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Barrier Falls, Montana

Tucked away in the Missoula County Region of Flathead National Forest, Barrier Falls, Montana, are some of the most difficult to reach and least visited waterfalls in the entire preserve.

Situated along Big Salmon Creek, the falls beckon intrepid hikers along the creek side trail that weaves its way between Gyp Mountain and Holland Peak.

Barrier Falls, Missoula County Stats

barrier falls stats

  • Elevation: 4460 feet
  • Latitude: 47.56672
  • Longitude: -113.49549
  • How to Get There: From Holland Lake Campground, visitors follow the Holland Gordon Trail to the Big Salmon Creek Trail, which follows the crackling water to the falls.

Recreation Activities

Hiking

hiking

The only way to reach the falls is via a rigorous hike through the valley between Gyp Mountain and Holland Peak.

The walk to the falls is approximately 8.4 miles, at which point visitors can decide whether to continue along the path to Big Salmon Lake or return to the trailhead and end their hike there.

Alternatively, visitors to the falls can venture further into the park along one of the other trails that intertwine their way through Flathead National Forest.

Plan your route to the falls and along the trails in advance when visiting the park.

Fishing

fishing

Wranglers visiting the falls should continue along the Big Salmon Creek Trail to Big Salmon Lake. Less visited than more popular lakes in the park, thanks to the rigorous hike required to reach it, the 972.3-acre lake offers a beautiful and quiet day of fishing in Flathead National Forest’s idyllic preserved landscape.

Despite its name, Big Salmon Lake is populated with native trout species that include the Bull Trout and the Westslope Cutthroat Trout.

Wranglers should be aware that as the official State Fish of Montana, Cutthroat Trout are protected in Montana and are required to be released when caught.

Camping

camping

It is suggested to camp at Holland Lake Campground before embarking on the Barrier Falls Hike. Located on the shores of Holland Lake, the grounds feature 40 serviced sites and provide a comfortable night’s sleep before engaging in the long strenuous hike.

For those planning a multi-day hike past the falls or spending a couple of nights by Big Salmon Lake, Flathead National Forest offers several camping opportunities in the park’s backcountry.

Review the park’s camping regulations before visiting.

Horseback Riding

While visitors cannot ride horseback directly to the falls, plenty of guided riding trails weave their way from Condon into the surrounding landscape.

The Swan Mountain Outfitters is the primary service offering horseback rides through Flathead National Forest and provide several half-day and full-day excursions.

Trail Routes

Barrier Falls via Big Salmon Creek Trail and Holland Gordon Trail

Starting just to the east of Holland Lake Campgrounds, visitors will start their hike along the East Holland Lake Connector Trail for about 1.4 miles, at which point the path becomes the Holland Gordon Trail.

Following this path for an additional two miles, hikers will arrive at Upper-Holland Lake, where two ways fork out from the trail. Continuing straight past the first fork, visitors will take the left path at the second intersection, the Big Salmon Creek Trail.

Following the Big Salmon Creek, as it weaves between Gyp Mountain and Holland Peak for about 5 miles, visitors will pass by Barrier Falls and receive breathtaking views of the cascading water feature.

After admiring the landmark, visitors can decide whether to return directly to the trailhead or continue for another approximate 2 miles to Big Salmon Lake, where they can continue their exploration of the wonders of Flathead National Forest.

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