Exploring The Best Lakes In Montana

Photo by Janne Simoes on Unsplash

The lakes in the Big Sky Country are some of the most underappreciated parts of the state. Most people get caught up in the majestic mountain peaks, unique wildlife, and flowing rivers. But the best lakes in Montana add beauty to the already fantastic state and offer many fun activities for the entire family.

These pristine waters are more than ideal for adventurers of all ages. Whether you're interested in kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or just relaxing by the shore, you'll find something that suits you. 

The Big Sky Country boasts over 3,000 lakes, making it one of the best destinations for lake vacations. However, the following lakes, the best lakes in Montana, are accessible to all types of travelers and offer a range of activities to suit everyone's preferences.

Avalanche Lake

Find your way to the majestic Avalanche Lake when you visit Glacier National Park! You're in for a sight for this one! You'll marvel at the stunning scenery of clear waters reflecting Bearhat Mountain's peaks with Little Matterhorn nearby. 

Hidden in the stunning beauty of Glacier National Park lies a true gem that visitors and locals can't get enough of—Avalanche Lake. Formed by the Sperry Glaciers, this alpine lake is worth the hike in its splendor.

As spring and early summer roll in, the mountains' avalanches transform. The cascades of snow and ice morph into waterfalls descending from the lofty peaks. 

Depending on where you turn around, the trip to the lake and back takes five to six miles, with less than 600 feet of elevation gain. Although this is a moderate distance, the route is one of the most accessible hikes in the park. The journey is friendly enough even if you have a stroller but prepare for some lifting in certain spots. 

Hiking to this pristine lake is an adventure in itself. You'll see lush greenery, stunning waterfalls, meandering streams, and wildlife in its natural habitat. Keep an eye out for mountain goats up on the cliffs—they love it here, too! 

Although the trail is moderately challenging, it rewards hikers with breathtaking views. Several hangout spots on the west shoreline provide excellent areas to rest and enjoy the landscape before returning to the trailhead.

Brave souls can dip into Avalanche Lake despite its cold waters as a refreshing treat. And make sure you take advantage of the fantastic waterfall views from Sperry Glacier!

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald, the largest lake in Glacier National Park, is a sight to behold. It captivates its visitors with its serene charm and picturesque vistas. Picture crystal-clear water reflects the majestic peaks surrounding it, stretching as far as the eye can see. The vibrant colors of the surrounding foliage and the mosaic of rainbow-hued rocks underwater create a picturesque backdrop that paints a scene straight out of a postcard.

Found at the western edge, at a lofty elevation of 961 meters above sea level, Lake McDonald appeals to adventurers seeking outdoor activities. Here, you can rent boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to explore the clear waters. From swimming and fishing to boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding, this lake provides a fun-filled adventure to its visitors.

But make sure to get up early for a peaceful morning paddle—it's well worth the wake-up call. You'll have better views too! Don't worry if you're going to rent without a prior booking. You need to arrive at Glacier National Park before opening time or reserve your spot when you get there. There are only a few available each day, though!

Beyond the fun activities and stunning views, Lake McDonald offers remarkable opportunities to spot wildlife in its natural habitat. This region is full of diverse wildlife, from the occasional appearance of black bears to the more regular visits of graceful elks and mountain goats. So, pack your binoculars and prepare to take on an unforgettable adventure as you immerse yourself in this paradise.

Flathead Lake

As one of Montana's largest lakes, Flathead Lake has a surface area larger than any other natural body of water west of the Mississippi River. Just its size is enough to leave you in awe. This lake commands attention and demands exploration.

The clear water is accessible from Highway 93 or 35, connecting and circling the entire body of water. Several public access points also line the shore, including six Flathead Lake State Park units. 

But Flathead Lake's size does not set it apart; it's the untamed beauty that surrounds it. Here, you're surrounded by majestic mountains, with their peaks reaching the heavens, creating a dramatic backdrop that adds to this natural wonder's allure.

This renowned lake in Montana promises an adventure like no other. Boating—all types of it—are welcome here. Communities like Bigfork and Polson line the shore with restaurants, marinas, and lodging. During spring and early summer, the orchards surrounding the lake offer delicious U-pick opportunities for Flathead cherries. 

Flathead Lake has it all whether you're drawn by the picturesque splendor, eager to enjoy activities like camping, swimming, and picnicking, or seeking thrilling pursuits like water skiing and sailing.

Whitefish Lake

This lake is a prime example of Montana's lakes' beauty. Its name comes from the mountain whitefish harvest here. This natural oligotrophic freshwater lake is perfect for various activities. 

Covering approximately 5.2 square miles, Whitefish Lake is famous for boating, swimming, and fishing. Beware, though, this glacially carved lake remains cold throughout most of the year. In the morning, kayaking and canoeing visitors glide smoothly across the lake's calm surface, while the afternoons witness the presence of motorized boats as the lake warms up.

Whitefish Lake's scenic beauty sets it apart as one of the best lakes in Montana, featuring sandy shores perfect for swimming. It now holds a reputation as the region's magnet for fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming, RV camping, and many other outdoor activities.

Going Beyond: Discover The Bitterroot River

Although Montana's best lakes often steal the spotlight, its rivers also offer a unique adventure for those seeking something different. One of the stunning rivers is the Bitterroot, a jewel nestled among the lush forests and majestic mountains. 

Surrounded by scenic trails that weave through the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains, this area beckons outdoor enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in nature's beauty. 

Its clear waters welcome those who want to try fishing. The breathtaking hikes are perfect for hikers of all levels. And for those who prefer flatter ground, biking or strolling along the 50-mile-long paved trail stretching from Missoula to Hamilton is a treat.

Exploring Bitterroot River

Watch for wildlife as you set out on the Bitterroot River. You might see bears or elks as they roam freely in this expanse. The river flows through valleys framed by the Sapphire Mountains to the east and Bitterroots to the west, making a picture-perfect backdrop for an unforgettable experience.

You could also venture into the trails winding through these wilds on your journey. Some will take you high up where air thins. One prime example is Trapper Peak, a stunning place with paths winding crisscrossing steeply upward. The journey is well worth it, even if not for the faint of heart. 

If heights are too daunting, the Blodgett Canyon Trail is perfect for you. It's shorter, at 2.8 miles, yet filled with stunning canyon views that will surely make your hike a lasting memory. 

If you prefer rides to treks, consider biking down from Missoula to Hamilton on paved paths that stretch over 50 miles alongside the renowned river. It's simpler here but less demanding than trekking. 

The Bitterroot River calls out to those with skillful hands with its tales of trout beneath its ripples. Fly fishing will call out to your soul with the awakening of spring and the lingering of summer. 

Other Activities

A tapestry of outdoor adventure awaits as you venture off to the river's edge. Picture yourself trekking through scenic trails where every turn gifts you with nature's beauty and splendor in vivid greens and wildflower hues. 

Besides angling, mountain biking is also popular here. You can pedal along paths that challenge your grit yet reward you with stunning vistas. Rafting is another fun activity you can do here. The waters beckon adventurers for thrilling rides down rapids or serene floats under Montana's big sky. 

You can relish picnic spots with your family and friends by the clear streams, absorbing tranquility while kids laugh in playgrounds nearby. On quieter days, you could also enjoy bird watching, which offers a peaceful delight. Keep an eye out for eagles or hawks soaring above! 

Visit The Bitterroot Mile Club

At The Bitterroot Mile Club, you'll find a unique blend of privacy and luxury on the river's edge. It offers an exclusive retreat where guests get direct access to water views for that perfect cast. Picture yourself waking up in one of their modern lodges or glamping huts, steps away from fishing adventures!

Here, leisure spans from hot tub soaks to horseback rides through Rocky Mountain trails. Days start with breakfasts that provide northwest tastes with a French twist, all under starlit skies. 

You'll enjoy fly fishing on the tranquil river or bonding with your loved ones over pickleball and yoga in the serenity of nature. 

But at the Bitterroot Mile Club, it's not all about summer. Winter also brings its own fun, with skiing and snow biking thrills. A stay here is more than a chance to bond with nature like never before.

You won't find a more serene fishing destination. The Bitterroot Mile Club provides access to some of the best waters with abundant trout. Your days will blend with nature's rhythm while you cast lines in pristine streams against picturesque backdrops.

So, are you ready to embrace the peace found only on these shores? Visit here! A treasure trove for any traveler seeking quiet adventure beneath big skies. Experience world-class fishing that keeps enthusiasts returning season after season.