Flathead National Forest tips for playing outdoors this spring

By | May 7, 2020

Kalispell, MT– With melting snow and rising temperatures, many are enjoying time outside camping and exploring nearby forest roads and trails.

Flathead National Forest and concessionaire Flathead Valley Campgrounds are working hard to open developed fee campgrounds over the next three weeks, with most sites anticipated to fully open by Memorial Day weekend. Rental cabin facilities will also begin a phased reopening, expected on or before Memorial Day weekend based on seasonal availability and facility conditions. Currently, dispersed camping is available in developed sites in many non-fee campgrounds. People should avoid dispersed camping in fee campgrounds due to annual maintenance required for opening. No services or water are currently available at developed campgrounds.

Typically, most first-come first-serve campgrounds receive annual maintenance by the beginning of June. People can make reservations at Recreation.gov for reservation campsites and should be aware that reservation availability may change based on spring site assessments and early season conditions.

Expect forest closures and modified operations to happen on a case-by-case basis.

Those with existing campground, cabin rental and lookout reservations through Recreation.gov will be notified via email or phone call if there are any changes. Please be aware that rental cabins and lookouts will not be cleaned between uses. As in previous years, it is up to individual renters to bring their own cleaning supplies and clean before and after site use.

This year, trail conditions vary widely across the forest’s 2.4 million acres.

Multiple significant fall, winter, and spring windstorms in places like Swan Valley mean that people will encounter many downed trees across trails and roads during the early part of the season. Due to the extent of the storms, some trails may not be entirely cleared this year. People should also be mindful of wet and muddy trails. Stick to dry areas for biking and four-wheeling so that these areas do not get significantly rutted and damaged heading into summer.

Trail use is currently high. Multiple types of users recreate in Flathead National Forest. All users should be alert for and yield to horseback riders. Some trails are open to mountain bike and motorized vehicle riders and they should be mindful of and yield to all other traffic. For the safety of unseen hikers or other users, do not shoot from or down any National Forest System roads or trails. Bring a non-metal target and remove all traces of activity, including shell casings and target pieces when leaving. Be mindful to avoid damaging government property and other public resources.

People should be particularly mindful of COVID-19 related precautions while recreating on public lands, and:

  • Seek trails with few people
  • Stay close to home
  • Leave plenty of space between you and other trail users and gently step to the side if another user approaches
  • Avoid higher risk activities that could require emergency response
  • Pack in/pack out all that you bring, including dog waste – services may be limited

People should also make sure to have bear spray in an accessible place like a hip belt or chest-harness and know how to use it. Make plenty of noise and be especially careful recreating near dawn or dusk. Bears are emerging from hibernation and are actively seeking food on and near the valley floor.

Flathead National Forest continues to monitor COVID-19 federal, state, and local guidelines. Please remember to review current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local and state guidelines for social distancing and cloth face coverings.

For more information and updates, call your local ranger station, or follow Flathead National Forest on Facebook @discovertheflathead, or on Twitter @FlatheadNF.

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About NFNews Editor

Patti Hart is the editor-in-chief and founder of the NFNews.net. Patti lives on the North Fork during the summers and travels the world for the rest of the year, updating NFNews every day wherever there is an internet connection.

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