At the time of its completion in 1953, the Hungry Horse dam was the third largest and second highest concrete dam in the world. Today, it remains the tenth highest. The reservoir is almost 35 miles long and three and a half miles across at its broadest, holding more than 3.5 million acre-feet of water. It’s located 15 miles south of the west entrance into Glacier National Park.
Cutthroat trout, bull trout, and whitefish live in the lake, but fishing can be spotty. Because the lake is managed for power production, water levels vary greatly. During low-water, even getting to the lake can be a challenge. It isn’t stocked. The surrounding lush mountains are popular big game areas, however.
To access the lake, take U.S. 2 20 miles northeast of Kalispell and find Forest Roads #38 or #895. The latter takes you over the dam and along the westside of the reservoir to the Lid Creek Campground. The first 11 miles are paved, but the road gets sketchy after that, so travel it with patience.
Hungry Horse was named after two draft horses, Tex and Jerry, who wandered off during a winter storm in 1900. The horses were found a month later, skinny and hungry. The Visitor Center at the dam is open daily through the summer, offering tours of the structure and its history.
Every second Saturday of October for over 30 years, Hungry Horse is home to the Le Grizz Ultra Marathon, a 50-mile footrace through the rolling forest road and across the dam with a backdrop of brilliant autumn colors.