In the heart of Big Sky Country in Montana, you’ll find Ackley Lake State Park. At an elevation of 4,336 feet, the park has spectacular views of the Little Belt and Snow Mountains. The area is filled with rich agricultural land with the lake being the primary source of irrigation for local ranchers.
Named after an early settler, Ackley Lake also provided the famous western artist Charlie Russell with inspiration for his paintings. The land the state park resides on isn’t owned by the state of Montana. It is instead leased to the state from the Department of Natural Resource Conservation (DNRC). In 2016, Ackley Lake nearly lost its state park status, but after consideration and concern from nearby residents, it was renewed.
Ackley Lake is 160-acres with the park itself about 290-acres in size. There are a number of activities within the state park. Bring your boat and head out onto the water or instead take a swim near the shore. The lake provides an excellent source of fishing both in the warmer months and ice fishing during the winter months.
Lake Ackley State Park is open year-round. Campers can expect a primitive camping experience with no hookups and very few amenities. Campsites are available on a first-come, first served basis. The park doesn’t take reservations. Weekdays tend to be slower at the state park, though it does typically fill up on the weekends.
Ackley Lake State Park is located in Hobson, Montana off of Ackley Lake Road. If coming from Lewiston, you should plan on a 30 to 40 minute drive. Along the drive, you can expect to see stunning, unobstructed mountain and prairie views that only Big Sky Country can provide.
Roads may be icy and snowy in the winter months, but are typically passable with little issue. It would be wise to keep an eye on weather reports and be prepared for any condition. As you navigate the mountain roads, watch for deer that may be grazing near the roadways. The road leading to the park is gravel.
Some services and supplies are available only a few miles away in Hobson. The city of Lewiston, though a further drive, has a medical center, museums, and other services.
The state park’s rustic location provides a peaceful camping experience. Enjoy the activities the park has to offer during the day, then return to your campsite to enjoy the quiet and calm evenings. On cool nights, sit around a campfire under the starry sky. In the mornings, sip on a warm beverage and enjoy the beautiful landscape.
Ackley Lake State Park has 15 campsites. The maximum length for an RV or trailer is 24 feet. The campsites are available on a first-come, first served basis. The park does not take any reservations. Weekdays tend to be less busy at the park, but it can fill up on weekends, particularly during the summer months.
The state park is considered primitive. Due to the primitive nature, some leveling may be necessary for your RV or trailer. While there are no sewer hookups or a dump station at the park, there are vault toilets. The park does not have trash bins and the expectation is for visitors to pack in, pack out. Be prepared to leave with what you came with.
While camping is primitive, each campsite is equipped with a fire ring and a picnic table. The picnic table at many sites is covered, providing shelter from wind and the hot, summer sun. Pets are welcome at the park but must be kept on a leash. Your dog will be happy to roam with you on the trails and around the lake.
There are two boat launches located on Ackley Lake providing quick access. You won’t have to wait long to drop in your boat. This 160-acre lake provides ample opportunity for waterskiing and jet-skiing. If you prefer paddling, bring along your canoe, kayak, or paddle-board.
In the summer months, it can get warm at Ackley Lake State Park with temperatures creeping well into the 80s. Jump in and take a swim to cool off. The lake water will feel refreshing on these hot days. When ready for a break from the water, have a picnic at one of the picnic areas near the lake's shore. There is no lifeguard on duty at the state park.
Ackley Lake provides a great opportunity for fishing. It is stocked by the Department of Natural Resource Conservation with trout. Rainbow Trout ranging from 10 to 15 inches in length are often caught. Tiger Muskies have also been caught from the lake’s waters. A conservation and fishing license is required to fish on Montana waters.
Hiking trails are located around the state park. Stretch your legs and venture down the trails to enjoy the beautiful mountain and prairie views. While wandering the trails you may come across some of the area’s wildlife. Keep an eye out for a bald eagle. If on the trails during the quiet mornings or evenings you may see white-tailed deer.
Ice fishing is a popular activity at Lake Ackley in the winter for both locals and visitors from the time the ice is safe until ice-out. Rainbow Trout can be caught from beneath the frozen lake’s surface. Be sure to check ice conditions before heading out on the ice, especially if visiting late in the season. Don’t forget to bring your fishing license.
The state park and surrounding area is home to many different types of wildlife. White-tailed deer and elk may be spotted. Bears are in the area but aren’t commonly seen. Bird watchers will likely see Osprey in the spring and summer months as well as Raven through much of the year. An eagle may even be spotted high in a tree.