Flathead National Forest Campgrounds Prepare to Open for Summer

Visitor amenities at several popular campgrounds across the 2.1-million-acre forest will be limited due to water system upgrades

By Tristan Scott
Hungry Horse Reservoir as viewed from the slopes of Doris Mountain on June 28, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

With the unofficial start of camping season just around the corner, the Flathead National Forest has begun opening its suite of 31 developed campgrounds that offer a range of services, accommodations, and access. These range from campgrounds with road access, wi-fi, and cell phone coverage to more primitive locations with limited services.

Of the 31 campgrounds, 13 are under management by a concessionaire through a special use permit. There are currently two concessionaires that provide customer service and high-quality recreation experiences. Flathead Valley Campgrounds operate the Tally Lake, Big Creek, and Devil Creek Campgrounds, along with several sites around the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Big Sky Recreation Company runs the campgrounds at Holland Lake, Swan Lake, and Lindbergh Lake.

The Flathead National Forest has continued to make improvements to several popular sites using Legacy Restoration Funds made possible by the Great American Outdoors Act, including new water systems at the Tally Lake and Devil Creek Campgrounds. At Holland Lake Campground, where the state Department of Environmental Quality discovered leakage problems with the wastewater treatment system that constituted a violation of the Montana Water Quality Act, portable restrooms have been installed in lieu of flushing restrooms.

The Devil Creek Campground off U.S. Highway 2 between East Glacier and West Glacier will have a delayed opening due to construction. It is anticipated to open June 1. Reservations can be made at this campground, while sites are also available on a first-come, first-served basis

While Tally Lake Campground opened May 10, construction on the campground water system has begun with anticipated completion by July. No water will be available to visitors during this improvement work and some sites may be impacted.

The campground has 38 rentable sites with 21 of them available for advance reservation and 17 set aside for walk-up visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Holland Lake Campground will supply portable restrooms for the Bay Loop area in place of flushing restrooms while the wastewater system is inoperable. The RV dump station will be closed this season, but potable water will be available. The areas already serviced by vault toilets will remain open with no change.

This year, Swan Lake, Holland Lake, and Lindbergh Lake campgrounds are opening early and are currently on a first-come, first-served basis until normal reservations begin on May 17 for Holland Lake and Swan Lake campgrounds. Lindbergh Lake campground remains first come, first served all season.

In addition to designated campgrounds, dispersed camping is allowed throughout the Flathead National Forest.

“Dispersed camping is managed on a first-come, first-served basis and can give a one-of-a-kind camping experience,” forest officials stated in a press release announcing the campground openings. “If you plan on camping away from a designated campsite, please research that area beforehand and follow all posted rules and regulations during your stay.”

Campers at Blankenship Bridge north of Columbia Falls on July 30, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The maximum stay for the most dispersed sites on the forest is 16 days, although some popular sites near water will have shorter stay limits posted.

As visitors begin to plan their adventures, they should keep in mind that bears are awake and food, garbage, and other scented items attract wildlife. Help avoid attracting bears while camping and recreating. The food storage order for Flathead National Forest is designed to minimize grizzly bear/human conflicts.

Visit the Flathead National Forest website for more information on recreating safely in bear country: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/flathead/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5347448

For more information about camping, visit our website or contact the associated Ranger Station: https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/flathead/recreation/camping-cabins

  • Hungry Horse/Glacier View Ranger District: (406) 387-3800
  • Tally Lake Ranger District: (406) 758-5204
  • Swan Lake Ranger District: (406) 837-7500
  • Spotted Bear Ranger District: (406) 758-5376

To reserve a campground through Recreation.gov, visit: https://www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/1016