If you’ve been to Flathead Lake Lodge, you know that we sit on the shore of Flathead Lake — the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. And while we often make mention of how lucky we are to have our guest ranch on Flathead Lake, we may not tell you enough about this place.
At 28 miles long and about 15 miles wide, Flathead Lake covers nearly 200 square miles and has 185 miles of shoreline.
Here are 12 things you probably didn’t know about Flathead Lake...
1. Flathead Lake is the 79th largest natural lake on the planet.
2. The water quality of Flathead Lake is one of the cleanest in the world. This can be credited to the lake being fed by waterways that are full of snowmelt from Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
3. Much like its friend to the north Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake was carved out by massive glaciers that moved through the area during the Ice Age.
4. Due to its sheer size, Flathead Lake often creates its own weather patterns and during storms, you’ll see whitecaps form on the lake as winds rage across it.
5. Flathead Lake is home to HUGE fish. For example, the lake trout caught on Flathead Lake average about 8 pounds, but many of them tip the scales at larger weights.
6. You can drive all the way around the lake. It will take a few hours, but is hands-down one of the most beautiful drives around. You’ll largely take U.S. Highway 93 and Montana Highway 35.
7. There are public access sites all around the lake, including state parks, fishing access sites and parks.
8. Abundant recreation takes place on the lake. A few of note: sailing, kayaking, jet skis, boat cruises and fishing.
9. Here at the ranch, we take about 550 sails a year on the waters of Flathead Lake, most often on our two historic 51-foot Q-class racing sloops — the Questa and the Nor’Easter. They were both built in the late 1920s and are an important part of the Flathead Lake Lodge family and history.
10. Due largely to its sheer volume, Flathead Lake rarely freezes over during the winter, although you will find ice along the shorelines and in various bays around the lake. The last time the entire lake froze all the way was more than 30 years ago.
11. Flathead Lake creates an ideal environment (that is a bit milder that other places in Montana) for growing fruit. As you drive around the lake, you’ll see all kinds of orchards along the shoreline that grow cherries and in the summer, you can pick local cherries up at a roadside stand.
12. Flathead Lake is home to numerous islands, including Wild Horse Island. The largest island on the lake around 2,160 acres, Wild Horse is a day-use state park that’s home to all sorts of wildlife, including wild horses.
Learn more about our guest ranch on the shores of Flathead Lake at FlatheadLakeLodge.com.
Until next time, happy trails and adventuring.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Montana, whether it’s your first time visiting or your 50th time. While we get to experience Montana all summer long at Flathead Lake Lodge, we know squeezing everything into a one-week stay can be challenging. Between Montana’s lakes and rivers, charming small towns and thousands of acres of wilderness, there’s plenty of options to choose from when visiting Montana. We’ve gathered up some of our favorite summer activities to help you make the most of your trip to Montana and Flathead Lake Lodge.
1. Sail on Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake is 197 square miles of water, meaning there is plenty of room for everyone to play on, in or around it. The lake is a great place to take a leisurely boat cruise on Flathead Lake Lodge’s very own Mustang, bounce behind a ski boat on an innertube or set sail. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and canoes are a great way to experience the quiet bays along the shore, while seven Montana state parks (which are all open to visitors) are scattered in or around the lake.
Sailing with Flathead Lake Lodge is open to anyone wanting to spend a day on the lake. Whether you’re a guest at the lodge or just passing through, you’re more than welcome to set sail with us. Learn more about our restored Q-Class Sloops, the Questa and the Nor’ Easter V, and book your voyage here.
2. Hike the Swan Mountains
We’re lucky at Flathead Lake Lodge to be surrounded by nearby mountains that offer us beautiful views every day. When you’re a guest here at the lodge or just visiting the area, northwest Montana has some of the best hikes around. Our 2,000 acres have hiking trails for guests, while the nearby Swan Mountains have easy hikes for beginners and longer treks for more advanced hikers, with every trail offering something different. A local favorite: the Jewel Basin. While you’ll find plenty of people on our trails, it’s always a good idea to carry bear spray.
3. Explore Glacier National Park
A beautiful 45-minute drive is all that stands between our guest ranch in Bigfork and the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park. Established in 1910, Glacier is a great location for a day visit or even adding on a couple day’s stay after leaving Flathead Lake Lodge. Anchoring the park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is its most popular attraction and takes visitors across the Continental Divide along one of the most beautiful drives in the country. You can drive yourself, take a red bus tour, set out with Sun Tours or use the park’s free shuttle service.
4. Visit Wild Horse Island
Wild Horse Island, which is the largest island on Flathead Lake and a day-use state park, is one of the coolest places in the area and is home to a herd of wild horses that roam the island freely. The Salish-Kootenai Tribe used to use the island to pasture their horses and protect them from being stolen by other tribes. The only way to reach the island is by boat; you can take your own or you can hop on a charter and see many parts of the lake that are often overlooked on the way.
5. Go Whitewater Rafting
If you’re looking for adventure, rafting Montana’s rivers is the way to go. The run-off season creates a range of rapids that offer different experiences for all ages and comfort levels. During your stay at the lodge, we can help you book a trip with our friends at Glacier Raft Company. They offer full-day and half-day trips on the river as well as a Ride and Raft option, which combines a scenic horseback ride near Glacier National Park in the morning and a raft down the rapids in the afternoon.
6. Cast a Line and Fly-fish
Montana is home to some of the best fly-fishing trout streams in the West. Whether you’ve been throwing flies your whole life or are just learning, Montana’s rivers and streams are a great place to spend a morning, evening or whole day trying to land that perfect trout. We offer fly-fishing lessons at the lodge (included with your stay) and can connect you with our onsite fishing guide from Andy Guy Outfitting, who will take you on an off-site excursion to catch your very own Montana trout.
7. Road Trips and Flathead Cherries
No matter where your adventures take you, a road trip in Montana is always a good idea. Here in the Flathead Valley, we’re known for Flathead cherries, which are a sweet, dark cherry that grows in orchards along the shores of Flathead Lake. Before you head out, we recommend stopping by one of the many cherry orchards or roadside stands along Highway 35 to pick up your own bag of Flathead cherries. The sweet fruits are one of the most popular treats of summer and you’ll find them in pies, drinks and candy all around the lake. A favorite local drive is Highway 35 from Bigfork to Polson and then back north along U.S. Highway 93, which gives you an entire loop around Flathead Lake. Additional nearby favorites include the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, the St. Ignatius Mission and the National Bison Range.
8. Shop Made-in-Montana Items
One of the best things about traveling to any destination is picking up locally made gifts, treats and apparel and it’s just the same here in Montana. The list of made-in-Montana items is long, from soaps and skincare to T-shirts and jewelry and huckleberry candy. Bigfork, which is located just up the road from Flathead Lake Lodge, has one of the cutest downtowns around and its local shops have a wide variety of made-in-Montana items.
9. Taste Montana
Wherever you are in Montana, you’re never far away from good food. At Flathead Lake Lodge, we’re lucky to have some of the finest chefs in our kitchen creating amazing meals each week for our guests.
If, however, you find yourself out and about around Bigfork, be sure to stop at Flathead Lake Brewery for a locally crafted beer and Brookside Yard, a lodge-owned cafe overlooking the Swan River’s “Wild Mile” in downtown Bigfork. The Yard serves up fresh cinnamon rolls and flatbreads and has live music every Friday and Saturday night, which pairs perfectly with Montana cocktails and local beer.
10. Catch a Show at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse
Our small town of Bigfork is home to a playhouse that has showcased some big-name actors and productions and today, the Bigfork Summer Playhouse puts on some of Broadway’s most beloved plays and musicals featuring college-aged actors and performers from all over the country to provide daily performances. If you’re into musicals and plays, it’s a must stop when you’re visiting northwest Montana.
There’s plenty to keep you busy both at the lodge and around it. Between our horseback riding, mountain biking, sailing and other activities offered each day of your stay, we promise you’ll have a week unlike any other. Learn more about the all-inclusive activities for guests here. To book your stay and begin planning your Montana adventure, call us at 406-837-4391.