U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Flathead National Forest


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Forest Information

The Flathead National Forest is located in northwestern Montana and is comprised of 2,351,761 acres. There are thirty-one developed campgrounds of which ten met the selection criteria.

The Flathead National Forest is called "the heart of the Rocky Mountain wild lands." With forty-seven percent of the Forest designated Wilderness, wildlife viewing might be considered the number one recreation activity. Wolves, moose, elk, deer, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and nearly two hundred other species of bird can be found in the Flathead National Forest. In no other National Forest is there a better chance of seeing the monarch of the forest - the Grizzly bear. In any National Forest, applying "safe food storage techniques" is a good idea but, around the Flathead's robust bear population, it is a must. This is especially true for folks enjoying the Flathead National Forest's many camping locations and recreational opportunities.

Big Mountain, north of Whitefish and near the recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome-friendlyTally Lake campground, is known in the winter for excellent downhill skiing. But when summer arrives, Big Mountain offers a variety of activities on its slopes. The popular interpretive nature trail known as Danny On Trail winds its way up the mountain to Big Mountain Summit. This trail gives insight to the flora, fauna, and geology of the area. On the way to the Summit, hikers are treated to spectacular views of Glacier National Park, Swan Range, Great Bear Wilderness, and a collection of lakes, streams and rivers in the valley below.

Besides the magnificent vistas found along the Danny On trail, the hike ends at the Big Mountain Summit Environmental Education Center (also accessible via a chair lift). An interactive center, visitors are encouraged to participate in the various exhibits. The Swan Lake Ecosystem Management and Learning Center is similar to Big Mountain's but focuses on the Lake area. Both Centers, designed for seniors and the young, are must places to visit. Volunteers at the Centers answer questions and offer information about the Flathead National Forest, its history, flora, fauna, and geology.

The Flathead National Forest boasts 219 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers. Among these are the North, Middle, and South forks of the Flathead River. On the three forks, floaters will find opportunities ranging from a leisure float on the lazy North Fork of the Flathead River to the challenges of Middle Fork of the Flathead, "Montana's wildest river." For more information, maps, and outfitters, contact the Flathead National Forest's Supervisor Office.

Adjacent to the Flathead National Forest is Glacier National Park. Crystal clear water flows from the Park into the North Fork of the Flathead River near the Big Creek campground, a car and tent camping enthusiasts delight. Located just south of the Park's western entrance, Big Creek offers a convenient location for visiting the Park, excellent fishing, and a chance to attend field courses at the Glacier Institute (406-755-1211 or on the Web - www.digisys.net/glacinst). A private, non-profit outdoor education organization, the Glacier Institute "provides opportunities for children and adults to learn through hands-on outdoor experiences." Although not as convenient to Glacier National Park, but still a pleasant alternative, is the Devil Creek campground. Located about 20-miles east of the Park's west entrance at West Glacier, Montana, and just off U.S. Rt. 2, Devil Creek offers a hiking trail access to the Spotted Bear portion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The Flathead National Forest has some 2,100-miles of hiking and horse trails. Trails range from short and comfortable to long and challenging. The Jewel Basin Trail Network is easily reached from the Lost Johnny Point campground located on the west shore of Hungry Horse Reservoir. The Jewel Basin Trail Network is suggested for first-time visitors. A major destination for hikers in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, is the Chinese Wall. A thousand-foot high limestone escarpment, the Wall is spectacular but does not offer the same level of solitude as found in the less well-known trails, such as Jewel Basin Trail Network, Danny On Trail, or Meadow Creek Gorge Trail.

The Meadow Creek Gorge Trail is located near the Spotted Bear Ranger Station at the southern end of Hungry Horse Reservoir. A long way from anything, this Ranger Station is at the midpoint of the 115-mile scenic Hungry Horse Reservoir loop drive. This drive is like a journey back in time to the 1930's. The Station was once a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, and many of the old buildings are still standing and in use. The area is primitive, wild and beautiful. North, but within sight of the Station, is Spotted Bear campground. It is a small campground with a vault toilet, good drinking water, an RV waste station, and easy access to the Spotted Bear portion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Visitors can spend a week fishing, hiking, and exploring the Forest or just simply sitting around the campsite enjoying the surrounding beauty.

Along with some fantastic camping locations, the Flathead National Forest has so much to offer its visitors. There is recreational opportunity for anyone of any age. The problem is not finding something to do but deciding what to do first. So much will be missed during a first visit. A second or more visits will be needed to discover and enjoy all the Flathead National Forest has to offer.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 650 Wolfpack Way Kalispell, Montana 59901 406-758-5204 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Glacier View 10 Hungry Horse Drive Hungry Horse, MT 59919 406-387-3800 Hungry Horse 10 Hungry Horse Drive Hungry Horse, Montana 59919 406-387-3800 Spotted Bear P.O. Box 190310 Hungry Horse, Montana 59919 406-758-5376 Swan Lake 200 Ranger Station Rd. Bigfork, Montana 59911 406-837-7500 Tally Lake 650 Wolfpack Way Kalispell, Montana 59901 406-758-5204

Fred and Suzi Dow