Come see what’s SUP in Western Montana. Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is an increasingly popular way to explore Western Montana’s sparkling alpine lakes and calm, scenic rivers. Surfing meets kayaking in this fun and way to play on the water. If you’re new to the sport, it’s best to go with a guide. Many local outfitters offer rentals, lessons and guided trips. Here’s a list of our top 12 SUP spots as well as the guides and outfitters who can help you get on the water for your Western Montana stand-up paddleboarding adventure.

Glacier Country is chock-full of phenomenal SUP locations. Photo: Noah Couser


Fifteen miles west of Kalispell, Ashley Lake is 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. Easy on the eyes, the alpine aqua water of this SUP spot makes for an unforgettably picturesque day. At the lake there are picnic tables, fire rings and restrooms.
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Paddle the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Wayfarers State Park provides exceptional access to Flathead Lake, and includes a beach area and rocky cliffs. 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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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 village of Bigfork for some post-SUP food and drinks.
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The village of Bigfork is a great base for Flathead Lake exploration. Photo: Andy Austin


The Swan River flows into the Bigfork Bay, which allows the more adventurous to try paddling on a river. There are several access points that allow for a downriver journey while the river winds through a picture-perfect landscape (just make sure to have a pick-up vehicle left at the end). Along the Swan River, 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.
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These three lakes are some of Western Montana’s best hidden gems for 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.
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TRIP TIP: When going to the Swan River, Ashley Lake, Flathead Lake, and Swan lakes, rent a board and SUP gear 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.

Glide across a Western Montana lake on a SUP board.


The clear, trout-filled waters of the Blackfoot—made famous by Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It”—offer the scenic splendor of canyon walls, which sometimes provide a glimpse of bighorn sheep. This river is a mix of calm, meandering sections and small rapids, just 30 minutes outside of Missoula. There are many access points, although Whittaker Bridge to Johnsrud is a popular one.
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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. Calm waters and easy access make this one of the easiest places to get on and off the river. 
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Floating through Missoula is a serene experience. Photo: Andy Austin


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.
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Beauty awaits at this alpine mountain lake in the 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. For those more adventurous, paddle to the waterfall at the south end of the lake. Or bring your hiking shoes to hike to the waterfall and around the lake—an 8-mile loop.
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TRIP TIP: For Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot rivers or Lake Como, check out Missoula’s Trail Head River Sports or LOGE Missoula for SUP rentals, gear and tips. Go with a guide like Zoo Town Surfers, which guides floats daily on the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers.


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 offers a picturesque paddle. The river forms the western border of Glacier National Park with breathtaking views of the park, and the water is an unforgettable crystal-clear aqua blue (due to mineral runoff from the glaciers).
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It doesn’t get much better (or prettier) than the Flathead River. Photo: Noah Couser


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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TRIP TIP: For Tally Lake and Flathead River SUP rentals, plus the goods on gear and guides, visit Tamarack Ski & Lake Shop.


This 90-mile-long reservoir straddles the U.S. and Canadian border, with 50 miles of it in Montana. Known for superb rainbow-trout fishing, boaters enjoy the turquoise water, sandstone cliffs and surrounding mountain views. Campgrounds, boat ramps, recreation and picnic areas surround the lake, making day and overnight access easy. 
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TRIP TIP: For Lake Koocanusa access and gear rentals, head to Wilderness Club, just a short walk to the Lake Koocanusa beach area.


Before you hit the water for your Western Montana SUP adventure, contact one of the outfitters listed above for details on where to float and when based on water level and temperature. A general guide is to not float rivers before July 4; stick to lakes until then, as spring runoff means fast-moving rivers.

Always check the weather before you head out, looking for high wind speeds or incoming storms. If you’re new to SUP, stick to a guided trip. Our local outfitters can ensure your skill level matches the water they take you on. They will also teach you basic techniques and safety tips.

Recreate responsibly by being prepared with the proper gear.

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

  • Only SUP if you know how to swim.
  • 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 (Montana waters can be cold year-round thanks to snowmelt; keep this in mind) and protective gear, especially in shallow rivers.
  • On the lake, bring a flotation device, and paddle along the shore. SUP is a full-body workout, and we recommend you plan your trip with that in mind.

Find more river access sites here. And lastly, have fun paddling paradise. That’s what’s SUP in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Please note: We ask that all our visitors and residents Recreate Responsibly by being mindful of the following: know before you go; plan ahead; play it safe; leave no trace; tread lightly; and help build an inclusive outdoors.

June 24, 2024

Related: Bigfork, Bitterroot Valley, Events, Family Fun, Flathead Corridor, Flathead Lake, Getting Around, Hamilton, Kalispell, Libby, Missoula, Montana, Outdoor Fun, Parks, Seeley-Swan Corridor, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Summer Fun, Swan Lake, Vacation, Water Fun, Whitefish


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