Ross Creek Cedars & Kootenai Falls – Giant Trees & Swings in Montana!

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.

Railway train at Kootenai Falls Montana

Hiking into Kootenai Falls, an overpass took us high above an oncoming train – cool!

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,

Kootenai Falls Montana

Kootenai River at Kootenai Falls in Northwestern Montana

There were some slabs of rocks along the banks that had fabulous swirling patterns in them.

Kootenai River at Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area Montana

Swishes and swirls in the rocks on the riverbank caught my eye.

The trail branches into several short offshoots that go to pretty overlooks, but the direction everyone heads is towards the Swinging Bridge.

Kootenai Falls and swinging bridge Montana

Besides the falls, this area is known for its wonderful and wobbly 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.

Swinging Bridge Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area Montana

Not everyone ventured across the river on this thing, but those that wanted to had to wait!!

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.

Swinging bridge at Kootenai Falls Montana

It was a neat fun-house kind of walk high up in the air!

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.

Fishing on the Kootenai River at Kootenai Falls Montana

Catching dinner on the Kootenai River.

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.

Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area Montana

The falls are flat and wide, but a telephoto lens brought them in close

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.

Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area Montana

Kootenai Falls

Twenty-five miles south of Kootenai Falls is the wondrous Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area.

Path through the woods Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Montana

A boardwalk on the trail at Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area.

This beautiful 100 acre woods is filled with cedar trees that are as old as 1,000 years.

Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Kootenai National Forest Montana

These mossy woods seemed to come straight out of a fantasy novel.

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.

USFS Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Montana

Beautiful greenery all around.

We strolled here and there, mesmerized by the green mossy undergrowth and waving leaves.

Leaves at Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Montana

Mark’s creative juices were flowing with this shot!

The ferns were thick and there was a delightful pungence in the air.

Ferns and cedars at Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Montana

Ferns grew thickly here and there on the forest floor.

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!!

Enormous Ross Creek Cedars Kootenai National Forest Montana

What we came for — the ancient and giant cedar trees. Wow!

Well, two can play that game, so I jumped into another one with him!!

Happy campers at Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Montana

There’s room for two!

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!

Gigantic Cedar trees at Ross Creek Montana

The gigantic tree trunks were awe-inspiring.

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!!

Crazy trunks on fallen cedar trees Ross Creek Montana

There were fallen trees that let us see their roots from underneath.

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.

Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Kootenai National Forest Montana

A wee hiker showed up between the trees.

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.

Ross Creek Cedar Scenic Area Kootenai National Forest Montana

This little guy has adventure in his soul!!

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!

Inukshuk at Ross Creek Cedars Montana

We were surprised to see a collection of Inukshuks in a riverbed.

We thoroughly enjoyed our RV trip through the northwestern corner of Montana.

RV trip to Kootenai Falls and Ross Creek Cedar Scenic Area Montana

Peace in Montana

Full moon Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area Montana

A full moon rises behind the trees.

And we took our time making our way past lovely Bull Lake and on towards Idaho.

Sunset Bull Lake Montana

Sunset at Bull Lake.

If you have a hankering to take your RV on a road trip to these beautiful spots, there are more links about them below.

Reflections on Bull Lake Montana

Morning mist on Bull Lake.

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Kootenai Falls, Ross Creek Cedars, and Other Info:

More blog posts from our RV travels in NW Montana and Northern Idaho plus another Famous Swinging Bridge:

Dudley Moore’s Swinging Bridge – A Visit to the Set of the Movie “10” !! 12/21/2010

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2 thoughts on “Ross Creek Cedars & Kootenai Falls – Giant Trees & Swings in Montana!

  1. Great photos of the Cedars and the falls glad that you like the Libby dam area we are going to volunteer next summer if you happen to be in the area. Hope to see you down south


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