Drive around Hungry Horse Reservoir

Martin City, Montana


Added by Christina Adele Warburg-Hon

Less than 15 minutes from Glacier National Park, this amazing area offers many of the same recreational opportunities, but none of the crowds.

About 100 miles of mostly gravel roads (14 miles of pavement) will take you around this beautiful reservoir.  With that many miles of road and the shoreline to go with it, it is obvious that there is plenty to see and do in the Hungry Horse area. Check out some of my other adventures for ideas of more specific things to do while exploring around Hungry Horse. However, the drive around the lake to explore is well worth doing in and of itself. It's hard to encompass it all, so here are some of the main reasons you should visit Hungry Horse Reservoir.

*Peace, Quiet, and Solitude. This area is relatively untraveled, even by locals. We have been back there many times in July, and although we see people camping or maybe a few cars at trailheads, the maximum amount of other cars we have seen on the road is 5.

*Two of only three waters in Montana where you can legally fish for Bull Trout, a protected species, are located on this drive-Hungry Horse Reservoir itself and the South Fork of the Flathead River. You will still need a special free Catch Card that you can obtainthrough an application at the Fish and Wildlife office in Kalispell in order to fish for them though.

* This area has it all- hiking, plenty of launch points for boating, swimming holes, dirt roads for
pleasure 4WD, dispersed camping, fishing, and waterfalls.

*I know I said dispersed camping, but dispersed camping. There are hundreds of beautiful spots along the lakeshore. Although the roads are not crowded, dispersed camping is popular and you will see many RVs parked along the lake. Luckily, there so many spots that you will not have a problem finding your own spot and feeling completely alone. If dispersed camping isn't your thing, there are also hundreds of more developed sites that are mostly free.

*About halfway through your drive you will reach the Spotted Bear Ranger District, an area know for it's easy access to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and it's hiking and fishing opportunities.

*This area is good in all seasons. Spring and summer bring an abundance of wildflowers, the tamarack forests that surround the forest burst with color in the fall, and once the snow blankets the ground it becomes a popular area for snowmobilers.
I would recommend beginning your trip at the Hungry Horse Dam Visitor Center where they can give you a free map of the area with many of the highlights on it and other information. If you plan on driving any of the dirt Forest Service roads that divert from the main gravel road around the lake, I highly recommend grabbing the "Bob Marshall Wilderness" map published by National Geographic so that you don't get lost. Once leaving the visitor center, it is up to you how you choose to drive around the lake- clockwise or counter clockwise. If it is a bright sunny day I recommend driving clockwise (starting on the East Side of the reservoir and looping back to visitor center) so that your photos are not too washed out, but otherwise driving it either way is equally as scenic.

Before you begin your drive make sure that you have snacks and/or meals and a full tank of gas as there are little to no amenities along the way. The Spotted Bear Ranger Station will sell bear spray, maps and books and have fresh water, but that is about it.

All in all, this is an excellent area to spend an afternoon or a full day exploring. There is much to see and do and endless photography opportunities. Things that aren't allowed in neighboring Glacier National Park, such as hiking with your pet or flying your drone, are permitted here making a great place to feel free to recreate as you like.

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Picnic Area
Swimming Hole

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Leave No Trace

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