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December 02, 2021 10 min read

Where To Paddle Board In Montana

Welcome to Montana, the Mountain State! Best known for its golden hills and sapphire mountains, here, the buffalo are big and the moose photobomb your selfies. The diverse terrain of the Glacier National Park and the Rocky Mountains are great for winter snow sports and summer hikes, and provide some insane paddle board locations.

Yes, that’s right! Montana is full of stunning alpine lakes, pristine reservoirs, and mesmerizing rivers. Wherever you choose to paddle board in Montana, you are guaranteed a perfect backdrop of beautiful waters and incredible wildlife spotting opportunities. 

Both, beginner paddle boarders who are learning the basics and seasoned pros who have seen it all can have fun paddle boarding in Montana's waters. There’s something for everyone! 

So go get lost in Montana’s wilderness. You won’t regret it! Here are sixteen of the best places in Montana to take your stand up paddle board.

SUP Locations In Montana’s Northern And Glacier Country

Montana borders Canada, sharing the region of the Glacier National Park. From epic alpine lakes to winding rivers, you’re bound to fall in love with paddle boarding the northern reaches of Montana’s great outdoors.

Lake Mcdonald

Lake Mcdonald in Glacier North Park

Lake Mcdonald is the largest lake in the Glacier National Park, roughly 10 miles long and a mile wide. The calm water begs for paddle boarding; beginners can learn the basics, while more experienced paddlers can embark on an epic expedition across the lake.

The deep blue water is pristine, reflecting the snowcapped mountains that surround the lake. This is best seen under the midday sun on a calm day. There are several launch sites along the drive to the historic Lake Mcdonald Lodge, and all you have to do is carry your paddle board a short distance over the pebbly shores. 

It’s best to plan your trip for the summer months, because throughout winter most of the roads are closed due to heavy snowfall. But don’t be fooled by the warm sun on your back, the water temperatures remain cold most of the time, so be sure to dress appropriately!

Ashley Lake

Ashley lake

Ashley Lake is picturesque and a popular spot for many water sports. Many people make a weekend trip out of this spot, camping overnight nearby. Just be warned, you will be sharing the lake with other people and there could be boats on the water, causing wakes to navigate. The best time to paddle board is early morning to avoid the crowds.

If you are keen to try fishing from your paddle board then Ashley Lake is a great place to start! Expect to catch rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, some of which are enormous.

Flathead Lake and River

Flathead lake and river

Flathead Lake and River are found in the Wayfarers State Park, offering miles of unspoiled landscapes and sheltered areas perfect for paddle boarding. Several Beaches within the state park are ideal for launching your SUP into the lake. 

The river can be accessed from the southern region of the lake. Start your journey from Polson or Kerr to explore the meandering river, keeping in mind wind direction for your return paddle. 

For the more ambitious paddler, you could plan an expedition to the Kerr Dam (approximately 7 miles). There is a hiking trail viewpoint here as well, giving great views of the dam.

Swan Valley Lakes and River

Swan valley lakes and river Montana

Swan River is the best place in northern Montana for intermediate paddle boarders looking for a challenge. The moving water flows into Bigfork Bay, with varying sections found along the way: calm and slow for rookies, and then class 2+ rapid stretches perfect to give SUP surfing a go on the whitewater rapids.

There are three lakes in Swan Valley:

  • Swan Lake
  • Echo Lake
  • Holland Lake

These lakes are shallower than others found in Montana, making them warmer than other spots. If you’re in the area, make sure you do the 3.3 mile out-and-back paddle from Holland Lake to see the beautiful Holland Falls.

Upper Whitefish Lake

Upper whitefish lake

Located in Stillwater State Forest, Upper Whitefish Lake really is something special! If you are looking for somewhere to escape the crowds, then this is the place for you. This spot is tucked away from everything and is generally uncrowded. 

There is a fantastic campground that is equally tucked away. However, if you need any supplies or fancy a meal out in a restaurant, head down to Whitefish town, approximately an hour's drive.

Tally Lake

Peaceful and scenic tally lake

Tally Lake is peaceful and scenic. The luscious trees and forestry is part of the Kootenai National Forest, so you can expect wildlife galore. Head over to the east shore for the best evening sunset session. The best launch site is by Logan Creek, where you’ll also find campgrounds and basic facilities.

Don’t have your own SUP equipment yet? No worries. You can rent paddle boarding gear directly from the Tally Lake Campground at competitive rates.

Lake Koocanusa

Lake Koocanusa in Montana

Lake Koocanusa is located in between Purcell and Salish mountains in Libby, Montana. This is another fantastic location for SUP fishing with several species of fish in the beautiful water, including:

  • Burbot
  • Rainbow trout
  • Sockeye salmon
  • Brook trout
  • Cutthroat trout

This angler's paradise has an iconic bridge and dam, great for exploring pre or post paddle. 

SUP Locations Near Missoula, Montana

Missoula is a center of historical significance in western Montana. Also known as the "Garden City" due to its dense trees and lush green landscape, Missoula is right in the heart of the northern Rockies. So you can begin to imagine how surreal the paddle boarding opportunities are here.

Blackfoot River

Blackfoot River in Montana

Launch your SUP from Russell Gates into the Blackfoot River for an ultimate stand-up paddle boarding adventure.  From here, you have countless miles of whitewater paddling one way and tranquil flatwater paddling the other. 

Blackfoot River is best paddled in July for water levels. Keep your eye out for the majestic bighorn sheep along the riverbanks too. This is another great spot for SUP fishing lovers who want to cast out a line.

Clark Fork River

Clark foot river in Missoula, Montana

Clark Fork River is the gem of Missoula. The locals love this place, and it’s not hard to understand why. Launch your SUP from Sha-Ron fishing access site, paddling into downtown Missoula for tasty restaurants, perfect for a post-paddle refuel.

This is the largest river in Montana for volume, draining the Rockies and feeding most of the state with clean and fresh water. 

Bitterroot River

Bitterroot river in Montana

If you’re in Montana for Fall, you have to head to Bitterroot River to paddle among the spectacular colors and insane scenery. Access the river from Bell Crossing, south of Missoula center. From here, you can paddle through the Lee Metcalfe National Wildlife Refuge, keeping your eyes peeled for native birds and wildlife on the banks. 

Lake Como

Lake Como in Montana

Lake Como is just a few miles off U.S. Highway 93, situated in one of the region's most beautiful valleys. The calm and serene waters reflect the mountainous surroundings, banks are brushed with alpine trees – this really is a Montana paradise.

There is a beautiful sandy beach on the north shore of the lake. This is a great place to launch for a relaxing paddle, enjoy a picnic, and simply watch nature be. Our top recommendation is to try out stretching into some SUP yoga positions at this destination. There isn’t a better place to find your zen!

SUP Locations In Montana’s Central And Yellowstone Country

From hiking and wildlife to art and culture, central Montana is vibrant and trending. Make sure you pack your paddle board for a float across these epic places! Relax and enjoy complete peace with your stand up paddle board.

Lake Helena

Lake Helena in Montana

Lake Helena is a firm favorite for the local community and is considered one of the best places to go paddle boarding in the world. The 2,073-acre lake is home to several species of carp, along with a diverse range of bird species, including:

  • Sandhill cranes
  • Meadowlarks
  • Hawks
  • Pelicans
  • Bald Eagle (extremely rare!)

What’s best about this spot is it's great to paddle year round. Sure, summer months are great, but equally, Lake Helena is beautiful in the winter and the water doesn’t actually get too cold.

Hebgen Lake

Scenery and crystal clear water of Hebgen Lake

Minutes away from West Yellowstone is a paddle board playground. Hebgen Lake is a whopping 6500-acre space of stunning scenery and crystal clear waters. Just be mindful that this huge lake is prone to frequent winds, so we recommend sticking close to the bays and shoreline. 

There are loads of campgrounds and holiday homes in the area, making it a great place to bring the family for an adventure-filled weekend!

Hyalite Reservoir

Hyalite reservoir in Montana

Are you looking for a super accessible paddle boarding spot near Bozeman? Hyalite Reservoir is only a 20-minute drive out of town making it an ideal option for a post-work paddle. 

The lake itself is surrounded by picturesque mountains on all sides. So make sure you bring your camera with you! The water is calm, perfect for mastering the beginner paddle boarding techniques. 

SUP Locations In Montana’s Missouri River Country

The paddle board locations don’t stop there! Montana’s Missouri River Country is undisturbed, grand, and quite simply breathtaking. Make sure you add this region to your bucket list of must see destinations, offering amazing hiking trails and SUP locations.

Fort Peck Lake

Fort peck Montana

Fort Peck is a small and quaint town in the northern reaches of Montana. This is Montana’s largest body of water and is still relatively unknown within the paddle boarding community. You can launch your SUP from Fort Peck Dredge Cuts, a fishing access point, and then enjoy a relaxing float along the mighty Missouri River. 

This lake is victim to some strong winds at times which can bring choppy waters to navigate. When paddling here, you should carefully plan your route and prepare your gear as you never know when you may have to head back to land. Due to the remoteness of this location, it’s a spot best left for the more experienced and adventurous paddlers.

Salmon Lake State Park

Salmon Lake State Park

Salmon Lake State Park is a convenient and easily accessible spot for paddle boarding with the family in Montana. Many SUP lovers head here for a weekend escape, camping in some of the most pristine areas of natural beauty. As you paddle across the lake, you’ll be surrounded by mountains and breathtaking views in every direction. 

One of the best things about Salmon Lake State Park is that it never gets too busy. From here, you can easily reach Placid and Seeley Lake to fill out your weekend with different locations on your SUP.

Best Places To Rent SUP Equipment In Montana

You need to make sure you have the best possible SUP equipment when visiting these amazing destinations in Montana. We recommend buying an inflatable paddle board to make your life easier when traveling and reaching these locations.

Though, perhaps you don’t have your own gear yet. Or maybe you can’t bring your paddle board along for the trip. Don’t worry, there are plenty of top-quality paddle board rental stores all around Montana. Check out these outfitters for great gear across the state.

  • Paddle Board Outfitters, North End of Flathead Lake in Somers Bay with an assortment of water sports gear available
  • Sea Me Paddle, located Flathead Lake, Glacier Park, and WhitefishLake offering rental equipment and guided tours
  • ​​Love Boat Paddle Co., Missoula based team with affordable prices and top local tips
  • Mean Moose Boards, SUP lessons, camps, and rentals on Helena Lake   
  • Base Camp Big Fork, providing SUP rentals and tours across Bigfork, Swan Lake, Wood’s Bay, Lakeside, and the Flathead Valley region
  • Tally Lake Campground, camping and competitive paddle board rentals right on the Tally Lake shoreline
  • Kirkwood Marina, waterside paddle boards at Hebgen Lake 

Interactive Map

FAQ’S

🏆 Where is the best SUP location in Montana for beginners?

There are several fantastic places for beginners to join in with the fun of paddle boarding. Lake Mcdonald in the north end of Montana is the most popular destination for first-timers to try stand up paddle boarding. Lake Como, near Missoula, and Hyalite Reservoir in the center of Montana are also great places for rookies.


👍 Where is the best SUP location in Montana for SUP fishing?

Montana’s rivers and lakes are an angler’s dream! If you’re keen to try SUP fishing, there are countless places to visit across Montana. Ashley Lake and Lake Koocanusa are two of the most vibrant bodies of water, giving the opportunity to catch a whole range of fish. 

Make sure you prepare your SUP gear properly for a day out on the water with a rod. The weather can change rapidly and get extremely cold in Montana. Always take extra layers just in case you aren’t paddling so much to warm yourself up.


🏝️ Can I paddle board in Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park is one of the many highlights Montana has to offer, and here, you’ll find some of the best places to launch your SUP. Lake Mcdonald is just one example of what this region has to offer. This famous location is breathtaking with panoramic views, ideal for escaping the world with your paddle board.


❓ Can you paddle board on Flathead Lake?

Flathead Lake is a popular place to paddle board in Montana’s Northern and Glacier County. There are several sandy beaches for you to set off from. This freshwater lake is suitable for most levels of paddle boarders, but beginners need to be cautious of winds and should stick close to the shore. 


📦 Where can I SUP in Missoula MT?

Missoula has many fantastic places to paddle board. Here, you’ll find the beautiful Lake Como as well as some testing rivers, such as Clark Fork River, Bitterroot River, and Blackfoot River. These places are great for a variety of SUP activities, including fishing, yoga, and touring.


📦 Can you SUP in Yellowstone?

The Yellowstone region of Montana has some incredible places to visit with a stand up paddle board. Hebgen Lake is the best place to check out. Not only will you be blessed with crystal clear waters and totally rad wildlife, but you will also be able to make a full trip of it and camp super close to the lake.


📦 Can you SUP on Lake McDonald?

Lake Mcdonald is the most popular place to visit when traveling to Montana. This lake is the largest lake in the Glacier National Park and is iconic. From glacier waters reflecting surrounding mountain ranges to alpine forests brushing the shores, this lake has it all and is one of Montana's best places to paddle board.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.


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