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Camping in Flathead Valley, Montana

by
author image Jodi Thornton O'Connell
A former world-class swimmer, J.T. O'Connell shares her love of adventure travel, extreme sports and pets through thousands of published articles. O'Connell studied journalism at Grand Canyon University, and brings professional experience as a tour guide and travel consultant. She authors the blog, Traveling With Large Dogs.
Camping in Flathead Valley, Montana
Camping outdoors in Montana. Photo Credit robertcicchetti/iStock/Getty Images

Tucked between Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, the Flathead River Valley boasts expansive mountain vistas and sparkling lakes and streams. Camping options aren't limited to the 31 designated campgrounds in the Flathead National Forest -- you can also pitch a tent in the wilderness or level your RV in a space with hookups.

Away From It All

Strap on your backpack and head into the 15,000-acre Jewel Basin, which the Flathead National Forest maintains exclusively for hiking and camping. Camp beside sparkling lakes -- Crater, Birch, Picnic and Twin lakes lie within the Jewel Basin -- or find a special view of the Flathead Valley alongside one of a half-dozen trails winding through the area. You don't need a special permit to camp in Jewel Basin, but you will need to follow special rules, such as using a fire blanket and packing out your own garbage. If you'd like a few more amenities, camp at Lost Johnny Point, where you'll enjoy the use of picnic tables, fire pits and vault restrooms.

Beside the Lake

Whether you want to zip around Lake Flathead in a motorboat or explore quiet waters in a kayak or canoe, you'll find National Forest Service campgrounds that give you direct access to the water. You can rent canoes or paddle boats at Holland Lake, Swan Lake and Tally Lake campgrounds by the hour or day to get your heart rate up while exploring tree-lined coves. Tally Lake Campground is self-contained RV friendly as well, and you'll find pull-through sites and a dump station.

Ride the Whitewater

The Flathead Valley and national forest house more than 219 miles of wild and scenic rivers, with waters that range from mild family floats to heart-pounding whitewater. The Big Creek Campground lies along the family-friendly waters of the North Fork of the Flathead River just south of where Big Creek flows into it. You'll find river access points both above and below the campground, making it easy to begin or end your river journey at your campsite. You'll find dispersed sites where you can camp along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, known as Montana's wildest waters. Bring a fire pan and a containment system to pack out human waste.

Keep in Touch

When you need to stay connected to civilization but still want to get out in the Flathead Valley's beautiful scenery, head to a full-service private campground. Camp on 40 wooded acres at Glacier Campground just 1 mile west of the entrance to Glacier National Park. You'll have Wi-Fi access plus hot showers, laundry facilities and a children's playground. The Polson/Flathead Lake KOA includes these same amenities with the addition of a fenced dog run, swimming pool and miniature golf. At Snow Slip Inn, you won't get phone service, but you can tap into the campground's Wi-Fi to keep your finger on the pulse of business or personal communications. The inn's cafe serves up home cooking made from locally sourced ingredients.

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