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12 Top-Rated Recreational Lakes near Kalispell, MT

Kalispell is surrounded by glacier-carved lakes that have hardly any recreational restrictions. Swimming, power boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, as well as camping and hiking are all possible here.
itiswild.com Best Lakes near Kalispell

For those who enjoy lake activities, Kalispell is a dream come true. Gorgeous lakes and reservoirs surround this city, offering swimming, fishing, and all types of boating.

With Flathead National Forest sprawling in every direction, these lakes also provide campgrounds and miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking.

And the best thing is, most of the options on the list are less than a 45-minute drive away, making Kalispell Montana’s most friendly city for lake recreation.

The summer season here is short, but some lakes allow winter activities such as ice fishing and cross-country skiing.

Learn more about the area and discover what Kalispell has to offer!

Lakes near Kalispell:

  1. Foys Lake
  2. Smith Lake
  3. Echo Lake
  4. Flathead Lake
  5. Swan Lake
  6. Hungry Horse Reservoir
  7. Whitefish Lake
  8. Tally Lake
  9. Ashley Lake
  10. Little Bitterroot Lake
  11. McGregor Lake
  12. Lake McDonald
Lakes near Kalispell Montana Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Foys Lake

This a drone shot of a Foys Lake in Montana
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Foys Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 4 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing

Located four miles southwest of downtown Kalispell, Foys Lake is a 240-acre body of water that is the most substantial lake close to the city. 

Sometimes referred to as “Foy Lake” or “Foy’s Lake,” the lake evinces a vivid turquoise color. 

A great place to get a broad view of the lake and the Flathead Valley is to visit the overlook at Lone Pine State Park

Access to Foys Lake is available at Foy’s Lake Park, a Flathead County facility on its southeast corner. At this site, picnicking, summertime swimming, water skiing, boating, and fishing are common activities.

Two smaller sibling lakes sit north of Foys Lake. Five hundred feet to the north, 40-acre Middle Foy Lake is surrounded by private residences. Fifteen-acre Lower Foy Lake sits a half-mile north of Foys Lake.

Those who fish at Foys Lake enjoy a relaxing destination to cast a line that is near town. Arctic grayling, rainbow trout, redside shiner, and Kokanee salmon are found in Foys Lake. 

2. Smith Lake

A solo canoe glides through an expanse of blooming lily pads on a mountain lake in Montana. Tall trees and mountains beckon in the background
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Smith Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 11 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics

Located a little more than ten miles southwest of Kalispell, Smith Lake is a day-use location popular with anglers. 

This lake spans from approximately 415 to 453 acres, depending on snowmelt and inflow from Ashley Creek. 

Wetlands occupy many areas of the lake and shoreline, creating an extension of the wildlife refuge that protects waterfowl. 

Flathead Land Trust has worked in partnership with the state and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect land in the area. 

This lake and adjacent lands are part of the state-managed Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area. 

A fishing access point is available for launching boats, canoes, and kayaks from the time the ice melts until the end of September. 

An accessible fishing dock and ramp on the southern shore of Smith Lake allow convenient access to this lake. 

Species found in this lake include northern pike, rainbow trout, brook trout, yellow perch, and sucker.

3. Echo Lake

A calm beautiful scenic lake high in the Mountains of Montana called Echo Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Echo Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 20 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics

Echo Lake is a drive of approximately 20 miles southeast of downtown Kalispell. 

Known locally as one of the warmest lakes since much of its water comes from groundwater rather than mountain runoff, this 695-acre lake has become a popular local swimming destination for those who enjoy taking a dip. 

The warmer nature of the lake also makes it a summertime destination for those with personal watercraft. 

The parking lot at the fishing access site usually fills early in the summertime with vehicles that have boat trailers attached. 

Those who enjoy fishing will find many secluded coves and corners to test their luck with rod and reel. 

Species found in Echo Lake include largemouth bass, Kokanee salmon, lake whitefish, northern pike, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, brook trout, and rainbow trout. 

4. Flathead Lake

Aerial view of islands and distant mountains in Flathead Lake, Montana on calm summer morning
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Flathead Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 19 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A 19-mile drive from Kalispell to Polson offers an opportunity to visit Flathead Lake. 

Carved by Ice Age glaciers, this body of water that spans more than 200 square miles is the largest natural freshwater lake in the lower 48 states west of the Mississippi. 

Fifteen miles wide by 28 miles long, the southern end of the lake is within the Flathead Reservation. 

The six units of Flathead Lake State Park offer boat launches and campsites. Wildhorse Island, a 2,165-acre island, preserves old-growth ponderosa pines and offers trails. 

Fishing opportunities abound on Flathead Lake. Anglers fishing here hold the state record for a lake trout of 42.69 pounds caught in 2004, and a 10.46-pound lake whitefish caught in 2006. Fishing throughout the year is possible.

5. Swan Lake

paddleboarding on a swan lake montana
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Swan Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 29 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located approximately 30 miles southeast of Kalispell, Swan Lake is an eight-mile-long and one-mile-wide lake that spans 3,269 acres. 

Fed by glacial waters originating in the Mission Mountains, this lake has an average depth of 52 feet. 

The forested area that surrounds much of the lake attracted loggers and led to the creation of the Swan Lake settlement in the early 1900s in the Seeley-Swan Valley. 

Today, people who venture to this area enjoy year-round outdoor activities. Swan Lake Campground on the southeastern side of this lake is a popular site with a swimming area and a boat ramp.

Those hiking in the surrounding area have been known to spot lynx and bears in Flathead National Forest, a 2.3-million-acre preserve that sits alongside the western Continental Divide.

With numerous fishing access spots, Swan Lake is an excellent location for anglers to congregate. Fishing and boating opportunities abound. 

Common species include trout, sucker, northern pike, yellow perch, whitefish, and pumpkinseed.

6. Hungry Horse Reservoir

Hungry Horse Reservoir in Montana
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Hungry Horse Reservoir
  • Distance from Kalispell: 31 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located east of the city, the Hungry Horse Reservoir is an impoundment of the Flathead River that covers nearly 23,800 surface acres. 

Situated in the Rocky Mountains less than 30 miles from the Continental Divide, this cold, clear water is surrounded by forest lands and mountain peaks. 

Numerous seasonal campgrounds and overlooks dot the landscape. This is a place with mostly gravel roads and often non-existent cellular service – perfect for escapes into the wilderness.

Most visitors stay on the west side, while true adventures take a look far into the more remote eastern areas.

Hungry Horse Dam provides hydroelectric power to the region. This dam has created a reservoir with nearly 170 miles of shoreline that is 34 miles long. 

Located near Glacier National Park, this reservoir is a well-known retreat for boating, fishing, water skiing, and swimming. 

Named for two husky freight horses that disappeared during the winter of 1900-1901 in the wilderness and were later found, this rugged area continues to attract those who enjoy reconnecting with nature.

Those who come here to fish will not be disappointed. Cutthroat trout, bull trout, and whitefish are found in these waters in good numbers. 

7. Whitefish Lake

Whitefish Lake in Montana
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Whitefish Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 18 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located 18 miles north of the city, Whitefish Lake earned its name in the mid-1800s for the abundance of mountain whitefish found in this natural body of water. 

The 3,328-acre lake originated in an area where a large glacier once covered the land. Recreation opportunities are found in many areas of this body of water.

Two state parks offer visitors an escape to a pleasant natural location. Whitefish Lake State Park is a popular destination for hiking, biking, camping, fishing, water skiing, swimming, and picnicking. 

A great launch site for boats and smaller watercraft, many explore the natural environment surrounding different sections of the lake. 

Les Mason State Park occupies the quiet northeastern section of Whitefish Lake. The summertime swimming area and a picnic area are places where people congregate during warmer months at this day-use facility. 

From November through the winter, Les Mason State Park is closed to vehicular traffic. Adventuresome people with snowshoes and cross-country skiers still visit. 

Anglers will find large lake trout in whitefish lake, along with the namesake whitefish. Bull trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, northern pike, and yellow perch are also caught in these waters. 

8. Tally Lake

A photograph of a couple of crows sitting on the bench enjoying the view at Tally Lake Campground in Northwest Montana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Tally Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 23 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located 23 miles north of Kalispell, Tally Lake is the deepest natural lake in the state, with a section reaching 492 feet below the surface. 

This 1,211-acre natural lake is a destination for those who enjoy boating, fishing, and summertime swimming, and a location where cliff jumping is possible. 

The Tally Lake Campground sits along the lake’s northern shoreline. It is often the starting place for those who want to fish in Tally Lake. 

Common species found in here include trout, sucker, shiner, and northern pike. 

9. Ashley Lake

Performing post harvest surveys overlooking Ashley Lake
Source: flickr/public domain
  • Website: Ashley Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 15 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Ashley Lake covers 2,850 surface areas. With both natural forested areas and private properties surrounding the lake, this is a popular destination for kayaking, boating, canoeing, and fly-fishing. 

This lake, 15 miles west of downtown Kalispell was formed during the last Ice Age. Today, it offers cold water recreation activities to those who visit.

The US Forest Service maintains two small campsites along Ashley Lake. Ashley Lake North Campground has six sites, and Ashley Lake South Campground has two, with both seasonal locations generally opening on Memorial Day. 

Anglers will find Kokanee salmon and cutthroat trout to be the top fish at this destination. Other fish commonly caught include yellow perch, longnose sucker, and pygmy whitefish. 

10. Little Bitterroot Lake

Beautiful summer scene of a motor boat parked at a boat dock on a beautiful, scenic mountain lake. Blue skies, blue mountains, blue water
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Little Bitterroot Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 24 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Little Bitterroot Lake is a little more than 20 miles west-southwest of Kalispell. This 2,969-acre natural lake is surrounded by cabins and homes. 

The best public access site is at the three-acre Kelsey Cummings Park, situated on the southern shore near where the lake meets the Little Bitterroot River. A site maintained by Flathead County, this park does provide an area to launch small watercraft. 

On the lake’s north end, the Bitterroot Lions Youth Camp is a site where younger visitors enjoy learning about nature by the lake. 

With the least amount of access options, this lake does not have the traffic found in other bodies of water close to Kalispell. 

Those who fish here will find Kokanee salmon, pygmy whitefish, yellow perch, and rainbow trout. A record 0.36 lbs. pygmy whitefish was caught here in 2010. 

11. McGregor Lake

Two boys on the edge of the dock of a beautiful scenic lake during their summer vacation. Kids enjoying their childhood and Ready to paddle in the water
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: McGregor Lake
  • Distance from Kalispell: 33 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A drive of approximately 30 miles southwest of the city, McGregor Lake offers visitors access to a popular site in Kootenai National Forest halfway between Kalispell and Libby. 

This 1,521-acre lake is within the Thompson Chain of Lakes hunting and fishing area, which boasts 18 bodies of water. It is also the largest lake within the Kootenai National Forest. 

The federally-managed McGregor Lake Campground on the western shore has a boat ramp and is a popular location for swimming, paddling, and water skiing during the summer. 

A 2.9-mile shoreline trail offers perfect spots for bank fishing. 

The Boisverts unit of the Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park attracts visitors to the lake’s northern shoreline. 

The state park also maintains a campground on nearby Little McGregor Lake, a 35-acre body of water less than a one-half mile northeast of its larger sibling. 

Anglers who come to both McGregor lakes will find brook and rainbow trout, as well as cutthroat trout and yellow perch. 

The larger McGregor Lake also has Arctic grayling, Kokanee salmon, sucker, and whitefish. 

12. Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald Kayaking
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake McDonald
  • Distance from Kalispell: 36 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

At 6,823 acres, Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park. It can be reached in under an hour from Kalispell.

Known for its crystal clear water, colorful pebbles, and jaw-dropping views, this glacier-carved body has nationwide fame on par with Lake Tahoe and Lake Powell.

The Village of Apgar on the lake’s southern tip is the nearest spot to Kalispell and an ideal place to start exploring the park. 

Here, visitors will find campgrounds, boat rental facilities, and the visitors center. Also, this is a place to enjoy the famous boat cruise or hitch a ride on the free shuttle bus that follows Going-to-the-Sun Road along the lake and takes visitors deep into the park.

Multiple pull-offs allow access to the lake for a refreshing swim, and hiking opportunities are seemingly unlimited. 

However, when it comes to launching personal watercraft, the rules are strict and may require a quarantine period. It’s easier to rent from the park.

Unlike some other lakes in the Glacier National Park, fishing in Lake McDonald is allowed, including ice fishing, but it’s not great. Despite low pressure and the lake’s huge size, it fails to deliver a quality experience.

Keen anglers report catches of various trout species, including cutthroat, rainbow, bull, and lake varieties.

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