Lolo National Forest
Guide

Introduction

Surrounding the City of Missoula in western Montana, the Lolo National Forest runs along the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains, which divides Montana from Idaho. There are over a hundred miles of trails for hikers, bikers, equestrians, and even skiers and snowmobilers in what the locals call big sky country. You can also find the Continental Divide and four wilderness areas including Rattlesnake, Welcome Creek, Selway-Bitterroot, and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.

With a diverse group of climates and habitats, the Lolo National Forest includes both maritime and continental climates with groups of mature wooded areas, alpine peaks, redcedar bottoms, and wild wetlands filled with critters. Whether you are looking for a place to climb, fish, go boating, hike, or just do some RV camping, there are plenty of opportunities for you here. If you want to see some flora and fauna, there are 1,500 species of plants, 60 different kinds of mammals, 300 types of birds, and over 20 varieties of fish.

With more than 100 lakes and five rivers, watersports abound here in the forest for everyone to enjoy. There are only seven campgrounds that are specifically for RV camping, but there are more than a dozen others that allow RVs in the forest. We will highlight our top three picks here for you.

RV Rentals in Lolo National Forest

Transportation

Driving

Montana has some remarkable views no matter where you are, but headed into the Lolo National Forest often leads you through some of the best. One favorite is Highway 83 in the Seeley Lake area, which has some amazing views of the Chain of Lakes. In addition, Highway 12 along Lolo Creek in the Missoula area has a plethora of informational signs describing the activities of Lewis and Clark and the Nez Perce Tribe.

Interstate 90 runs right through the Lolo National Forest from northwest to the southeast so no matter where you are coming from, you are going to end up on 90. Coming from the north or west, you can take Interstate 93 or Highway 200 or 135. From the south, you can also take Interstate 93 or Highway 12. And from the east, you will likely come from Highway 83 or 200.

Many of the roads going into the woods are paved, but not as well-maintained as county or city roads so take your time, especially if you are pulling a trailer or driving a big rig. Getting in closer to the campgrounds you will find mostly gravel and dirt roads that are narrow and may have low hanging branches.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Lolo National Forest

Campsites in Lolo National Forest

First-come first-served

Quartz Flat Campground

Just off Interstate 90, this 40-acre campground is easy to get to and you are close to stores and other city conveniences without losing the rugged ambiance. The Quartz Flat Campground near Superior, Montana has 78 campsites that can accommodate campers and RVs up to 30 feet in length. There are six pull-through sites where larger RVs can fit but since the campground is first-come, first-served it is important that you get their early to get the site you want.

Each site has a picnic table and fire ring, and you can find several restrooms as well as vault toilets around the campground. If you need drinking water, there are 10 water spigots for your convenience. Some of the most favorite activities here include swimming, fishing, and floating along the Clark Fork River as well as hiking the half-mile Quartz Flat Nature Trail. This is bear country so make sure you keep your food locked up in a bear-proof container, which is not supplied. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are kept restrained and attended at all times during your stay.

Lake Alva Campground

Lake Alva Campground has 59 campsites that will accommodate just about any RV or camper with a maximum length of 57 feet. Each spacious campsite has a large cleared area, a fire ring with grill, and a picnic table. There are also five potable water spigots and vault toilets spaced around the park for your convenience. This is bear country so make sure you keep your food locked up in a bear-proof container, which is not supplied. Camping here is on a first-come, first-served basis so you should get here early if you want a good spot.

Lake Alva is 310 acres and has a boat ramp and a large beach where you can take a dip when it gets too hot. Fishing is great here with several types of trout, pike, perch, and salmon. There are also two large picnic areas with picnic tables and BBQ grills. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are kept restrained and attended at all times during your stay.

Big Larch Campground

Near Thompson Falls, Big Larch Campground on the banks of Seeley Lake has 48 campsites that are large enough to handle an RV or trailer up to 50 feet long. All campsites have a fire ring with a grill for cooking, a picnic table, and a large clearing. There are vault toilets and water spigots in various spots around the campground. This is a first-come, first-served campground so you should get here early if you want a good spot.

Seeley Lake, which is just a short walk from any of the campsites, is 1,000 acres and has plenty of space for boating, jet skis, and water skiing. There are also two beaches and a lot of great spots along the banks for fishing. This is bear country so make sure you keep your food locked up in a bear-proof container, which is not supplied. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are kept restrained and attended at all times during your stay.

Seasonal activities in Lolo National Forest

In-Season

Waterskiing

Make sure you don’t forget to pack your skis in the camper before heading to Lolo National Forest because there are several places where you can go skiing. River Point, Big Larch, and Seeley Lake Campgrounds have the 1,000-acre Seeley Lake and Lake Inez Campground has the 314-acre Lake Inez. Even if you are camping in one of the other campgrounds in the forest, you can enjoy either of these lakes via the day-use areas.

Disc Golfing

Disc golfing is really not like golfing at all. It is more like frisbee than golf. The sport has been around for a while, but many people still don’t know what it is. Try camping at one of the two campgrounds that have disc golf courses, which include the Blue Mountain Recreation Area and the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area. They both have 18-hole courses that are completely free- just make sure you pack your discs in the RV before coming.

Geocaching

Geocaching is finding hidden items that other people hide by using your GPS device. Typically, the cache is a plastic or metal box with a logbook you have to sign and date to prove you found it. They also usually have a number of small knick-knacks like toys or other trinkets that you can take if you leave your own small knick-knack in the box. Then put the box back where you found it and move on to the next cache. The main places to do this in Lolo National Forest is the Savenac bunkhouse, cookhouse, cottages, or visitor center.

Off-Season

Hiking

There are 32 named hiking trails in the Lolo National Forest, so there is something for everyone out here. Ranging from 1.6 to 12.6 miles, whether you are a newbie or an expert, there is a trail with your name on it. The Maclay Flat Nature Trail between Bitterroot River and Blue Mountain is 1.7 miles and is great for all skill levels. If you want a challenge, try the Hub Lake and Hazel Lake Trail, which is 7.2 miles. It is located by De Borgia and rated as very difficult.

Hunting

Be sure to pack your hunting gear in the rig because Lolo National Forest has over two million acres of great hunting space for you. There is a plethora of big game opportunities including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, bison, antelope, bear, and mountain goats. Some of the small game include snipe, turkeys, rabbits, and squirrels. Although you can hunt waterfowl all over the forest, the Blue Mountain Recreation Area is a favorite with duck hunters. They have 4,900 acres just outside Missoula, Montana.

Snowboarding and Skiing

Montana gets some great powder, and in the Lolo National Forest you can find some awesome skiing and snowboarding spots open from December until April. The Montana Snowbowl is 12 miles northwest of Missoula and has something fun for all skill levels. They have two double chairlifts and a max elevation of 7,600. Lookout Pass is on the Montana/Idaho state line and has 540 acres, three double lifts, a max elevation of 5,650 feet, and has terrain for every skill level.

Find the perfect campsite.