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The Sentinel Pine Bigfork 1200 Foot Lakefront Estate

Bedrooms 14
Space 8,000 sq ft
Property type estate
Minimum Stay 7 nights


About the property

Estate, 14 Bedrooms, 8 Baths, (Sleeps 22-25)


The Sentinel Pine is one of the last truly great estates of the Old West. Its five buildings are located on 20 acres with nearly 1200 feet of waterfront on stunning Swan Lake and can accommodate up to 25 guests. Located in the northwest part of Montana, just ten minutes from the charming town of Bigfork and less than an hour from Glacier National Park, it is also easily accessible by commercial airlines. We offer spectacular accommodations and amenities in one of the loveliest private settings in America. Our majestic scenery and serene beauty in the heart of the Rocky Mountains provide an unforgettable one-of-a-kind getaway experience. The Sentinel Pine is available for rental to select groups from mid-June through mid-September on a weekly basis (depending on availability we may accept shorter stays). Our guests have access to the entire estate as we do not rent individual buildings. CRITICAL NOTE: Until VRBO recently changed their policies to prevent direct dialogue, we spoke directly with potential renters before considering a rental. With these policy changes, please alternately just email us so we can begin the process of mutually ascertaining the possibility of a fit through VRBO’s email system.

In aggregate, our five primary buildings include 14 separate bedrooms with a total of 23 beds (3 king size, 7 queen size, 11 singles, and 3 pullouts). The five buildings are comfortably set apart from one another over five beautifully manicured acres of lawn with a tennis court. There is also an adjacent 6 acre mowed field that can be used as a baseball field, volleyball court, soccer field, golf driving range, or the like. Two of the buildings also have patios and porches that face the western side of the lake and offer stunning evening sunset vistas.

Many of the guests at our prime lakefront property enjoy watersports. While we do not directly rent motor boats, rentals are available locally and we do provide docking facilities and watersports equipment.

Bigfork, less than 15 minutes from The Sentinel Pine, is one of the most charming towns of the old west. On the shore of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the western half of the United States, this quaint town offers several dozen restaurants- - many of which are nationally- known and featured in major travel magazines- -and is an artists’ haven with a multitude of galleries and shops. The Bigfork Playhouse is one of the country’s finest summer-stock playhouses. Bigfork, and its sister town Whitefish 40 minutes north of it, are true “jewels” of the west.

More Details

James E. McGrath
Member since: 2010
Speaks: english
Response time:
Within 12 hours
Response rate:
Calendar last updated:
September 19, 2018

About James E. McGrath

Our family has owned the Sentinel Pine, a well-known and well-respected Bigfork/Swan Lake property, since 1944. As we advance in years and use this incredible property all too infrequently ourselves, we look forward to sharing this wonderful experience with others.

James E. McGrath purchased this estate in 1944

Why James E. McGrath chose Bigfork

Few if any private estates of the scale and size exist today that offer the wide variety of on-site activities we do and which also easily and comfortably accommodate up to twenty-five guests in fifteen separate bedrooms and 23 separate beds.

Among other things, we are a “water sport heaven” with a private pebble beach, a dock holding over a dozen sunbathers and fully covered boat slips – – and we also offer all the water toys (excepting a power boat) that a very large family would ever need (3 paddle boards, 3 kayaks, inner tubes and water loungers, a four-oared rowboat, and more). But beyond watersports, we have a tennis court, baseball field, driving range, volleyball court, and croquet court (all with full equipment)- – and complete fishing equipment on our trout–filled lake for casting, fly-fishing, and even trolling. We are in effect a self-contained “sportsman’s paradise”.

We are very close to Glacier Park (30 minutes), the huge and renowned Flathead Lake, (15 minutes), and the charming town of Bigfork (12 minutes), one of the west most charming towns—with the nationally-served Kalispell airport only 25 minutes away. Full–scale food stores and golf courses are less than 15 minutes away. Bicycling, horseback riding, white water rafting, and hiking are all within five minutes– –we either have or are next-door-to just about anything a family might need or want.

Our central massive dining table with spectacular views seats 16 guests alone with additional tables easily holding another dozen. With a full and complete kitchen facility in our Main Lodge, meals for up to 30 can be easily prepared. Our private setting on 20 acres and over 1,000 feet of waterfront is at the north end of Swan Lake, itself 10 miles long and a very quiet not-busy lake. Our buildings face the breathtaking 10,000– foot snowcapped Swan Range in a setting chosen by several prominent artists as spectacular subject material.

What makes this estate unique

We offer more than just a rental--we offer an on-site full service and full experience vacation and are willing to personally help you plan as much is your family reunion as you would like.

We have five individual buildings set comfortably apart from each other over our central five manicured acres of lawn, several of which have some mini-kitchen or full kitchen facilities. Thus, we can house separate groups (or “nuclear families”) of guests apart from each other to enjoy some privacy from the rest of the group when needed. A nice “make your own” combination of group and privacy.

If asked, our full-time caretaker is available to help find a private chef, give fishing lessons, setting up horseback, kayaking, or other trips, and the like—that comes as part and parcel of the rental. And we ourselves stand ready to help you plan as many vacation details as you would like. We are immensely proud of our exceptional references detailed in our website--they are not the product of random choice or some foolish “book it now and ask questions later” mentality, but rather the product of carefully and mutually determining whether a great two-way fit exists in the first place before any commitment is made by either party and then we give that rental group all the time and attention they need to make both memories and dreams come true. That’s who we are. And why we enjoy the terrific references we have built.

The Sentinel Pine is full of history and we welcome our guests add to that history. Of the 73 years it has been in our family, it is been visited--for pleasure or business – by notable politicians (Senators, Congressmen, etc.), military figures, several renowned artists, journalists (including the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner), and academics (including the senior staff of Harvard College and a Nobel Prize winner). And this unique and singular story continues to be written to this day!

Guestbook comments from the owner

Sentinel Pine

Where dreams come true

Our daughters have fond memories of their enchanted life growing up on Swan Lake, which included special times at Sentinel Pine. Swan Lake is as romantic and beautiful as it sounds, so when they both were planning their weddings (just 20 days apart) it was natural that they would want to stage their events on their beloved Swan Lake.

During the first wedding my five sisters and their families and my father stayed at Sentinel Pine, which provided a perfect setting for our first family reunion in four years, with lots of fun on-site with volleyball, baseball, tennis, croquet, swimming, diving, and kayaking along with long laughter-filled meals and lively cribbage games capped off by musical performances by family members at the Main Lodge. Unlike other resorts where previous reunions were held, our family had the place to themselves, so it truly felt like one big happy family.

Our second daughter’s wedding was held at Sentinel Pine on a perfect summer day – 70s and sunny – a typical August day on Swan Lake. Family and close friends were seated lakeside during the ceremony held against Nature’s stage - beneath towering pines, next to a sheet of emerald water that slid into rugged mountains topped by endless blue skies. Afterwards guests enjoyed a casual yet beautiful reception in the shade of scented pine trees. A tent served as a bar and sitting area and tables perched above the lakeshore as an outdoor dining room. Family and close friends stayed at Sentinel Pine, which extended the fun of the wedding into a fun-filled vacation week.

At the end of summer we had new family members and a boatload of new memories. All made in a place where dreams really do come true.
Jul 2012
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Bigfork Estate Accommodation and Amenities

Property Type:
  • estate
  • Guests provide their own meals
Floor Area:
  • 8000 sq ft
House Rules:
  • Check-in: 4:00 PM
  • /
  • Check-out: 11:00 AM
  • Max. occupancy: 25
  • Children welcome
  • Parties/events not allowed
  • Pets considered
  • Non smoking only ...
Location Type:
  • Lakefront ...
  • Mountain View
  • Away From It All
  • Family
  • Historic
  • Romantic
  • Sports & Activities
  • Clothes Dryer
  • Fireplace
  • Hair Dryer
  • Internet
  • Iron & Board
  • Linens Provided
  • Living Room
  • Parking
  • Telephone ...
  • Towels Provided
  • Washing Machine
  • Wireless Internet
  • Wood Fireplace
  • Cooking Utensils
  • Dishes & Utensils
  • Dishwasher
  • Kitchen ...
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Pantry Items
  • Refrigerator
  • Stove
  • Toaster
  • Dining Area
  • seating for 30 people
  • 8 Bathrooms
  • Bathroom 1 -
    Bathroom 2 -
    Bathroom 3 -
    Bathroom 4 -
    Bathroom 5 -
    Bathroom 6 -
    Bathroom 7 -
    Bathroom 8 -
  • 14 Bedrooms, Sleeps 25
  • King size beds (3), Queen size Beds (7), of which three are pullouts, (1) full size, (10) Twin, and (2) singles
  • Books
  • CD Player
  • DVD Player
  • Games
  • Satellite / Cable
  • Stereo
  • Television
  • Deck / Patio ...
  • Golf ...
  • Kayak / Canoe ...
  • Lawn / Garden
  • Outdoor Grill
  • Tennis ...
  • Water Sports Gear ...
  • health/beauty spa
  • live theater
  • restaurants
Leisure Activities:
  • boating
  • horseback riding
  • horseshoes
  • miniature golf
  • photography
  • scenic drives
  • shopping
  • sight seeing
  • walking
  • wildlife viewing
Local Services & Businesses:
  • ATM/bank
  • groceries
  • hospital
  • massage therapist
  • medical services
Sports & Adventure Activities:
  • basketball court
  • cycling
  • fishing
  • fly fishing
  • freshwater fishing
  • golf
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • parasailing
  • rafting
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • water skiing
  • whitewater rafting
On-Site Caretaker, Large Dining Areas, Swimming, Walking Trails, Tennis Court, Basketball, Boat Docks and Diving Board, Baseball Field with Equipment, Volleyball Area with Equipment, Fishing Equipment, Water Skiing and Tubing Equipment, Croquet Court


Exceptional! 5/5 -
(7 traveler reviews)

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The Sentinel Pine Bigfork 1200 Foot Lakefront Estate
average rating of 5.0 based on 16 reviews
Gulf Breeze, fl

All that we had hoped for.

  • 5 of 5

We had a fabulous time at Sentinel Pine!  It was truly a dream come true.  We wanted it to be special because we were celebrating our 50th anniversary and in every way it could not have been better!!  Our group consisted of 5 families, with 10 adults and 15 cousins from 9 to 21 years old. The accommodations really worked out well and gave the children a chance to sleep over with a different family when they wanted.   The children and the adults were not on their cell phones and we didn't even think about TV.  We felt like we had our own private camp...the kayaks, row boat, paddle boards, fishing poles, diving board and all the sports equipment were used.  They had a wonderful time playing and exploring, skipping rocks, catching crawfish, fishing, playing tennis, looking for arrowheads, swimming and then staying up in the main lodge until the wee hours of the morning playing poker. We also had a great time going into Glacier National Park, rafting and horseback riding. Going to the Big Fork Summer Playhouse was a real treat and both children were really impressed with the quality of the production. Tom (the onsite caretaker) was very attentive to our needs!  He could not have been more helpful in his suggestions for hiking trails and just answering any questions we had.  He took Bob and I out to pick huckleberries so the next morning we made huckleberry pancakes for everyone.  That was truly a Montana treat!!

We hated to leave this beautiful property.  It was so nice to just sit on the dock or in a lawn chair in the evening and soak in the beauty we were surrounded by.  Our whole family also enjoyed the ball field in a competitive game of kick ball and we loved seeing the deer grazing on it in the mornings or evenings.   Our week at Sentinel Pine is something we will always cherish!!!  Sincerely,  Elaine and Bob  

  • Submitted: Aug 3, 2017
  • Stayed: July 2017
  • Source: VRBO, from HomeAway
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  • 5 of 5

Dear Jim –

Wanted to personally thank you again for the extraordinary week our group spent at your Sentinel Pine property. We get together every year, are very close and are not easily impressed. But we met our match this time. We have people of all kinds – single, married with kids, married without kids – you name it. We never had our get together out West, let alone in a place as evocative, accommodating and impressive as yours. Everyone was overwhelmed and had an amazing time, including the young kids, who will have unforgettable memories of that week for the rest of their lives. From the gorgeous main lodge, to the charming cabins, to the extraordinary lake, to the attention to detail in every field, nook and cranny, to the amazing environs (Glacier, Jewel Basin, Bigfork and much, much more) we couldn't have asked for a more unique and special experience. Your caretaker Tom, who has been in the hospitality business for years, was incredibly attentive to all of us and wonderfully sensitive to the needs and nature education of the kids. A vacation like this is not inexpensive, but the joy and camaraderie that your remarkable property brought to each and every one us will stay with us for a very long time – it is a remarkable value. Thank you again for enabling us to share this magical place, which is so clearly infused with the love of the family that has nurtured it for generations and which stands today as the sentinel that it is: an indelible and majestic part of the history of its spectacular surroundings.

Alan, August 2017

  • Submitted: Aug 1, 2017
  • Stayed: June 2017
  • Source: VRBO, from HomeAway
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Bucket List Trip!

  • 5 of 5

If you're looking for a Montana adventure that includes Glacier National Park, Fishing, hiking, wildlife, etc. or just want to disconnect and get away from it all then Sentinel Pine is the place to stay. We started our days with coffee on the huge porch overlooking the pristine Swan Lake and ended our days with dinner on the huge 20 foot long handmade dining room table. Deserts consisted of a glass of Red on the dock while watching the fish jumping during incredible Montana sunsets, or a good book, a toasty fire in the huge main lodge fireplace and a cocktail. (You'll sleep like a baby every night!) In between we experienced the all the beauty western Montana has to offer including Glacier National Park, fantastic fishing and kayaking on the Swan and Montana wildlife of just about every kind.

While en-route to Montana I was offered advice by 2 different people at 2 different airports to fish with the same guide. How could I go wrong! During the full day float trip down the Swan River I boated 15 fish from 5 different trout species. This was definitely a bucket list trip!

Sentinel Pine is a cozy and well maintained private home on the shores of Swan Lake which is surrounded by snow caped (thru Mid June) mountains. The two main buildings are beautifully handcrafted traditional log cabins and decorated in a manner that bring you back to a simpler time. The décor, especially the wide wrap around porch of the main lodge brought back memories of my grandparents and growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

Thanks to the owners and their caretaker, we had the best vacation in years. What a special place.

  • Submitted: Sep 30, 2016
  • Stayed: June 2016
  • Source: VRBO, from HomeAway
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Milton, Massachusetts, USA

An Exceptional Vacation Experience

  • 5 of 5

I wanted to let you know what an incredible time our wedding party of 25 guests had at the Sentinel Pine in early August, it exceeded even our already very high expectations. There is no place like NW Montana, no place like Swan Lake and there is simply no place like the Sentinel Pine on Swan Lake. We felt so very special to be able to stay there. We had guests in virtually every bed and there were arguments in the evening trying to decide who had the best accommodations as they were all terrific. Special thanks to Robert and Carol who had the place looking great when we arrived and who were there to answer all our questions and provide assistance. The kids and adults loved hanging out on the dock and we were all shocked when my young nephews figured out that a simple, well-placed night crawler over the side would raise a number of fairly large trout. We would recommend the Sentinel Pine to anyone, and I must say that it was an outstanding value, well worth every penny for sure. We look forward to a return stay in future summers, and wish you the best.

  • Submitted: Jan 19, 2015
  • Stayed: July 2014
  • Source: VRBO, from HomeAway
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Unbelievable vacation!

  • 5 of 5

My family vacation was perfect! The property seemed endless and was well maintained. The on-site caretaker made sure everything was in order and any questions we had were answered! The kids had plenty to do between the tennis, baseball field, and the dock on the lake (and more). We enjoyed drinks on the dock at night with breathtaking views of the sunset over lake and mountains.

  • Submitted: Oct 1, 2014
  • Stayed: July 2014
  • Source: VRBO, from HomeAway
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Salt Lake City, Utah

Second Time Around --- Just as nice as before!

  • 5 of 5

This was the second time we stayed at Sentinel Pine and it was just as beautiful as it was the summer before. It was earlier in the season and the weather was not as warm, so the estate had a different feel to it. We spent more evenings inside the main lodge this time around, staying cozy and playing games. Though on the last day the sun came out and we were sunbathing on the dock again. Amazing kitchen for large group dinners, yet enough space for everyone to do their own thing during the day. Great venue for a large group! Owners were awesome in reserving, and the groundskeepers were attentive and helpful during our stay. A+! Again!

  • Submitted: Feb 19, 2014
  • Stayed: June 2013
  • Source: VRBO, from HomeAway
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Nearby activities and amenities include:

* Flathead Lake tour boats

* First class golf courses

* Glacier National Park

* Horseback riding

* Glacier Park

* Browsing Bigfork, Whitefish, and Kalispell

* Geat summer theater

* Outstanding restaurants

* Hiking and walking trails

* Flathead Lake fishing

* Parasailing

* Whitewater rafting

* Spa services

* Art galleries

* Fine dining in over 30 area restaurants

* Helicopter tours

* Bicycle rentals

* Boat rentals on Swan Lake


Rates & Availability

Taxes and fees are additional

Additional information about rental rates


Owner's Cancellation Policy

  • Canceled bookings will not receive a refund