Kootenai Falls Hike, Cabinet Mountains, Montana

     We were lazy this morning and I was ok with it because I knew the days plans were a bit more relaxed. We took our time at breakfast, sipping coffee by the fire and enjoying the kids company, even got a chance to teach Jameson how to shoot the BB gun for the first time while knocking a few cans off a stump in camp, it was fun.  Eventually we got moving, made some sandwiches for lunch and hit the road. It was getting hot already as we made our way north along Highway 56. I decided to take a left in the direction of Dor Skeels Campground to scout it out for a possible future trip, the swim beach was super nice but as for the campground it was less than desirable, sites were stacked on top of each other liked cord wood. Back on the highway we continued north and eventually reached the boat check again, this time is was much quicker. We took a right onto Highway 2 and soon found the pullout for Kootenai Falls.

     I’m glad we chose to hike the falls on a Monday because it was packed the day before. After a quick stop at the restroom we picked up the paved trail through a cool forest that preceded downhill through a switchback to a bouncing bridge spanning some railroad tracks. Once across the tracks we switchbacked down the knee grater stairs to the dirt path below. We continued north until we reached the river where we could hear the falls. Once at the junction with the swinging bridge we went right heading upstream and before long reached our first panoramic view of the river near a massive rock. The rock was cool to the touch, and partially shaded so we took a seat to take in the emerald river and its torrent of whitewater tumbling over the falls. The view is spectacular and the falls difficult, being a whitewater boater I’m always looking for a line through moving water and from here I couldn’t see one. The falls starts out in a series of river wide stair step ledges which would be very difficult to read from upstream, eventually the river channels down funneling you over a 20 foot drop into more swift water, ah, no thanks. After our short stay we moved on, continuing upstream before finding a trail down to the river’s edge where being at the base of the upper falls really put things in perspective. Jameson and Kylie are a bit fearless around the water, maybe it comes from running rivers, but it sure made me nervous knowing that one wrong move and they would be a goner. After looking for tadpoles we moved on, back downstream. Eventually we regained the sign for the swinging bridge and went left.

     The trail is well used going downstream, maybe more so than the upper trail. We made our way past old twisty trees and over roots and rock until we eventually reached the suspension bridge. This thing looked like something straight out of Indiana Jones, it was awesome. We climbed the stairs to the top and waited our turn to cross the bridge, they only allow five people on it at a time. The vista was spectacular, I much preferred the downstream view while Robin liked the upstream view, opposites attract i guess. We eventually crossed the swinging bridge which swung more the closer you got to the opposite side of the river. Once across the river Kylie was hot, thirsty, and ready to turn back. We didn’t pack any water because we didn’t plan on being on the trail that long, I should have brought some anyway. I was eventually able to coach her down the trail a bit further after pointing out a nice beach just upstream where a creek was coming in, obviously she wasn’t happy to hear it but went along anyway. After about 5 more minutes of hiking we crossed Kool Creek and made our way down the riverside over a pebble beach. Kylie was happy to dip her toes in the cool water of the Kootenai River while Jameson spent his time shifting boulders in Kool Creek above us changing the direction of the water and how it flowed toward the river. We cooled off for a while skipping rocks and just enjoying the solitude of the little beach, this side of the river is a lot quieter than the highway side, but eventually it was time to go. After dipping my hat in the water one last time to cool my head we made the hike out. Back at the trailhead we couldn’t help but stop at the snack shack for some of the biggest scoops of huckleberry ice cream i had ever seen, we found a bench in the shade and licked away for a long long time. For more pictures from the hike, click the link. Kootenai Falls Hike

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