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Flathead National Forest

Stretching along the west side of the continental divide from the US Canadian border south approximately 120 miles lies the 2.3 million acre Flathead National Forest.

The landscape in the Flathead National Forest in northern Montana is built from block fault mountain ranges sculpted by glaciers, and covered with a rich thick forest. Glaciations from the last ice age influenced the shape of the land as well as the composition of the soil.

The National Forest is bordered by Canada to the north, Glacier National Park to the north and east, the Lewis and Clark National Forest to the east, the Lolo National Forest to the south, and the Kootenai National Forest to the west.

The forest provides abundant recreation and a wealth of natural resources and is a perfect place to relax and enjoy your National Forests.

There are several campgrounds within the Forest. Some have a small daily use fee while others are free. In addition to developed campsites, camping is allowed throughout the Flathead National Forest.

The Forest has 2,600 miles of hiking trails and 200 miles of designated National Recreation Trails, mostly in designated Wilderness Areas. The Danny On Memorial Trail is very popular and located within the Big Mountain Ski Area, also on the forest and just north of the town of Whitefish.

The area also offers an incredible array of fishing opportunities The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is responsible for regulating and managing fishing and hunting throughout Montana. Licenses are available from their office and at most local sporting goods stores.

The Flathead National Forest offers so many exciting opportunities to float and explore rivers and lakes. The North Fork, Middle Fork, and portions of the South Fork of the Flathead River are within the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and though no permits are required for floating use, you should be prepared and knowledgeable about paddling before you go.

If you're looking for a real adventure, check out the forest's one million acres of wilderness. Most of the areas are clustered together in one enormous complex that includes the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, and Mission Mountains and comprises approximately 46 percent of the Forest's land base. Roads, timber harvest, and motorized travel are not permitted in these areas.

Other designated special management areas are the Jewel Basin Hiking Area, and Coram Experimental Forest.

First-timer’s Adventure

Experience the Wild West in your own steel horse.

Follow the scenic highway and byways of Montana, through charming communities, and discover what the Blackfeet Indianscall the "Backbone of the World," the magnificent Rocky Mountains and the best scenic drive in the West.

Surrounding this wild gem are four National Forests, including the Flathead, and a host of Wildlife Management Areas and National Wildlife Refuges. Beyond the forests are striking vistas—the Rocky Mountain Front, Glacier National Park, the Flathead and Blackfoot River Basins. Adding another layer are the communities, each with their own distinct personality.
For a map and directions, click here.

Statistics

State(s):

Montana

Nearest Large Urban Area(s):

Kalispell, Missoula

Notes & Conditions:

Be prepared for winter fun. Make sure you have the proper gear, which includes information from the Glacier Country Avalanche Center.

Research campground locations and amenities at the U.S. National Forest Campground Directory. The Web site is full of pictures and detailed descriptions to help you plan your next trip.

If you want to experience a guided recreation trip in a National Forest, visit Adventure Vacation to learn about whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking and fishing trips.

Maps:

Visit the National Forest Store to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.