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Flathead Lake Marine Trail | Montana

Outdoor Adventures, Canoe or Flatwater Kayaking Area
Canoeing near West Shore State Park, one of the many stopovers on the Flathead Lake Marine Trail.

The Flathead Lake Marine Trail is a network of access points and stopover areas for those who use human-powered watercraft on Flathead Lake. Maps and brochures specify where access points are located and the distances between notable features, along with other important information.

Experience lake-eye views of shimmering crystal-clear, glacial waters, encircled by the glittering peaks and ridges of the Swan, Mission and Salish Mountains. Or explore primitive, history-rich islands such as Wild Horse, Cedar and Bird.

Wildlife viewing abounds, especially on Wild Horse Island State Park where you can catch sight of mountain sheep, mule deer and signs of the occasional bear—as well as see the proverbial wild horse or two. Take advantage of spectacular fishing on the largest natural fresh water lake west of the Mississippi, followed by a fresh fish fry at sundown.

Best Access Points

Because Montana's Flathead Lake marine trail is conceptual, there is an almost infinite number of routes, making it suitable for novices and experts alike. Paddling and navigation skills define the choices. Experts may yearn for long stretches of sometimes treacherous open water to test their mettle, while beginners can paddle more securely along forested, rocky shorelines.

To compliment the marine trail, Flathead Lake offers shoreline campsites that are set aside specifically for off-water users at Wayfarers, Big Arm, Yellow Bay, Finley Point and West Shore State Parks. State Park campsites for marine trail users are reserved until 6pm. This assures those who travel the “marine trail” a convenient place to camp, especially during the busy summer season.

Additionally, FWP fishing access sites and county public accesses afford ample put-ins and take-outs for the day-tripper.

For an unusual camping treat, schedule a stay at the yurt at Big Arm State Park on Flathead Lake. The yurt sleeps up to six people and comes equipped with beds, tables, a framed lockable door, window screens and flaps. Looking for more luxury, stay in one of picturesque bed and breakfasts or commercial motels located along the lake’s shoreline.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO- Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species An inspection is required each time, prior to launching in the southern portion of Flathead Lake or the lower portion or Flathead River. CSKT certificate of inspection required or proof of inspection from a partnering station (as noted on this list) will be honored.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is implementing a pilot program requiring motorized and non-motorized vessels traveling into the Flathead Basin that have been used on waters outside of the basin to be checked at an official inspection station prior to launching. If a boat leaves the basin and launches on any body of water, it must be inspected upon return before launching in the Flathead Basin. Inspection is also required for all watercraft entering the state and crossing west over the Continental Divide prior to launch in the waters of Montana.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Inspection Station *Check website for seasonal hours
406 6th Ave East, Polson
7:00 AM –5:30 PM Monday –Thursday
8:00 AM – 4:30 PM Friday – Sunday

FWP at Ravalli at Hwy 93/Hwy 200 Inspection Station *Check website for seasonal hours
7:00 AM – 7:00 PM Monday – Wednesday
7:00 AM – 9:00 PM Thursday - Sunday

Kalispell Region 1 FWP Office (Meridian Ave) Inspection Station *Check website for seasonal hours 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday - Friday
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks:

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