Lake Alva, Montana

Lake Alva is located in Montana’s Missoula County and forms part of the Clearwater Chain of Lakes.

The other tributaries of the Clearwater River included within the chain are Rainy Lake, Lake Inez, Seeley Lake, Placid Lake, and Salmon Lake.

Lake Alva, along with the other 5 lakes, is easily-accessible from MT Highway 83 and features a plethora of amenities and attractions Montana-style.

This includes some well-maintained campgrounds on top of some great recreation–especially water-related activities like fishing and swimming, water-skiing, and jet-skiing.

From the Swan Range the Clearwater River flows southwards in the direction of Lake Alva and the chain of lakes. It runs through the Clearwater River Valley to the confluence of the Blackfoot River, in the Seeley Lake Ranger District of Lolo National Forest.

You can get to the Clearwater Chain of Lakes heading east from Missoula along I-90 then taking exit 109 signposted for MT Highway 200.

Keep going towards Great Falls in a straight line for just over 30 miles, eventually turning left onto MT Highway 83.

lake alva
Image: nevets183

Lake Alva Stats

  • 298-acre lake
  • 39-site campground
  • Open year-round

Main Attractions at Lake Alva

The main draw of this and the other lakes in the chain is mainly outdoor recreational and particularly water activities.

This is north-western Montana and the region of the Lolo National Forest which has some wild and picturesque scenery, recreation, and campgrounds.

These campgrounds are popular with anglers and wildlife viewing enthusiasts—not to mention anyone interested in the mesmerizing birding opportunities.

Many of the lakes, including Lake Alva, are nesting areas for loons throughout May and June, and the birds’ distinct calls can usually be heard from the campground.

Things to do at Lake Alva

lake alva, montana


Several well-maintained and developed campgrounds are located in and around the Clearwater Chain of Lakes, and each lake has its own campground and day-use facility.

The facilities usually feature group sites and sites with hook-ups, as well as backcountry locations. Along with Lake Alva, Seeley Lake and Lake Inez are also popular campgrounds right next to the water.

Campground fees are around the $10 per night mark, although some are free, and they operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Lake Alva Campground is located at the lake’s northern end. The campground has two loops with about 20 campsites each.

The facility offers some of the best opportunities not only for camping out near the lake but also for easily accessing recreation activities like swimming, fishing, and boating.

Wildlife and bird watching is possible from this vantage point, which is only 15 miles from the Mission Mountain Wilderness. The campground is set among thick spruce and subalpine trees and is just 10 miles to the north of Seeley Lake.

There aren’t that many facilities in view of the fact that this is a primitive campground, although it is a fee-paying facility—at least between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The campground does operate with limited, free-of-charge services off-season though.

Under normal operating conditions the site features a concrete boat launch and boat trailer, as well as an on-site volunteer campground host, 2 designated picnic areas with tables and fire rings–each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring—and there are available dumpsters and recycling bins on-site.

To get here from the direction of Seeley Lake, head 11 miles north along highway 83 until you see the campground on the west side of the highway, which is the north end of Lake Alva.

Lake and Pond Fishing

This spot is popular for fishing from a boat as well as from the shore. The fish species likely to be encountered within these waters include kokanee, largescale sucker, longnose sucker, mountain whitefish, northern pike, westslope cutthroat trout, yellow perch, and sucker to name but a few. 

Aside from the lakes, the entire area is chock full of some amazingly fruitful trout waters, which could be anything from a wee backcountry rivulet to a huge, fast-flowing river.

There is much for fishermen to see and do in this region. Lake Alva is not much deeper than 100 feet at a push, and on average is more like 50 feet.

The other lakes like Inez Lake are as little as a couple of miles south if you fancy trying different waters.


Lake Alva is a popular spot for motor boating and jet skiing and as it has both launch ramps and trailer parking it is easy to access.

Non-motorized boating is popular here and the pace fits the environment slightly more than motorized vessel use.

Motorized boating is permitted though, so most of those splashing around non-motorized boats tend to gravitate towards the areas with little to no motorboat use.

Early mornings are a good time to avoid too many motorized vessels, and this is a time when the non-motorized craft like canoes, kayaks, and rowing boats are more prominent.


Alva Lake makes a great place to spend a hot day. The campground here has its own beach with close and easy access to the water, which makes it a popular day-use location.

Wildlife Viewing and Birding

The Clearwater River Valley in general is a great place to catch sight of a wide range of migratory birds.

Birders with specific interests might like to check out the Clearwater River Canoe Trail and the Seeley Lake Wildlife Viewing Blind within the same vicinity as Lake Alva.

But as we said before, even the campgrounds provide some great wildlife viewing opportunities.

Hiking Trails at Lake Alva

hiking trail

Holland Falls National Recreation Trail

The Lake Alva Campground is right next to the Holland Falls National Recreation Trail. It is also a popular route for people from Seeley Lake here, and hiking along the Foothills Trail is a great way to get the full scope of the area’s natural beauty.

The route is not too far from the small town of Condon and covers 1.6 miles with inclines of about 750 feet, making this an easy and enjoyable trail.

The multi-purpose trail starts out at the junction of East Holland Lake Connector Trail #415 in the vicinity of the parking lot.

This steady trail shadows the shoreline of Holland Lake before climbing steadily but consistently to the foot of Holland Falls.

The best times to visit this trail are reportedly May through October, and although dogs are allowed they must be kept leashed.

The Morrell Falls National Recreational Trail

This well-known trail is also well within the vicinity of Alva Lake for anyone looking for some decent and varied hiking routes.

This is a 5.5-mile, out & back trail near Seeley Lake, and it is again generally considered an easy route but usually takes at least 2 hours to complete on average.

This is a popular trail that also attracts horseback riders and mountain bikers. The best times to use the route are reportedly June through October, and dogs are permitted along the trail which has some off-leash areas.

Clearwater Canoe Trail

Here we have a 4.4-mile loop trail near Seeley Lake centered around a popular water sports area. Generally reported as a moderately challenging route, most walkers will use more than 1.5 hours to complete it.

This is obviously a great trail for anyone considering combining a spot of paddling with some hiking as it is a dual recreation area.

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