Though scarce in Flathead Valley, bitterroot is blooming now on Wild Horse Island State Park in Flathead Lake. “Unlike elsewhere in the valley where the habitat is too nice for bitterroot, Wild Horse is harsh enough that it thrives,” said frequent visitor Kjell Petersen.
Accessed only via boat, the island’s 2,163 acres are best explored on foot from one of five public landings. From Skeeko Bay on its northwest corner, walk the nature trail loop accompanied by meadowlark music. Leave the maintained prairie trail for a less traveled path climbing steeply toward the island’s highest point to find the pink state flower clustered on rocky outcrops and a view stretching from Glacier Park to the Mission Mountains. Watch for bighorn sheep and the island’s five wild horses.
How to get there: To access Wild Horse Island by canoe or sea kayak, drive 29 miles south from Kalispell on Highway 93 to Dayton Yacht Harbor for a 90-minute paddle to the island. Be ready to handle blustery winds. By power or sailboat, you can launch from over 20 access sites, state parks, or marinas. Maps of the island are available at the Skeeko Bay trailhead.