Fishing

Smith River State Park

Smith River State Park

Smith River State Park

Smith River State Park

The Smith River is mostly known for being a wonderful 59-mile long river full of natural beauty, with great boating, fishing, and photographic opportunities.

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Looking to float?

Permits to float the river are highly sought after and distributed through a lottery system similar to hunting licenses for certain big game species in Montana.
The due date for permit applications is February 13th! Its the perfect Valentine's day gift for that river loving partner of yours!

If you weren't lucky enough to win a permit during the annual lottery system, you can still enjoy the Smith River by visiting Camp Baker west of White Sulphur Springs or Eden Bridge 59 miles downriver and just short drive south of Great Falls.

At Camp Baker, you'll find a campground with primitive campsites, latrine facilities, and a busy boat ramp for the lucky folks who won launch permits.

After the floating parties have launched for the day Camp Baker becomes quiet for a few hours and visitors will enjoy great access for fishing, birdwatching, and even swimming in the summer months.

At the other end of the park is Eden Bridge, the normal take out for Smith River float trips. Eden Bridge is a minimally developed day-use site with latrine facilities, a boat ramp, and day-use access to the river.

While there are few amenities at Eden Bridge, it does make for a nice day trip destination from Great Falls where visitors have a chance to spend time on the banks of one of Montana's most iconic waterways. The float season varies widely depending on snow-pack, rainfall and the amount and timing of irrigation.

The “typical” float season runs from mid-April through mid-July, with occasional floating opportunities in September and October.

Many find Smith River State Park a place of peace because a permit is required to float the Smith River. This permit requirement means visitors can expect to have a quality, multi-day float with relative solitude and excellent trout fishing opportunities.

Of course, you don't need a permit to access the campground and enjoy all the natural splendor of the area.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Lots of fun things to see and imagine. Have fun exploring, we did."

"My favorite vacation to date."

"The trip was absolutely perfect for our honeymoon! Protect the Smith!"

"Luckily we can still do this, best therapy around!"

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Location

    791 Clear Range Road White Sulpher Springs, MT 59645

Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park

Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park

Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park

Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park

Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park covers approximately 3,000 acres and stretches over 20 miles along Highway 2, halfway between Kalispell and Libby.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Looking for water access?

This extensive park includes shoreline access to 18 lakes including McGregor Lake, Little McGregor Lake, Lower Thompson Lake, Middle Thompson Lake, Upper Thompson Lake, Horseshoe Lake and Loon Lake.

There are 83 standard campsites and 8 group campsites, all of which require a fee for overnight camping. Sites are rustic; there is no drinking water available.  Please remember, these campgrounds are currently closed and will reopen when health officials have determined it is safe to do so.

Concrete boat ramps are located at Little McGregor Lake, Boisverts on McGregor Lake, the Peninsula on Lower Thompson Lake, Upper Thompson Lake, Horseshoe Lake and Loon Lake.

Roads are primitive and not recommended for motor homes and large trailers.

However, the 37 developed campsites at Logan State Park, located on Middle Thompson Lake, are suitable for large camping units.

Visitors enjoy swimming, boating, camping, and water skiing, and the lakes are especially noted for great fishing.

Local fish include black crappie, brook trout, lake trout, northern pike, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, kokanee salmon, westslope cutthroat trout and yellow perch.

Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park also offers some of the most outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing in northwest Montana.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"It's an amazingly beautiful place to be out in the water. So clear you can see the bottom."

"Very pretty and fun to explore on a kayak!"

"Love the nice small lakes, great for paddle board or kayak. Did not camp but would be great place to do that. Area is well maintained."

"These lakes are renown for fishing, swimming and water sports. There are plenty of camp sites around the lakes, including Logan State Park - which has a boat launch and public beach perfect for picnic lunches and swimming for even young kids."

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

    Roads are not maintained during winter months.

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    Camping 

    Gates for campsite pods at Lower, Middle and Upper Thompson are closed 11/30/19 and tentatively reopen 4/26/20.

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    Location

    78854 US Hwy 2 Libby, MT 59923

Thompson Falls State Park

Thompson Falls State Park

Thompson Falls State Park

Thompson Falls State Park

Located along the Clark Fork River between Thompson Falls Dam and Noxon Dam, Thompson Falls State Park is surrounded by a mature and a mixed conifer forest making for a tranquil and quiet destination.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Looking to hike or fish?

Ready to hike away your day? Thompson Falls Trail runs along the Clark Fork River and connects to the Montana Highway 200 into the town of Thompson Falls where you’ll find the Thompson Falls Community Trails network.

Pike and bass are the most common species fished out of Thompson Falls State Park, but you may find a surprise species if you’re lucky!

While fishing and hiking are popular in Thompson Falls, this state park is used mostly for camping and picnicking. Host to 18 sites and a group picnic area, this riverside campground is great for tent or RV camping, but make sure your trailer is no more than 30 feet!

The Thompson Chain of Lakes includes 18 lakes and stretches 20 miles! Families will love the improved fishing pond which includes an accessible fishing pier, picnic shelter, bathroom and improved parking.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Nice place to camp along Clark Fork River. Beautiful view from the back of our site along the river. Camp was quiet and bathrooms were clean."

"Plenty of camping and picnic spots, along with a boat launch. Long stretches of Sandy Beach along the river for swimming. We enjoyed kayaking, as well! We come every year for a big family campout!"

"This place is so beautiful! The trail is right on the river. My children absolutely loved it! My 5 year especially loved the lake with all the turtles. This is a great place to eat lunch and go for a short hike."

"A great place to camp!! Will definitely go back."

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Gates Open

    April 27 - September 30

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    Gates Closed

    October 2 - April 26

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    Campground

    Open Year-Round

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    Location

    2220 Blue Slide Rd. Thompson Falls, MT 59873

Spring Meadow Lake State Park 3

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Located west of Helena is Spring Meadow Lake State Park, a day-use park, popular for swimming, sunbathing, fishing and birdwatching.

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Looking for wildlife?

There are great wildlife viewing opportunities at Spring Meadow Lake State Park. You’ll find birds, rabbits, turtles and more! Looking for a nice walk? A 0.8-mile, self-guided nature trail circles the lake.

If you’re in need of a spot to fish, Spring Meadow Lake is your place. The lake is home to trout, bass and sunfish and there is even an ADA accessible fishing dock added to the park in 2011!

Even in winter, Spring Meadow Lake is perfect for recreation. The trail is open all winter and if it’s cold enough you can even fish or skate on the lake!

Unfortunately, your four-legged friend will have to stay home during the warmer months. Between April 15 and October 15 there are no dogs allowed in Spring Meadow Lake State Park.

Spring Meadow Lake State Park is a fed by a natural spring that feeds cool, clean water into the lake that is used for fishing, swimming, non-motorized boating, and even scuba diving. The lake and the state park land surrounding it were once an active gravel mine that was donated to the state in 1981.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Nice quite little state park inside of Helena. Relaxing place to picnic, fish, swim or small boat/kayak."

"Great place to take the family out for the day and even get some fishing in. Located right in the heart of Helena, it is not out of the way at all and certainly worth a trip even just to hang out for lunch. The view is really nice, especially for being right in town that you would never even know."

"Great family park for Helena. Well maintained and kid-friendly swimming areas balanced with nice trails and fishing areas."

"Spring Meadow Lake State Park is the crown jewel among all the local parks. It is close to town, so people who can't go too far afield on their own (kids, for instance) can get there on foot or by bicycle. The lake itself is also a gem - it is usually clear, and it is always deep, cold, spring-fed and full of fish that everybody and anybody can try to catch. Helena is blessed with abundant parks and lots of nearby venues for outdoor fun but compared to any other urban parks and fishing spots anywhere, Helena's Spring Meadow Lake State Park cannot be beat."

 

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    Park

    Open 6 am to 10 pm

    Year-Round

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    Location

    2715 Country Club Drive Helena, MT 59601

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Salmon Lake State Park

Salmon Lake State Park

Salmon Lake State Park

Tucked between the Mission and Swan Mountain Ranges along the Clearwater River you’ll find Salmon Lake State Park, a great park for camping and water recreation.  Salmon Lake became a state park in December of 1977.  

A memorial plaque near the park's center explains how the Salmon Lake State Park was a gift from the Champion Timberland Corps and is meant to serve as an honor to three foresters who died in a plane crash in 1976.

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Looking to visit?

Fall is one of the best times to visit the park. The reflection of colorful Western Larch trees in the lake makes for a breathtaking view! 

The forests surrounding the lake are home to many Western Larch trees which are unique as they are one of only a few species of deciduous coniferous trees, meaning that they change color and shed their foliage in the fall like broadleaf trees.  

  • Fish in Salmon Lake or Clearwater River for a variety of trout, largemouth bass, white mountain whitefish, kokanee salmon, yellow perch and northern pike. 
  • Go birdwatching and see if you can spot any red-necked grebes, great blue herons, bald eagles, waterfowl, osprey or common loons. 
  • Enjoy the gravel beach and take a dip in the lake. 
  • Take a hike along the shoreline or through the forest on one of the many trails. 
  • Enjoy the lake in a canoe, kayak or on water-skis if you’re a bit more adventurous. 
  • Plus so much more!

A beautiful forest of Western Larch, Ponderosa Pine, and Douglas-Fir surround the campsite, which includes 23 paved sites with electrical hookups.

The campsite host can provide ideas for activities and will have firewood for sale!

This campsite has become so popular in the last few years, reservations are recommended to be sure you don’t miss out!

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"I love this park. They have a couple of camp spots that right on the water and it's gorgeous. They also have some really nice spots that are up on a hill overlooking the lake with nature trails that lead to an island! There are even a couple of hiker/biker spots for $8 a night. Seriously, this is one of my favorite camp spots in the area."

"Great campground, nice camp host, amenities were what the website stated. Will be back!"

"Great lake to swim, paddle, and boat!"

"I’ve fished this lake probably around three hundred times and I just keep coming back. I fish mostly northern pike and it’s rare that I go home empty handed. The boat launch is above average and they’ve recently added a no swimming sign to the dock which is beneficial and safer for me as a boatsmen. There is a separate swimming area. It also has a covered area for picnics, clean restrooms, and amble parking for single cars."

 

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    Park

    Off-Season

    November 1 - April 30

    Closed to all motorized traffic, walk-in only. Day-use only, no overnight camping. 

    Peak Season

    Open Summer through Late October

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    Location

    2329 Hwy. 83 N Seeley Lake, MT 59868

Placid Lake State Park

Placid Lake State Park

Placid Lake State Park

Placid Lake State Park is located outside of Missoula, MT near Seeley Lake, MT. Placid Lake State Park is open year-round with extensive outdoor recreation options in the summer months, including fishing, boating, hiking, and mountain biking – just to name a few.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Looking to camp?

Lake Placid State Park is a great option if you’re looking to camp! WIth 40 campsites and recently added showers and laundry facilities, this state park provides a taste of the great outdoors without having to stray too far from the comforts of home. 

With over 40,000 visitors each summer, Placid Lake State Park is one of the busiest state parks.

 

The forest around the lake was once in logging territory and what were once roads used to haul trees and equipment are now used as hiking and mountain biking trails. You can learn more about the history of the area through the interpretive panels along the trails.

Planning to bring your boat? You can rent a boat slip on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Did you know the Montana State Parks Foundation’s specialty license plate is a painting of this state park by Missoula artist, Monte Dolack, entitled “Placid Lake Sunset”?

And that every dollar from license plate sales help to fund the Foundation's work and is available at your local DMV anywhere in the state.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"The lake was amazing, the surrounding area breathtaking and the road to get there was well maintained. The campgrounds were clean and so were the restrooms. I am already planning my next visit to Placid Lake."

"Pure heaven if you are looking for a place to boat, camp, hike, pick huckleberries, bike ride, or fish. Just a few ideas for an amazing getaway. The lake is beautiful, warm and not extremely large. You can pick huckleberries right off the main roads in the summer.. Go explore and visit this little gem in Montana."

"Really awesome state park campground. We'll definitely be back. Amenities are great including hot showers and clean facilities. The swim beach is great for young kids and the access to the lake is great."

"Beautiful park to kayak, picnic and swim."

 

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    Off-Season Hours

    December 1 - April 30

    Closed to all motorized traffic, walk-in only.

    Day-use only, no overnight camping.

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    Peak Season Hours

    May 22 - November 30

    7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

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    Campground

    Open Year-Round

Wild Horse Island State Park 1

Wild Horse Island State Park

Wild Horse Island State Park

Wild Horse Island State Park

Located on Flathead Lake, Wild Horse Island is the largest island in a freshwater lake west of Minnesota.

Accessible only by boat, Wild Horse Island has six boat landing sites, but visitors are welcome to pull their boats to shore on any of the public beach sites.

While most of the island is a state park, be aware as there is still private shoreline, therefore visitors are prohibited from using the boat docks.

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Looking to hike?

Due to the variety of wildlife, Wild Horse Island does not allow camping, pets or bikes as they may spook the animals. Fires and smoking are prohibited anywhere on the island.

What can you do at Wild Horse Island? The question is, what can’t you do?! You can:
Take a hike! The island has four miles of interconnected hiking trails, but visitors are free to explore off-trail as well.

  • Try and catch your dinner! Fishing is allowed with tribal & state fishing licenses.
  • Check out the wildlife including bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, falcons and wild horses.
  • Warm day? Take a dip in Flathead Lake!
  • Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy while you enjoy the views.

Wild Horse Island is said to have been used by the Salish-Kootenai Indians who would pasture their horses on the island to prevent them from being stolen by other tribes!

Wild Horse Island used to be farmed and in the 30s even hosted a lodge. Visitors can still find apple and pear orchards, so if you’re feeling peckish, grab a snack! Besides the great views and interesting wildlife, you can also find rare, endangered plant life on Wild Horse Island. The island even has a Palouse Prairie ecosystem, one of only three of these biomes in Montana!

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Beautifully untouched for the most part. There are 5 horses currently on island and 1 bear, that we saw neither of. Lol. However it was abundant with bald eagles, osprey, deer, and bighorn sheep. Most of which you can view from a boat offshore if you have a keen eye. If not get a guided tour. But no tours are given on island, just to and from."

"Great place to boat to and relax. Beautiful water and fun rocks to skip!"

"Beautiful island to cruise around and we caught the 5 wild horses on the Western side!"

"Island in flathead lake with a few hiking trails and animals. Worth a visit during the day, or coming over by boat closer to dusk to see the deer, sheep, and possibly horses as they come down to drink."

 

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    Park

    Open Year Round

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    Restrictions/Closures

    Fires & Smoking Prohibited
    Groups 15 and over must have a special permit.

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    Location

    Flathead Lake
    Latitude/Longitude:
    (47.84715/-114.23458)

Painted Rocks State Park

Painted Rocks State Park

Painted Rocks State Park

Named for the green, yellow and orange lichens that cover the grey and black walls of the granite and rhyolite cliffs, Painted Rocks State Park is located in the West Fork Valley of the Bitterroot Mountains.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Looking to camp?

Painted Rocks State Park offers 25 campsites, a boat ramp and boat dock. Be sure if you’re bringing your trailer or RV that it’s no longer than 25 feet!

And if you like to hike, there are many trailheads near the park that offer access to national forest land. 

Painted Rocks Dam was originally planned to be constructed for agricultural use!

The Montana Water Conservation started work on Painted Rock Dam in 1939. Today, Painted Rocks Reservoir provides water for irrigation, stock water, domestic use and in-stream flows for fish. The reservoir the dam creates is the perfect location for boating or fishing!

While in the park, keep your eyes open for the diverse populations of wildlife including elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear or moose! You may even catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep or peregrine falcons which were reintroduced to the area in the 1980s.

Are you or do you know an avid birdwatcher? If you happen to be in the area in the spring or fall, you’re in luck! Osprey, great blue heron, water ouzels, spotted sandpiper and kill-deer make pitstops in their migration patterns at Painted Rocks State Park.

Part of the homeland of the Salish people for many years, this area continues to be a place of great value to the Salish. The area did, and still does, provide great hunting and a place to gather traditional foods such as huckleberries, serviceberries, Bitterroot, trout as well as other fish and mountain tea. 

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"It was beautiful! I've been here many times but this is the first time I kayaked it. Absolutely smooth as glass on the most perfect sunshiny day."

"Beautiful, peaceful, wonderful place to spend time with the family."

"What is not to love. So worth the drive."

"Lovely scenery, very peaceful. Saw my first big horn sheep in the wild here. It was amazing"

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

    Dawn to Dusk

    Campground

    Open Year-Round

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    Location

    8809 West Fork Road Darby, MT 59829

Milltown State Park 3

Milltown State Park

Milltown State Park

Milltown State Park

On the outskirts of Missoula you’ll find Montana’s newest state park Milltown State Park. Once a Superfund river restoration project, years of hard work from multiple state and federal agencies, non-profits, businesses, and committed volunteers helped make the park what it is today.

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Interpretive displays are placed both at the overlook and confluence areas to provide insight into the history of the area. The story of how people have used the park and the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers is told from multiple perspectives in these detailed and interesting displays.

Outdoor opportunities and cultural heritage merge at the restored confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers at Milltown providing a unique opportunity for visitors.
The park includes 500 acres of terrain that ranges from restored river bottoms to a pine forested bluff that overlooks the confluence.

The park affords visitors a place to go hiking, biking, fishing, floating and watching for birds and wildlife. The Milltown State Park Overlook is open and features interpretive displays and picnic tables. There are nearly three miles of hiking trails that lead from the Overlook down to the Clark Fork River and its floodplain trails. 

The Confluence and Gateway areas, on the north side of the river, saw construction begin in the summer of 2017. The park development include trails, an interpretive plaza and river access. The grand opening for the Confluence area was June 23, 2018

Among the many stories from the deep past are the Glacial Lake Missoula floods that shaped the landscape thousands of years ago. The Salish and Kalispell know the confluence as the place of bull trout and consider it part of their ancestral home. In 19th century history, Meriwether Lewis made a Fourth of July passage through the confluence and decades later the Mullan Expedition spent a harsh winter there. Beginning in the 1880s, the rivers were dammed to produce power for the mills and communities but at great consequence.

The hopeful story of the Milltown Dam removal and rivers' return offers an opportunity to explore America's changing relationship to the land as well as the benefits that river restoration yields for Montana's families and communities.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Super pretty day with blue skies. Easy walks for kids and grandparents."

"The State really did a beautiful job on this park it is awe inspiring and a photo in any direction of incredible landscaping."

"Good view, pretty wildflowers, walking trail, picnic table, quiet"

"Great place to relax"

 

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    Park

    Confluence Area Open 

    May 1 to September 30

    9 am to 9 pm

    October 1 to April 30

    9am to 5pm

    Overlook Area Open

    Sunrise to sunset

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    Location

    Confluence Area

    7363 Juniper Drive

    Missoula, MT 

    Overlook Area

    1353 Deer Creek Road

    Missoula, MT

Lost Creek State Park 6

Lost Creek State Park

Lost Creek State Park

Lost Creek State Park

Lost Creek State Park is a public recreation area and campground located six miles north of Anaconda, Montana, featuring limestone cliffs and multi-colored rock formations that rise 1,200 feet (370 m) above its canyon floor.

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Looking to hike?

The 502 acre state park features a short walking trail to Lost Creek Falls, which plunges 50 feet. The park is open year-round for hiking, bicycling, fishing, and wildlife viewing with mountain goats and bighorn sheep commonly seen. The park is open seasonally for camping. 

Wildlife, especially mountain goats, golden eagles, and bighorn sheep are frequently seen on the cliffs above the park.  Pika are often seen and heard in the rocks and talus of the upper portion of the canyon. 

If you prefer a longer hike, US Forest Service trails just north of the falls parking area lead for miles into the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. One such trail winds for several miles along Lost Creek through forests and meadows with great views of the surrounding mountains.

Located in the Flint Creek Mountain Range, Lost Creek State Park is a must for Montanans and visitors alike. With the significant growth of Aspen throughout the park, the colors are brilliant come fall – so be sure to get this on your list!

Grey limestone cliffs rise high above the canyon along with towering 1,200 foot pink and white granite formations.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"What an awesome ticked away location! The camping looks really quite and private, tucked in the trees along the creek. Plus the small waterfall is right outside the campsite! There's a great moderate, wide trail that you can hike until you're tired. Just past the first mile you come to the first bridge which is a good turn around, but just another quarter mile is the service bridge which has a cool tiny side stream waterfall. We hiked three miles in to the old cabin and turned around there. Love the place!"

"Clean bathrooms, quiet, nice camping spots, overflow parking, hiking trails. There is a short hike to the waterfalls or you can take the longer hike and look over the falls. Beautiful area, lots of cliffs and if you bring binoculars you can watch the mountain goats traverse the cliffs. Discovery ski area, Georgetown lake, and Granite ghost town are all nearby. The sweet shop in Phillipsburg has the biggest and best candy selection in Montana but they are closed on Saturdays. If you take a left at Porters corner and go 16 miles you can spend the day searching for Sapphires at Gem Mountain."

"Very nice drive. Scenic views. The falls were very easy to walk to."

"Stopped here for a quick hike while driving thru the area. Very nice and peaceful spot, hike was easy and path was well marked. $8 entrance fee for nonresident plates, dog-friendly. I would recommend it!"

 

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