Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind when you vacation at Lake Koocanusa on the border of northwestern Montana and Canada. The lake’s deep blue water and tree-lined shore nestled amid the mountains of the Purcell and Salish Ranges puts you in a majestic wilderness setting where the air is pure and fresh. Nearby Rexford and Eureka have a variety of quaint motels, rustic cabins, ranch resorts, and cozy bed-and-breakfast inns. While you think about a season to visit and the best place to find your Lake Koocanusa vacation rental, check out this list of the ten best things to do for families visiting the area.
Experience the myriad of backwoods trails where you and your family can enjoy exquisite views of the distant Whitefish Range, visible from the Tobacco Valley outside Eureka, sweeping vistas of Lake Koocanusa, and the pristine Purcell and Salish Mountain Ranges. Some adventurers favor hiking between Eureka and Lake Koocanusa along the old Tobacco River railroad grade. This particular trek winds past the Tobacco River Campground and across the Tobacco River Bridge in Rexford. Stock your backpacks with binoculars, cameras, water, and energizing snacks for a sensational hiking expedition. Watch for whitetail and mule deer along the way.
2. Floating Water Park
Take the kids to the lake during the summer to expend some energy and enjoy the Floating Water Park run by Sunshine Houseboats Marina. The owners invite all visitors to enjoy their inflatable slides, jumping pillows, and bouncers, which are all connected together and floating in the beautiful blue lake. It features swings, ramps, jumps, ladders, a trampoline, and a slide. Lifeguards maintain safety rules and assist with fitting life jackets, which are available on-site if you leave yours at the vacation rental cottage.
3. Drive the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway
Experience the rugged beauty of the mountains of the Purcell and Salish Ranges and peaceful valleys when you take a day trip along the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway. Connecting Libby and Eureka, the 67-mile route follows Kootenai Rive and Lake Koocanusa via State Highway 37. Take your camera and a cooler filled with drinks and snacks for the excursion. Remind your kids to watch for the bighorn sheep that often lounge on the byway’s rocky ledges.
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4. Climb the Rocks at Stone Hill
Bring your own ropes and harnesses if you plan to climb the crags at Stone Hill, or visit the areas where you can walk and climb with the kids. A variety of visitors enjoy Stone Hill, where climbers of all skill levels get a chance to try out their abilities. Many of the crags feature permanent bolts that facilitate easy rigging.
5. Ride the Snowmobiles
If you love snow, bring the family to the lake for a winter wonderland. East Fork of Pipe Creek Snowmobile Trail gives you a 30-mile marked and groomed loop, providing the ideal winter recreation paradise for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Look for the log cabin shelter below the Big Creek Baldy Lookout.
6. Tour Libby Dam
Keep the kids’ minds sharp with an exciting and informative tour of the Libby Dam, about 43 miles south of Rexford. Explore the exhibits and displays to learn the dam’s role in flood control, hydro-electric power production, natural resources management, and recreation. A day-use area adjacent to the visitor center provides restroom facilities, picnic tables, two playgrounds, and a disc golf course.
7. Enjoy a Refreshing Swim
Gather up the pool noodles, sand buckets, air mattresses, sunscreen, and beach towels for a relaxing day of water fun. Take the cooler with some bottles of water and snacks, and set up on one of the sandy beaches, or hop in the boat to find a secluded cove. Splash around with the kids, or get a good water aerobics workout. However you choose to do it, enjoy a cool, rejuvenating swim.
8. Enjoy Boating
Bringing your own boat? Several recreation areas feature boat ramps that provide access to the lake, including Rocky Gorge, Peck Gulch, Barron Creek, and McGillivray Recreation Site. Traveling either north or south from Rexford takes you past several boat ramps. Sunshine Houseboats and Marina on the lake offer rentals, including pontoon boats, fishing boats, and jet skis. Enjoy your day on the lake sightseeing, fishing, or exploring quiet coves. You might see a bear, eagles, or elk moose along the secluded wooded shores.
9. Picnic on Yarnell Island
Surprise the kids with a picnic on an island. Pack your cooler, load everyone up in the boat, and depart from the McGillivray Recreation Site boat ramp. A short ride takes you to Yarnell Island, a primitive camping and picnic site. Explore the island, and take plenty of pictures to remember your special day.
10. See a Glacier
Just think about the stories your kids can share in school when they learn about glaciers, especially after you take them to see a real one. Grinnell Glacier, in Glacier National Park, is about a two-hour drive southeast of Rexford. Experience the breathtaking beauty and sheer size of the glaciers.
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