From pristine mountain lakes ideal for reflecting on the beauty of nature to vast high desert reservoirs filled with powerboats and fishers, Montana has it all. Whether you plan to stay in the Rockies, near Glacier National Park, or in downtown Helena, your Montana vacation rental puts you in proximity to the great outdoors, which include these 10 best lakes in the state.
1. Lake McDonald
A vacation rental near the west entrance to Glacier National Park puts you a short drive from numerous spectacular lakes. Among the most scenic is Lake McDonald. Set in a valley of the same name, the large lake provides striking vistas of nearby peaks. Drive along the lake and stop to see the view from a variety of points along the shore, or get out of the car and hike one of the many trails in the valley. Just outside the park, the small towns of Hungry Horse, Martin City, and Columbia falls offer dining options, such as Huckleberry Patch Restaurant and Elkhorn Grill. Big Sky Waterpark in Columbia Falls has water slides and pools for a fun summer day, while the Monatana Vortex and House of Mystery contains oddities and optical illusions to make you scratch your head in wonder.
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2. Flathead Lake
The largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, Flathead Lake provides hosts an array of activities, including boating, fishing, and swimming. Stay along the shore in small towns such as Lakeside, Bigork, and Finley Point, or opt for a rental in the city of Kalispell, which lies just minutes north of the lake. Flathead Lake State Park has swimming areas and boat launches at several locations. Bigfork Outdoor Rentals and AM Boat Rentals let you explore the water on your own pace, while Wild Horse Boat Trips has a variety of cruises where you can sit back and enjoy the views.
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3. Canyon Ferry Lake
A reservoir created by the Canyon Ferry Dam on the Missouri River, Canyon Ferry Lake. A favorite destination for anglers, the lake is a great place to catch trout, perch, and walleye. Visit the lake during the winter to try ice boatingessentially a small sailboat on skis or to watch simply watch races of the sport. Three marinas provide amble boat access, while numerous swimming areas and picnic shelters dot the shoreline. Helena is just a few miles away, and makes a great home-base for exploring the lake and the hiking trails of Helena National Forest. While in town, visit the magnificent architecture of the Montana State Capitol and the Cathedral of Saint Helena.
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4. Fort Peck Lake
Located in eastern Montana, Fort Peck Lake is the state’s largest body of water with more than 1,520 miles of shoreline. A reservoir on the Missouri River, the lake is a good fishery for walleye, lake trout, northern pike and small mouth bass. Fort Peck Marina has a bait shop, boat docks, restaurant and bar with a view to help you enjoy your day on the lake. The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge surrounds the lake and has more than a million acres of public land known for its hunting, hiking, and bird-watching opportunities.
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5. Whitefish Lake
Whitefish Lake is one of the few lakes in Montana located adjacent to a larger town, with the namesake Whitefish located on its southern shore. A vacation rental in downtown allows you to stroll to the public beach for swimming. The lake is also a good place for boating, sailing, and water skiing. Get gear for your time on the water from Tamarack Ski & Lake Shop or Lakeshore Rentals. Tamarack also rents bicycles, which is a great way to explore town. The Whitefish Lake Golf Club features holes with views of the lake and the mountains beyond.
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6. Medicine Lake
The centerpiece of the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana, this lake is an important breeding ground for many migratory birds, making it a prime destination for birders and wildlife photographers. The refuge also provides hunting, fishing, and environmental education opportunities, including ice fishing during the winter months. The small town of Medicine Lake is located just off the lake, while numerous other communities are within a short drive.
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7. Lake Koocanusa
Lake Koocanusa stretches across the border of the Montana and Canada and was created in the 1970s by the Libby Dam. The 90 mile long lake has numerous fish species for anglers to pursue, including large rainbow trout and juvenile salmon. Many stretches of the lake are sparsely populated, perfect for getting away from it all in lakeside vacation rental. You can also stay in Libby for closer access to restaurants and the Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company, which serves up handcrafted ales and sodas, as well as food. The brewery is also a good place to hear live music.
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8. Swift Current Lake
One of several lakes in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, Swift Current Lake provides grand views of Mount Gould, Grinnell Point, and Mount Willbur. Get the best views with a ride on the park’s boat tour, which crosses the lake while the crew provides information about the areas glaciers, wildlife, and history. After the tour, explore one of the many trails that leave from the lake, keeping an eye out for wildlife such as elk, bears, and bighorn sheep.
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9. Clark Canyon Reservoir
Created by Clark Canyon Dam on the Beaverhead River near the towns of Red Rock, Dalys, and Dillon, the Clark Canyon Reservoir is one of the best recreational lakes in Montana’s far west. Boating, fishing, hiking, hunting, and swimming are all a go at the lake, while numerous nearby trails make the area a destination for off-road recreational vehicles. Visit Beaverhead Adventures in Dillon to rent ATV’s or UTV’s to explore the forests. The company also rents snowmobiles for winter adventures.
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10. Hidden Lake
Perhaps the most picturesque lake in Montana, Hidden Lake lies in the middle of Glacier National Park near the continental divide. Drive the stunning Going-to-the-Sun Road from either West Glacier or East Glacier to take in the expansive beauty of the park before hiking a short distance to the lake’s overlook. More adventurous hikers can hike down to the lake and enjoy a dip in its glacial waters or simply take in the splendor of the surrounding mountains.
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