Flathead Lake is a beautiful body of water and my favorite way to explore it by automobile is to take Montana Highway 35 north from Polson to Bigfork in neighboring Flathead County. Why is this winding, often slow, somewhat dangerous two-lane route my fav?
Because it takes you by one of Montana’s most unique roadside landscapes–the orchard stands that sell Flathead cherries during the summer months. There isn’t really a Flathead cherry–the name comes from the lake region, especially this east side of the lake that has proven perfect for growing the sweet treat once Harry Chapman started the first orchard here around the turn of the 20th century.
There is an amazing range of roadside stands, from the architecturally ornate to the metal shed roof stand that looks like a converted chicken coop. Taken as a group, and as an interrelated landscape between orchards, roadside, and individual retail, there are few more interesting rural historic districts in Montana than Highway 35.
A detour from Highway 35 to Finley Point State Park is highly recommended, not only for the great views of the lake from this park. But along the way you encounter more cherry farms and the cherry growers warehouse complex, which had once been in Kalispell but moved to this location c. 1985.