Kootenai Falls, Montana: Stop here!

Kootenai Falls is on Highway 2, which crosses Northern Montana and takes you all the way to Glacier National Park. Noelle here, by the way. The drive itself is beautiful as we meandered through mountains and valleys and along rivers. I’d read about the falls on Pinterest…because, yeah, I pretty much look up everything over there! And it looked like a great spot. It’s between the cities of Libby and Troy, both of which are cute towns.

Navigating with Cupcake

We’ve begun selecting a place to visit and then we switch Google maps to satellite mode in order to check out the parking situation. If it looks like we can easily fit with Cupcake, and possibly even stay the night, then it’s a good fit. The Kootenai Falls parking lot looked like a winner on Google maps!

We got there around 5:00 on a Friday evening and the lot was still pretty full. So we hung out in the camper for a little bit till the crowds thinned out. Then we pretty much had the area to ourselves! It was heavenly. There’s a snack shop in the lot, which had already closed for the day but looked like it had quite a few selections. From the parking lot, you walk through a treed picnic area created by the Libby Lions Club. There are tables, benches, BBQ cooking areas and a neat old rock fireplace dating from the 1930s. It’s really quite nice.

Railroad bridge

Down the trail, you come to a sign pointing to the Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge. The path first takes you to a caged bridge across the railroad tracks. We heard a train coming, so quickly ran onto the bridge to see it passing underneath us. That was fun! Three young men ran up from the other side, then abruptly stopped when they saw us like they were much too cool to be seen so excited. It’s one of the joys of being older (and a little sassy), as I smiled and asked if they ran up when they heard the train coming. One of them sheepishly admitted they had, so I said we had too. Then they breathed a sigh of relief and took some pictures. Chuckle, chuckle.

I quickly saw why they were so much more out of breath than we were, as they’d run up four flights of stairs on their side of the bridge, whereas we’d just run down the trail a little and straight onto it!

Swinging bridge at Kootenai Falls

A little further up the trail, there’s a fork which isn’t as clearly marked, so veer left for the bridge or right for the Falls. We chose to see the swinging bridge first, so we hooked a left. The trail is easy and mostly flat, a little rocky but easily traversable for families. As the bridge came into view, I could see Steve getting a little nervous. He’s not much one for heights. We’d been on a suspension bridge years before up in Canada. The Capilano Suspension bridge seems a little longer than the one at Kootenai Falls, but this one didn’t seem any less shaky!

We crossed the bridge, stopping in the middle to scare each other and to snap some photos, then we explored the other side awhile. You can see the Falls in the distance and we were eager to see them up close, so back over the bridge we went. Steve was a trooper, haha. I love his face at the beginning of this short video, then towards the end you can hear me start to get annoyed with him, as he kept shaking the bridge from the safety of its edge. Oh the joys of being together 24/7…

Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge

We backtracked to the fork and then took the trail to Kootenai Falls. It was getting close to 7pm by now and there were only a handful of other people. We walked down near the water and sat for a bit as the sun began to set. What a gorgeous ending to a day in Montana. Such a pretty place.

We did not end up staying the night in the parking lot, as there was a sign saying no camping. We’re not entirely sure that applies to us, as we’re not technically camping and it didn’t say ” no overnight parking”, but still, we’re rule followers, so we went on down the road. We came back early the next morning to explore more of the Falls themselves. And we were not disappointed!

Kootenai Falls: Fishing and families

We skipped the bridge this time and went right over to the Falls. We explored further up the trail and could see more of the “beginning” area. So pretty! We scrambled up and over rocks to get closer to the water. Then we just sat for a while to look and to listen. Nothing quite beats the sound of water roaring across boulders. Kootenai Falls did not disappoint! Check out this short video and the pictures I snapped while we were there.

We saw a man and his daughters fishing for red salmon. The fish were swimming upstream to spawn, and he was actually snagging them. One after another. He said they would smoke them once they got ’em home. We watched them for quite a while, which was fascinating. The older girl seemed as intrigued with us as I was with them.

The dad would cast and almost immediately snag a fish. Then he’d hand off to one of the girls, so they could experience the reeling in. The littlest girl couldn’t really pull them up the cliff, but the older girl proudly reeled with all her might. Dad did help her towards the top. We chatted with them for a bit, then slowly made our way back to the truck. On our way back, we saw a young man literally running back with his fishing gear. He’d talked with the Fishing Dad also, and was clearly very eager to try his own hand at catching some salmon.

Kootenai Falls is a great place to spend a morning or even the better part of a day. Grab a picnic lunch from the little cafe and stay awhile!

Kootenai Falls offers hiking, exploring and an amazing suspension bridge.  It's a beautiful area that showcases Montana's nature.


  1. Liberty

    Thank you for a thoughtful posting! We are making a trip from the Puget Sound area to Glacier and are planning hwy 2 over – so, I am looking for some places to visit for our family. This just made it to the top of our list I think!

    • mcgarveysan

      Thanks Liberty! We really enjoyed our whole Hwy 2 drive. Beautiful! I don’t know what kind of car your driving but Sauk Mountain is gorgeous and a great day hike. The drive up is kinda long and steep though! Check out our post about it too. Also Rainy Pass is worth a stop. Some beautiful hikes around there.

    • mcgarveysan

      Also around Glacier is Hungry Horse Reservoir. It’s fantastic!

  2. Heidi Halverson

    Beautiful. I like Tripadvisor for planning trips. They show location, pics, with good current reviews. You can then “like” something and add it to a saved “trip”. They show popular things (restaurants, hotels…) close each item. e.g:

    Kootenai Falls & Swinging Bridge
    353 Reviews
    #1 of 17 things to do in Libby

    FYI Walmart allows anyone and everyone to “camp” in their parking lots nationwide. Yeah, its Walmart, but I think it is a great convenient service. For when you are in a town…

    • mcgarveysan

      Hi Heidi, We like Tripadvisor within the US too. They’re pretty helpful. Not all Walmarts allow RV’ers anymore. A couple have even told me that if we’re in the lot at closing, the manager will call the police. I guess maybe a few bad apples spoiled it for the rest of us. I read that some people now “camp” in hospital parking lots instead. Who knows how successful that would be though! Learning to stealth camp is a budding talent. 🙂

  3. VFat

    Steve is in long pants. Dressing up?

    Destination suggestion: Hell’s Gate north of Hope, BC. The Fraser River goes through a narrow canyon. Similar to Kootenai but more intense. A tram ride down and back, and a bridge too, but not as cool as the one you were on…

    Destination suggestion: Just north of Smithers, BC is a Native fishing area where the river goes through a narrow cut. They use dip nets. Visible from the highway so you know where to turn off to see it.

    • mcgarveysan

      I know, it’s kind of surprising to see Steve in long pants! I almost forgot what he looks like in them. 🙂 I’m keeping a destination notebook, so I’m definitely adding both of yours to our list. It was so awesome to see you guys, thanks again for your hospitality!


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