Along the Swan River trail

 

Flathead Lake scenic drive

Flathead Lake Scenic Drive

Flathead Lake responds to weather and light with a million moods and colors. Blossoming cherry trees blanket the Eastern shores in spring. From mid to late summer fruit stands dot the roadsides offering fresh sweet cherries first and then apples and huckleberries as the season progresses. Stop at any of 12 state parks along the shore to swim or fish and enjoy the incredible beauty you find there. From the art galleries of Bigfork to wine tasting at The Mission Mountain Winery, your options are many. You will find this scenic drive a lovely day well spent.

Flathead lake scenic drive
Flathead Lake light

Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. It was created at the end of the last Ice age when a large glacial moraine was left on the south end of the lake, effectively damming the valley. In later years a small dam was erected across the river south of Polson making the lake even larger. Today it is 28 miles long and up to 15 miles wide.

A few highlights along your route:

  • Watch for the M & S Meats and Sausage shop on the west side of Highway 93 at Rollins. Check out their buffalo, elk and beef jerky and their surprising variety of tasty sausages.
  • At Dayton on US 93, look for the Mission Mountain Winery. Stop at the tasting room and pick up a bottle of Montana’s finest.
  • The “Port of Polson” on the south end of the lake has interesting shops to explore while you stretch your legs.
  • The Miracle of America Museum is located about two miles south of the junction of US Highway 93 and Montana Highway 35. This slight detour will take you to a museum with a little of everything. They have an unusual motorcycle display as well as historical collections from the area’s past. After your visit, return north on US Highway 93 to the junction with Montana Highway 35.
  • As you travel north on the east shore watch for seasonal fruit stands.
  • While you are on the reservation, you will notice fireworks stands and Indian tobacco shops selling products you won’t find elsewhere at very low prices.
  • Be sure to stop in the village of Bigfork to check out art galleries and unique shops. Turn off Montana Highway 35 at the traffic light to go into the village.

Note: The southern half of Flathead Lake lies within the Flathead Indian Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. If you want to fish or recreate in this portion of the lake you will need a tribal permit in addition to a Montana State fishing permit. Permits are available at stores where sporting goods are sold.

Flathead lake tour
Flathead Lake view

Your Route for the Trip

From the Whitefish KOA Campground head south on US Highway 93 and follow it to the junction with Montana Highway 35 on the south side of Polson, about 63 miles. Head east towards the Mission Mountains on Montana 35 and follow it around the lake and then north until it connects with US Highway 2 on the east side of Kalispell. Go north on US Highway 2 to the stop light junction with Montana Highway 40. Turn west 5 miles to the junction with US Highway 93 and then turn south for 2 miles to the Whitefish KOA Kampground.

Once you are “home” at the Whitefish KOA jump into the swimming pool, soak in the hot tub, or relax with a pizza and beer as you rest from a lovely journey.

 

 

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