Seeley-Swan Valley

Highway 83 cuts through an area rich in wildlife and water recreation

By Myers Reece
Heart Lake in the Mission Mountain Wilderness. File photo

The Seeley-Swan corridor is dotted with hundreds of lakes and flanked on each side by the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Mission Mountains Wilderness. You can enjoy some of the natural wonders from the comfort of your car on Highway 83, but it’s certainly worth getting out to stretch your legs or, better yet, planning to stay a few days there.

The attractions are too numerous to list, although a handful of major destinations stand out. First, there are the two big lakes along the highway: Swan and Seeley. Beyond them are accessible mountain lakes such as Heart, Rainy, Placid, Inez and dozens more, many of which have camping availability and require different degrees of effort to reach. Combined with the Swan and Clearwater rivers, anglers and boaters of all stripes will find their preferred type of water.

A popular highlight is Holland Falls, an easy day hike. While you’re there, check out Holland Lake Lodge, which rests on the shore of its namesake lake. The Clearwater Canoe Trail just north of Seeley Lake is a meandering 3.5-mile stretch of river that provides a leisurely but beautifully wildlife-rich trip by canoe, paddleboat or kayak.

Beyond nature, a number of worthwhile business destinations dot the otherwise isolated highway corridor. The revamped Mission Mountains Mercantile offers both travelers and locals an opportunity to gas up, shop and enjoy fresh food from its deli. The community of Swan Lake boasts dining opportunities such as Laughing Horse Lodge and Swan Bar & Grill, while the town of Seeley Lake has a number of eateries, including The Ice Cream Place, an ever-popular stop. Seeley Lake also has a golf course.

There are also ample wildlife-viewing opportunities from numerous trails or places like the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge, as well as various access points into the surrounding wilderness areas throughout the densely forested Seeley-Swan valley.

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