The Best Montana Waterfalls

As Montana is often referred to as the ‘Mountain State’, it comes as no surprise that it is home to its fair share of natural and impressive waterfalls. Montana’s waterfalls are plentiful, to say the least, and there are at least 120 named ones in the region, along with a large number of unnamed cascades. We’re going to take you through the best Montana waterfalls…

The majority of the best Montana waterfalls are located somewhere close to the Rocky Mountain region, which also means many are to be found in national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone. Anyone with an interest in checking out some Montana waterfalls will often find themselves encountering some highly scenic, and quite often ‘off-the-beaten path’ experiences on the trails that lead to them.

Some of the waterfalls admittedly take a fair bit of trekking to reach, while others are far easier to access. But whether you are taken with the idea of stunning 280-feet tall monster falls or scenic, rushing cascades, you’ll find something impressive on our list of some of the best Montana waterfalls

Ten Waterfalls in Montana

  1. Woodbine Falls
  2. Virginia Falls/St. Mary Falls
  3. Kootenai Falls
  4. Ousel Falls
  5. Running Eagle Falls
  6. Apikuni Falls
  7. Pinkham Creek Falls
  8. Holland Falls
  9. Swiftcurrent Falls
  10. Grinnell Falls

1. Woodbine Falls

woodbine falls
Image: Trevor Manternach

This impressive waterfall is reportedly the biggest in Montana, with an almost 300-feet drop that cascades into the Stillwater River. The fall is surrounded by stunning views and rugged wilderness, heading towards the remote Beartooth Range near Nye in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

This Montana waterfall is relatively easy to access but it is actually in a quiet region of the state. So it doesn’t get that many visitors, which makes a trek out towards this impressive fall even more fulfilling. The stillness and quiet in the area around the waterfall can provide a refreshing and rejuvenating picnic spot, although watch out for the odd bear or two that may be taking a wander if you do decide to stop off.

2. Virginia Falls (and St. Mary Falls)

virginia falls

These two Montana waterfalls are located in close proximity on a trail that also includes a few other less well-known falls on Virginia Creek, in Glacier National Park. It’s kind of difficult not to see both of them, on the fairly short hike along the trail that leads to them.

St. Mary Falls, with its two-tiered, 50-foot falls can be seen from a bridge across Virginia Creek. The more powerful-looking Virginia Falls are just a bit farther along from St. Mary, and its waters flow and cascade into Virginia Creek at the bottom. The trail that provides the opportunity to see both these falls usually culminates in the impressive Virginia Falls. You’ll encounter scenic mountains surrounding the trail, which allows distant views of St Mary Lake.

3. Kootenai Falls

kootenai falls

The Kootenai River is located slightly east of the Idaho Panhandle, and is one of the few remaining undammed large rivers in the United States. And that is just where you find these colorful and powerful-looking falls. There is a swinging bridge across a section of the river which actually allows access over some of the falls, which are one of the largest in the state.

If you’ve ever seen the award-winning movie ‘The Revenant’ you may well have caught sight of these very falls in that particular flick. The falls hold particular relevance to the Native American Kootenai tribe who believes them to pinpoint the center of the world, and the surrounding local fauna and wildlife are both plentiful and wide-ranging.

4. Ousel Falls

ousel falls

This waterfall is reportedly more than 50-feet high and is located within close proximity to Big Sky. Because of this, it seems like a much less remote fall than some of the others, where you might catch the odd Big Sky local taking a hike or a jog along the trail, the actual vicinity of which is the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River, hence this waterfall isn’t in a national park.

There are three bridges that lead to the waterfall, which itself is quite tranquil and emanates a kind of rejuvenating energy. You can in fact access the falls from four different trails which all provide different perspectives, but the far-right fork allows possibly the best viewing point by way of ‘South Fork Overlook’. If you fancy going up a bit higher, one of the trails leads to the top of the falls and the path to the foot of the falls which is a decent spot for a picnic.

5. Running Eagle Falls

running eagle falls

The Running Eagle Falls in the Glacier National Park’s Two Medicine Valley offer a slightly different perspective on Montana waterfalls. The water has the effect of falling on top of itself, which is why these falls are sometimes called “Trick Falls”. The majority of Two Medicine Creek flows through a kind of natural bridge and the overflow of the creek runs over the lip of the cliff, which then creates the so-called trick effect.

The unique-looking pointed peaks of the park’s surrounding mountains add even more effect to the unique look of the water, which makes the area worth witnessing at least once. The falls are easily accessible to everyone via a well-maintained trail that crosses over the creek not too far before you reach the falls. Just a short distance from there is one of the best lookout points, although there are a few that all offer slightly different perspectives.

In the spring when more water flows than at any other time, there is a 40-foot drop that pretty much covers a smaller cascade below, although this becomes visible later in the year during the drier months.

6. Apikuni Falls

apikuni falls

If you are OK with an uphill hike in Glacier National Park to get there, you will find another impressive Montana waterfall with a 150-feet or so drop in the form of Apikuni Falls. There are actually some decent views across Many Glacier Valley to be had from this particular spot in the park, and once you get to the top you will actually be more than 5,000 feet above sea level.

The Apikuni Falls form part of some particularly impressive scenery in the spring once the snow has melted with its various tiers and cascades. Further down there are much smaller falls and cascades below the main falls, making this a photographer’s dream.

7. Pinkham Creek Falls

pinkham creek falls
Image: High Trails

You can find Pinkham Creek in the northwest region of Montana in a place called Rexford. You can access the falls via a reasonably short but slightly steep walking trail that goes right down to them.

It is not actually one of the best-maintained trails by Montana standards, and you might need to take a little extra care on wet days. Yet it is worth making the effort, which you will realize when you get sight of the two waterfalls at either end of the gorge, which is incredibly scenic.

8. Holland Falls

holland falls

If you were looking to pick the best from this list of Montana waterfalls it would be something of a tall order. Yet Holland Lake Trail would definitely be one of the main contenders.

So what’s so special about this particular waterfall in Montana? Well, it might just be the fact that the trail that leads to it comes with both a waterfall and a shimmering lake.

Holland Falls is an impressive 50-foot waterfall in the forest, and to get there you walk through amazingly scenic pine and fir forests when heading in the direction of Holland Lake. This is a highly picturesque region, and the trail leads gradually upwards and crosses a bridge.

Once you have crossed the bridge you begin to get glimpses of the Swan and Mission Mountains, as well as the Swan Valley. When you start to hear the sound of water you know you are reasonably close to the falls.

There is an available campsite which has become a popular stop-over spot for many visiting the falls, at least until winter starts to draw in.

9. Swiftcurrent Falls

swiftcurrent falls

Situated in the Many Glacier Valley is this scenic little waterfall which is also in close proximity to the beautiful Swiftcurrent Lake. This waterfall provides the opportunity to get some impressive shots of Mount Grinnell alongside its flowing cascades.

Mount Grinnell is a mountain named after a person who had quite a hand in the preservation of the area of land that came to be known as Glacier National Park, and his name crops up on several occasions in relation to various points of the park as we shall see.

For anyone choosing to stay in the Many Glacier Hotel (or the campground), the hike to the falls is relatively short. From the hotel, it is just a brief walk down a proper road to the trailhead, and the trail itself is less than half a mile long, although it is not marked.

You can pick up the trail at a bridge that goes across the Swiftcurrent River, which is the outflow of Swiftcurrent Lake and looks like a picnic area. The rest of the route is obvious from this point, and it runs parallel to the river. Scenic views abound all along the trail right up to the falls.

10. Grinnell Falls

grinnell falls

This Montana waterfall has a wishbone shape t it that can be seen best after a moderately taxing hike to the Grinnell Glacier. This trail is largely considered as one of the primary hikes in Glacier National Park and features a pair of lakes in Lake Josephine as well as Swiftcurrent Lake.

There are some impressive vistas over Grinnell Lake, and at about two-thirds of a mile into the hike, you’ll start to get your first glimpses of the lake in the valley below. A little further up the trail is when you’ll start to see the Grinnell Falls cascading what looks like hundreds of feet down towards the west end of the lake.

If you keep going up past the top of this waterfall, eventually you will reach the Grinnell Glacier and its icebergs drifting under the Salamander Falls. This is the kind of scenery that draws visitors to Montana time and again, and another one of the region’s impressive waterfalls worth checking out.

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