Camping, hiking, boating and a great beach
Way back in 1908, farmers in the Bitterroot Valley decided to build an impoundment to increase the capacity of the naturally occurring Lake Como so they could store more irrigation water.
Residents and visitors to the valley have all found themselves recreating at this iconic lake at some point during their time here. It’s one of our most popular attractions during the summer season.
Ask anyone about their time at Lake Como, and you’ll hear about how gorgeous it is with its forested shoreline and towering granite peaks in the background.
It’s one of the prettiest spots in western Montana. If you haven’t seen it yourself, maybe it’s time.
And thank the farmers when you do.
The Dam Details
The Federal Bureau of Reclamation has made several improvements to the hydraulic earthfill dam since it was originally constructed between 1908 and 1910.
According to Wikipedia, improvements were made in 1954, 1976, and again in 1992 and 1993.
The Bureau of Reclamation states the dam is 85 feet tall and spans 2,550 feet. It’s a big dam.
The lake has a water surface of 1.4 square miles and stores 38,495 acre feet of water at capacity.
The Bitter Root Project Irrigation District owns and operates the dam and the reservoir of water.
Lake Como is a defined Recreation Area, which includes camping sites, swimming area with beach, picnic and group areas, a boat launch and hiking trails.
Fees are required for day use of the facilities between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
A Lake Como Recreation Day Pass costs $5 per vehicle per day, or $30 per vehicle for the season.
Passes can be purchased at self service kiosks at the lake, at Forest Service offices in Stevensville, Hamilton and Darby, and at a variety of retail and convenience stores throughout the Bitterroot Valley.
There are 3 established campgrounds at Lake Como.
Overnight camping is first come, first served with no reservations available.
Lake Como Campground offers 10 campsites for large trailers.
Three Frogs Campground offers 16 small trailer sites and 4 tent sites.
Rock Creek Horse Camp offers 11 tent and small trailer sites with stock facilities.
Pets must be leashed and are not allowed at the public beach.
Overnight camping passes can be purchased from the campground host.
Overnight camping fees include (1) day pass for use of facilities within the Recreation Area.
Hiking Trails Around the Lake
The Lake Como National Recreation Trailhead is located near the Rock Creek Horse Camp campground.
The trail consists of a 7 mile loop all the way around the lake. It’s a spectacular hike with scenic views that you won’t soon forget.
For a shorter hike (or bike), try the Lake Como National Recreation Trail on the north side of the lake.
This trail is 3 miles long and the first 1/4 mile is paved and accessible.
Day passes are required for parking in order to access these hiking trails between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Boating on the Lake
Motorized and non-motorized boating is popular on Lake Como.
The boat launch is normally put into operation between May 15th and June 1st, and remains operational until mid August when water levels drop.
Parking is provided for trailers and two ramps are available.
As with the other facilities and services within the Recreation Area, day passes are required for parking in order to access the boat launch between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
That’s a Good Question
A Recreation Day Pass costs $5 per vehicle per day, or $30 per vehicle for the season.
Yes, but water levels are much lower and boating is not available during winter months.