Holland Lake Lodge (406/754-2282 or 877/925-6343, www.hollandlakelodge.com ) is four miles off the highway at the end of Holland Lake Road. It’s a down-home woodsy kind of place, with rooms in the main lodge or in cabins scattered along the lakefront. The Holland Lake Lodge may not have the luxury of the new guest ranches that new money is bringing into Montana, but there’s a veneer of charm and rustic comfort that only decades of history can produce at this lodge, which has been in business since 1924. Meals in the restaurant are very good, especially in high season. You’ll want to kill some time in the friendly bar and lounging area.
During the summer, lodge rates include lodging, all meals, and a daily hour-long canoe or kayak rental for $125 per person per night ($185 single occupancy) in lodge rooms, $145 per person per night in cabins (per-person rates go down if you pack more than two people into the rooms, and children are given a substantial discount). All-inclusive multiday packages can also be arranged.
During the winter the lodge maintains cross-country ski trails and rents skis and snowmobiles. If you visit in the middle of February, you may have the opportunity to rub up against the unique subculture of dogsled racing. This is the turnaround point in a 500-mile dogsled race that starts and finishes in Helena .
The Swan Valley Centre Cabins (milepost 42 on Hwy. 83, 406/754-2397 or 866/754-2397, $65–95) are fairly rustic, but a good deal. Each of the three cabins is equipped with a kitchen and, for that ultimate backwoods touch, a TV with no reception. (Well, they’re TV/VCR combos, and the on-site general store will lend you movies to watch.)
A more convenient choice is the attractive, log-sided Swan River Lodge (406/745-2688, www.theswanriverlodge.com , $60 and up) on Highway 83 near milepost 46. Although it’s really just a basic motel, it’s an exceptionally nice one.