Driving the North Fork Road from Columbia Falls to Polebridge, Montana, near Glacier National Park
The other way to get to Polebridge, Kintla Lake, and Bowman Lake, besides driving the Camas Road, is to head out of Columbia Falls on the North Fork Road.
The North Fork Road is accessible by turning onto Nucleus Avenue in Columbia Falls, going until it ends, and taking a right. (You will pass the “falls” of Columbia Falls on your way, which are very small, that may not be what you were expecting!)
The North Fork Road is a beautiful drive, following the north fork of the Flathead River as you go. The Flathead National Forest is green and gorgeous.
In the spring, the water is extremely high, and I would not recommend floating the river. But from about July onward, you can either go in a raft, or just throw in a tube and float down the river, as we did a lot when I was younger. You will need two vehicles to float, to park one to pick you up where you end up.
The North Fork turns to gravel several miles out of Columbia Falls. If there is no traffic, this is not a big deal. But with traffic, you can expect a heavy load of dust blocking your view and covering you, especially if you are riding a bike! The North Fork Road does not usually get a lot of heavy traffic, but you will probably pass at least a few cars.
This is also a great place to see animals.
A fire a few years ago on the surrounding mountains cleared out the trees, so the hillsides are beautiful and open. Bring a pair of binoculars for great viewing.
You will pass the Glacier Institute on your left hand side. I stayed at this wonderful learning place a few times in my youth, for different summer programs, learning about Glacier National Park and animals.
You can learn more about the Glacier Institute’s programs here.
There is camping available across the road from the Glacier Institute at the Big Creek Campground.
A few miles past the Glacier Institute, the road will split off, you can continue straight to get to Polebridge, Montana, or you can turn right to go over the bridge onto Camas Road to get to Apgar and Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. Continuing toward Polebridge will continue to stay gravel, but the Camas Road is paved once you cross the bridge.
If you have some extra time on your stay, try driving both the North Fork Road and the Camas Road, two beautiful drives in Montana and near Glacier National Park.
Warmest Wishes from Big Sky Country,
Montana Vacation Blog