Located off of the Clearwater River, this hidden gem of a state park houses a pristine, calming lake, numerous quiet campsites, and plenty of opportunities for boating, swimming, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
Although it’s close to other area lakes and state parks, Placid Lake State Park has its own unique charm and solitude. Whether you’re picking ripe huckleberries, biking, trout fishing, kayaking, or jet-skiing: it’s heaven.
Named after the Adirondack Mountains’ Lake Placid in 1892, the park was officially created in 1977 – but it’s been supporting and healing people in the area for much longer.
Originally on Salish and Ktunaxa land, these grounds were also used in early logging practices, evidenced by the plethora of larch stumps in the area. Speaking of trees, the leaves here change to beautiful colors during the fall, arguably the best time to visit Placid Lake State Park.
Who are we kidding? This space is beautiful year-round – so thankfully it’s open year-round. Sitting at over 4,000 feet, all you’ll have to do is sit back in your camping chair or hammock, sip from your insulated cup, take in the views, and recharge.
Interested in camping at Placid Lake? You’ll have 40 campsites to choose from, including 17 with electricity, as well as one hike-in area with 9 campsites of its own.
But if we’re honest, the main lake spots are so quiet and cozy that we love them as is. We usually don’t feel the need to hike in, unless a complete immersion in nature is called for.
But one thing is for sure: everyone who comes here seems to have the same idea: restoration.
Let’s take a look around Placid Lake State Park, some nearby attractions, and some of our favorite trails in the area!
Placid Lake State Park Stats
- Size: 31 acres
- Season: Year-round
- Hours: Summer: all day with quiet hours; Winter: day use, no overnight camping
- Nearest Body of Water: Madison River
- Number of Campsites: 40
- Number of Picnic Sites: 40
- Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Main Attractions Around Placid Lake State Park
You’re spoiled for choice with things to do around Placid Lake State Park, from other state parks to trails to museums in the Seeley Lake area. Let’s take a look around!
Salmon Lake State Park
We’ll be honest: Salmon Lake State Park and Placid Lake do have some similarities, especially the tranquil setting (Truth!). But there are a few differences, from sailing to even more extensive bird watching to welcoming pines.
Salmon Lake offers 24 campsites, quite a bit smaller than Placid Lake. 42 acres and fewer campsites: sounds like a good deal from here.
So it’s up to you to decide your top priorities, but either way, you’re probably coming away with a lot of fish to fry.
Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail
Easily one of the most popular spots in the Seeley Lake Ranger District, this 5.5 mile out-and-back trail is well-trafficked. The beautiful Morrell Falls trail offers plenty of spots to rest and enjoy your surroundings.
We definitely recommend coming earlier in the day to beat the crowds (and the heat in the summer months), but even with a crowd, you just may lose track of space and time looking at the roaring falls. They’re that majestic.
Seeley Lake Historical Museum
Seeley Lake Historical Museum provides a fantastic context for the first settlers in the area, both indigenous and homesteaders.
Speaking of indigenous culture, this museum candidly shows reverence to the people who lived on this land before the state of Montana was even a thought; their tipi is an obvious nod.
Be sure to check out the old barn for historic photographs, school replicas, and old town artifacts! If you have time, we recommend taking a drive along the Seeley-Swan Drive which covers 90 miles of Big Sky Country complete with wide sky views.
Gus, the World’s Largest Larch Tree
We love Gus! We’ve learned to expect the unexpected in beautiful Montana, and Gus is no exception as the world’s largest larch tree.
There are plenty of larches in and around Placid Lake State Park, some up to 600 years old, but Gus is special because he’s around 1,000 years old and 163 feet high. Looking pretty good for an ancient tree!
Just pivot over to Girard Grove off of Boy Scout Road, and you won’t be able to miss this big boy once you hit Camp Paxson.
Doesn’t dessert sound like a great treat after paying your dues to Gus? Head on over to Seeley Lake’s The Ice Cream Place for one of their famous milkshakes.
Recreational Activities Around Placid Lake State Park
Placid Lake State Park has plenty to do in its own right, but let’s take a look at some of the other recreational activities you can find in the Seeley Lake area.
Hiking & Biking
While we love Pyramid Pass – which is just as mystical and gorgeous as it sounds – our favorite hiking spot in the area is Morrell Falls. You guessed it! We are suckers for waterfalls.
But not everyone wants to take the well-trodden path (wink!), so for that, we recommend the Glacier Lake Trailhead.
Biking in the Seeley Lake area? We recommend Morrell Falls for that, too, but you’ll find plenty of opportunities near Gus and off of Placid Lake. Just be mindful of hikers on the same path wherever you are!
Swimming & Fishing
If you’re in town for the Bob Marshall Music Festival, you’re going to need a good place to relax after being around so many people. We’ve got you!
Day use swimming is available at Placid Lake State Park and Salmon Lake State Park during the summertime, but you’ll find so many opportunities all around Seeley Lake.
If you’re looking for somewhere to call home base for a few days, check out the Tamaracks Resort for their swimming and canoe rentals! They’re a one-stop shop for fun and relaxation.
Fishing at Seeley Lake, as you’ve already gathered, is a fantastic solo or communal adventure. Be prepared for plenty of bass and trout!
Right off of Seeley Lake, you have some beautiful options to camp. Of course, there are the beautiful and quiet campgrounds at Placid Lake State Park and Salmon Lake State Park, but we’ve got a few more choices for you.
But our favorite (beyond Placid Lake!) is easily Double Arrow Lookout, where you can also do some glamping in the nearby tower that has some pretty awesome views to wake up to.
No matter where you go, you’re going to want to bring your bug spray!
Clearwater Canoe Trail – Length: 4.4 miles
We’re going to start with Clearwater Canoe Trail, because like its name states, it’s an ideal location for water sports, especially canoeing and kayaking.
Depending on the water speed, it can take an hour or two from one end to the other, and many folks have described it as both incredibly relaxing and energizing.
Keep your eyes out for lily pads, herons, and fish swimming alongside you (Once you’re done, pat yourself on the back and go say hi to Gus!).
Lake Dinah – Length: 4.4 miles
This narrow hiking and biking trail between two bodies of water leads where all good trails should lead: yep, to a lake. And not just any lake – the beautiful Lake Dinah, which is a bit more shallow than other spots in the area.
Since you’ll be surrounded by so much water, don’t forget your bug spray. It just may be crucial, depending on the time of year you arrive!
And a suggestion for our fellow wildflower lovers: come later in the summer to see them in all their glory.
Boy Scout Bridge to Seeley Lake – Length: 1.9 miles
The easiest hike on our list, for sure: Boy Scout Bridge to Seeley Lake. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch! We’re in Montana, after all. We came for the wildflowers, and they didn’t disappoint.
If you have a furry friend, this is our recommended trail so they don’t get too overheated in the summer heat. You can’t go wrong with the continuous views of snow-capped mountains here. See you on the trail!