Category Archives: Swan Lake

SUP: Top 12 Places to Stand-Up Paddleboard in Western Montana

Come see what’s SUP in Western Montana. Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is an increasingly popular way to explore Montana’s sparkling alpine lakes and scenic, lazy rivers. In fact, SUP is the fastest-growing water sport in the world. Surfing meets kayaking in this epically fun way to play on the water.

Glide across Western Montana waters on a SUP board. Photo: Noah Couser

If you’re new to the sport, your best bet is to go with a guide. Many local outfitters here in Glacier Country offer rentals, lessons and guided trips, so, you’re in luck. Here’s a list of our top 12 SUP spots as well as the folks who can help you get on the water for your Western Montana stand-up paddleboarding adventure.

ASHLEY LAKE
Fifteen miles west of Kalispell, Ashley Lake is a real charmer. Easy on the eyes, the alpine aqua waters of this special SUP spot make for an unforgettably picturesque day.
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FLATHEAD LAKE: WAYFARERS STATE PARK
Paddle the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Wayfarers State Park has some of the best Flathead Lake access, including a beach area as well as rocky cliffs along the shoreline. The water is clean and clear and is typically sheltered from wind and waves, though it can make for some fun SUP action when the swell picks up and creates near surf-like conditions, which are also great for downwind paddling. Wayfarers happens to be one of the best spots on the lake to watch the sunset, too.
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Base Camp Bigfork has got you covered on rentals, instruction and location tips. Photo: Base Camp Bigfork

The north shore of Flathead Lake offers miles of undeveloped shoreline. It’s a great place to spot waterfowl, eagles, osprey and deer, and take in amazing mountain views. If you access the lake via Bigfork Bay, you’ll be able to paddle right into the storybook town of Bigfork for some post-SUP food and drinks or delicious Sweet Peaks Ice Cream. If you’re up for a celebration, plan your trip around the Northern Rockies Paddlefest at Wayfarers State Park, held annually in May.

Anywhere you decide to put in on Flathead Lake, great views and cool waters will meet you there.

SWAN RIVER
The Swan River flows into the Bigfork Bay, which allows the more adventurous to try paddling moving water. There are several access points, which allow for more of a downriver journey while the river winds through a picture-perfect landscape. There are miles of slow-moving water perfect for beginners. There is also a nice class 2+ rapid stretch, which is popular for inner tubing, but also ideal for paddlers looking for an introduction to whitewater paddleboarding.

SWAN VALLEY LAKES: SWAN LAKE, ECHO LAKE AND HOLLAND LAKE
These three lakes offer authentic Montana SUP adventures. Paddle to the sandbar in the middle of scenic Swan Lake, experience the famously warm waters of Echo Lake, or combine your Holland Lake paddle with a 3.3-mile out-and-back hike to gorgeous Holland Falls.

The Swan Valley lakes offer amazing paddling in pristine waters. Here a paddleboarder cruises Swan Lake.

TRIP TIP: For Swan River plus Ashley, Flathead and Swan lakes SUP gear, rent a board at Base Camp Bigfork and get complimentary delivery and pickup as well as on-the-water instruction. Base Camp also rents boards to those who want to self-drive their gear to any number of lakes in Glacier National Park.

BLACKFOOT RIVER
The clear, cold, trout-filled waters of the Blackfoot—made famous by Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It”—offer the scenic splendor of canyon walls often dotted with majestic bighorn sheep. Paddle the Blackfoot in July for unobstructed flows.

CLARK FORK RIVER
Experience the eclectic town of Missoula from the waters of the winding Clark Fork River. Put in at the Sha-Ron fishing access site in East Missoula and then hop off the water at the river’s edge in downtown Missoula, where you’ll find good eats, plenty to drink, and lots to see and do.

BITTERROOT RIVER
This scenic valley waterway is flanked by the beautiful rolling Sapphire Range to one side and the dramatic Bitterroot Mountains to the other. Hop on the water at Bells Crossing and paddle to the Stevensville Crossing site to hop out.

LAKE COMO
Solitude abounds at this Bitterroot Valley gem 8 miles south of Hamilton in the Bitterroot National Forest. There’s a sandy beach at the north end of the lake, perfect for paddling and swimming. Bring a picnic lunch and your hiking shoes…abundant trails surround the lake.

TRIP TIP: For Blackfoot, Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Como SUP rentals, guides, gear and tips, check out Missoula’s Trail Head, or Bob Ward’s, with locations in both Missoula and Hamilton.

UPPER WHITEFISH LAKE
This Stillwater State Forest stunner north of Whitefish, dazzles and is the perfect tucked-away spot for a quiet day on the lake. Feeling adventurous? Head south to Whitefish (1.5 hours) for post-paddle food, drinks and fun.
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TALLY LAKE
West of Whitefish, the warm waters of Tally Lake offer a peaceful paddle among the lush trees and scenic cliff walls of the Kootenai National Forest. Head to the east shore for a serene evening paddle.
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FLATHEAD RIVER: THE NORTH AND MIDDLE FORKS
The stunning emerald waters of the Flathead River offer a Glacier Country experience like no other. Paddle the Middle Fork from West Glacier to Blankenship Bridge, passing through a jaw-dropping gorge with a perfect cliff-jumping spot. The North Fork is one of only four Wild and Scenic Rivers in Montana and forms the western border of Glacier National Park. Breathtaking scenery is a given, and black bear sightings are not unheard of.

It doesn’t get much better (or prettier) than the Flathead River. Photo: Noah Couser

TRIP TIP:
For Tally Lake and Flathead River SUP rentals, plus the goods on gear and guides, visit the friendly folks at Tamarack Ski & Lake Shop.
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LAKE KOOCANUSA
This trout-heavy reservoir between the Purcell and Salish mountains in Libby, Montana offers scenic-byway landscapes, a sandy beach, wildlife watching and the opportunity to take a pre- or post-paddle Libby Dam tour.
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TRIP TIP: For Lake Koocanusa access and gear rentals, head to the Wilderness Club, just a short walk to the Lake Koocanusa beach area.

SUP SAFETY
Before you hit the water for your Western Montana SUP adventure, contact one of the outfitters listed above for details on where to float when, based on water flows and temps, and always check the weather before you head out (especially when lake paddling away from shore). Spring runoff means fast-moving rivers. (If you’re new to SUP, stick to a late-summer guided river trip or take a calm lake tour.) Learn basic techniques and safety tips from these local outfitters, too.

Our lakes and rivers offer amazing experiences, but proper preparation and equipment are always recommended.

On the river, wear a quick-release leash around your waist. It’s IMPERATIVE that you use quick-release technology in SUP, as ankle leashes can get hung up on rocks and other debris. Wear a PFD, a helmet, a wetsuit and protective gear, especially in shallow rivers.

On the lake, bring a flotation device, try to confine your trip to an hour or less, and stay closer to the shore. SUP is a full-body workout. Plan your trip with that in mind. Learn more about safety, rules and regulations through Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Lastly, have fun paddling paradise. That’s what’s SUP in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Sparks Fly Under the Big Sky: Romantic Getaways

This probably comes as no surprise, but we’re suckers for romance. That’s because we’re surrounded by natural beauty and breathtaking places go hand in hand with romantic adventures. It’s simple to see why Glacier Country is the perfect spot for new couples to connect and longtime lovebirds to rekindle the romance.

Winter or summer, Western Montana is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway.

Whether you’re looking for a rustic weekend adventure in the woods, a relaxing spa retreat in a mountain lodge, a quiet bed-and-breakfast with personalized service or a luxury hotel in one of our bustling (and quite charming) community downtowns, Western Montana is always ready to make your time together memorable.

Surprise your partner this Valentine’s Day (pssst…it’s just around the corner) and plan a late-winter weekend or spring fling in Glacier Country.

Spend a special weekend in Glacier Country for an adventure, some leisure or both. Photo: Joyce Walkup

Here’s your romantic getaway trip planner for some ideas.

Take your sweetheart to Swan Lake. Nested in the stunning Seeley-Swan Valley, Swan Lake’s Laughing Horse Lodge (open May through October) offers a two-night springtime package for couples, including a four-course gourmet dinner and chef-recommended bottle of wine both nights. During the colder months, find epic snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in Seeley Lake—a winter recreation mecca. Cozy up at Seeley Lake’s Double Arrow Lodge for the perfect evening: enjoy a meal at their delicious Seasons Restaurant, followed by fireside drinks and a nostalgic horse-drawn sleigh ride for two under the big starry sky, including champagne, a buffalo robe to stay warm and hot rocks to keep your feet toasty. How’s that for romantic? And we’re just getting started…

A tad southwest of Seeley Lake, The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough offers luxury lodging, spa packages for couples and 37,000 gorgeous acres with inclusive year-round activities like ice skating, snowshoeing and nature hikes.

The Resort at Paws Up knows fine dining, so treat you and your special someone to a world-class dinner.

Head north for a relaxing escape to the woods at Silverwolf Log Chalets—private designer chalets built for two, just minutes from the western entrance of Glacier National Park. Nearby Coram’s Green Valley Ranch offers fantastic Montana accommodations, breathtaking views of the park and snowmobiling adventures with Swan Mountain Snowmobiling.

Indulge in one-hour massages for two as part of the spa package at Whitefish’s Kandahar Lodge. This authentic mountain lodge offers cozy accommodations and upscale dining—or check out the Tupelo Grille, one of the top eateries in the Flathead Valley. Taste the local spirit and toast to your time together at Spotted Bear Spirits or Great Northern Brewing Co.

Cheers to love and Montana at Spotted Bear Distillery in Whitefish. Photo: Spotted Bear Spirits

Bigfork lays on the charm with fireside steaks and lake views at Terra Steak at Mountain Lake Lodge. The lodge also offers fireplace suites, on-site massages and winter packages. While you’re in town, find time to enjoy Pink Peppercorn Pear Gin cocktails at Whistling Andy Distillery.

Further south on Flathead Lake, Red Lion Ridgewater Inn & Suites is the perfect home base for exploring Polson. Flathead Lake stuns year-round, and Polson offers easy access to surrounding recreation areas.

West of the lake, soak in the healing mineral waters at the local hot springs resort in Hot Springs. Head north and stay in a Jacuzzi suite or cabin on the shores of Noxon Reservoir at Trout Creek’s Lakeside Motel & Resort.

Find Western Montana’s cultural hotspot in Missoula. This lively town is explore-worthy all year long, boasting galleries, museums, theaters, eclectic dining spots, breweries, distilleries and wine bars. Stay at the 1903 Gibson Mansion B&B—where Victorian elegance meets modern convenience—and plan your trip around a show at The Wilma, Missoula Community Theatre or The Top Hat. The Top Hat has amazing food to boot. By day, explore Missoula’s shops, galleries, cafés and coffee shops. Not to be missed: the free Missoula Art Museum.

See art together at the Missoula Art Museum for a romantic and cultural experience. Photo: Slikati Photography

The Bitterroot Valley beckons those looking for a relaxing getaway. Immerse yourself in cowboy culture at Darby’s award-winning, adults-only retreat, Triple Creek Ranch. Embark on a dog-sledding adventure, ride horses and enjoy fine wines. Also in Darby, take a guided snowmobile ride with Rye Creek Ranch or experience true western hospitality at the Bitterroot River Ranch. Just north in Hamilton, ABC acres offers a unique permaculture farm-stay for eco-minded couples looking to experience ecological design and sustainable food, production and healthy living systems.

The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg is the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Guest Ranch. Need we say more? Find downhill skiing nearby or cross-country ski at Georgetown Lake. Stop for treats at The Sweet Palace, or treat your sweetheart to a beautiful piece of Montana jewelry at The Sapphire Gallery and when the weather gets warmer, pan for your own sapphires.

Want to take your relationship to a new level? Book a scenic flight over the jaw-dropping Mission Valley with Blue Goose Aviation (by appointment only and weather dependent).

You won’t want to leave Dancing Spirit Ranch after a stay in one their chic cabins. Photo: Dancing Spirit Ranch

Just outside Glacier National Park, bring your creative spirits to experience the stillness, splendor and simplicity at Columbia Fall’s unique Dancing Spirit Ranch where you’ll have the opportunity to become one with nature (or two, as it were). With winter yoga retreats and activities like Thai bodywork for couples, you’re sure to connect with yourself and with each other. Nearby in Kalispell, enjoy a concert by the Glacier Symphony and Chorale.

There’s no end to the romantic adventures and authentic experiences couples can experience in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Make time to connect under the big sky.