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Holter Lake in Montana - Weekend Trip Report

Trip Overview

I recently paddled a 13 mile out and back trip to some of the most amazing territory in Montana. 26 miles in two days, with the first day taking about four hours (head wind), and the second taking 3 hours with a break in the middle. Heavy boat traffic makes this paddle a bit more technical than it should be. Great mountain views and abundant wild life. I saw bighorn sheep, many bald eagles and assorted other birds of prey, deer, blue heron, and pelicans. Named by Lewis and Clark on their journey across Montana, the Gates of the Mountains is a natural rock formation that appears to be a dead end in the river until you change angle and find the river continues as wide as it was before.

Be sure to bring bear spray and rope to hang food in a bear safe manner this area is well populated by bears. I have seen three this year. No interaction problems just be sure to practice proper back country technique.

It can be quite windy and Montana's weather can change in a short time be prepared and binge on weather and radar forecasts. I have seen 80 degrees and snow in the same 24 hour period come prepared.


Put in point has a few camping spots. Several camp grounds nearby. The overnight is taken at Coulter Camp Ground a slight paddle past the Gates of the Mountains.


14.5' Riot Edge, assorted dry bags, Ice Mule cooler, paddle float, bilge pump, bear spray, .40 caliber handgun, and other camping essentials


$5 day use fee and $10 camping fee. Can be paid only in exact cash honor system. I have never been asked for my proof of payment but still pay anyway. Remote camping anywhere on the route is legal and free.


Coming from the south (Helena), drive north on I-15 for 36 miles to Wolf Creek. Continue north on the frontage road turn right off the frontage road just past large metal framed bridge 3.2 miles on to bear tooth road.

From North (Great Falls) drive south to Craig 45 miles take frontage road north to Bear Tooth Road. Take Left before big metal bridge.

Once on Bear Tooth Road continue 7 miles to Put in Point.


Google maps to get mileage though there is a falcon guide called Paddling Montana. More suited to drift boats and canoeing.
  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip