Summer Preview

A How-to Guide for the Happy Camper

Summertime in the Flathead Valley is synonymous with camping al fresco, but it also means vying for spots with swarms of other campers. Here are a few out-of-the-way destinations worth escaping to, with back-up plans and pit stops to boot.

By Tristan Scott
Tally Lake. Beacon file photo

Finger Lake

This remote mountain lake is in the LeBeau Research Natural Area, which spans more than 5,000 acres of sylvan landscape at the north end of the Tally Lake Ranger District. It requires about a 1.5-mile hike to the primitive campsites, which sit in an area uniquely formed by intense glacial scouring. There’s also a dense forest of cedar and hemlocks, as well as Douglas firs. This is a historical old-growth area home to eight lakes ranging in size from 5 to 34 acres. The trail is open to non-motorized use such as hiking and mountain biking.

Directions from Kalispell: Travel north on Highway 93. Drive approximately seven miles north of the town of Olney and turn left just past mile marker 151. Cross the railroad tracks and follow the road around a hairpin bend to the parking area before the road drops down to Upper Stillwater Lake.

Backup Plan
Tally Lake Campground

This is a popular and oftentimes busy campground, but it’s large enough that there may be open spots if you get there early. This campground, about 17 miles northwest of Whitefish and situated on the lake, has 40 sites, a beach area, a boat launch and an open grassy spot for activities. The sites have fire rings and picnic tables, and there’s an RV dumpsite. This doesn’t necessarily get you away from the crowds, but it’s a worthwhile destination nonetheless. Enjoy the 1,350-acre lake, which is the deepest natural lake in Montana at 492 feet.

Pit Stop
Trego Pub and General Store 

The Trego Pub is a family-friendly public house and community-gathering place that offers craft beer and wine, as well as grilled sandwiches, salads and nachos.

Local musicians perform most Friday and Saturday nights, and a general store carries all manner of groceries and camp supplies.

It’s located at 232 Fortine Creek Road, Trego, 59934-0146.

Grave Creek Campground

This tucked-away gem has four developed campsites adjacent to its babbling namesake creek makes for a perfect accessible weekend getaway.

Directions from Fortine: Follow Highway 93 for approximately three miles (mile post 169) and turn right onto Grave Creek Road 114. Follow the road for approximately three miles and turn right onto Stoken Road 7061. Drive another 0.6 miles and turn left into the campground.

Backup Plan
Ten Lakes Scenic Area 

Carry on up Grave Creek Road for another 20 miles and access the Ten Lakes Scenic Area, where camping, hiking and horseback riding can be accessed with over 89 miles of trails. Little and Big Therriault Campgrounds provide campsites, fire rings, water pumps, and vault toilets, while the Horse Camp has hitching posts, feed racks, a fire ring, table, and outhouse.

Designated a Scenic Area in 1964, the Ten Lakes area has since been designated a Wilderness Study Area managed by the Kootenai National Forest. Remember to leave no trace on this 14,945-acre postage stamp of lush wilderness.

Pit Stop
Koocanusa Brewery

Swing through Koocanusa Brewery for quality craft brews and eye-popping mountain views. It’s located five miles south of Eureka off Highway 93. More information on the brewery is at koocanusabrewery.com.

North Dickey Lake Campground

North Dickey Lake Campground is a stunning campground next to scenic Dickey Lake and offers several hiking and mountain biking trails nearby. It’s conveniently located off Highway 93 and provides a secluded location for outdoor enjoyment. A day-use area is located on the other side of the lake.

Located on a hillside beside the 800-acre lake, the campground is nestled in a forest of larch and fir trees at an elevation of about 3,100 feet. In the spring and early summer, the sound of the loon can often be heard from the campground.

Directions rom Whitefish: Travel northwest on Highway 93 for approximately 40 miles to the campground.

Backup Plan
Upper Stillwater Lake Campground

Located 23 miles from Whitefish, Upper Stillwater Lake Campground was renovated in 2008 and has five designated campsites. A host may be onsite during the summer months, and visitors can enjoy access to restrooms, a gravel boat launch and day parking. The area has several hiking trails nearby and the Stillwater River flows past.

Directions from Whitefish: Follow Highway 93 northwest toward Eureka and turn left at the Stillwater Lake Campground site sign. Follow the signs to the campground, roughly one mile from the highway.

Pit Stop
Stillwater Bar

Tucked away at the water’s edge below Highway 93 near Olney, the Stillwater Bar sits roughly halfway between Eureka and Whitefish and attracts swimmers, boaters and fishermen during the summer months. It’s an ideal for a double cheeseburger and a cold beverage with fine views of the Lower Stillwater Lake.

The bar has poker machines, a pool table and a stage that occasionally hosts live music. A colorful clientele and wise-cracking personalities make for an entertaining visit.

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