Best Lakes to Visit near Columbia Falls, Montana

Columbia Falls is close to a number of crystal clear freshwater lakes. These lakes provide the opportunity to enjoy a variety of watersports, including fishing, boating, swimming, and much, much more. In this article, we describe three of our favorite nearby lakes. For more information, give us a call. We'll be glad to answer your questions.

Lake McDonald

  • Distance from us: 23.8 miles

Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park. Located on the park's west side, the lake is around 10 miles long, a mile wide, and 472 feet deep.

Lake McDonald has a number of characteristics that make it one of the most photogenic lakes in the country. For one thing, it's is surrounded by mountains, creating fantastic views from every direction. In addition, the lake has sparkling, crystal clear waters. The cold temperatures of the lake don't allow algae to form, which guarantees the water will stay clear year-round. And the floor of the lake is covered with colorful rocks. These rocks vary in color, depending on the amount of iron and minerals they contain.

The shores of Lake McDonald are filled with a variety of trees, including fir, spruce, red cedar, and hemlock. Wildlife in the area includes black bears, grizzly bears, mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats.

Lake McDonald has some of the best hiking trails in Glacier National Park. You can choose from easy trails, such as Trail of the Cedars and McDonald Creek Trail, to very demanding trails, like Granite Park Trail and Sperry Chalet Trail. The lake is also a decent place to fish, although not a great one. Your best bet is to try trout fishing from the shoreline. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and lake trout can be found in Lake McDonald.

Flathead Lake

  • Distance from us: 26.0 miles

Flathead Lake is one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in the United States. The lake is about 30 miles long, 16 miles wide, and up to 370 feet deep. It's also one of the cleanest lakes in the country. The lake is by the Salish Mountains to the west, the Mission Mountains to the east, and Flathead Valley to the north and south.

Flathead Lake offers the opportunity to enjoy numerous outdoor activities, especially watersports. Swimming, water skiing, boating, and sailing are all popular. Public access to the lake is provided by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. The access point closest to us is Wayfarers, where you'll find a boat launch, a swimming area, picnic facilities, and public restrooms.

Flathead Lake is also an excellent location for fishing. Here, you'll find lake trout, rainbow trout, pike, whitefish, and yellow perch. Fishing for lake trout and whitefish is especially popular because of their size and abundance. Note that your best bet for fishing the lake is by boat (to give you access to more of the lake), but shoreline fishing can also be productive.

The lake contains a number of islands, including Wild Horse Island. Wild Horse Island is a great location for wildlife viewing and photography. You can expect to see bighorn sheep, mule deer, bald eagles, and even a few wild horses. The island is only accessible by boat, and is open for day use only.

Note that the southern end of Flathead Lake borders the Flathead Indian Reservation, and activities in that part of the lake require a tribal recreation permit.

Whitefish Lake

  • Distance from us: 12.3 miles 

Whitefish Lake, just northwest of Whitefish, Montana, is one of Montana's most popular lakes. It's about 6 miles long, 1.5 miles wide, and around 230 feet deep. The lake is surrounded by mature forests and is in the shadow of Big Mountain.

Whitefish Lake is known for it's watersports. Swimming, waterskiing, and boating are especially popular. Whitefish Lake is also a decent location for fishing. Like Flathead Lake, large lake trout can be found here. In addition, the lake has plenty of whitefish, as well as rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, northern pike, and yellow perch.

Public access to the lake is provided at three main locations: City Beach, Whitefish Lake State Park, and Les Mason Park. City Beach has a roped off swimming area and lifeguards on duty. Whitefish Lake State Park also has a beach area for swimming, as well as a boat launch. Les Mason Park is a less developed area that includes a gravel beach and picnic areas.