Top 10 Beaches in Montana

Published on July 30th, 2021

What are the Most Popular Beaches in Montana?

While it’s true that Montana may not be the first state that springs to mind when you think of the perfect beach day, Big Sky Country has some equally epic shorelines — lakeshores though they may be. It’s true that the summer season when it’s warm enough to take a dip may be truncated, that just makes it all the sweeter. So here are the best beaches in the state of Montana for those of you looking for a quick not-so-quick cool-off after those endless mountain hikes.

Top Beaches in Montana?

1. Brush Lake State Park

2. Whitefish City Beach

3. Avalanche Lake

4. Lake McDonald

5. Big Arm/Flathead Lake State Park

6. Boettcher Park

7. Black Sandy State Park

8. Canyon Ferry State Park

9. Glen Lake Rotary Park

10. Cooney Reservoir

Montana Beaches

Here are the top 10 most popular beaches in the mountain state of Montana.

1. Brush Lake State Park

Orange canoe hidden in the brush along a mirror-still forested lake with a mountain rising in the background along the Swiftcurrent trail in Glacier National Park in the American state of Montana.

Nestled into the extreme northeastern corner of the state, part of the chain of lakes coming off of the larger Medicine Lake within the confines of Turtle Mountain Off-Reservation Trust Land, Brush Lake, which is bounded on most sides by the small but mighty Brush Lake State Park, offers a beautiful, swimmable beachfront, as well as vault toilets which make it easy to set up there for the whole day in comfort. Although there aren’t many other developments here, that’s part of the charm: this lake offers a rugged, untouched look at the characteristic landscape of eastern Montana.

Things to do near Brush Lake State Park: Quite far off the beaten path, this park is surrounded by other wildernesses, including a string of Waterfowl Production Areas (or WPAs) that help ensure the maintenance and growth of local birdlife populations. Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider for the journey.

2. Whitefish City Beach

Whitefish City Beach montana
Image via explorewhitefish.com

Whitefish is easily one of the worthiest destinations in the state of Montana — not least because it’s the gateway town for Glacier National Park, at least on its west side. Populated by art galleries, breweries, eateries and more, Whitefish also boasts one of the most beautiful lake beaches in northern Montana, and it’s easily accessible from the small, walkable downtown. Along with swimming and sunning, this beach is a popular place to drop in a paddleboard or kayak, and take to the gentle waves of this alpine lake that’s surrounded on all sides with tree and mountain scenery.

Things to do near Whitefish City Beach: If you’re in Whitefish, chances are you’re en route to Glacier National Park — and you definitely want to give yourself ample time to explore this stunning, sweeping swath of nature. While Whitefish offers all the small-town charm, the nearby city of Kalispell has you covered on big-city amenities. Here are some local RVshare rentals and campgrounds to consider for your stay.

3. Avalanche Lake

Scenic mountain views, Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park Montana USA

If you’ve seen pictures from Glacier National Park, chances are you’ve seen pictures of Avalanche Lake — though you should be warned, this beach does require some work to get to. Situated at the end of a three-mile, moderate hike along the Trail of the Cedars (which can then be added onto by circling the lake itself), Avalanche Lake is so called due to the avalanches observed there by settlers in the late 1800s, though during the summer when it’s most accessible, you’re more likely to see the many waterfalls that line the mountain bowl of the lake. Like most other bodies of water in Montana, this is glacial runoff — so prepare for it to be cold, even in July and August. That said, the view alone is worth the hike, if you can hack it.

Things to do near Avalanche Lake: The rest of Glacier National Park awaits, with a variety of shorter, easier-to-access trails for day trippers and much longer, more strenuous backcountry adventures for those in the know. Nearby Kalispell has you covered for essentials and big-city resources; here are some local RVshare rental vehicles and campgrounds to consider.

4. Lake McDonald

View of Lake McDonald

If there’s one spot inside Glacier National Park that’s even more consistently photographed than Avalanche Lake, you can bet it’s Lake McDonald, which is nestled into the first major alpine lake valley you’ll come across while heading east from West Glacier along going-to-the-sun road. Don’t get us wrong: this isn’t a broad, sandy beach upon which you’ll be able to lay out a towel and sunbathe all afternoon long. But it is one of the most scenic lakeviews the entire western United States has to offer, so much so that it’s home to one of the park’s most beautiful and storied historic lodges, which is also a great place to pop in for a bit to eat.

Things to do near Lake McDonald: Once again, all of the rest of Glacier National Park beckons to be discovered, and there are even some excellent hiking trails right in this area. Curious for more advice tailored specifically to your experience level and preferences? Check with one of the visitor centers for tailored expertise from a park ranger, and don’t forget to check out these local RVshare rentals and campgrounds.

5. Big Arm/Flathead Lake State Park

Purple sweet rocket wildflowers bloom in front of rows of wild roses, cattails, Flathead Lake and the Swan Mountain Range near Somers, Montana

Just south of Kalispell, Whitefish, and the broad beautiful wilderness of Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake shimmers like a mirage — and a large mirage at that. With almost 200 square miles of surface area, the lake is considerably larger than Lake Tahoe (though Tahoe takes the cake when it comes to volume, thanks to its superior depth). While there are many, many places to play and access points around the lake’s expansive circumference, one of the best swimming beaches is tucked along its southwestern side just outside of the town of Big Arm — a wilderness known as both Big Arm and Flathead Lake State Park. Along with its sandy shorefront, this state park offers restrooms, on-site camping (including RV camping), and nature walks.

Things to do near Big Arm/Flathead Lake State Park: There’s a bit of a custom as far as naming state parks twice in these areas, and just north of this one lies another: West Shore/Flathead Lake State Park is only minutes away and offers yet another beautiful perspective on this large and luxurious lakefront. Here are some area RVshare rentals to choose from.

6. Boettcher Park

A scenic view of Flathead Lake from Polson,MT.with clouds over the mountains in the background

Situated as it is on the southern end of the expanse of Flathead Lake, at the place where the Flathead River feeds it, Polson has always been considered a vacation getaway destination — and one of the best lakefront beaches the area has to offer is Boettcher Park. Located just east of the town proper, this shoreline has slightly less foot traffic than you’d find in Point Salish Park or Sacajawea Park, but is only minutes from the quaint and bustling downtown of Polson and the suburban comfort of Belle-Vue Court. A small, day-use-only facility. Boettcher Park offers a dock, a swimmable shoreline, and little else — which is perfect for getting away from it all.

Things to do near Boettcher Park: Polson is famed amongst RVers for being home to one of the most famous premium RV parks in country, Polson Motorcoach Resort, which features a fenced-in dog run, on-site fitness center, updated amenities and so much more… and that’s not mentioning the stunning scenery. It’s open only to Class A motorcoaches, but the good news is, those are easy to find for rent in the area on RVshare’s peer-to-peer market.

7. Black Sandy State Park

BLACK SANDY STATE PARK
Image via fwp.mt.gov

Continuing south and east through Montana’s expanse, we arrive close to the capital city of Helena — which is just a stone’s throw from some of the earliest stretches of the Missouri River. While there are many places to play in these waters, Black Sandy State Park does stand out despite its small size: the scenery and access here is unmatchable, and although there are few developments aside from vault toilets and a nearby campground store, what more do you need to enjoy the natural beauty of the area?

Things to do near Black Sandy State Park: Helena is one of the biggest cities in Montana and full of all sorts of things to see, do, eat, and explore — and, of course, since this is Montana, it’s ringed with mountains worth scaling, including Mount Helena itself. Take a trail (or two) up and get some much-needed perspective. Here are some local RVshare rentals and campgrounds to consider.

8. Canyon Ferry State Park

Canyon Ferry State Park montana
By Forest Service Northern Region – Flickr: Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Helena National Forest, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14803025

Further south along the Missouri, another beachfront very worth taking time for can be found inside Canyon Ferry State Park, so named for the expansive, dammed section of the river known as Canyon Ferry Lake. Offering multiple camping opportunities and stunning lakeside scenery just minutes outside of Helena, this state park is a popular getaway for local city-dwellers, but an excellent opportunity for out-of-towners as well.

Things to do near Canyon Ferry State Park: Once again, the city of Helena beckons just across the lake, as does White Earth Recreation Area directly across from the park on the other shore. RVing is popular in this area for good reason; here are the best local RVshare rentals and campgrounds to choose from!

9. Glen Lake Rotary Park

Beautiful mountain lake in Bozeman, Montana.

Formerly known as the East Gallatin Recreation Area, and known by many in the area as simply “Bozeman Beach,” Glen Lake Rotary Park is where Bozeman locals pack up for when they’re in desperate need of a beach afternoon (or three). An urban beach easily accessible from downtown in just a few minutes’ time, but still offering sweeping mountain vistas in the background that will instantly transport you out of your work-a-day routine and headspace, this park also offers a circumferential lakeside hiking trail, all in Bozeman’s backyard.

Things to do near Glen Lake Rotary Park: MAP Brewing Company is the perfect place to grab a beer within eyeshot of the lake after you spend some time relaxing along its edges, and, of course, the rest of Bozeman beckons in the background. Here are some local RVshare rentals and campgrounds to consider.

10. Cooney Reservoir

Cooney Reservoir montana
Image via fwp.mt.gov

Last on our list, but certainly not least, the Cooney Reservoir can be thought of as a precursor to Yellowstone — an appetizer, if you will. Nestled into the rugged, off-the-beaten-path landscape just outside of Custer Gallatin National Forest, this southern Montana beach truly is away from it all, but still relatively easily drivable from major population centers like Bozeman and Billings. There are a variety of access points to choose from, but Cooney Reservoir State Park probably offers the most in the way of amenities, even if all that means are vault toilets. Hey, the whole reason you came to Montana was to escape the big, developed city life, right?

Things to do near Cooney Reservoir: Both Billings and Bozeman are within a two-hour drive of the Cooney Reservoir — which is downright reasonable in Big Sky country. Plus, Yellowstone National Park awaits not much further southwest. Here are some area RVshare rentals for a comfy, cozy journey.

Planning an RV Trip to Montana

As gorgeous as these beaches may be, they are, of course, just the start when it comes to things to see and do in Montana. An RV trip is the perfect way to play it — and we’ve got everything you need to do it well.

Here are the best RV rentals in the state, as well as the best campgrounds and state parks to take them to. We’ve got you covered on the state’s major population centers, as well.

We’ve also penned guides to Montana’s own Glacier National Park — and, of course, Yellowstone National Park, which isn’t too far afield just south of the border in Wyoming. Now get out there and enjoy everything Montana has to offer!

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