There are so many ways to spend your time out on Flathead Lake. You can explore the shoreline and Wild Horse Island. You might want to fish up a storm for giant lake trout from the depths or a smaller catch from the shoreline. Maybe you just want to splash around and enjoy summer fun on the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi; you can find what you're looking for out on this water body. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy a day on Flathead Lake.
Start with breakfast in Bigfork – the Pocketstone Cafe or Grateful Bread Cafe and Bistro are tasty options – and order it to go. You'll want to head down the lake and enjoy a picnic breakfast with the lake's views as the sun rises in the sky. The Wayfarers Unit of Flathead Lake State Park is famous for being a sunset spot with its cliffy views of the lake, but you're much more likely to have the place to yourself during the morning before the rest of the world is out. Do a few stretches as the sun's rays hit the water, and get ready for a fun-filled day.
A visit to Wild Horse Island is a Flathead Lake experience you want to make time for, at least if you love Montana culture, wildlife, hiking, and wildflower viewings in an unbelievably scenic setting. This 2160-acre island is part of Flathead Lake State Park, crisscrossed with several miles of hiking trails and home to its titular wild horses. Five wild horses currently reside on the island, but it was historically used by the Kootenai Indians as a pasture site to protect their horses.
The island is accessible only by boat, so you'll need to bring them, rent, or sign up with a guided trip. Sea Me Paddle offers both kayak rentals and guided paddles out to the island. Their knowledgeable guides can give you background on the cultural and natural history of this significant spot. If you are fishing, you'll need to have a joint state and tribal license because it is also within the Flathead Reservation. Because of sensitive flora and fauna, pets are prohibited on the island.
You can charter sailboats or rent motorboats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards for some do-it-yourself recreation out on Flathead Lake. There are plenty of fishing access sites, state parks, and public lands to explore along the lakeshore. Just be sure to know where you can and can't land if you go ashore.
You could easily while away some time splashing around, fishing, and taking in the scenery. If you're fishing or recreating in the southern portion of the lake, be sure to pick up a tribal recreation permit.
In the evening, enjoy the light glinting low on the water with a cruise on Flathead Lake. The Shadow Cruiser out of Polson offers both sunset cruises and dinner cruises to experience a few last moments of your day filled with lapping waves, gentle rocking, and plenty of good company. Then it's just a short drive up to Bigfork to say goodnight to the Flathead Valley and get ready for your next day's adventure.