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Libby, Montana

The picturesque Montana town of Libby is located in the Kootenai River Valley, close to the base of the Cabinet Mountain Range in northwest Montana’s Lincoln County.

This is the kind of region where you can encounter authentic mountain experiences lined with the kind of breath-taking scenery Montana is renowned for.

On top of that are the plentiful opportunities for outdoor recreation along with attractions in or close to the town like Libby Dam, Ross Creek Cedar Grove, the Kootenai River, and Kootenai Falls, which all make Libby a popular place in Montana to live in and to visit.

The first non-native settlers in the area were fur traders and trappers from British fur companies who appeared in the area as early as 1809 looking for supplies.

None of their former trading posts along the Kootenai River stand today as evidence, and although they most certainly navigated through the area, neither the Kootenai Indians nor any other tribe made Libby a permanent home for any length of time.

The tribes tended to use the area for hunting and spiritual purposes, and even today the Kootenai Falls on the Kootenai River is considered sacred by the local Indigenous people whose tribal members still commune with spiritual forces there.

The Libby area was prominent when silver and lead mines were first established, and activity escalated in 1867 when successful strikes hit Libby Creek-although the ‘boom’ lasted no more than a couple of years and the region was again virtually deserted not long after.

Vermiculite was later discovered in Libby and a mine was subsequently opened by a local rancher named Ed Alley in 1919.

This was done after he had learned that it had good insulating qualities, and it soon became widely used in insulation and plastering work. In 1963 the mine was bought by the W.R. Grace Company, which operated it from 1963.

Although it was closed in 1990, the vermiculite mine in Libby was a huge local employer during the town’s key years of development, as did logging and timber.

Some of the earliest ranches were in the area towards the end of the 19th century, starting out near the mouth of Libby Creek. Many incoming settlers were employed at the Libby Placers and were involved in the construction of homes and mills along Libby and Flower Creek.

Libby Creek was first reportedly given its name for the daughter of a prospector in the 1860s, and the developing town of Libby was subsequently named after the creek.

The community quickly expanded in the early 1900s, by which time there was a school, a church, and the first homes to be built in the town.

Main Cultural, Historic, and Outdoor Attractions in Libby

outdoor attractions in libby

Heritage Museum

The Heritage Museum is the place to go if you are interested in finding out more about the diverse historical culture and historic aspects of the northwest Montana region.

The unique-looking building is home to various artifacts and exhibits from Libby’s early days in terms of the first settlements, mining, and logging.

The Museum is set in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places on the National Park Service website, and inside you will find a Cookhouse, an Outdoor Pavilion, and Swamp Creek Community Hall log building.

All of these constructs are made available between May and September, 10 am-5 pm.

Cabinet County Brewing Company

This homely brewery and pub/restaurant are located in one of the oldest buildings in downtown Libby.

This is a popular community gathering place with some impressive, handcrafted ales and sodas which can be enjoyed with delicious food set in either the cozy living room or the outdoor sidewalk seating.

Libby Dam

If you want to make the short trek to the interpretive Visitor Center at the dam it is located at the top end of the dam on the west side of Souse Gulch Road.

The dam is 17 miles north of Libby and is a popular recreational area with a designated wildlife-viewing area where you can even catch sight of wildlife including birds of prey such as bald eagles and osprey and more.

Head a further 1.5 miles uphill from this stop to get to the Visitor Center.

From Libby, you can get to the dam by heading north on Highway 37 for 13.5 miles, then take a left onto Forest Development Road 228 for a further 3.5 miles before turning right onto Souse Gulch Road.

The area, in general, is great for recreation and other options like a scenic drive on the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway, picnicking, playing disc golf, fishing, boating, and hiking.

Ross Creek Cedar Grove

Ross Creek Cedar is a renowned grove full of western red cedars of reasonable size.

Some trees measure more than 8 feet in diameter, and an interpretive walking tour of just under a mile in length which expands on the ecology and history of the area is a good way to take in this scenario.

Kootenai Falls

The falls are an area along the river that today is still considered a sacred site by the Kootenai Indians who were once more prominent in this area.

Tribal members have traditionally communed with spiritual forces at the falls and many explorers into the region were able to navigate their way through by following the Native American and game trails, which included stacked and built-up piles of rocks to mark trails. 

The falls are on the Kootenai River and can be accessed via a foot trail from the parking area next to the highway. The area is adjacent to U.S. Highway 2 between Libby and Troy, and for many, it qualifies as one of those scenic Montana attractions not to be missed.

The river running through the Kootenai Falls drops 90 feet in under a mile, and the main falls is 30-feet high–and best viewed from the swinging bridge across the river.

Recreation Activities

recreation activities in libby

Aside from charms like a golf course complete with amazing views or soaking up Libby’s charm at the local brewery, a museum, or even taking a wander across the swinging bridge over the falls—the main attractions are always going to be recreational in this part of the state.

Libby has all the right small-town charm as well as the surrounding terrain that is some of the most picturesque in the state.

Hiking

Flower Creek Trail is an 11.5-mile, out & back trail that includes views of a lake and has elevation gains of almost 3,000 feet

Cedar Lakes Trail is a 13.8-mile out & back trail with elevation gains of more than 4,000 feet

Granite Lake is another option close to the vicinity of Libby. This route is an 11-mile out & back trail that also features a lake along the way along with plenty of other stunning scenery and elevation gains of around 1,600 feet

Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail is a great option if you also want to take in some local hotspots and landmarks of the scenic variety. This short and easy, 1.9-mile route will take you into the immediate vicinity of the falls and the bridge and it has minimal elevation gains

Skiing

The Turner Mountain Ski Area in Libby is a renowned alpine ski area just over 20 miles outside of Libby. The mountain has a reputation for quality powder skiing.

Fishing

You can find out all about locations permits and species related to fishing in Libby HERE.

Camping

Woodland RV Park is nestled nicely among 10 acres of pines in the heart of the Kootenai National Forest in northwestern Montana, and access is easy from U.S. Highway 2 in Libby.

Woodland RV Park is an ideal base for outdoor adventure, whether you stay for a night or a bit longer—the RV Park is open for the summer and fall seasons, although reservations are recommended to secure an RV site.

Accommodation–Hotels and Lodging

Special Events in Libby

Other Points of Interest near Libby

Forests/State/National Parks/Wilderness Areas

Museums/Historic Items

Nearby Towns/Cities

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