Flathead National Forest
The 2.3 million-acre Flathead National Forest is bordered by Canada to the north, Glacier National Park to the north and east, the Lolo National Forest to the south, the Kootenai National Forest to the west, and the Lewis & Clark National Forest to the east.
The Flathead is part of the USDA Forest Service managed under the Multiple Use concept for water, fish, wildlife habitat, oil and gas, wood, grazing, wilderness, recreation, and minerals.
The Forest has 34 developed campgrounds and picnic areas, totaling about 400 family units. Ten campgrounds have a daily use fee. The remaining campgrounds with limited facilities are free.
Numerous lakes can be reached by vehicle, horseback, or foot; some have campgrounds and boat launch facilities. Scenic Hungry Horse Reservoir offers many recreational opportunities with roads on both sides of the reservoir, along with several campgrounds and boat launches.
Dispersed recreation opportunities are available throughout the Forest. Just pull off the road at any area that is attractive to you and hike, pick berries, or just enjoy the scenery. Exceptions are the few sites that are posted and the parcels of privately-owned land within the National Forest boundaries. Maps showing land ownership are available at the Supervisor's Office in Kalispell or at any of our district offices.
Three wilderness areas are primarily within the Flathead National Forest. The 950,000-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Area extends about 60 miles from north to south along the Continental Divide. The 258,000-acre Great Bear Wilderness is north of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and east of Hungry Horse Reservoir. Between the Swan Mountain Range and Flathead Indian Reservation is the 74,000-acre Mission Mountain Wilderness. Elevations in these areas vary from 4,000 feet along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River to over 9,000 feet along the Continental Divide. Roads, timber harvest, and motorized travel are not allowed within these areas.
There are other specially designated areas on the Forest. These include the 15,000-acre Jewel Basin Hiking Area located at the north end of the Swan Mountain Range between Kalispell and Hungry Horse Reservoir and the Danny On Memorial Trail located on the Big Mountain Ski Area north of Whitefish, Montana. These areas are managed for foot travel only; horse and motorized travel are not allowed.
The Flathead River flows through narrow gorges, dense forest, glacier-carved mountains and valleys. The Three Forks of the Flathead River, the North Fork, Middle Fork, and South Fork have different origins and personalities and act as different rivers until they merge to form the mainstream of the Flathead River. Floating excursions can be found on all three forks.
No permits are required for float trips, use of stock, or backpacking into the wilderness areas. For your own safety, please stop at a Ranger District Office to register your travel plans and obtain up-to-date trail information.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is responsible for regulating and managing fishing/hunting. Licenses are available from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and most local sporting goods stores. Fishing and hunting licenses are NOT available from Forest Service Offices.
A bucket and shovel must be carried if you plan to build a campfire between May 1 and September 30. However, the use of campfires on the Forest may be restricted during periods of Very High and Extreme fire danger.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication