Motors Allowed?
Easy / Class A
14.00 mi (22.53 km)
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Of the millions of people who visit Glacier National Park each year, only a small percentage bring their own kayak and put in on the water. If you are one of the few, you can find blissful solitude by paddling just a short distance. One of the best places to do this is Bowman Lake, a large natural catchment within the Polebridge entrance to the park.

On the near shore is the developed and sometimes crowded Bowman Lake Campground, and on the far shore is the Bowman Lake backcountry campground. It is 7 miles in between, traversable by trail along the lakeshore or by water. There is no obligation to do the full length, however. Paddling any distance out and back quickly earns you a slice of lake and incredible views all to yourself.

The backcountry site at the lake's far end allows for paddling into camp rather than hiking. More trails depart from there, including the climb to great views at Brown Pass, so it makes a great base camp for unique multi-sport adventures. Backcountry sites require a permit in advance.

There is also a small amount of red tape for putting in on the water. You must get your boat inspected by park staff as part of an invasive species prevention program. Nonnative mussels currently threaten Montana waterways, so all boats must be cleaned, drained, and dried before putting in anywhere in the park. As of summer 2017, there is no inspection station at the Polebridge entrance, so you must enter at West Glacier for inspection to get the required tag for your boat before going to Bowman Lake.

Note: The dirt road to Bowman Lake from Polebridge is narrow, winding, and two-way. Trailers are not recommended.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass


Views. Quiet lake. Hiking and camping options.


Narrow dirt road.


Campgrounds + Campsites
Backcountry camping
Bird watching

Site characteristics: Water


Portage required




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