Are you ready for an unforgettable adventure in the Big Sky Country? Kayaking in Montana is the ultimate way to immerse yourself in the state’s stunning landscapes, whether you’re gliding across the serene surface of a crystal-clear lake or navigating the exhilarating rapids of a mighty river. In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through the best kayak spots in Montana, from peaceful lakes to thrilling river runs. Get ready to discover your ideal Montana kayaking destination!
Where to Find Kayaking Paradise in Montana
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a kayaking novice, Montana offers a diverse range of kayaking experiences to suit all skill levels. From lakes nestled among majestic mountains to mighty rivers that carve through the state’s rugged terrain, there’s something for everyone. Let’s dive into the two main sections: the best places for kayaking in Montana’s lakes and the top spots for river kayaking. We’ll also provide recommendations for kayak rentals and guided tours so you can make the most of your adventure.
The Best Lakes in Montana for Kayaking
For those seeking tranquility and breathtaking views, Montana’s lakes are a kayaker’s paradise. Here are some of the top lake destinations that promise unforgettable experiences.
Nestled in the heart of Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald is a serene oasis that offers easy access for kayakers. With ample parking near Lake McDonald Lodge and in Apgar Village, this picturesque lake is perfect for a peaceful morning paddle. The early hours bless the lake with a magical glow as the sun’s rays dance upon the water’s surface. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife roaming along the lake’s edge. If you don’t have your own kayak, there are rental options available in Apgar Village.
Just an hour south of Glacier National Park lies Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. This beautiful lake boasts various public entry points, but for convenience and proximity to launching spots, paying the day-use fee at one of the six state parks surrounding Flathead Lake is well worth it. One of the highlights of kayaking on Flathead Lake is the water trail that connects many of the lake’s landmarks, allowing you to explore paddle-only areas and campgrounds. Don’t miss the opportunity to paddle from Big Arm State Park to Wild Horse Island, where you can hike and spot the island’s namesake inhabitants.
A hidden gem located just east of Bigfork, Swan Lake offers a peaceful and less touristy kayaking experience. With an excellent day-use area that provides easy access to the lake, you’ll be on the water in no time. Take advantage of the serene surroundings and enjoy a leisurely paddle, followed by a picturesque picnic on the shore.
Continuing south along Highway 83, you’ll discover Holland Lake near Condon, another fantastic kayaking destination. Paddling on Holland Lake offers an opportunity to marvel at Lower Holland Falls, a magnificent waterfall on the eastern side of the lake. If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy detour, be sure to find the rope swing on the southeast corner of the lake.
The Best Rivers in Montana for Kayaking
If you’re craving more adventure and thrill, Montana’s rivers with their rapids and speed are waiting to challenge you. Whether you’re a whitewater enthusiast or still new to river kayaking, there’s a stretch of water perfect for you. Hiring an experienced guide who knows the rivers well can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience tailored to your skill level.
Lewis and Clark Paddle Trail on the Missouri River
For a taste of history and an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the legendary explorers Lewis and Clark, the Lewis and Clark Paddle Trail along the Missouri River is a must-visit. This 6.25-mile trail in Great Falls, MT, provides a chance to paddle through significant spots visited by Lewis and Clark. History lesson aside, the trail offers stunning river views and a captivating paddle experience. Keep an eye out for informational signs along the riverbank that provide fascinating insights into the expedition.
Jefferson River Canoe Trail
Although the name may say “canoe,” you can still embark on an exciting kayaking adventure along the Jefferson River. Launch your kayak at Jessen Park in Twin Bridges, where a dedicated trail awaits paddlers. The full trail takes approximately six days to complete, with campsites conveniently located along the way. Wildlife enthusiasts will delight in the chance to spot animals such as moose and eagles while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Brennan’s Wave, Clark Fork River
If you prefer to admire the skill and bravery of fellow kayakers, Brennan’s Wave in Missoula is the place to be. Located on the Clark Fork River near downtown Missoula, this man-made section of river creates a thrilling wave that local kayakers love to surf. Settle on the grassy hill by Caras Park and witness the excitement as kayakers effortlessly ride the wave. You might even spot some true surfers showcasing their talents in this unique river-wave simulator.
Montana Kayak Rental Companies
If you need a kayak rental or prefer the guidance of experienced professionals, Montana offers a range of rental companies and kayak outfitters to meet your needs. These companies may also provide multi-day kayak trips, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in Montana’s natural wonders and the allure of its rivers.
East Coast Paddle Sports: Located in the heart of Montana, East Coast Paddle Sports offers kayak rentals and guided tours, making it the perfect choice for your Montana kayaking adventure.
Go Glacier Outfitters: Situated in Apgar Village within Glacier National Park, this rental company provides convenient access to Lake McDonald.
Sky Eco Rentals, Columbia Falls: Serving the west side of Glacier National Park, Sky Eco Rentals even offers equipment delivery to your lodging.
Sea Me Paddle: With locations along Flathead Lake and Whitefish Lake, Sea Me Paddle offers single and double kayak rentals, as well as guided tours.
Action Rentals: Located near Whitefish in Olney, Montana, this rental company caters to visitors exploring Glacier National Park and Whitefish.
Remember to always prioritize safety by wearing a life jacket and, in the case of river kayaking, considering a helmet for added protection. It’s time to embark on your Montana kayaking adventure. Get ready to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature and create unforgettable memories. Enjoy the ride!