Lake Mary Ronan State Park is a small and remote area just seven miles west of the much bigger Flathead Lake, a little off the beaten track near Proctor (formerly Dayton).
Set somewhere between Salish and the Mission Mountain ranges, this Montana State Park provides a much quieter and less crowded experience than the other nearby lake and its vicinity, although it is still of a size sufficient to provide substantial habitat for many different wildlife and fish species.
The name ‘Lake Mary Ronan’ replaced the original Native American one when the agent for the Flathead Indian Reservation, one Peter Ronan, used his influence to get the name changed to that of his wife in 1890, as a gift to her.
The park itself covers more than 100 acres of the land around Lake Mary Ronan, at elevations of 3,770 feet. It has decent camping facilities and is a favorite with anyone seeking a quiet camping experience.
The lake is well-stocked with fish, and the small but scenic hiking trails among wildflowers and wildlife lead into the abundant flora and fauna of the surrounding boreal forest.
Much of the landscape of the park is shaded by Douglas Firs and Western Larch, and these same trails are often used for snowshoeing around the lake in winter when ice fishing also becomes popular.
You can get to Lake Mary Ronan State Park via U.S. 93 to Proctor, then heading 7 miles northwest on Montana 352 to the entrance. The road from Proctor has a few sharp twists and turns as well as altitude changes, so it is worth being extra vigilant — especially if inclement weather is prevalent or it is a bit on the dark side.
There is some chance of running into deer and bighorn sheep along this road, although inside the park and the campgrounds the roads are paved with gravel and are easy to navigate. Non-residents pay a day-use entrance fee of $8.00 with a vehicle, half of that on foot.
Lake Mary Ronan State Park Stats
- 1,500-acre lake
- 120 acres of land
- Open year-round
- 25 campsites
This is a quiet state park most noted for its fishing, as well as the various scenic trails that lead into the surrounding wild and natural areas. For the majority of visitors, Lake Mary Ronan state park is a peaceful opportunity for relaxing, camping, and fishing.
The fishing can be done from either a boat or the park’s boat dock. Access to the lake, the boat ramp, and the campsites are available on the east shoreline.
The lake has stretches of beach along the shoreline, and besides fishing the water provides opportunities for boating, canoeing, swimming, kayaking, and motor boating. On a drier note, there is plenty of wildlife and bird watching to be done, along with picnicking and hiking.
There are 25 campsites at Lake Mary Ronan state park. Eighteen of these are available for reservation, while the others operate on a first-come-first-served basis. RVs, campers, and trailers are accommodated, and each site has a fire ring, grill, picnic table, and most sites are equipped with 50-amp electrical hook-ups.
The campsites are nicely shaded and private thanks to the nearby Douglas Fir Trees and Western Larch. There is a group camping area that can also be reserved, and there is boat trailer parking and a boating ramp.
Well-maintained campground vault toilets are available as is potable drinking water. This is bear habitat, so you need to ‘bear’ that in mind when keeping any food around.
A few rules to consider: quiet hours are enforced between 10 pm and 7 am, and all trailers, boats, and other motorized vehicles need to be able to fit inside the parking spurs.
Pets are welcome in the park and along the trails, as long as they are leashed. Campsite fees range between $4.00 and $34.00 per night, depending on the season and available amenities.
The well-stocked lake in this Montana State Park is a great place for anglers of all levels, whether from a boat or the boat dock provided by the park. The state-stocked lake contains a variety of species including kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, yellow perch, and largemouth bass.
The lake remains a popular spot for fishing during the winter months when ice fishing takes over. If you fancy the odds from a boat but you didn’t actually bring one of your own – or any equipment for that matter – you can rent anything you need from the nearby Lake Mary Ronan Lodge.
Wildlife and Nature Viewing
This whole area is renowned for its abundance of wildflowers permeating the forest. The variety of animals inhabiting the area is not small and includes deer and bighorn sheep.
You might even catch a glimpse of these animals’ predators like the black and grizzly bears, or mountain lions.
Don’t forget your birding essentials kit when you visit Lake Mary Ronan. You’ll kick yourself if you do as even someone with a passing interest will notice the land surrounding the lake has high numbers of interesting-looking birds.
There might be a Sandhill Crane around the southern neck of the lake shores, or you may just see ducks, gulls, and swans, along with a few cranes on the hunt.
The surrounding forests of the lake are where you’ll encounter songbirds like sparrows, bluebirds, thrushes, and swallows. A bit higher up in the trees, many watchers catch sight of Bald Eagles.
If you don’t actually have your own boat you will find one available to rent from the lodge. From canoes, kayaks and paddleboards to a motorized fishing boat, you could soon find yourself mobile on the water.
The lake is also used for water-skiing, wakeboarding and tubing by many of those using boats.
The trail systems in Lake Mary Ronan state park are neither lengthy nor arduous but are still worth checking out. The trail leading from the campground is a 3-mile, relatively flat but winding route ideal for a morning stroll or an after-dinner wander.
If you would rather go off on a hike that is a bit more substantial, then head towards the Flathead National Forest which is easy to reach from here. You can also take a route that allows you to loop the lake in less than 10 miles if you start off at West Shore Road.
Doug Fir Trail
Many visitors to the park use the trails around the campgrounds to explore the flora and fauna in the vicinity. This trail is an easy and pleasant 1-mile loop around the outside of the campground.
The trail connects to the very short Camp Spur trail along the southern region of the campsites, and there is another short trail by way of the Western Trail on the northern end of the campground. These short trails around the campsite vicinity also double as snowshoe trails in wintertime.
Nature Loop Trail
The Lake Mary Ronan Nature Loop Trail is a lightly trafficked loop of just under 2 miles in length. As the name suggests, this route provides a few decent opportunities for catching glimpses of the various wildlife species common to the area. The easy trail is used mainly for hiking and exploring the nature side of the area.