Kootenai Falls and Suspension Bridge in Beautiful Montana.

Located on the Kootenai River, Kootenai Falls are more like whitewater river-rafting falls rather than huge, towering falls like Niagara Falls. Located at Kootenai River Rd, Libby, MT, it sits in the top, most-western corner of Montana, in a rather remote area. In Montana, the falls are approximately 4.5 hours from Butte or Helena and 3 hours from Missoula. It’s only about 20 minutes past Ross Creek Cedars (Ross Creek Cedars, Montana: Some Really Big Trees.) and 2.2 hours from Glacier National Park. In Idaho, it’s only 1 hour from Hope, 1.2 hours from Sandpoint, and 2.2 hours from Coeur d’ Alene.

The beauty is almost impossible to describe. I’ve been to Niagara Falls, seen the Seven Sisters Waterfall in Norway, as well as various waterfalls throughout states like Tennessee, Illinois, and California. NONE compared to the tranquility, peacefulness, beauty, and power of Kootenai Falls.

Luckily, Kootenai Falls and this area of the country has yet to fall prey to industrialization polluting it into a shell of its former self. It’s very rural. As mentioned, the nearest town is Libby, Montana, about 17 miles away, with a population of about 2,700. Kootenai the largest undammed falls in the state of Montana and is one of the largest waterfalls in the United States by flow rate. The falls are also considered to be a scared place to the Kootenai Tribe.

When you first arrive, be forewarned, there is one giant grey slab of a parking lot. There are no lines or outlined spaces, and everyone kind of just wings it the best they can. Right up front is a small concession stand selling the typical concession stand food likes cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and fries, as well as handkerchiefs, sunscreen, headache medicine, etc. Close by are a couple of port-a-potty style bathrooms, a water fountain, and a large sign describing the area and the history.

While at first the falls and the suspension bridge are in the same direction, after a short walk down the paved path, you will come to a T. Left goes to the suspension bridge and right goes to the falls. Both can be done easily in one day, even in just a couple of hours.

The hike to the falls is easy and simple, with a well-worn and maintained path that is only slightly rocky in some areas. After hiking for approximately .25 miles (or less), you’ll come to a rocky shelf that you can walk on and inch yourself towards the river/falls. The rocky shelf is relatively flat and very stable; however, it’s not impossible to trip and go tumbling over if you’re too close to the edge, so best to be cautious. 😶

I was unsure if I had gotten lucky, but there were only a few people there. This was in mid-June of 2020, so perhaps the pandemic had something to do with it. Regardless, it was wonderful 🙌🏼. However, I did go on a weekday. My friend and her husband went on a weekend only a few days after, and she said there were a lot of people there. So, plan accordingly!

The falls are not the only attraction drawing people to Kootenai. There is also a large, scary suspension bridge. Originally built in 1948, it was rebuilt even stronger after being destroyed by a major flood. I was utterly terrified. It’s quite long, bridging a wide gape of a relatively calm section of the Kootenai River, but also very swingy. It moves, swings, and jars you from side to side, especially if you attempt to walk across as someone else walks across from the other side. In fact, this bridge is almost not wide enough for two people to cross at the same time. I found that most people were polite and waited to cross one at a time.

The hike to the suspension bridge is notably more difficult than the hike to the falls. It’s approximately .5(ish) miles, and is a much more strenuous and rockier walk. At one point, you have to Spiderman your way down a slight, rocky hill covered with rather loose dirt. There are no stairs or handrails, and there is no actual trail. Once you make it down, you then must climb down 3 sets of stairs, which takes you over train tracks. Then it’s on to a fairly easy portion; however, there are parts that are tougher and more tiring than others. There are numerous opportunities to jet off the trail along the way and make your way down to the river.

Once I reached the bridge, there were about 6 or 7 people on one side and 5 on the other. After waiting for my chance to walk to the middle and take some pictures, I got the heck out of dodge. I am deathly afraid of heights and was deathly afraid of dropping my iPhone into a violent river, never to be seen again. I never made it to the other side, something I regret not forcing myself to do.

Taken from the middle of the bridge.

Overall, Kootenai Falls is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s extremely peaceful, grand, and magnificent, and one of the best places I’ve ever been to in nature. It’s rather isolated, however, the isolation keeps it so clean and gorgeous. Visit this place if you can because I promise, you will not regret it!

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