Said to be the second deepest lake in Montana, Tally Lake is set in a long and narrow valley with cliffs and tree-covered mountainsides on either edge. The lake is fed from water from upstream Star Meadows, a large wetland which creates a tannic acid tint to the water. The water is perfectly clean and nice, but the dark coloration makes the lake water darker than other lakes in the area. This darkness absorbs the sunlight and retains it (sort of like how a dark interior car gets hotter on a sunny day than a light interior car). This makes the lake a warm place to swim in the late summer.
The lake is big enough for motor boating, and a boat launch exists at the Tally Lake campground on the north end of the lake. The lake is a great spot for every kind of boating and is beautiful and relaxing at sunset.
Some of the cliffs surrounding the lake are popular for cliff jumping. Be aware that injuries seem to come with the cliff jumping territory.
Access to Lake or River
Dirt-Road, High Clearance Vehicle
Modest success can be found fishing the lake. Perch and trout are typically caught. Huge, deep lurking Sturgeons are also found in the lake, but are seldom seen. These prehistoric creatures may be the source behind the legends of the Tally Lake monster.
The lake is very nice for paddling, especially in the evenings along the east shore. Although motor boats are allowed on the lake, they tend to be used primarily for fishing although ski boaters are sometimes encountered. The lake is big enough that motor boats won't impact your experience significantly.
Driving Directions from Nearest Town or Landmark
From Whitefish, take Highway 93 north from Whitefish. You will turn immediately after passing Spencer Lake (a small lake that will run immediately to the left of the highway). At the intersection of Highway 93 and Twin Bridges Road, take a left turn. You will see a sign there for Tally Lake Campground. Turn left at Lodgepole Road and follow to Farm-to-Market Road. Turn right at Farm-to-Market Road and follow until the intersection with Tally Lake Road. Turn left at Tally Lake Road (a gravel road) and follow up the hill. After a while you will reach the south edge of Tally Lake. Continue along the shore of Tally Lake until you reach the campground on the north side of the lake. This is where the boat access and swimming access are primarily located.
An alternative route is to follow Highway 93 from Whitefish and continue past the Twin Bridges road intersection and continue on highway 93 until you reach the Farm-to-Market road. A sign is posted there with information about Round Meadows X-Country Ski trails. Turn left at the Farm-to-Market road and continue until reaching a right turn onto Star Meadows road. Follow Star Meadows road up the hill and past the Round Meadows XC-Trails location. Continue for several miles until you reach a left hand turn for Tally Lake campground. The left-hand turn has a sign indicating Tally Lake road. The road is paved until you reach the left hand turn toward Tally Lake. Follow the road along the creek until you reach Tally Lake Campground.
Boat Access Locations
The boat launch is located within the Tally Lake campground. A paved boat launch is available for trailers. A larger beach is also located at the campground for launching canoes or other smaller boats. A day fee and parking fee may be charged during the summer months when the campground is operational and is hosted.
Fishing Access Highlights
The best launch point for boats and fishing on the lake is from the campground at the north side of the lake. There are some trails that also leave from this campground, as well as along the creek that feeds into the lake adjacent to the campground.