Three Ways to Enjoy RV Camping at Flathead National Forest

The northern Rocky Mountains of Montana play host to a two-million-acre wonderland, where wildlife, outdoor recreation and immense areas untouched by development are waiting for RV travelers to enjoy. Flathead National Forest, just south of the Canadian border and adjacent to Glacier National Park, invites visitors to discover how the West once looked to America’s early inhabitants.

Flathead National Forest

Flathead National Forest

Whether it’s taking the kids on a hike to a scenic overlook, quietly sketching the mountains surrounding a pristine lake or taking to the water on remote lakes or rivers, you’ll find a special place to do it while you’re there. Use our guide to three ways to enjoy Flathead National Forest to seed your own dreams of a Montana RV vacation. 

RV Camping and Hiking Flathead National Forest

Once you’ve chosen one of the many campgrounds in Flathead National Forest as your home base, take to the trails to see why this wilderness is treasured by hikers. More than twenty-two-hundred miles of trails crisscross the national forest, so there’s no shortage of ways to explore on foot.

Here are just a few suggestions for hikes to take while you’re there:

  • Holland Lake & Falls Trail is a little over three miles long roundtrip and leads along a bright, blue mountain lake surrounded by dense forest. The waterfall on this trail makes for great vacation photos and the terrain is gentle enough to take young hikers.
  • Numerous small lakes sparkle throughout the Jewel Basin Area of the national forest near Kalispell. Follow one or several of the marked trails, including one of moderate difficulty that climbs to the summit of Mt Aeneas, for breathtaking views and primo picnicking spots.
  • Hike (or mountain bike!) at least a section of the Whitefish Divide-Smokey Range National Recreation Trail for wilderness at its best. You’ll find the trail north of Whitefish, MT in a rugged, unspoiled region filled with wildlife and views that go on for miles.

The Forest Service website offers maps and tips for discovering trails of varying difficulty throughout the Flathead region. Your bonus—with campgrounds scattered throughout the national forest, you’ll come off a long day of hiking to RV luxury. 

RV Camping and Boating Flathead National Forest

Another popular way to enjoy outdoor recreation while RV camping at Flathead National Forest is to explore its lakes and rivers. Boaters, in particular, will want to camp at Hungry Horse Reservoir Recreation Area. Lakeside campgrounds ring this thirty-five mile lake below Hungry Horse Dam on the South Fork Flathead River, making it easy to camp and boat from several vantage points.

If you prefer to explore wilderness waterways by kayak, raft or canoe, the North, Middle and South Forks of the Wild and Scenic Flathead River offer nearly unlimited adventure. Bring your own watercraft or take a guided tour with an area outfitter, either way you’ll have a water expedition worth remembering on these unspoiled waterways.

RV Camping with Scenic Drives Through Flathead National Forest

The ability to set out on nearly any national forest road or the highways that connect Flathead National Forest to Glacier National Park and be assured of wondrous views is a third reason RV travelers come to western Montana.

A particular favorite is the Seeley-Swan scenic drive (Hwy 83) from Seeley Lake to Swan Lake along the western edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness section of the national forest. Jagged peaks, mountain lakes, wildlife and easy access to hiking trails make this drive something you simply must experience for yourself while RV camping in Montana.

If you’re ready for an RV journey to a place where nature reigns supreme, your next camping trip should be to Montana’s Flathead National Forest. Rent an RV or pack up the one in your driveway and get going! It’s high time to visit this Rocky Mountain wilderness and see what all the excitement is about.

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Travel where the Buffalo Roam on an RV Vacation

Picture of a Bison in the National Bison Range

Bison in the National Bison Range

Take an RV and travel through Montana and Idaho, enjoying the landscapes, the wildlife and the simple pleasures of travel. This trip is a long one, through buffalo territory, into the wilds of national forests and stopping in small towns filled with history. You begin this journey in Missoula, Montana where you can stay a while to experience festive occasions the year round. Jim and Mary’s RV Park is a great place to stay with lovely shaded sites.

From Missoula you will follow I-90 to where MT 200 and Highway 93 turn north. Follow MT 200 to Highway 95 and south again on I-90 back to Missoula. This route will take you to untold beauty, scenes from picture books and views of where the buffalo roam. In Glacier Country, you can experience the Northwest as you always imagined it would be. Stop to hike, fish, paddle on the lakes or just watch the wildlife wander the forests. Glimpse grizzly bears, deer, elk, moose and wolves.

When you reach the National Bison Range where herds of bison still roam, get on Red Sleep Mountain Drive which takes you into the refuge along an incredibly scenic drive. No trailers are allowed on the road and you should ensure your RV can make the trip. There are plenty of steep inclines and sharp curves. But if you have a motorcycle or other vehicle, you definitely won’t want to miss this opportunity for stunning views and a wide array of wildlife viewing as well.

Part of your trip will be within Kootenai National Forest and you will reach Thompson Falls and the beautiful Thompson Falls Dam along the Clark Fork River. Have a picnic with the family before moving on to Cabinet Gorge Reservoir. This is the ideal place to break out the fishing gear and possibly catch some largemouth bass, or rainbow, brook or cutthroat trout. Be sure to ask locals for the best place to go. Finally you enter the Idaho panhandle and have Coeur d’Alene National Forest surrounding you. This is a wilderness area of lush forests, mountains and lakes.

One of the most beautiful lakes in Idaho lies in your path – Lake Pend Oreille. With 111 miles of shoreline it offers lots of fishing opportunities. It is also one of the deepest inland lakes in all of North America at an approximate 1,170 feet. Take to the water on a Jet Ski, paddleboard or sailboat. The fun is never-ending!

Of course, Sandpoint, Idaho is right on the lake and surrounded by mountains that provide endless chances for all sorts of outdoor recreation. Some state parks in the area are highly recommended for a visit such as Round Lake State Park, where you can rent a canoe and paddle until dusk. Fish for perch or trout! Then head for the other state parks in the region like Farragut and Priest Lake State Parks.

When you get your fill, you head south on 95 to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and more activities to keep your days full. From here, simply follow Interstate 90 back to Missoula, not forgetting to stop at Old Mission State Park on the way. What a perfect RV trip! What fun! Come back again!

The picture of the bison is by Paul Frederickson and is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

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Take an RV Trip over Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Picture of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park

St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park

A trip to Glacier National Park offers the awe-inspiring beauty you have always dreamed of in a refreshing and unique vacation. Traveling in an RV to this wonderland of peaks and meadows is the perfect getaway for the whole family this summer. Wildlife is abundant, wooded slopes invite you into their depths for a nature hike and the fresh air stimulates and excites as nothing else can.

It is the Going-to-the-Sun Road that is the true adventure in a Glacier National Park trip. You get 50 miles of absolute gorgeous vistas and diverse landscapes. Lakes, glaciers, mountains’ majesty – the sights never stop. Glimpsing the mountain goats and bighorn sheep is a real thrill. You can’t forget your camera on this trip or you’ll end up buying another so you won’t miss a shot.

St. Mary Lake graces St. Mary Valley and you will want to stop and view Virginia Falls while here. The region around this lake has been the home of Native Americans for centuries. Stop at the St. Mary Visitor Center and get more education about the tribes who lived here and those that still exist. Many award-winning and amazingly varied performances happen at the visitor center throughout the summer.

You will find one of the Glacier National Park campgrounds will be just the place for you to make your base of operations while visiting the park. Different campgrounds take different lengths of RV motorhomes, so you can choose depending on the length of yours. The campground that takes the longest RVs is Apgar, accommodating those up to 40 feet long.

Of course, the park is named for the numerous glaciers here, and these glaciers are what formed the park as you see it now. They carved the bowls and created the moraines of today. The very heart of the park is at Many Glacier where you can get up close and see these magnificent wonders of nature.

If you want to get out and hike, Chief Mountain is the place to do it! Some of the trails are pretty strenuous, but you will find some are not so tough. To get to the mountain, you will have to cross Blackfeet land. There are tribal regulations in place, so be sure to find out what they are before you embark.

One breathtaking view after another is available at Logan Pass. This is the highest point in the park and you will most certainly want to make it to the top. The meadows are blooming with lovely wildflowers and you may even glimpse a grizzly bear. Two great trails are in the area that you can hike – the Hidden Lake and the Highline trails.

The largest lake in Glacier National Park is Lake McDonald. You will find plenty of outdoor fun at this lake, particularly hiking. The best trails here are the Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail. Once you enjoy the spectacular views you can move on along Going-to-the-Sun Road to the end, but your trip will never end because you’ll carry memories of it with you forever.

Picture credits: The picture of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is in the public domain.

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A Scenic RV Drive on the Beartooth Highway

Picture of the Beartooth Highway Near the Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Highway Near the Beartooth Pass

For one of the most scenic RV vacations ever, take the Beartooth Highway through Montana and Wyoming. This byway rates high on the list of top scenic drives in America. Breathtaking views, gorgeous valleys, waterfalls and glacial lakes await you. You will travel sixty-seven miles from Yellowstone to Red Lodge, Montana, through a number of National Forests and National Wilderness lands.

Make your home base in Cooke City and stay at Colter Campground, a spot high in elevation with RV sites available. You will be close to Yellowstone National Park, which is where you will start your adventure. If you haven’t visited Yellowstone before, now is the time! You can’t miss Old Faithful, and there are numerous geysers, mud pots, hot springs and other amazing sights. Wildlife is abundant as well as plenty of places to hike or bike.

As you move northeast out of Yellowstone and begin your drive in your RV on the Beartooth Highway, stop in Cooke City, Montana and visit the F.J. Williams Gallery. This is the oldest house in town, built more than 140 years ago. You will see fascinating antiques and primitive art and learn some interesting history. You should also stop at the historic mining community of Silver Gate. This is filled with history of the Old West.

Side trips are always fun, and at the junction of US Highway 212 and WY 296, you can take the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for more spectacular scenery. You will head south to Cody, Wyoming and enjoy miles of breathtaking beauty. Head back then to the Beartooth Highway to continue on your journey.

Just a bit further west when you get back on the Beartooth scenic route, you will find Crazy Creek Falls. It is worth a stop to see this incredible waterfall and learn some of the history connected. This unique waterfall comes from Crazy Creek, named because of its wild, erratic pattern of flowing. Take the walking trail and reach the viewing area for some lovely vistas.

The Beartooth-Absaroka Wilderness in Central Montana offers great wildlife watching with wildlife such as elk, mountain goats, black and grizzly bear and moose on the prowl. You can even ski here in June and July. Granite Peak stands high over the plateau, and is the king of all the rugged peaks in the Absarokas. Dare you try to climb this mountain? Many do. It is usually best as an overnight endeavor.

As you drive over the Beartooth Plateau, you will marvel at the inspiring views of alpine tundra, glaciers, mountain peaks and of course, the wildlife spotted at a distance. This plateau is at an elevation of 10,970 feet. You are really up there in the atmosphere! You will finally come to Red Lodge, Montana, a quaint town with a lot of history.

You have completed your RV journey and it is time to head home. You have the satisfaction of knowing you have visited a beautiful corner of the world, the Old West coming alive in all directions. It is something that you will never forget.

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An RV Trip of Mountain Dreams in Glacier National Park

Picture of Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park

Avalanche Lake

If you love the panoramic landscapes that mountain vistas offer, then Glacier National Park is the place to go. You can take an RV for the best vacation ever, traveling the byways of Montana in style. You will view alpine meadows and rugged mountain scenery. Pristine forests are filled with wildlife and lots of adventures for the whole family.

Begin your wilderness journey in West Glacier, MT, the western entrance to Glacier National Park. Explore the town and its historic past. It is the perfect beginning of a special Montana getaway. Stock up supplies for your trip across the Continental Divide and glorious views. West Glacier KOA is a perfect place to use as a home base for your RV vacation to Glacier.

You will take beautiful Going-to-the-Sun Road through the park, with access to all the best sights. This road is 50 miles of incredible scenery. The road is open from June (or snowmelt) to around September or October. If you would rather not brave the high roads and twisting curves in an RV, you can park in West Glacier or St. Mary and take the shuttle system that Glacier National Park provides visitors. This is a comfortable way to view the park and all its wonders without worrying about driving or parking.

There are abundant activities for all ages in and around the park. Wildlife viewing is a favorite, with plenty of bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats and even bears. There are over 700 miles of trails in Glacier National Park, so you simply must take advantage of the opportunity for a high-altitude hike. Once you get accustomed to the elevation, it will be easy to trek along the beautiful trails. The Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail take you to a lovely mountain lake. Be aware that the trails are high and you must take care and not get too close to the edge. You will finally come to the lake and enjoy the marvelous waterfalls falling from the cliffs.

Picture of Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park

Hidden Lake

If you love to fish, you will have plenty of places to throw in a line. You will find Avalanche Lake has some great fishing as well as wildlife wandering its shores. Hiking to the lake is half the fun. Hidden Lake is another lake requiring a hike to reach, taking a trail from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Find some really big trout here, up to twenty inches long.

The most common fish caught in Glacier Lakes include brook, bull and lake trout as well as Kokanee salmon. Try your luck at Bullhead Lake, at the foot of the Continental Divide. Get to Lake Josephine by hiking or boating across Swiftcurrent Lake. This backcountry lake is easy to reach, and will provide a great fishing experience. Mostly hikers come here so fishing pressure is light.

Once you reach the end of Going-to-the-Sun Road, you will be at St. Mary, the eastern entrance to the park. It is a wonderful place to say your goodbyes to Glacier National Park and start your trip home, plenty of incredible memories of your RV vacation etched into your memory.

Picture credits: The pictures of Avalanche Lake and Hidden Lake are by National Park Service staff.

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The Lewis & Clark Trail through Missouri by RV

Ready for more RV camping adventures on the Lewis and Clark Trail? The pair’s epic journey included a jaunt across Northern Missouri on the Missouri River. Here’s our suggested itinerary for following those intrepid explorers’ path through Missouri by RV.

Stop #1: Museum of Westward Expansion, St. Louis
Located at the base of the iconic “St. Louis Arch”, the Museum of Westward Expansion is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Complex. An impressive collection of Lewis and Clark memorabilia is housed in the museum, as well as fascinating video presentations and interactive exhibits highlighting the lives of Native Americans, miners and farmers during the time of westward expansion.

About five hours south of El Monte RV Rentals in Chicago, you’ll find this city on the banks of the Mississippi filled with cultural, historic and just plain fun attractions. Campgrounds like St. Louis RV Park will help keep luxurious RV camping affordable.

Stop #2: Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis
After making his way to the Pacific Ocean with Meriwether Lewis, Captain William Clark returned to St. Louis, where he died in 1838. Historic Bellefontaine Cemetery on Florissant Avenue is home to the granite obelisk that marks his passing.

Stop #3: Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center, St. Charles
Less than thirty miles west of St. Louis on I-70, the quaint Missouri river town of St. Charles is home to the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center. Created by the Discovery Expedition, a non-profit group dedicated to commemorating the journey of Lewis and Clark, this historical treasure is a must-see for RV camping American history buffs. You’ll find a museum, a riverside nature walk, and a boat house with exact replicas of the watercraft Lewis and Clark used to navigate the Missouri.

Once you’ve explored this excellent resource on the Lewis and Clark expedition, stay and visit other St. Charles attractions. Katy Trail State Park gives access to the scenic trail that follows reclaimed railroad bed along the Missouri River for more than two hundred miles. Hiking or biking a section of the trail is a favorite pastime for RV travelers to St. Charles.

Stop #4: Arrow Rock State Historic Site, Arrow Rock, MO
Now you have a choice to make as you follow Lewis and Clark’s journey west through Missouri. You can either travel I-70 west to Arrow Rock, Missouri, or follow the Missouri River along MO-94 to Stump Island Park in Jefferson City. Jefferson City, the state’s capitol, is noteworthy as Clark noted passing ‘Stump Island’ (there’s an historical marker there) in June of 1804.

If you’re short on time, make the direct trip to Arrow Rock from St. Charles. The town of Arrow Rock on the Missouri River is a living history installation with historic structures, a visitor center and re-enactments of life in a river town. Lewis and Clark noted the area’s salt water streams and the rock from which Indians made many arrows. You’ll also find a campground there, so why not spend some time enjoying this town’s vintage charm? By the way, Arrow Rock is in the heart of “Boone’s Lick Country”, where Daniel Boone’s sons once extracted and sold salt.

We owe an enormous debt to those early travelers, Lewis and Clark, for their amazing journey to the Pacific. Indulge your love of history and enjoy the comfort of RV camping by following the Lewis and Clark Trail through the Show Me State soon.

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An RV Vacation to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Bighorn Canyon NRADo you enjoy boating as well as camping on your RV vacations? If you do, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, located in both Wyoming and Montana, is the perfect place to do both. Few places offer the chance to glide through pristine blue waters surrounded by rock cliffs hundreds of feet high. Add that to scenic RV campgrounds, and an RV vacation to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is one you’ll want to repeat.

What’s so special about the lake that gives this vast protected area its name? For one thing, the waters of Bighorn Lake are prime trout fishing territory, drawing thousands of fishermen hoping to land the big one each year. There’s also nothing quite like the view at Bighorn Lake – rugged, multi-colored canyons, sudden bursts of pine trees interrupted by tall rock spires, and dozens of interesting coves to explore by kayak or canoe. Whether you’re there to water ski, paddle or drop a line in the water, experiencing the Bighorn by boat will give you plenty of stories to tell back home.

And the camping! On the Montana side, near Fort Smith, RV campers will enjoy the shaded campsites at Afterbay Campground. If you’re planning to stay in Wyoming, the Horseshoe Bend Campground and Marina is nicely shaded with both water and mountain views from the campsites. You should know in advance that campsites at Bighorn NRA are almost all free of charge, and on a first-come-first-served basis, so plan your schedule to arrive near the check out times posted on the NPS site.

But what about RV campers who don’t plan to boat or fish? There’s still a vacation-full of activities available to you! The NRA’s scenic drives, historic ranches and visitor centers alone will have you wondering how many pictures your camera will hold.

Park favorites: Devil Canyon Overlook on the Wyoming side, with a dizzying view of the lake down the sides of the canyon, and Yellow Tail Dam Visitor Center near Fort Smith, MT, with its fascinating exhibits about local Native American history, ancient geology and the construction of the lake. If you prefer getting out into nature a bit more, there are twenty-five miles of hiking trails through desert canyon habitat, with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities.

Don’t miss the chance to visit Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area this year! There are things for every member of your RV camping party to enjoy, whether they like their outdoor exploration from the water, on the trails or in an air conditioned visitor center. Visit the National Park Service site soon for more information on planning your own RV trip.

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RV Camping Trip Idea – Montana’s Going-to-the-Sun Road

Picture of Cars on the Going to the Sun RoadMontana’s Glacier National Park is home to one of America’s most scenic drives-Going-to-the-Sun Road. This suggested RV road trip crosses the Continental Divide and takes visitors on a memorable north-country journey. Here’s the lowdown on how to experience Going-to-the-Sun Road this summer.

What to Know About Going-to-the-Sun Road

  • How Long is the Scenic Drive? The route from St. Mary to West Glacier is fifty miles long, and is travelled at speeds from forty mph at the lowest elevations to twenty five mph at the highest.
  • What Will I See on the Drive? This is our favorite part-getting to tell you about picturesque Lake McDonald, formidable Jackson Glacier and breathtaking Logan Pass, where you’ll cross the Continental Divide. Along the way, watch for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, grizzly bears, grey wolves and golden eagles. Those are only a few of the dozens of species that call Glacier National Park home.
  • Is it Dangerous? Drivers who observe the posted speed limits and remain vigilant for sudden stops, wildlife and rapidly changing weather conditions will find the trip exhilarating but not dangerous. Skimming along mountain curves isn’t for everyone, though, so if you’d rather not drive, see #9 below.
  • What Vehicles Are Allowed? Glad you asked! Because it is a two-lane mountain road, vehicles over twenty-one feet in length and eight feet in width aren’t allowed on Going-to-the-Sun Road. If your RV exceeds those limits, or is over ten feet in height, you’ll have to drive your tow-along vehicle instead.
  • Can I Stop Along the Way? There are a number of scenic overlooks along the way, as well as a large parking lot at Logan Pass. Feel free to pull over (safely!) at one of these pull-offs and gaze at the scenery as long as you’d like.
  • Is There a Visitors Center? Yes! On the East end of the “Sun Road,” the St. Mary’s Visitors Center can help you plan your drive. There’s also a Visitors Center at Logan Pass, as well as Glacier National Park Headquarters at the West end of the drive.
  • Is There RV Camping Close By? This is the best part for RV campers! There are five scenic campgrounds near the East and West entrances to the National Park. Here’s a link for information about these campgrounds.
  • Can I Take the Trip Year-Round? In a word, “No!” This beautiful byway is famous for collecting as much as eighty feet of snow in winter. The road is generally cleared of snow by mid-June and remains open until mid-September, so plan your RV camping trip accordingly.
  • What if I’d Rather Not Drive? No problem! You can still see magnificent sights such as Big Bend, Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche Creek by riding the free Park Shuttle or with a reservation on the Red Bus or other commercial tours. Use this link for information on Glacier National Park shuttles and tours.
  • How Do I Get to Glacier National Park? Glacier is located about two hours north of Missoula, Montana on US Hwy 93, about nine hours west of Seattle, WA on I-90 and about ten hours straight north of Salt Lake City on I-15.

Ready for an RV road trip to the great North? Don’t miss the wild beauty of Montana’s Glacier National Park, and especially Going-to-the-Sun Road. And don’t forget to send us pictures!

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