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Flathead National Forest

5 Things To Do In The Flathead National Forest in Montana (Off-Beat Experiences, Different Then The Usual Ones) (2023)

Flathead National Forest is a wonderland of Montana. It is spread over 2,404,935 acres, amongst which is 1 million acres are designated wilderness. Located in the northwestern part of Montana, the Flathead National Forest entertains over one million visitors every year. It is right adjacent to the Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the west of the Mississippi in the lower 48 states. The Flathead National Forest is home to several impressive mountain ranges, scenic rivers, lakes, reservoirs, hiking trails, vantage points, picnic areas, and campgrounds.

The best time to visit Flathead National Forest is literally ‘Anytime.’ While summers here let you sweat out in the sun, winters open up recreational opportunities in the snow. And in between that, the Spring and Fall beauty of Flathead adds to making your views less-believable and more beautiful. So, with that, why not plan your next Montana vacation to the Flathead National Forest. Here are all the things you can do and places you can explore in the Flathead National Forest.

5 Things To Do In The Flathead National Forest (Off-Beat Experiences, Different Then The Usual Ones)

Have a look:

1. Hike in the Jewel Basin

The most fun things to do in the Flathead National Forest are hiking and backpacking to the Jewel Basin. It has a unique 15,000 acre that operates exclusively for hiking and camping purposes. The entire area is a true hiker’s delight; the entire area has 20 alpine lakes and mesmerizing landscapes that make up for picture-perfect photography opportunities. The ideal place to begin your hike is from the Camp Misery Trailhead, though remember that it is only accessible by vehicles with more ground clearance (4X4) since the route is more of stone and mud. This particular trail will lead you all the way to the summit of Mount Aeneas. While the route offers impressive Flathead Valley views, it also offers opportunities for wildlife photographs. The trail is nearly 8 miles long and gains an elevation of 7,474 feet, making the trek a little challenging and strenuous. Though Jewel Basin doesn’t have any designated campsites, backpackers can find ranges to pitch their tent.

2. Explore Hungry Horse Reservoir

The Explore Hungry Horse Reservoir is another excellent feature of Flathead National Forest. This massive water body is fed by the South Fork of the Flathead River and is known for the beautiful scenery on both sides. To begin with, you can stop at the Hungry Horse Dam Visitor Center for an informative start. The center educates and informs the visitors about the dam’s history and construction. Another attraction is the Hungry Hose Dam which was the third largest and second highest concrete dam in the world at the time of construction. Besides that, the reservoir is also popular for recreating opportunities like fishing and boating. There are numerous fishing sites throughout its shoreline, with the highest density of places on its north. Also, the connecting forest area facilitates hiking, nature walking, and camping opportunities.

3. Camp at the Flathead National Forest

The 2.4 million acres of Flathead National Forest is home to over 31 fully developed campsites, while visitors are allowed to tent at almost any suitable place in the forest. Camping is a primary activity here, with both tenting and RVing facilities flourishing throughout the year. Some of the popular Flathead National Forest campgrounds include,

  • Swan Lake Campground.
  • Lid Creek Campground.
  • Holland Lake Campground.
  • Emery Bay Campground.
  • Murray Bay Campground.
  • Lost Jonny Point Campground.
  • Spotted Bear Campground
  • And the Mission Lookout.

Most of the developed campsites at Flathead have base amenities, including picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. Some of them even have portable water. The once like ally Lake Campground and Swan Lake Campground even have a boat launching ramp. While camping at developed campsites is paid, disperse camping at Flathead is free.

4. Explore the Bob Marshall Wilderness

The Bob Marshall Wilderness is the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states, and the Flathead National Forest hosts its significant portion. What makes the wilderness special is that maximum of its region is untouched and unspoiled. These million acres of complete wilderness operate for hiking, horseback riding, and camping opportunities. One of the popular trails and routes here include the Continental Divide Trail. The trail leads its way to the Chinese Wall, a massive escarpment stone slice touching skies. Because heavy trafficking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness isn’t allowed, most of the trails you will read about are either faint or non-existence on the grounds.

5. Kayak Down the Flathead River

The Flathead National Forest is home to the Three Forks of the Flathead River. This includes the North Fork, Middle Fork, and South Fork. These waterways are a part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and thus operate for scenic and recreational opportunities. Some of the popular activities you can try here include river rafting, canoeing, floating, and fishing. The Middle Fort and much of the South Fork section lies in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Whereas the North Fork is within the western border of Glacier National Park. Close to all of the three zones lies various rafting facilities that provide guided tours and event rentals to visitors. The North Folk is also popular for anglers looking to spend the day casting a line.

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