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Road Cycling Lake Koocanusa, MT

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Road Cycling Lake Koocanusa, MT
Photo Credit: By Colby Stoper via flickr and Creative Commons

Lake Koocanusa is the lake created by the hydroelectric damn located in Libby, MT. It stretches 90 miles (145 km) long and is located approximately half in Montana and half across the border in British Columbia, Canada. A bridge connects Montana Highway 37 on the east side to the National Forest Development Road on the west. After crossing the bridge, you can head north, towards the northern shores of Lake Koocanusa or you can head south, down to Libby.

To do a full weekend itinerary, make your way to Eureka for Friday evening. Your accommodation choices are limited but do include the Ksanka Motel, which is reasonably priced. If you are willing to rough it, the Rexford Bench campground is 15 minutes closer to Lake Koocanusa and offers sites for $12 per tent. At the north end of Lake Koocanusa, there is an Amish settlement, known for their buffet dinner served at two sittings on Fridays and Saturdays, so be sure to make reservations. It is held at the Kootenai Store, “a community located on the Western Shores of Lake Kookanusa.” From Eureka, it takes approximately one hour to drive there. Head there for dinner and to take a look at their handicrafts. The drive is quite scenic and passes by several nice homes. Each year there is the West Kootenai Amish Community Auction held over a weekend in the summer.

On Saturday, wake up bright and early and hit the road! Either side of the lake will do, the trip along the west side of the lake is approximately 68 miles (110km) starting from Rexford, with gradual inclines and declines for the duration. The west side is the less-trafficked but more twisting and turning scenic route. After the Libby Dam, which has a lookout and a museum, there is a large descent and then it is flat into Libby. There are a few places to pull over and take breaks and stop for lunch. Stay at the Caboose Motel in Libby, or across the street at the Fireman’s Park campground. Immediately adjacent to the campground is a grocery store which boasts a reasonably large selection of deli and take-out dishes.

On day two, wake up and start the ascent out of Libby, sticking to the east side of the lake this time. The east side is the more popular road, making it both busier with traffic and wider lanes and shoulders. As you get nearer to the bridge you will pass the famous no-approach Stone Hills rock climbing area. Day two is approximately 63 miles (102 km), for a total weekend trip of 131 miles (212km).   Road cycling Lake Koocanusa is obviously more easily done with a support vehicle, but it is absolutely possible to carry your own gear.

If you want to, you can also do a single day trip from Rexford or Eureka, heading out over the bridge, down and back across the Libby Dam and returning on the east side by Stone Hills. The loop is approximately 112 miles (180 km) from Eureka.

Where are your favorite places to see in the Lake Koocanusa area?

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