There are currently 7 state forests in Montana, which span across 6 different counties. Below you will find links to the individual forests page where we dive into each, look at the history, landscape, animals, and what makes each forest so unique.
State Forests in Montana
Clearwater State Forest (Missoula County)
Clearwater State Forest is located in Missoula County, only two miles from the small town of Greenough and six miles from Clearwater. It can be reached from Missoula in less than 40 minutes.
The biggest attraction to the Clearwater State Forest is its opportunities for fishing. The Blackfoot River cuts right through the forest; you can live out the lifestyle of A River Runs Through It by fly fishing on its banks. You can give yourself a challenge fishing at Elk Creek or miss out fishing altogether, and enjoy the scenery by simply hiking through the forest.
Coal Creek State Forest (Flathead County)
Though all seven of the State Forests boast spectacular scenery, Coal Creek State Forest is perhaps the most impressive. Located only 25 miles from the West Entrance of the Glacier National Park and 12 miles from the remote community of Polebridge, the forest is on the doorstep of one of the most beautiful parts of the United States.
You can climb mountains, fish in Cyclone Lake or follow alongside a winding stream within the 20,000 acres of Coal Creek State Forest. Venture just outside the borders to Polebridge to try one of the Polebridge Mercantile’s famous huckleberry bear claws – it’s a detour you just can’t miss.
Lincoln State Forest (Lewis and Clark County)
At 8,245 acres, Lincoln State Forest is the smallest of the seven. It can be found tucked away in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, in Lewis and Clark County, northern Montana. The forest is roughly the same distance from Missoula as it is from Helena – it takes an hour and twenty to reach the State Forest from either city.
Hiking, cross-country skiing, and camping are all popular recreational activities in Lincoln State Forest. But where it really excels is in fishing. The famous Blackfoot River, lakes and small creeks offer some excellent choices for fly-fishing.
Stillwater State Forest (Flathead County)
Stillwater State Forest is the largest of the seven State Forests in Montana. It is situated in the beautiful Flathead County, close to the Glacier National Park. The forest, which is home to both Upper Stillwater Lake and Lower Stillwater Lake, is perfect for adventurous types.
Available recreational activities include fishing, kayaking and hiking – in the winter, these are surpassed in popularity by skiing. For people who prefer a more leisurely vacation style, the Smith Lake Disc Golf Course offers a relaxing alternative.
Sula State Forest (Ravalli County)
Sula State Forest is the second smallest State Forest in Montana, at 10,000 acres. The forest, which is enveloped by the Bitterroot National Forest, is located close to Hamilton and Missoula in Ravalli County.
Often falling prey to wildfires, then replenished by the local community, Sula State Forest is a forest in a state of rejuvenation. You can explore it on foot, on skis or on horseback – the beautiful scenery of young forest, trickling creeks and snow-capped mountains is worth the effort.
Sula State Forest is most notable for its place on the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail, with the Ross Hole Historical Marker a particular highlight.
Swan River State Forest (Lake County)
Nestled in the stunning Swan Valley, the Swan River State Forest is the second largest of Montana’s State Forests.
Flanked by the Swan Mountains on one side and the Mission Mountains on the other, the forest offers some particularly scenic hiking and fishing opportunities within its borders. It also gives visitors the chance to try one of the state’s more unusual outdoor activities, by joining the Swan Mountain Llama Trekking company and exploring the wilderness with a furry companion.
The forest is located conveniently close to some of Montana’s most popular vacation spots; Flathead Lake is only a fifty-minute drive away.
Thompson River State Forest (Sanders County)
The Thompson River State Forest, so named for the river that runs through it, can be found in the gorgeous northwestern region of Montana. It borders the Lolo National Forest, as well as the Flathead National Forest – Flathead Lake is less than two hours away by car.
As the forest is situated in an area generally blessed with spectacular scenery, you can enjoy hikes with stunning vistas of rushing rivers, alpine forests, and the Rocky Mountains. Whether you choose to climb a mountain or fish for trout, the Thompson River State Forest is a beautiful place to do so.