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Whitefish Lake State Park, Montana

Whitefish Lake State Park is located in the vicinity of Montana’s resort town of Whitefish around the picturesque lake of the same name.

The state park is set within mature woodlands just a mile to the west of downtown Whitefish and there are a variety of options for how you spend your time there.

Many visitors decide to make use of the virtually wind-free waters for some water sports or fishing or head up to the nearby world-famous Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort.

Some of the main activities occurring on the lake include boating and fishing, as well as water skiing and any other water pursuit that would normally suffer due to windy conditions.

Boat rentals as well as stand-up paddleboards and other similar equipment are available to hire for those who don’t bring their own.

For those not so enamored with spending time in the water there is a decent range of hiking and biking trails to make use of as the park is part of the Whitefish hiking and biking trail system.  

The campground in Whitefish Lake State Park offers a variety of tent and RV camping as well as a fairly recent addition by way of the new hike-bike campsite.

This is popular with cyclists heading for the nearby Great Divide route. There is also a train line running past the park and the trains often stop adjacent to the campground as you can see from this MAP.

Even though the popular resort town of Whitefish is well-known this is still a remote state park surrounded by wilderness.

It is thus advisable to exercise some caution when driving to the state park as it is in the mountains, and you will likely meet with some precarious twists and turns en route to the site, which sits at an elevation of more than 3,000 feet.

To access the Whitefish Lake State Park, take Highway 93 west out of town towards Eureka. Take a right on State Park Road after the golf course and follow this road over the railroad tracks until you see the park entrance on your left.

State Park Stats

state park stats

  • 10 acres
  • Open year-round (seasonal amenities)
  • 25 campsites
  • Non-resident fees apply

Main Attractions

Whitefish Lake State Park is a busy leisure area, and the majority of visitors come with some form of water activity in mind, if not a spot of camping.

Plenty of visitors bring their own boats, and if you decide to go this route make sure you are prepared to navigate what might be a very busy parking lot, depending on the time of year.

Recreation Activities

Camping

The 25 sites at the campground are suitable for various sizes of tents and RVs.

As the park also has a specific campsite for hike-in and bike-in campers, anyone likely to be exploring the area by bike or on foot might benefit more from checking that out first.

The majority of the sites are lacking any hook-ups, so expect more primitive-style arrangements at the campground.

The campground’s sites are located around two loops, and the train tracks right outside of the park are a sign that it is common for trains to come past frequently–and they often stop adjacent to the campground.

Some sites are large enough to hold an RV, while others are only big enough for a tent.

Campground amenities include showers and flush toilets, with some of them being handicapped-accessible, and some sites providing easy fishing access.

All campsites at this park are now reservable, otherwise they are operated on a first come, first served basis when available.

Other campground amenities include a boat launch, boat and paddleboard rentals, firewood, grills and fire rings, picnic shelters, maps, trash removal, and water.

Pets are also allowed here and RV or trailer sizes are limited to 40 feet in length. Amenities such as water and showers are available from May to September 30, and the boat dock is available from April to the end of November.

The lower loop sites usually stay open for winter camping.

Boating

You can bring your own boat from which to enjoy the water at Whitefish Lake State Park, or alternatively make use of the equipment hire that is open next to the lake (depending on the time of year) offering a variety of different boat types like canoes and stand-up paddle boards.

You can also enjoy some quality water-skiing due to the lack of any challenging windy conditions across this lake.

You’ll find two public boat launches on Whitefish Lake—one is the City Beach Boat Launch and the other one is the Whitefish Lake State Park option.

Fishing

Whitefish Lake State Park offers a variety of decent fishing options. It is a popular fishing and swimming site with locals as well as visitors, so you might find that it does get quite busy during certain periods—namely the warmer months.

The lake contains a variety of fish species which includes lake trout and walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and white sucker.

Year-round fishing is popular which includes ice fishing, and walleyes in the 3 to 4-pound range and bigger are reportedly quite common.

Swimming

Although the lake is quite shallow, especially near the beach area, you can still enjoy some relaxed swimming and splashing around in the water surrounded by woodlands and picturesque mountain views.

Due to the higher mountain elevations, many swimmers find that the water is a bit cold—which is obviously an ideal way to cool off in the summer after spending the day hiking or biking on the trails—but you might want to give it a miss once the sun’s warm rays have disappeared for the season.

Picnicking

The state park and the lake are ideal for daily use and many people simply venture up to this scenic spot to enjoy a picnic near the water’s edge.

The park does have picnic tables, not to mention fire rings as you would expect from any decent camping and recreation site in Montana.

You can get firewood from the park to use in your fire, and firewood is also for sale during some periods.

Viewing Wildlife

When visiting a place like Whitefish Lake State Park it’s always a good idea to pack a pair of binoculars.

There are certainly more than a few glimpses of the native fauna to be had from either the water’s edge or while hiking around the various surrounding trails.

Plenty of visitors come to the state park for exactly that reason, whether expecting to see birds or other animals like deer and even bears.

Trail Routes

trail routes

While Whitefish Lake State Park is a reasonably small area in Montana terms, there are still plenty of hiking and biking trails to find and explore in and around the vicinity.

Make sure everyone packs their hiking boots before setting out, or you could even hike to the park from the town if you are staying there.

Many areas of the park are handicapped-accessible, and it’s not too difficult to find a suitable trail whether with the family or out for some serious solo hiking.

Here are just a couple of examples of what to expect from the area:

Smith Lake via Swift Creek Loop

This is a 4.9-mile loop trail generally considered a pretty easy route. It takes the majority of walkers around 2 hours to complete and is a popular trail for birding and mountain biking as well.

Dogs are welcome if kept on a leash, and the trail is fairly flat with just a few steeper gradients along a pleasantly wooded trail route up to Smith Lake.

Big Mountain (via Summit Trail)

This is a somewhat longer, 16-mile out-and-back trail generally considered quite a challenging route.

It will take the majority of walkers an average of 7 hours or so to complete, and this route is also quite popular with mountain bikers. The trail is accessible year-round according to weather conditions and is very scenic.

No dogs are allowed on this trail, which is generally preferred by those with plenty of experience.

If you make it to the top of the trail you’ll be rewarded with a view that makes all the effort seem worthwhile.

Gray Wolf Ski Trail

This is a moderately challenging 17.8-mile out-and-back trail which takes most people at least 8 hours to complete. This is another popular trail near the state park and is also used quite heavily for birding and mountain biking.

The trail is open year-round as long as weather conditions permit, and dogs are allowed on this route which includes some off-leash areas.

Lion Mountain Trail

This 2.6-mile loop trail is a fairly easy route that shouldn’t give anyone too much of a challenge. It takes just over an hour on average and again is a busy trail also used for birding, as well as trail running.

The best times to use this trail are reportedly May through September, and your dogs will enjoy the off-leash areas.

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