Things to do in NW Montana: Swinging Bridge
There are plenty of activities to do in the Kalispell Montana area! But why stay in town where there are even more things to do within a few hours drive? The urge to explore a part of the state we’d never seen before was strong this weekend, so off we went.
We decided to check out the Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge, located between Libby and Troy MT. It’s easy to get to. Just head West on Route 2 in Kalispell for about 105 miles and you’ll be there! Your trip will take you past the town of Marion and then you’re basically in the mountains until you get to Libby. You’ll pass multiple lakes on your left, but otherwise you’ll mostly just see trees, valleys, hills and mountains. Cell service is non-existent through part of the drive, so it gives you more time to check out the environment. The ride is peaceful.
About 10 miles or so after you pass the town of Libby, you’ll see a sign that states “Kootenai Falls, 1/2 mile.” That’s the place you’re looking for! There’s a parking lot on the right hand side of the road. I’d read many reviews that indicated there wasn’t enough parking, which might be true on a normal summer weekend. But this year, we were able to park easily.
In addition to parking, the property also has rudimentary bathrooms (outhouses), picnic tables, and a concession stand in summer for food and beverages. There are also a few benches for resting.
When you’re ready to explore the falls and the swinging bridge, you will take the trail that winds past the rest rooms. There are rocks on this trail, so it’s not totally smooth but it’s relatively short and easy so hiking boots are not necessary. Sneakers should work fine. After walking a short way down the trail, you’ll need to cross a bridge over the railroad tracks, then walk down four tiers of steps on the other side. Please note the steps are a metal grid that you can see through. It’s a bit of an optical challenge if not a physical one. Our dog was hesitant going down!
When you continue a short way down the trail, you’ll come to a split. Left goes toward the swinging bridge, and right heads toward the falls. We chose left and after a few minutes had reached the swinging bridge.
Of possible interest, this area of the river is where the 1994 movie “The River Wild” was filmed. The bridge was originally put in place for firefighting purposes, but is now mostly used for sightseeing. Because of the amount of annual visitors, the bridge was rebuilt in 2019 and made wider. Apparently it was a bit scarier prior to reconstruction. I did cross it and didn’t find it scary at all, although it did “swing” under my feet. For the record, I tried to take a video but must not have hit the record button because it did not come out. Oops.
The other option in terms of things to see while in this park is the Kootenai Falls. The falls are considered sacred by the Kootenai Indians. The river drops 90 feet in less than a mile. The main part of the water falls is 30 feet high. Unfortunately, our puppy wasn’t being too cooperative in terms of his behavior and energy levels so we didn’t get to the Falls for photos, but did get this picture of the river from the bridge.
I would definitely recommend checking this area out if you are free one day and want to get out of Kalispell to do some exploring. The ride takes about two hours from town, and the actual walking to the falls and bridge only takes about a half-hour or so. But you can also have a picnic, wander around the town of Libby or continue on to the town of Troy. You’re also only about 30 minutes from the Idaho border while at the Kootenai Falls, so exploration of another state is also possible!
More ideas for exploring Montana will be coming in future posts. For more on Montana Places, click here. And if you want to read about hiking in Montana, click here.
Until next time, happy exploring!