July 2016 – Up in northwestern Montana, not too far from Libby and the beautiful eagle that lives at Libby Dam, we came across two wonderful out-of-the-way scenic spots: Kootenai Falls and the Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area.
At Kootenai Falls, which is 12 miles west of Libby, the pretty hiking trail took us over an overpass high above a set of train tracks. We were lucky to be on it just as a big train zoomed underneath.
As we hiked on the trail through the woods down towards Kootenai Falls, suddenly the view opened up and we could see the fast moving Kootenai River,
There were some slabs of rocks along the banks that had fabulous swirling patterns in them.
The trail branches into several short offshoots that go to pretty overlooks, but the direction everyone heads is towards the Swinging Bridge.
This rickety bridge spans the Kootenai River high above, and it is not exactly a rugged structure. Only five people can use it at a time, so a little line had formed with people waiting to get across.
Once on the bridge, it felt a little dicey underfoot. Some folks tip-toed across, hanging onto the rails for dear life as the bridge swung and swayed, but most stopped for a pic and a wave.
On the other side there were many places to get a lovely view of the river, and we found a family fishing on the riverbank.
The falls themselves are shallow and wide, nearly spanning the width of a bend in the river, and the water pours over the slabs of rock at a very fast clip.
We enjoyed the tranquility and peacefulness of Kootenai Falls so much that after our first visit on a very busy weekend, we returned a second time mid-week when we had the trails almost to ourselves.
Twenty-five miles south of Kootenai Falls is the wondrous Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area.
This beautiful 100 acre woods is filled with cedar trees that are as old as 1,000 years.
The hiking trails wanderes around in glorious loops that were not particularly well marked. But that is part of the fun of this magical place.
We strolled here and there, mesmerized by the green mossy undergrowth and waving leaves.
The ferns were thick and there was a delightful pungence in the air.
But the eye-popper at Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area is the massive cedar trees themselves. These giant and ancient trees bring out the kid in everyone who wanders these trails, and Mark was no different. When he saw a split in a tree trunk, he couldn’t help but climb inside!!
Well, two can play that game, so I jumped into another one with him!!
The trees’ tip-tops tower above this forest, but we couldn’t take our eyes off their enormous trunks. Walking from tree to tree, we pondered their age and gentle spirits and the many centuries of human history they have quietly lived through while standing in one place in a remote Montana forest.
The Ross Creek Cedars are smaller than the Giant Sequoia trees we saw in Yosemite National Park years ago, but they have a special aura because they aren’t world famous and they can’t be found on post cards!
Of course, this was a fun place for photography too. There are fallen trees strewn here and there, and we found many lying on the ground. At one point, we heard a loud crash and breaking of branches high in the trees about 100 feet away from us. Apparently, a huge limb had fallen. We searched and searched, though, and never found it!!
One dead trunk was still standing but had lost all of its interior. It was just a shell of its former self with a small opening on one side.
We stepped inside and were instantly surrounded by the outer walls of the tree. I couldn’t help but feel that this was as close as I would ever come to knowing what it’s like to be a tree. The trunk was so huge that it was like standing in a closet, but the tree went up and up and up to the sky high above me.
As we wandered around on the trails — they all seemed to be loops, so no matter where we went, we eventually wound up where we started — we met lots of other people who were hiking in this magical forest too.
Suddenly a very little boy appeared on the trail ahead of us. He was so young, he had only recently learned to walk. He was totally dwarfed by the giant tree trunks around him and seemed to be loving the hike.
He made his way between the tree trunks and looked for all the world like he was out on safari, complete with a stick over his shoulder and a huge grin on his face.
Nearby, we found a collection of Inukshuks in a riverbed. When we were up at Athabasca Falls at Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies, we bumped into a whole riverbank full of these unusual rock cairns that people had built. We had no idea what they were at the time, but several knowledgeable readers pointed out that they have their origins with the Inuit native people of the far north and can be found all over Canada.
Apparently, they can be found in Montana too!
We thoroughly enjoyed our RV trip through the northwestern corner of Montana.
And we took our time making our way past lovely Bull Lake and on towards Idaho.
If you have a hankering to take your RV on a road trip to these beautiful spots, there are more links about them below.
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Kootenai Falls, Ross Creek Cedars, and Other Info:
- Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
- Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area – Kootenai National Forest Info
- Ross Creek Scenic Scenic Area – More Info from Kootenai National Forest
- Location of Kootenai Falls and Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area in NW Montana
- What is an Inukshuk (rock cairn)?
More blog posts from our RV travels in NW Montana and Northern Idaho plus another Famous Swinging Bridge:
- McCall, Idaho – Summer Beach Fun on Pretty Payette Lake 09/14/16
- An Idaho Panhandle RV Trip on US-95: Sandpoint, Moscow & McCall 09/10/16
- Eagles and Hummingbirds in Libby, Montana 08/31/16
- Whitefish to Libby – Big Surprises on the Back Roads of Montana 08/28/16
- Northern Idaho – Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes 08/23/07
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