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Home Wild Life Day Trip: Explore the Kootenai National Forest
Jul 17 2020

Day Trip: Explore the Kootenai National Forest

In honor of National Forest Week, explore the Kootenai and nearby towns of Libby and Troy

Exploring Montana

Spanning 2.2 million acres in the northwest corner of the state, the Kootenai National Forest is one of the largest national forests in Montana. There are endless places to explore in the Kootenai, including the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Scotchman Peaks, and Yaak Valley, and it’s also home to abundant wildlife such as grizzly bears, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, and westslope cutthroat trout. 

In honor of National Forest Week, we’re highlighting a handful of the best trails in the Kootenai National Forest – whether you’re a local or visitor, these trails are worth exploring. 

Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail

Roundtrip Distance: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 170 ft.

Explore the largest free-flowing waterfall in Montana and one of the largest in the northwest! Kootenai Falls near Troy is sacred to the Kootenai Tribe of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and a place they’ve fought hard to protect from development. In 2017, the six bands of the Kootenai (Ktunaxa) Nation celebrated the 30-year anniversary of their legal victory protecting this sacred site from the proposed development of a hydroelectric facility. 

This is truly a breathtaking sight to see, and If you’re in the area it’s worth the short hike to the falls. 

More trail details ↠

Ross Creek Cedars

Roundtrip Distance: 1 mile (7.5 miles in winter)
Elevation Gain:  100 feet

This perennial favorite is perfect for the whole family. The 1-mile interpretive loop, on the edge of the Scotchman Peaks Proposed Wilderness, gives hikers a glimpse of ancient cedars. Enjoy this easy loop spring through fall, or travel by skis or snowshoes in winter when the silent cedar grove is particularly magical. 

More trail details ↠

Explore nearby towns of Libby and Troy:

Farmers Markets - Find unique items from local artisans and produce from regional farmers at the Troy and Libby farmers’ markets.

  • Libby Farmers Market: Thursdays (through September), 3-7 p.m. at Libby Chamber of Commerce (905 W 9th St)
  • Troy Farmers Market: Fridays (through September), 3:30-6:30 p.m. at Troy Museum (700 E. Missoula Ave.)

Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company (Libby) - Enjoy a locally brewed beer and lunch or dinner at “Libby’s living room” (as they so aptly dub themselves).

R Place Restaurant and Drive-Thru (Troy) - A cute little diner serving lunch and dinner that boasts the “best burgers in town.” If you’re looking for something sweet, they serve huckleberry shakes and cones. 
Facebook page

Dave Blackburn’s Kootenai Angler (Libby) - Dave has been providing guided fly fishing trips on the Kootenai River since 1982. Whether you’re a pro, new to fly fishing, or looking for a fun outing with the whole family, Dave can plan an angling outing for you.

Other trails to explore in the vast Kootenai National Forest:

McGuire Mountain

Roundtrip Distance: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
Nearest town: Eureka

A perfect stop on a multi-day trip exploring the Yaak Valley, this moderate trail ascends to the highest point in the Salish Mountains. Spend an afternoon taking in the vast views from the top, or spend the night in the historic lookout (recreation.gov).

More trail details ↠

Northwest Peak

Roundtrip Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
Nearest town: Yaak (unincorporated)

When you climb up to aptly-named Northwest Peak, you’ll have 360-degree views of far northwest Montana and into Canada. Take in the Purcell Mountains extending north into British Columbia, and the Cabinet Mountains stretching to the south. And, if 4 miles just isn’t enough for you, continue east or west on the 1,200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (pnt.org).

More trail details ↠

Bluebird Lake

Roundtrip Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,110 feet
Nearest town: Eureka

Get a taste of the Ten Lakes Scenic Area, 15,000 wild acres on the northwest edge of the Whitefish Range. Gradually ascend through spruce forests, enjoy views of the surrounding mountains, wander through open meadows, and arrive at Bluebird Lake. Whether you’re just out to enjoy a day on the trail, catch a cutthroat, or collect some huckleberries, you won’t be disappointed.

More trail details ↠

For more details on each of these hikes, plus 250 other trail descriptions, visit hikewildmontana.org.

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Keely Damara
Communications Coordinator

Keely provides communications support for our chapters, programs, and campaigns and manages our social media channels. In her free time, she enjoys fly fishing on Montana's scenic rivers, hiking, camping, and exploring public lands in her home state.
Email Keely