Ashley Lake is among a cluster of lakes located in northwest Montana, formed by the action of glaciers of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, some 12-14,000 years ago. The lake lies among low mountainous terrain at 3,500 feet elevation.
Ashley Lake is ideal for all freshwater recreational activities, swimming, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, and motor boating at more than a mile wide and four miles long.
There are miles of trails surrounding the lakeshore. There are three campgrounds located on the lake with tent and trailer sites. Leashed pets are welcome and there are three small campgrounds around the lake.
- Take Highway 2 West out of Kalispell, drive 4.5 miles, turn at the Smith Valley School (west) onto the Ashley Lake Road, proceed 8 miles to the lake.
- South Shore Drive leads to Ashley Lake South Campground.
- North Shore Drive leads to the boat launch and the North Campground. Signs mark site entrances.
Ashley Lake is the second cleanest in the entire state of Montana. People who own homes around the lake draw their household water from the lake.
The lake is a little more than five miles long and over a mile wide. It has 16.5 miles of shoreline and occupies an area of approximately 3,250 acres. Geographical coordinates for Ashley Lake are N48.20440° W114.61653° (NAD83). Consult the US Geological Survey (USGS) 1:24K topographic map for Lone Lake, MT for map details.
Drift fishing, still fishing, fly fishing, trolling, jigging, ice fishing.
Ashley Lake is only 12 miles from Kalispell over about 8 miles of gravel road. Despite its location within a US national forest, many private homes are around the lake.
Ashley Lake is best known for boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fly fishing. Anglers routinely hook huge rainbow trout there. The general area around Ashley Lake is heavily forested. There are logging operations throughout the year.
Late Spring through late Fall, the forest around the lake gets tinder dry, and wildfires are always a concern in the mountains of Montana.
It is good practice—and required when traveling in a motor vehicle within US Forest Service boundaries, to carry a shovel and bucket for fire extinguishing. Be extra cautious with any fire or the use of flammables.
Typical of the US mountain northwest, the wildlife around the lake is highly diverse. Moose, deer, black bears, coyotes, and wolves all call the area home.
Rainbow, cutthroat trout, and kokanee are the primary fish species in Ashley Lake. Some rainbows, mainly the planted hybrid rainbows, can get huge. Fish exceeding five pounds are relatively common, and rainbow trout can exceed ten pounds.
The best fly fishing results are at the shoreline, particularly in the morning and evening hours and close to the inlets of the various creeks and streams.
Ashley Lake receives quite a bit of use, particularly during the summer and especially on weekends. Many anglers visit the lake to chase the large trout.
Due to the large size and private property scattered along the lake, a boat helps to fish successfully. Other than motorboats, most boats with good paddling characteristics, such as canoes, inflatable canoes, pontoon boats, and inflatable kayaks, all work well. While winds are occasionally strong, the lake is not excessively windy.
For those with motorboats, a boat ramp is available on the north side of the lake. The forest service also maintains two campgrounds which are often full during busy summer weekends.
A fishing charter and guide service are available on Ashley Lake, Howe’s Fishing. Rob Driscoll is Ashley Lake’s only resident guide.
The Ashley Lake North Campground has six camp spots with a camp host on-site. There are picnic tables, fire rings, and a vault toilet. Stays in the campground are limited to five days.
Ashley Lake South Campground offers two tent and open camping sites, but no trailers or RVs are allowed. At the Ashley Lake Boat Launch, there are four campsites and a public boat ramp.
The U.S. Forest Service operates the campground, which opens each season on Memorial Day. Open/closed status is dependent upon weather conditions. (For conditions information, call Tally Lake RD, 406-758-5204).
There is a typical “quiet time” at the campground between 10 PM and 6 AM. There are vault toilets but no potable water available.
The campground is located a total of 17 miles from Kalispell. To get there, drive on Montana Highway 2 west out of Kalispell. Turn at Batavia School onto Ashley Lake Forest Service Road #912. Take the north shore road and go 6 miles on FS #912; turn at the camping sign.
Ashley Lake South Campground is a tiny campground with only two sites, a vault toilet, picnic tables, and fire rings. According to the U.S. Forest Service web page for the campground, there is a walking path down the boat launching site for kayaks and canoes.
The access road has a sharp corner, so recreational vehicles should avoid this facility. The stay limit is five days.
The online vacation rental portal VRBO lists five cabins available on or very near Ashley Lake, ranging in price from $125 to $1,450 per night and accommodating two to 26 persons.
An additional eight rental cabins are listed on the Airbnb.com website. There are many other cabin rentals offered on nearby lakes and streams and dozens of motels in the nearby town of Kalispell.
The best months for camping and activities on and around Ashley Lake are May through September when the average temperature remains freezing night and day. Even then, it gets cold at night, so be prepared. The hottest days at the lake are in July, whereas June is the wettest month.
Given the lake’s close proximity to Kalispell, visitors to the lake may also want to take the time to visit the town and take in the many events and restaurants there. Luckily, there are plenty of accommodations available in the area.
We recommend the highly-rated Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, other than providing a beautiful view of the Montana mountains, the hotel has all the modern amenities for the modern tourist. It also offers an airport shuttle, gym, free private parking, and 24-hour front desk service.
If you are looking for a more personable experience you can share with family or a group of friends Many Lakes Cabin, is a three-bedroom house in Kalispell that offers a beautiful view of the mountains and is at the doorstep of the outdoors and the many activities it offers.
There are many exciting attractions in and around the Flathead Valley, close to Ashley Lake. The towns of Kalispell and Whitefish have great restaurants and nightlife. Just south of Kalispell lies the much larger Flathead Lake.
Another attraction is the Northwest Montana History Museum, hosted by the Northwest Montana Historical Society, at 124 Second Avenue in East Kalispell, MT, about 9 miles east of Ashley Lake.
The NMHM claims to house the most extensive local history museum in Northwest Montana.