Cascade Falls Overlook Hike, Clark Fork River, Montana

     It was our annual trip to Quinn’s Hot Spring, our lone night away from the kids. This year was different, we had to delay our trip because of a mandatory meeting I had to attend with my future employer. I had just received news that I was being laid off two days ago, making this trip to the hot spring especially needed. This year we were also inviting our friends the Fitch’s. We took two cars because of our delayed departure, which gave Robin and I a chance to catch up. We stopped for lunch at City Limits Pub where we split a hefty burger and a flight of beers. Back on the freeway we approached the summit of Lookout Pass, usually the drive is pretty but on this day it was drop dead gorgeous. Western larch were glowing gold in their peak of fall color. I truly adore this tree and to see it in such a splendid display is a real treat. The entire drive was magnificent with the peak of fall color displayed along the river banks. We left I-90 at St. Regis continuing north along the Clark Fork River, and 17 miles later found the trailhead for Cascade Falls Overlook and Iron Mountain at Cascade Campground.  

     The trail began under a canopy of western larch with golden needles covering the path. We climbed to the first and only switch back at an interpretive sign that talked of an old mine on Iron Mountain. Just beyond the sign we encountered a small group of hikers on the way out. The trail was in great shape as it traversed the ridge then heading downhill. Limited views began to open up through the trees to distant mountain peaks and eventually down to the Clark Fork River. At one spot in the trail we could see and hear the roar of Cascade Rapid, the only named riffle between St. Regis and Paradise. I had actually run the rapid years ago on my brothers bachelor party trip, I remember at the time that it caught my attention as I was nervous about it. Today, after having ran lots of river miles and rapids I would hardly notice Cascade Rapid as anything of significance. Beyond the rapid we reached a high point at a bench before losing a little elevation as the trail headed inland away from the river entering a dry creek valley.

     In the distance were blue skies and high summits bathed in golden needles of western larch. We continued the climb passing another bench at a switchback before eventually reaching a signed junction for the overlook. We headed left through another stand of western larch before finding a commanding view of the Cascade Creek valley all the way to the Clark Fork River. In the distance we could actually make out the roofs of the cabins at Quinn’s Hot Spring, our eventual destination for the night. After a short break taking in the view and listening to the creek we decided to head out. We made quick work of the trail out and before long found ourselves back at the car and eventually the hot springs at Quinn’s. For more pictures click the link. Cascade Falls Overlook Hike


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