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Seeley Lake & the Swan Valley


Jasper Seeley and his brother Elmer built a small cabin, in 1881, on what was then called Clearwater Lake. They settled in a valley between the Mission and Swan mountain ranges. To the north, the Swan Valley was settled by pioneers who came to Montana to work in the forests and to ranch. While the forest industry lasted for a time, ranching became the permanent lifestyle for the residents of this long series of valleys, and today guest ranches and lodges offer superb vacation experiences.

Seeley Lake sits along State Highway 83, 15 miles north of Highway 200, about 50 miles northeast of Missoula. It's a town of 2,000 people, who enjoy the outdoor life beside their 1025-acre lake. The population grows to about 4,000 during the summer, when visitors arrive to hike, fish, ride, and generally enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. The chain of lakes along the Clearwater River offer a range of recreational activities, including fine fishing.

The Swan Valley also offers much to the traveler. Holland, Lindberg, and Swan lakes, among others, offer fishing and camping. The 70-mile Swan River flows from Lindbergh Lake to Bigfork, where it empties into Flathead Lake. To the east is the famed Bob Marshall Wilderness and you'll find access to "The Bob" along Highway 83.

Seeley Lake

Lolo National Forest is found east and west of Route 88, and the forest provides the focus for recreation in the region. The ranger district has an office with information on forest trails and other attractions, three miles north of Seeley Lake. It's open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can buy topographic and trail maps for a small fee. You may also purchase Camp Stamps, giving discounts at Forest Service Campgrounds.

This is a perfect area for canoeing and hiking. The chain of Clearwater lakes offers great paddling. The Clearwater Canoe Trail provides a short (3-mile) paddle.The access point is four miles north of Seeley Lake, on the west side of Highway 83. A short road leads to the put-in point, and the end of the route is where the river emptiss into Seeley Lake.

South of town is the Chain of Lakes area, with a fork of the river linking Placid and Salmon lakes. Summer fishing is best in early summer and fall, while ice fishing is good in December through early February. You'll find trout, kokanee, and bass. Seeley Lake is stocked with kokanee, and large-mouth bass are also stocked.

Hiking is a favorite activity of visitors to the region. There's a hike for everyone here, including strenuous hikes into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, as well as short day hikes closer to Seeley Lake. For a fascinating 2-mile (one-way) walk, go to the Morell Falls Trail. Designated a National Recreational Trail, the hike leads to Morrell Falls, a string of cascades up to 100 feet high. The trailhead is found north of town, via Cottonwood Lakes Road, and then on West Morrell Road (FR 467). Then drive seven miless to Pyramid Pass Rd. and take this road for .25 mile. Overnight camping is permitted at the trailhead parking area. A trail map is available from the ranger office. Cottonwood Lakes Road, which leads to the town of Ovando, is an excellent route to several outdoor adventures including Cottonwood Lakes, and a spectacular view from the Morrell Mountain Lookout.

In winter, Nordic skiing is a popular sport. The easily-accessible Nordic Ski Trails at Seeley Lake offers 11 miles of groomed trails. The ski center is located a mile east of the northern edge of town, on Cottonwood Lakes Road.

Seeley Lake, in summer, is a busy tourist town, where one can stay in a nearby guest ranch, or relax in a wilderness lodge after a day in the outdoors. Forest Service campgrounds are located close to town. You may also choose to camp in private campgrounds and RV parks.

The Hungry Bear Steakhouse and Seasons Restaurant at the double Arrow Lodge are popular with residentsand visitors.

For More Information:

Visit the Seeley Lake Chamber of Commerce, at their log cabin in town next to the golf course. Call the chamber at 406-677-2880, or write P.O. Box 516, Seeley Lake, MT 59868.

Swan Valley

From the town of Condon, north to Bigfork, is an area that has grown as a vacation destination. The community of Swan Lake is at the southern tip of the lake with the same name. Condon is somewhat hard to identify, its business district stretches for about ten miles along Highway 83. This is the place to come for access to "The Bob," and the Misssion Mountains Wilderness, as well as many other outdoor adventures.

South of Condon, Holland Lake offers camping, plus fishing for kokanee, rainbow trout, and bull trout. Forest roads lead to many stretches of the Swan River, including the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge, which has paths for birders to explore the varied wildlife. The refuge is found near the southern end of Swan Lake. Lindberg Lake also features camping (only a few campsites), plus boating.

Metcalf Lake, located on private timber lands, is found by taking Fatty Creek Road west from Hwy. 83, for about two miles. Special fishing restrictions have been imposed for this lake. Anglers may keep fish more than 22 inches long—artificial lures only.

The town of Swan Lake is known for its fine fishing, and is a good place to pick up picnic and camping supplies. The Swan Lake Campground (USFS) is located just north of the town. It has a day-use area, west of Hwy. 83, and a campground to the east.

Swan Valley Trails

Glacier Lake Trail is an easy one-mile hike to the beautiful lake in the Mission Mountains Wilderness. This is a trail suitable for the whole family, an is open for walking from mid-June to October. To get there, head south from Condon for five miless, on Hwy. 83, and then drive west on Kraft Creek Rd. (FR #561) for 11 miles. This is a gravel road which has logging traffic during the week. The trail leads across the creek several times (on bridges). More adventurous people, including rock climbers, can move on from this trail to other lakes and scenic areas. Turquoise Lake is located high above Glacier Lake.

Motels & Resorts

Most of the accommodations in the Swan Valley are not available to reserve on-line. Here is a sampling of the interesting resorts and lodges.

Double Arrow Resort
933 Golf View Drive, Seeley Lake, 406) 677-2777 or 800-468-0777
This guest lodge is on part of was was a large and famous Montana cattle ranch. With rooms in the main lodge, plus cabins and separate lodge buildings, the ranch offers comfortable accommodations of varying sizes. The lodge restaurant is a place for fine dining, with the dishes labeled as "classic country cuisine."

Kozy Korner Bed & Breakfast
331 Cottonwood Lakes Road, Seeley Lake, 406-677-1003
This log B&B home with four guest units is a welcoming place for the visitor, with the small touches that make a B&B your own home for a day or two. It's in town and amenities include a honeymoon suite with its own bath (whirlpool), the other three rooms share bathroom facilities. The B&B has free WiFi. Open year-round. Ski from the door.

The Lodges at Seeley Lake
2156 Boy Scout Road on the western shore of Seeley Lake
800-900-9016 (toll-free)
With cabin accommodations, the 16 units accommodate from 2 to six people, at a very scenic location on the lake, sitting between the high Mission Mountains and the Swan Range. The cabins are historic but have modern amenities including full kitchens and fireplaces. Open year-round, wintertime is perfect for skiing and snowmobiling on the many trails in the lake area. the Lodges have been in operation for more than 70 years.

Four miles farther toward the mountains, Eagle Port Lodge, with five suites is owned by the same people as the Lodges at Seeley Lake. Facilities at the lake are available to those staying at Eagle Port.

Rich Ranch
939 Cottonwood Lakes Road, Seeley Lake, 406-677-2317
The Rich family have ranched in this region since the early pioneer days, and is now in its 5th generation. With accommodate for 20 guests, the ranch offers distinctive guest ranch vacations, specializing in riding adventures, although you can stay here and not ride. A series of youth riding camps is offered during the summer, and guided wilderness pack trips are available. Two rooms are in the lodge, plus two new western cabins, each with two units. Summer ranch stays have a 3-day minimum stay, and the ranch offers winter vacations with snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Wilderness Gateway Inn
2996 Highway 83 North, Seeley Lake, 406-677-2095
This is more of a standard motel than the other accommodations listed here, and it's been here for many years. With 19 units, all with queen beds, the inn offers rooms with a view, free coffee, and a large hot tub. The rates are reasonable, with winter rates slightly lower than in the prime summer months (June to mid-October).


Several public campgrounds are located close to Seeley Lake, including Seeley Lake Campground (on the western shore, via Boy Scout Road (3.5 miles)). River Point Campground is also west of Hwy. 83 via Boy Scout Road (2.5 miles). Big Larch Campground is north of town on Hwy. 83. You'll find 50 campsites, a beach, and year-round services for RVs.


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