Monday, October 17, 2016

Flathead Lake, Montana

Since I'm from the Northwest, I have had many friends who are from or love the Montana Mountains.  There are many facets of Montana to love but one of the areas that is most often highlighted is Flathead Lake.  I for one, had never really visited Flathead Lake and wanted to spend a little more time than I had allotted in my previous drive by mode.

A look to maps showed several campgrounds around the Lake to choose from so after leaving Two Medicine Campground in East Glacier, we headed out to find a landing spot on Flathead Lake. There is also a lot of farmland that surrounds the lake that is planted in orchards.  Most of the rest remains in Tribal lands or as private development and the remaining is resorts.  I struggled with two of my RVing rules which are dueling in conflict as we moved along on this day.  
  • Secure a overnight site early in the day - then explore and play...


  • Avoid backtracking - Travel in forward motion using a home base to explore and play in an area then moving forward again. 

    After checking for availability of a campsite we to no avail  along the east side Flathead Lake we opt for our backup plan of of a Walmart in Paulson at the south end.  Most of the afternoon was spent in search of a suitable landing spot and less time in enjoying the opportunities in the Flathead Valley.   One great exception was the Cherries.  Sweet Cherries were available at fruit stands along the highway and we indulged!!  
    The price wasn't particularly sweet but the cherries were luscious   
    We checked out the local WalMart and then proceeded to find a local "park with a view" for a bit of beach play, dinner preparation and of course.....sunset!

    dinner preparation,

    and of course sunset.

    Having been on the east side of Glacier with limited grocery options for a week meant we were prime for restocking of fresh fruits and vegetables and other provisions.  
    Our stop at WalMart was an opportunity that we would certainly welcome.
    A RedBox Movie rounded out the evening.
    A stop at the car/ RV wash, laundry, and local free hotspot made a great early start to our day!

For a fee there are even showers for people!!!  A block from WalMart and all our needs are complete!
  At 9:30 AM we were ready to hit the road in search of a campsite.

We stopped along as we went north checking out camping spots and eventually secured a site for one night at West Beach campground near Lake Side.  We moved each morning (to 3 different sites) as a site opened and finally found the perfect site where we were able to stay an additional 2 nites.   We were hoping to connect with a friend who was going to join us for a couple days of camping. (unfortunately she got a nasty bug), but  I also needed the rest before heading back into West Glacier for more serious hiking.

Every camp site has pluses and minus's.  This campground has a nice day use area but it is quite a ways from the day use area.  As a popular boat launch area, the parking was often full near the water.  Two days I was able to secure a parking place close to the water where we spent most of the afternoon.    

West Shore State Park Day Use Area

One of the difficulties for us was waiting for calm water.  Flathead Lake is a huge lake that runs north to south making it a prime candidate for lots of waves during the day. We also had a couple of storms blow through which added to the wait for calm water.

There is a concessionaire at the day use area that rents paddle boards and kayaks so when we finally had a calm spot in the late afternoon Hailey rented a Paddle Board and had fun learning how to stay upright.

It takes a lot of concentration

The sweet smile of success

        A lot of effort.....

 And a lot of practice!

 Weather changes quickly in Montana, mountain country and we have to be prepared to wait for the opportunities.                    Morning sun,                    afternoon storms......

The next morning we had a window of opportunity, so we inflated the kayaks and took a picnic lunch out to the little island and enjoyed a little flat water fun.

Our Island getaway

 cruising round the island

One last selfie

While we were at West Shores State Campground, we got to know one of the camp hosts pretty well while we were here and found them to be very helpful.   It was fun to meet someone who takes pride in their job and finds a way to have fun along the way.

surprises she left in the restrooms!

 In the process we learned there are several State Campgrounds around Flathead Lake and they are all run by a commissionaire.  Nearly all of the campsites are reservation only which makes getting into a  campsite nearly impossible for those without reservations.  In the days we were there, there were at least 5 sites each day that stayed vacant when  RVers who had made reservations, didn't show up or cancel.  Meanwhile campers are turned away.  The system favors those who can afford to through away the money, leaving campers of limited means unable to enjoy the lake opportunities.  (End little rant!)

Wildfire Smoke makes pretty sunsets, but hard to breathe

Smoke from wildfires in Hamilton, Montana, (in Southwest Montana)  drove us north so off we headed to West Glacier.  Some adventures are big adventures, others days are ordinary days, living life fully, sometimes quietly, gently rocking on the water.

  ~ Happy Trails - Back to my Happy Place ~



  1. I agree. There is nothing more aggravating than seeing sites sit empty when people don't show for reservations.
    I've always wondered how challenging it is to learn to stand up on a paddleboard.

    1. I didn't try....I really like the kayak and I noticed it was more about the challenge than going the distance or touring. I'm not sure how people feel about it over time but I want to explore!

  2. Flathead is beautiful. Haven't been up there for several years. We're probably due. Glad you had fun and found "room at the inn" so to speak.

    1. I worked really hard at locating a site. I found it much easier in Glacier where more unreserved sites are available.

  3. I totally agree the rules should change on sites being vacant when people have not shown up. Good for Hailey trying the paddle board. Love your little island destination.

  4. I love all the photos and OH that rainbow. Water looks so clear and clean. I also agree with these reservations. There is a huge campground up northern AZ and they want you to make a reservation. We didn't and the guy said well you can take your chances but you night have t leave. We stayed a week and there were only about 5 other campers in an area that had 20 sites in that loop.

  5. Long time no post. Everything ok?