Montana’s north-western region is where you’ll encounter McGregor Lake with its clear and warm water.
The lake is set between the backdrop of Flathead National Forest and the dense pine forests of the Salish Mountains in the Kootenai National Forest.
At a distance of 35 miles west of Kalispell on HWY 2, which runs along the northern boundary, the lake is easy to access along with any amenities.
Also less than 90 minutes from Glacier National Park, the spring-fed McGregor Lake encompasses more than 1,500 surface acres and forms a tributary of McGregor Creek.
Many people from far and wide come to hike, boat, swim, or fish MacGregor Lake’s surrounding untamed wilderness areas. The lake is in a top location, surrounded by some of Montana’s most abundant recreation opportunities, and forms part of the ‘chain’ of lakes that is the 20-mile stretch known as the Thompson Chain of Lakes.
In this entire region, you’ll find plenty of lakes along with all manner of great and easy-to-access ski slopes, snowmobile trails, hiking trails, and even golf courses, on top of the boating and fishing—not to mention scuba diving in McGregor Lake due to its clear and warm water.
Lakeside vacation rentals, cabins, cottages, and a lodge are all available around the lake–as is real estate for sale at a premium—and private property runs along the east and southeast shorelines.
That said, a fair portion of McGregor Lake’s shoreline and surrounding acreage is owned and operated by the State of Montana, which means it remains wild and undeveloped forest land, mostly in the region of the lake’s southern shore.
To get to the lake from the direction of Kalispell, continue along HWY 2 for 32 miles. If you are coming from the direction of Libby, travel 53 miles on HWY 2 in a south-easterly direction.
The lake is accessible year-round for both summer and winter activities, and the campground usually operates between May and October. Day-use fees of $5.00 are required for non-residents.
McGregor Lake Stats
- Approximately 1,522-acres
- Elevation 3,998 feet
- 27-site campground
- Open year-round
Things to do at McGregor Lake
Recreation on McGregor Lake includes various activities in and around the water by way of water skiing, fishing, and canoeing, and there is a public fishing access boat ramp across the west side.
The deep and clear water is particularly popular with scuba divers, as is regular swimming during the warmer summer months.
The lake has trails for OHVs like snowmobiles and ATVs as well as the more obvious hiking and cross country skiing. Hunting is allowed in the nearby region and there is a seasonal abundance of elk, deer, bear, moose, and mountain lions.
On top of that, both golf courses and ski resorts can be found in the Flathead Valley, which has its share of artists who come to work amidst the amazing, inspirational natural beauty of the area.
Fishing at McGregor Lake is popular with locals and visitors alike. With average depths of about 100 feet and as deep as more than 200 in some parts, it contains a few lake trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout which prefer the warmer waters.
There are also healthy populations of kokanee salmon, which are stocked along with the trout, as well as arctic grayling, yellow perch.
The lodge at the lake plays host to an annual fishing derby in which these fish are the main trophies. As the lake is open all year and McGregor Lake freezes solidly enough to support ice fishing, anglers enjoy fishing here in winter.
The lake provides a range of scuba diving opportunities that suit both the novice as well as the more advanced diver. The lake has three clearly marked boat dive locations, namely: The Glacier Wall, Mac Point, and The Wrecking Yard.
When you consider the altitudes for diving in this lake it is advisable to always fly your dive flag while diving. The Glacier Wall is a boat dive which comes with a buoy maker and boat anchor to moor your boat. Mac Point reportedly has large rock fingers, and the Wrecking Yard can be accessed from either a boat or the shore.
Depths go down to more than 200 feet in the lake and visibility is reportedly somewhere in the region of 25-65 feet (8-20 m).
The lake is warm by Montana standards and the summer months’ surface temperatures are around 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit (10-19 degrees Celsius).
Motorboats are permitted at this lake and there is a large concrete boat ramp great for them to launch from. A fair few boaters stay at the lake’s lodge and indulge in their favorite activity for a few days.
McGregor Lake is not entirely the worst place in the world from which to enjoy some pretty amazing views of the Salish Mountains from either a motorboat or a canoe.
McGregor Lake Campground is just over 50 miles southeast of Libby, again on Highway 2, and this is the western wing of McGregor Lake at an elevation of 3900 feet.
This area is about halfway between Libby and Kalispell in the heart of the Thompson Chain of Lakes, a well-known area for anyone interested in hunting and fishing.
McGregor Lake is located within this chain, along with around 20 others. The campground is situated among young pines in the Fisher River Area, the watershed formed by the Four Forks of the Fisher River and Wolf Creek.
The 27-site campground has one host site, along with tables and fire rings and an average length of 32 feet. Vault toilets and drinking water are accessible as is a group site which can be reserved 4 days ahead of your arrival and as much as 12 months ahead of your visit.
Along the lake, you’ll find four tent sites close to the boat ramp. The area also contains day-use picnic sites not too far from the beach which also have tables and fire rings.
RV and tent camping are available at 23 sites, and overnight fees are $12.00.
There’s also the Lodge at McGregor Lake for anyone looking for sleeping arrangements other than camping.
Hiking Trails at McGregor Lake
There’s only one relatively short and easy trail around the lake itself. But this is a great area from which to access a variety of other trails in and around the surrounding national forest and mountain regions depending on how far out you want to go.
MacGregor Lake Shoreline Trail
This route is an easy-going, 2.9-mile trail. It is very family-friendly and has some nice spots from which to sit and take in the open and vast surroundings.
It’s an ideal day-hike or half-day depending on what you are used to and is mainly about the views more than challenging terrain.
If you are looking for a bit more variety it’s worth noting that the Bar Z and Meadow Ridge trails pass through the MacGregor Lake area, and nearby you also have access to trails like the Murr Creek Trail, and the Castle Rock Trail within 5 miles or so of the McGregor Lake Campground.
Not forgetting the fact that the Kootenai National Forest has a great selection of trails for either day trips or some serious backpacking.