kerr dam vista point polson montana

11 Fun Things to do in Polson, MT this Summer!

Polson, Montana is one of the most underrated summer destinations in all of Montana. This hidden gem, located on the South end of Flathead Lake, is an amazing summer destination. There are so many fun things to do in Polson, you can spend the entire summer here and not get bored. Trust me, I spent over eighteen summers here enjoying Flathead Lake growing up. And I still absolutely love going back regularly with my kids to spend time with my family. Here are 10 fun things you can do in Polson, Montana – enjoy!!

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1. Visit the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam Area (previously known as Kerr Dam)

How to get there: Turn on Kerr Dam Road, follow this road for about 2 miles and then turn right (look for signs for Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam). From here you have a few choices. Visit the Dam Overlook by going down about 350 stairs each way. (Currently under construction as of June 2023). If you keep going straight on the road past the sign for the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam you will eventually reach the powerhouse at the bottom of the Dam. From there you can access the river (be very careful it is not safe to swim here) or access the paved path (stroller friendly).

2. Raft the Buffalo Rapids with the Flathead Raft Company

Take a half or a full day to explore the Flathead River! The Flathead Raft Company offers adventurous whitewater 4 hour trips down Class 3 and 4 Buffalo Rapids. If you’re looking for a more relaxed activity, they offer peaceful flatwater floats down the river which take 5-10 hours depending on the time of year. These activities are family friendly, and kids ages 7 and up are welcome on the tours. Additionally, this raft company is the only one on the Flathead River, so you will definitely have an exclusive river experience!

3. Get Ice Cream at the Cove Deli and Pizza

Looking for some delicious Montana made ice cream? The Cove Deli serves an amazing selection of Wilcoxon’s ice cream, a Montana company based in Livingston. They have a variety of 16 different hard ice cream flavors like Stuck in a Rut, Montana Moose Moss, and of course the famous Montana huckleberry flavor. Make sure to have your kids take a picture with the pirate out front too!

Richwine’s Burgerville is also an amazing place to get a milkshake and a burger. Richwine’s is a local family owned, drive-in restaurant and they have been in business for more than 60 years. You’ll almost always see a line to get into this place and for good reason! Recently, I drove by it was listed as for sale, so we’ll see if the new owners are able to keep up the tradition.

4. Rent a Boat, Paddleboard, or Kayak and Explore Flathead Lake

You absolutely cannot visit Polson without exploring Flathead Lake! Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western US (by surface area) outside of Alaska. This lake stretches over 28 miles long and 15 miles wide in some areas, and is up to 370 feet deep. Stay close to shore or venture out to different islands and bays, and enjoy swimming in this pristine lake with the Mission Mountains as your backdrop. Link to Flathead Lake Boat Rentals here!

5. Eat Some Delicious Flathead Cherries

Usually available from late July to early September, Flathead Lake offers some of the best cherries ever! Your best bet for finding these cherries is driving up the East Shore of the lake and looking for roadside stands. There are also some orchards that offer U-Pick options if you want them even more fresh! Also an option for more cherry related fun is the Flathead Cherry Festival. This takes place on Polson’s Main Street typically the last weekend of July and has tons of street vendors, local art and treats, and a cherry pit spitting contest. More details available on the Polson Chamber of Commerce website.

6. Watch Sunset by the Lake

Walk along the boardwalk by the lake at sunset, take in the sunset from a boat, or from your hotel/airbnb if you are lucky enough to find somewhere with lake views. There is not much that beats a beautiful Montana sunset, especially on a beautiful day with a bonfire and a cocktail in hand. You can’t leave Montana without experiencing a sunset in the Big Sky State!

7. Bike up to Beautiful Views of the Lake!

To be honest I have ridden this trail multiple times but I am not sure what the name of the trail is, or if it even has a name! It’s not available on All Trails from what I can tell either. However, it is a fantastic paved trail which will take you up to beautiful views of Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains. You can hop on the trail near the cross streets of 7th Avenue and 11th Street, or for a shorter ride you can park near O’Reilly Autoparts and ride the trail from there up the paved path along the highway.

8. Check Out the Nearby State Parks

There are many state parks near Polson, and for good reason – this place is beautiful! If you are looking to camp, enjoy the lake from other viewpoints, or explore some trails there is a state park here for you.

  • Finley Point – the closest state park to Polson and has campsites, beautiful lake access for swimming, boating, paddleboarding, etc.
  • Big Arm – located on the West shore of Flathead Lake, with camping, hiking trails available, lake access, fishing, and more!
  • Yellow Bay – on the East shore of Flathead Lake about halfway up the lake, this park has incredible clear and deep water perfect for swimming. There are five campsites here, picnic areas, and the park is located nearby to several cherry orchards.
  • Wildhorse Island – this park is only accessible by boat! You may have the chance to see bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, and falcons, or one of the five wild horses that inhabit the island. On the island, there is a 3.2 mile loop with 350 feet of elevation gain which will pass by the Johnson Homestead. Wildhorse Island is for day use only and camping is prohibited.
  • Lake Mary Ronan – Lake Mary Ronan is known for it’s fishing with kokanee salmon, yellow perch and large mouth bass as well as boat access. This park also has several recently remodeled cabins at the Lake Mary Ronan Lodge for your stay and a full service restaurant and bar. Camping and RV hookups also available.

9. Stroll Main Street

Check out Polson’s Main Street and explore some local restaurants and businesses. Get drinks at the Perfect Shot Tavern, Coffee at Blodgett Creamery or Good Coffee Roasting Company. Walk along Main Street and see what some of the local shops have to offer. There are several fun events on Main Street through the Summer including the Flathead Cherry Festival, the weekly Farmers Market (Fridays), the 4th of July Parade, and the Cruisin’ by the Bay car show.

toddler in bucket hat standing on main street in polson montana waiting for fourth of july parade

10. Take A Scenic Drive Around the Lake

There are so many great towns around Flathead Lake. The best way to see all of the most beautiful spots is to take a scenic drive around Flathead Lake. If you drove the whole thing continuously it would take about 2 hours. There are so many stunning viewpoints around Flathead Lake and you could spend hours in each spot just enjoying the lake!

11. Get Dinner with a View!

Although Polson may not be known for the most incredible food or restaurants, eating dinner with beautiful views of the lake can’t be beat. The deck of the Shoe, just across the bridge, has great views of Flathead Lake and can be a fun spot to get drinks or dinner. Lake view dining and drinks is also available at Fiesta en Jalisco. For good food and cozy indoor ambiance, check out the Finley Point Grill or the East Shore Smokehouse. If you would rather save money, pick up a picnic dinner and eat at one of the lakefront parks!

couple with puppy on boat in flathead lake polson montana
On Flathead Lake with our first baby, Harlee!

There are so many fun things to do in Polson, Montana and the areas surrounding the beautiful Flathead Lake. I hope you have an amazing time in Western Montana. Let me know in the comments other things you like to do in Polson! Happy travels 🙂

Map of Things to do in Polson, MT

Spending some more time in Western Montana? We absolutely love Glacier National Park, and would absolutely recommend you spending some time there if you have time. Check out our Guide to East Glacier National Park with Kids and 10 Fun Things to do in West Glacier National Park with Kids! Heyburn State Park, Idaho is another nearby adventure that your family is sure to love!

If this is one of your first times traveling with your kids, check out our family travel tips:

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