A Comprehensive Guide for Things to Do and See at Flathead Lake State Parks — All 6 of Them!
Do a drive around Flathead Lake and you’ll quickly realize that the lake is home to many state parks — although not too quickly: it takes at least two hours to drive the whole way around the lake without stopping. Luckily, if you want to take some breaks along that drive, you have many Montana State Parks to choose from that border Flathead Lake.
Flathead Lake state parks are one of the best parts about this beloved lake in western Montana. From beaches to camping to lovely day use picnic areas, each of Flathead Lake’s six state parks offers something a little bit different, but full of bona fide Montana mountain lake beauty.
Here at Travel Montana Now, Gina loves Wayfarers State Park due to its close proximity to her fave town of Bigfork while Jackie loves camping at Finley Point State Park. Nancy just loves all of the state parks since Flathead Lake is one of her favorite places in the world!
We’ve explored all around Flathead Lake so we can bring you this comprehensive guide to the state parks of Flathead Lake. We are starting in Polson since most people come to the lake from the south and then will be going counterclockwise around the lake, which brings us to the first state park we’ll be discussing…
Finley Point State Park
Driving to Finley Point takes you onto a small, scenic peninsula that juts out onto the southeast section of the lake shortly after you leave the Flathead Indian Reservation (on which Polson is located). The drive along the peninsula takes you past several little farms and orchards before you arrive at beautiful Finley Point State Park.
Finley Point State Park is punctuated by its tall pine trees, stretching up in the Montana sky with tall narrow tree trunks that provide peeks of the lake in between the trees.
This is a popular place to camp and can be reached via boat or car, so be sure to book ahead — especially if you want to reserve one of the boat camping slips for the dock (four with electricity and 12 without electricity are available).
Finley Point State Park Quick Tips
What Activities Can You Do at Finley Point State Park? Fishing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, picnicking, camping, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, boating, swimming, water skiing.
How Big is Finley Point State Park? 28 Acres
How Many Campsites Are There? Finley Point has both RV and tent sites: 18 RV sites and seven tent sites.
What are the Onsite Amenities at Finley Point State Park? Bear resistant storage lockers, RV hookups, fire pits, grills, firewood available for purchase, restrooms, parking lot, dock, boat launch, and is ADA accessible.
Yellow Bay State Park
Yellow Bay State Park is located on the southeast side of Flathead Lake. Its location is a prime one for cherry lovers as it puts you right by the cherry orchards Flathead Lake is known for.
You probably aren’t heading to Yellow Bay State Park to pick cherries, though. This peaceful park is home to only a handful of campsites, providing you with a relatively peaceful beach to hang out on. The gravelly beach is a fun place for families to hang out and swim or to take off from to do paddle boarding or kayaking. The area is even known as a great place to do a shore dive if you’re scuba certified.
Yellow Bay State Park Quick Tips
What Activities Can You Do at Yellow Bay State Park? Boating, Camping, Fishing, Water Skiing, Swimming, Bird Watching, Scuba Diving
How Big is Yellow Bay State Park? 15 Acres
How Many Campsites Are There? Five that are first-come, first-serve.
What are the Onsite Amenities at Yellow Bay State Park? Toilets, picnic tables and shelter, grills, fire rings, boat launch, parking, and water. The park is also ADA Accessible.
Flathead Lake State Park – Wayfarers
I love this state park — probably because it’s in walking distance from Bigfork, which is one of my favorite places in Montana! But that’s not all that makes this park so great.
Wayfarers State Park has a thickly wooded day use area where you’ll find secluded little spots of beach to hang out on and enjoy a picnic. Many of the campsites located within the park also boast their own little beach area.
The large state park is also home to hiking trails, a popular one of which is the trail that goes along the rocky shoreline and up to the cliffs of the park where you’ll be rewarded with a jaw-dropping view of Flathead Lake.
Flathead Lake State Park – Wayfarers Quick Tips
What Activities Can You Do at Wayfarers State Park? Hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, photography, boating, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, swimming, water skiing, fishing, picnicking, and camping.
How Big is Wayfarers State Park? 67 Acres
How Many Campsites Are There? 30 sites, seven of which are designated for tent-use only. There are also some only available for hiking or biking in and can’t accommodate a car. At sites where RVs and trailers are permitted, the vehicle can’t be longer than 40 feet.
What are the Onsite Amenities at Wayfarers State Park? Toilets, water, shower, parking lot, grills, dock, boat launch, playground, bear resistant storage, trash removal, lockers, and picnic shelter, plus firewood available for purchase . Also, pets are allowed at this state park and it is ADA Accessible.
Flathead Lake State Park – West Shore
Experience the beautiful western shoreline of Flathead Lake at West Shore State Park. This is the largest Flathead Lake State Park and its long rugged shoreline will make you feel like an explorer as you traverse over rocks and old logs.
Within the park are numerous hiking trails, though many enjoy the water activities like boating and kayaking you can do from West Shore State Park. Conveniently, a watersports rental company, Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours, is located right onsite in the park from June 15 through Labor Day.
Flathead Lake State Park – West Shore Quick Tips
What Activities Can You Do at West Shore State Park? Boating, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, pedal boating, camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking, swimming, water skiing, canoeing, picnicking
How Big is West Shore State Park? 129 Acres
How Many Campsites Are There? 33, seven of which are tent sites. For the RV sites, the maximum length limit of RV/Trailers is 40 feet.
What are the Onsite Amenities at West Shore State Park? Watersports rental shop, bear resistant storage lockers, dock, boat launch, grills, fire rings, RV electrical hookups, restrooms, parking lot, electricity, trash cans, picnic tables, firewood for sale, and is ADA accessible
Big Arm State Park
Big Arm is located on the southwest side of Flathead Lake, near the town of Big Arm and about 20 minutes north of Polson.
Big Arm State Park has a beautiful pebble beach overlooking Big Arm Bay and Wild Horse Island (more on that island next). Beyond the beach you’ll find a woodsy terrain dotted with large ponderosa pine and juniper trees.
Big Arm Quick Tips
What Activities Can You Do at Big Arm State Park? Fishing, swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, hiking, wind surfing, water skiing, sailing, wildlife viewing, picnicking, plus RV, tent, and group camping.
How Big is Big Arm State Park? 217 Acres
How Many Campsites Are There? 41 Campsites, including one that is wheelchair accessible and one designated for large groups. There are also three yurts available to reserve to sleep in, including one that is ADA Accessible.
What are the Onsite Amenities at Big Arm State Park? Boat launch, grills, fire pits, toilets (flush and vaulted), showers, water, lockers, bear resistant storage, parking, picnic shelter, trash removal, plus firewood for sale. Pets are allowed at this park and it is ADA compliant.
Wild Horse Island State Park
We’re ending with one of the most unique state parks along Flathead Lake. Wild Horse Island State Park is made up of a large island located within the southwest section of Flathead Lake. It is gorgeous to behold from a drive around the lake or while kayaking or boating on the water, but to truly appreciate Wild Horse Island, you’ll want to actually step foot on the island.
To get to the island, you can either go on your own via boat, kayak, or paddle board, or you can sign up for a boat tour excursion that stops on Wild Horse Island.
Once you’re on the island, it’s time to find out what makes it so special. Do the Trail #1 or Trail #2 hike. Trail #1 takes you on a 1.3 mile loop up into the thick of the woods for an excellent viewpoint while Trail #2 is a loop that goes right through the heart of the island and along the shoreline for a total of 2.7 miles.
Along the way on your hike, keep an eye out for the wildlife that call Wild Horse Island State Park home. There are mule deer, bighorn sheep, falcons, bald eagles, and other birds. But the most exciting wildlife to see is the small herd of wild horses that gives this island its name.
Back in the early 19th century, the Kootenai tribe brought horses to the island to keep them safe from being stolen from other tribes and the horses you’ll see on the island are descendants of those early horses. Petting the horses (or any wildlife) is strictly prohibited.
Unlike the other state parks around Flathead Lake, Wild Horse Island has no camping and you can only access the park for day use.
To get to this park, rent a paddleboard or kayak (or bring your own) and leave from Big Arm beach. It takes about 45 minutes to get across the lake to Wild Horse Island for the average paddler. If you want to get across faster, rent a boat. You can embark from the Big Arm boat launch or any of the boat launches around the lake to take a more scenic approach to Wild Horse Island.
Once you reach the island, you can moor your equipment or boat at one of the six landing sites around the island. Rocky Bar is most convenient if you want to paddle the shortest distance from Big Arm campground while nearby Skeeko Bay is closest to the trailheads. For a bit more solitude, head to the east side of the island to Osprey Cove or East Shore.
If you don’t want to deal with boat rentals or paddling, sign up for a boat tour. There are several boat companies located around the lake, such as in Bigfork and Lakeside, that offer boat tours of Flathead Lake and around Wild Horse Island.
A couple other things to know about Wild Horse Island:
There are some privately owned areas on Wild Horse Island. These docks are not for public use. Also, large groups are not permitted. If traveling as a group, there can’t be more than 15 people in your party.
Wild Horse Island Quick Tips
What Activities Can You Do at Wild Horse Island State Park? Hiking, boating, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, bird watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, sailing, picnicking.
How Big is Wild Horse Island State Park? 2,163 Acres
How Many Campsites Are There? None, no camping is allowed on Wild Horse Island.
What are the Onsite Amenities at Wild Horse Island State Park? Vault toilets
A Few Important Reminders About Flathead Lake State Parks
Keep in mind that not all of the amenities lifted above are offered year-round. Check with the park service before your trip to confirm what will be open or available for amenities if you are traveling to Flathead Lake in the off season.
When picnicking, hiking, or doing other activities in the park, be bear aware. When hiking around Flathead Lake and Glacier County, a best practice is to always have bear spray with you. Bring your own if driving to Flathead Lake, or rent some if you’re flying into Montana (you can’t bring bear spray on the plane). Many local outfitters around Flathead Lake offer bear spray to rent.
When visiting the state parks of Flathead Lake, remember to leave no trace — whatever you bring in with you, bring out with you. At some state parks, trash cans are available, but use those minimally to prevent overflow which can attract wildlife; it’s best to pack out your garbage if possible.
Help keep the Flathead Lake State Parks clean and pristine for generations to come, and enjoy your time at these gorgeous lakeside parks!