The Mountains of Montana
The Jewel Basin

The Jewel Basin

Picnic Lakes in the Jewel Basin
Photo Use Guidelines

The Jewel Basin in aptly named. The Jewel Basin, which is located in the Swan Range just to the east of Kalispell, is a basin that consists of twenty, beautiful lakes. Many of these lakes have excellent fishing. The Jewel Basin area encompasses more than 20,000 acres and has more than 20 miles of excellent, well-maintained trails. All the trails in the Jewel Basin are reserved for hiking only, so leave your mountain bike and horse behind.

The Jewel Basin is easily reached. Just follow the signs from Highway 83 just outside of Bigfork. The last eight miles of the road are gravel. This section of the road tends to be very bumpy, along with being narrow and twisty. The elevation of the trailhead rests at 5500 feet, allowing for a rare high altitude trailhead access in this part of the state (most trailheads begin way down in the bottom of the valleys and make for a long walk up).

Flathead Valley seen from Jewel Basin
Photo Use Guidelines

The mountains in the Jewel Basin are not the towering peaks found in nearby Glacier National Park or out in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. The highest peak, Mt. Aeneas, just tips over 7500 feet. The lower heights of these mountains allows provides for good early season hiking and fishing opportunities at times when the higher, more loftier mountains are still covered in snow. Generally, depending on the snow pack, most areas of the Jewel Basin are accessible by early June, although this can vary greatly from year to year.

Photo Use Guidelines

Most of the lakes in the Jewel Basin have excellent fishing for cutthroat trout, some of which exceed 16 inches with 10-12 inch fish being the average. Fishing is successful using both spin fishing and fly fishing gear, although some of the lakes have heavily forested banks, making fly casting a challenge.

Camping is permitted throughout the Jewel Basin area except near several popular lakes, such as Picnic Lakes and Twin Lakes. Use of the Jewel Basin area is heavy. Its close proximity to the Flathead Valley and easy access brings lots of hikers up for day hikes, particularly on the weekends. While solitude can still be found in many areas of the Jewel Basin - particularly in areas not in day hiking range or during bad weather - expect to see people when hiking on the trails close to the trailhead. Parking can also occasionally be a challenge on weekend days during the summer, as the trailhead does not have a huge parking area.

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