Kootenai Falls, Montana

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) has offered many opportunities to explore the wilderness around me. I have seen forests, rivers, lakes, and all sorts of natural wonders throughout all of my life, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed and returned to is Kootenai Falls.

The falls is part of the Kootenai River and is very large and undammed, creating a lot of free flowing water. It is one of the biggest falls in this area, offering breathtaking views of the river and the mountains surrounding it. There are several great view points and you can actually get fairly close to the water, allowing you to take great pictures. It is seven miles away from Libby, Montana and is easily accessible if you take Highway 37 north. It is really easy to see the turnout and the highway and train tracks run alongside the river.

A small portion of the falls

The falls are open at most times of the year, but the best time is definitely during spring, since the river is at its highest due to runoff from the snow. Most of the pictures in this post are from late spring, where the water is still high, but the flow has diminished a little bit, making it easy to see the falls up close. If you are lucky, you may be able to see elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, or mule deer up on the surrounding mountains.

The trails in and around the area are very clear cut and well worn, making them easy to navigate for most physical states. There is little variation in elevation and the trails to the falls are short, making them perfect for all ages. However, they are not wheelchair accessible and I would not recommend the trails for people who have poor balance or depth perception, since there are some roots and uneven surfaces.

The trail to the bridge
Signs towards the hikes

My personal favorite part of this area is the Swinging Bridge, which is a long rope bridge extending over the gorge and the rapids. It was originally built by the forest service to access forest fires, but has been rebuilt since its original construction. It is a half mile hike from the same starting point of the falls hike. For those afraid of heights, I would not recommend it since it is about a hundred feet over the water and does swing (it is completely safe though!).

View of the bridge from the sides
Swinging Bridge

Overall, if you are looking for a day trip from Sandpoint, Clark Fork, Libby, Troy, or any other nearby places or just looking for someplace to stop while passing through, Kootenai Falls is a fabulous place to stop to see the power of nature and the wilderness.