers and plant life that grow on the island. Hiking trails can be found around the island, through forests and open prairie meadow, even past early 20th century homesteads. This island has proven to be a peaceful area to paddle around.
When is the best time to visit Flathead Lake? According to most people, they would say that the ideal months to visit would be July and August. Must-see attractions are up, the crowds aren't overwhelming, and the temperature is for the most part comfortable around that time. Honestly, the area around Flathead Lake is beautiful year round! Each season magnifies a different aspect of the lake and the mountains. In summer, the lake is absolutely eye catching with its turquoise glow. In the fall the mountains are sprinkled with Tamarack trees that show off their vibrant yellow and orange tones which charmingly contrast the emerald mountains. Even in the winter the lake has an alluring beauty that captures your attention. Please keep in mind winter is not a very safe time to visit. Weather conditions can prove to be quite treacherous. There can be a lot of snow, ice and even dangerously strong winds.
If you are looking for a place worthy of visiting, why not travel to majestic Montana and check out Flathead Lake and the surrounding ares. You could experience for yourself the deliciously sweet cherries that are grown from the local orchards, swim or float on the turquoise lake and explore the magnificent mountains.