Montana Road Trip: Canoeying the Clearwater River Trail

Paddling Montana’s Clearwater River Canoe Trail

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Active vacations are my favorite kind. I spend so much time working out and eating right (or at least trying to) while I’m at home, and I feel like that effort is counteracted by all the glorious things I eat on the road (and the time I don’t spend in a gym). So I was happy to be traveling to Montana last month with five fellow active types, and to see everyone else was as eager to spend some time with Mother Nature as I was.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

So after two nights in Missoula, we hit the road in our family suburban and headed north into the heart of Glacier Country.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

Up first on our agenda was a paddle on the Clearwater River Canoe Trail in Lolo National Forest.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe TrailI’m a bit more of an independent adventurer, and when it comes to paddle trips, I prefer not to have a guide, but rather to go at my own leisurely pace. We were in luck as local outfitter Seeley Sport Rentals rents out canoes (at $25 per boat for four hours) and other gear and will deliver them directly to your starting point, no tour guide required.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

We wasted no time getting in that water, as it looked so inviting. Early June can be the perfect time to explore Montana’s vast outdoors: mild temps, blissfully sunny days, the bluest of skies, and—best of all—completely devoid of crowds.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

Case in point: On our 3.5-mile paddle, I didn’t see a soul. Well, except for these five clowns I came with.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

If there’s ever somewhere you want completely to yourself, it’s the Montana wilderness.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

We saw some deer and a bald eagle. No bears, though I think we were all OK with that. Don’t get me wrong: We wanted to see bears, just not when we only had a paddle as an escape route.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

The paddle took about an hour and a half at an easy pace. There were spots where the current flowed pretty rapidly and we didn’t even need to row that much. (Those were my favorite parts, heh.)

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

Eventually, the trail empties out into Seeley Lake, a perfect pool of glassy water, the dramatic clouds punctuating the blue skies mirroring back off the surface.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

We landed our kayaks and left them for the sports rental company to retrieve later.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

We then hiked a mile back to the car at the launch point to head further north into Big Sky Country.

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

Next up, we’d be exploring the mountains by horseback….

Montana's Clearwater River Canoe Trail

COMMENTS
  • July 7, 2014

    Wow, those photos are amazing! Taking a nice kayak cruise down a lake is almost the definition of relaxing. I think I should plan one for myself soon!
    Candice @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..8 Sailor Moon Locations to Visit in TokyoMy Profile

  • July 7, 2014
    Tia

    Hands down, that has to be my favorite place to paddle in Glacier Country.

  • July 7, 2014
    Briel K.

    I’ve never been to Montana but if these pics don’t make me want to visit I don’t know what would. Gorgeous! 🙂

  • July 8, 2014

    I’m really surprised at how cheap it was to rent the canoes! I can’t get over your photos though, they’re completely gorgeous and that backdrop is amazing. Looks like you had so much fun! x
    Bekka recently posted..PRETTY NIGHT LIGHTS.My Profile

  • July 9, 2014

    Amazing.! photos and very beautiful location,…

  • July 15, 2014

    Beautiful photos — and the sky cooperated nicely; Montana lives up to its state motto!
    Erica Meyer recently posted..Falling for AntalyaMy Profile

  • September 22, 2014

    Great photos Kristin! Montana is amazing, and looks like y’all had a great time.
    Mitch @ Coosa Outfitters recently posted..Get Started with Kayaking on the Coosa RiverMy Profile

    • September 22, 2014

      We did! The best time! Can’t wait to go back!

  • March 18, 2015

    Thanks for the writeup Kristin! We are leaving April 1 for full time roadtripping and the biggest drawback is leaving our canoe behind. Good to see spots like this out there!

    • March 18, 2015

      Oh I’m sure! Hopefully, you’ll find plenty of great outfitters along your route to help fill the void =)

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