Best Places To Kayak In Montana

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Most commonly referred to as “Big Sky Country,” Montana is a western state with a diversified landscape that includes the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. The beautiful and diverse range of scenery has made Montana a popular kayaking destination for residents and visitors alike. 

Kayaking in Montana offers a diverse range of alpine lakes and rivers for all skill levels. The opportunities for wildlife observation and breathtaking scenery are unrivaled. Some popular spots for kayaking in Montana include Crystal Lake, The Missouri River, Noxon Reservoir, and Smith River.

If you or your family are perhaps looking for a getaway from the rat race of life and the hustle and bustle of a nine to five, a kayaking adventure in the scenic state of Montana might be one of the best options for you to consider. Let’s have a better look at some of the best kayaking spots in Montana to help you plan out your next kayaking adventure!

Kayaking In Montana

Montana is unquestionably part of the “wild west” adventure genre. Montana is full of fantastic spots to kayak because it has a relatively small population and a lot of protected land and open waters. No matter your skill level, there are kayaking options in Montana that will be suitable for you. 

If you are not yet feeling confident or comfortable enough to go kayaking on your own, you can look into several different options of Montana’s kayaking tours for every skill level. 

There’s a kayak trip in Montana for everyone, whether you want a guided trip, kayak rentals, self-directed, day trip, multi-day excursion, or something in between. Now that you are feeling the excitement and eagerness for a kayaking adventure, let’s explore some of the very best kayaking spots in the state of Montana!

The Best Kayaking Spots In Montana

Here we have a list of some of the best kayaking spots in Montana:

Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake, at an elevation of 5,700 feet, is beneath Mount Harlow in one of Montana’s most stunning locations. The beautiful scenery also makes it a popular spot for birdwatchers and horseback riders.

Crystal Lake is located in the Big Snowy Mountains of central Montana. There is a non-motorized boat launch that is located in the campground run by the United States Forest Service. The 46-acre Crystal Lake is also bordered by a few hiking and bike routes. The hiking trails on offer are a great feature if you need some time to stretch out your legs.

The Missouri River

Known by many as the “Mighty Mo,” this stunning river flows from the Holter Dam to the plains. This stretch of water can be covered by kayakers; however, as a word of caution, it is a reasonably long kayaking trip. 

In the region, a popular day kayaking tour departs from Craig and travels beneath the canyon wall to Prewett Creek. This 15-mile journey, however, might be an exhausting route for someone less experienced. 

Fortunately, there is a quicker and more secret route that begins at the Holter Dam and will take you on a pleasant journey through the popular fly-fishing areas in the state and concludes at Craig.

Longer journeys can be challenging due to the numerous dams and reservoirs on the upper end of the Missouri River. The river, however, flows for 200 miles after the dams at Great Falls before entering Fort Peck Lake. For multi-day journeys or afternoon outings, the possibilities at this prime kayaking location are endless.

Noxon Reservoir

The Kootenai National Forest is the home to the Noxon Reservoir. It stretches for 25 miles and is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and woodland beauty. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, and even northern pike, may be found here, making it an excellent spot for kayak fishing.

Noxon Reservoir in Trout Creek is a great place to go if you want to get away from the crowds. The view is breathtaking, and the location is remote enough that few people visit. It’s been dubbed Montana’s best-kept secret.

Fish can be seen swimming beneath your kayak since the water is so clear. The surrounding area is also an ideal spot for hiking and hunting if you would like to take your kayaking adventure to a whole new level. 

Smith River

The Smith River is one of Montana’s most beautiful spots to kayak. This multi-day river trip, located within Smith River State Park, is really long and can take roughly four days to complete. It is necessary to note, however, that you will need to get a permit kayak on these waters. 

Because this is a 59-mile hike through a lonely canyon, it might be a good idea to take along some food and other supplies before you go. There is a launch into the Smith River at Camp Baker, where there are also options for you to stay overnight before your adventure.

In Great Falls, there are also options to rent a kayak or a canoe, which is always great to know if you do not have your own kayaking equipment. 

Glacier National Park Lakes

Glacier is by far one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. The alpine environment, as well as glacier-fed streams and lakes, provide the most beautiful backdrop possible.

There are actually several lakes within the National Park, all of which are fantastic kayaking spots, including Two Medicine Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake, Saint Mary Lake, and Lake McDonald. All of these are pretty large, Lake McDonald being the largest, and you can expect quite a chop as the day progresses and the winds pick up. 

Several of Glacier National Park’s major lakes are easily accessible from the park’s campgrounds. If you don’t own your own kayak, you can rent one from the on-site outfitter. If you bring along your own kayak, the ranger station will have to inspect it for invasive aquatic species.

If you are looking for the finest calm water, it is best to go early in the morning. It is necessary to note that the rules governing the lakes’ opening dates often change from year to year, so be sure to have a look at the park’s website for the most up-to-date information.


The state of Montana is undoubtedly one of the ideal locations for those with a passion for kayaking. A quick Google search of any of the best spots that have been mentioned will leave you in awe at their beauty and will undoubtedly bring about an urgency to go on your next kayaking adventure!