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Big Salmon Falls, Montana

Located near the junction of Smokey Creek and Big Salmon Creek, the Big Salmon Falls is a beautiful water feature tucked away in the Missoula County region of Flathead National Forest.

Nestled between Gyp Mountain and Holland Peak, the falls are surrounded by a series of branching creeks and water features that can make locating the landmark a difficult task.

However, those willing to venture into the rugged landscapes of the forest will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the preserved countryside while enjoying the waterfall that few others manage to reach. 

Big Salmon Falls, Missoula County Stats

big salmon falls stats

  • Elevation: 5511 feet
  • Latitude: 5131
  • Longitude: -113.51308
  • How to Get There: From the Holland Lake Trailhead, Big Salmon Falls can either be reached via the Sapphire Smokey Trail that follows Smokey Creek, or visitors can follow the Big Salmon Creek Trail, which approaches the falls from the water’s eastern edge.

Recreation Activities

Hiking

hiking

With no roads leading to the falls, the only way to reach the landmark’s remote corner of Flathead National Forest is on foot. From Holland Lake, visitors have two trail options leading to the waterfall Sapphire Smokey Trail and Big Salmon Creek Trail.

While these are the only two paths that feature a view of the waterfall, there are hundreds of other fantastic trails weaving through the forest, several of which start at Holland Lake.

Fishing

fishing

There are 27 lakes littered throughout Flathead National Forest offering fantastic fishing opportunities. And, with so many of the nearby creeks leading to these larger bodies of water, a visit to these fishing sites can easily be paired with a hike to Big Salmon Falls.

The best fishing in the area is found at the Holland Lake Trailhead. Wranglers to the lake can expect to catch a series of native fish species, including Bull Trout, Large Scale Sucker, Northern Pike Minnow, Pygmy Whitefish, and much more.

Camping

camping

Situated next to the trailhead, the Holland Lake Campground offers a fantastic spot to spend the night before hiking to Salmon Lake. The 40 serviced sites in the facilities provide easy access to the lake and many surrounding trails.

Dispersed camping is permitted in Flathead National Forest, and visitors to the park are welcome to pitch their camp just about anywhere along their hiking trail.

Stay updated with the preserve’s wilderness camping regulations before visiting.

Trail Routes

Big Salmon Falls Via the Sapphire Smokey Trail

sapphire smokey trail

The easiest way to access Big Salmon Falls is via the Sapphire Smokey Trail. Entering the trail from the Holland Lake Campground Trailhead, hikers will take the E Holland Lake Connect path until they reach a fork in the road.

Taking Holland Lookout to the left, visitors will continue on the path for several miles until they come to two trail intersections spaced only a short distance apart. Heading straight through the first intersection, hikers will take a left at the second fork along the Sapphire-Smokey Trail.

From here, the path follows Smokey Creek, past Necklace Lake, and continues until the junction where the creek meets with Big Salmon Creek. At this intersection, visitors will follow the Big Salmon Creek Trail to the right for a brief time until they arrive at Big Salmon Falls, Montana.

While the path can be a bit confusing, the pure majesty of the falls makes up for the inconvenience of reaching them.

Big Salmon Falls Via Big Salmon Creek Trail

Entering at the same trailhead by the Holland Lake Campground, visitors to the falls taking the Big Salmon Creek Trail will again start along the E Holland Lake Connect Trail.

However, instead of turning left along the Holland Lookout, this time, hikers will continue along the connecting path until they reach the Holland Gordon Trail.

Taking a left and heading in an eastern direction, visitors will follow the Holland Gordon for several miles as they pass beautiful landmarks such as Middle Holland Falls, Upper Holland Falls, and Upper Holland Lake.

At Upper Holland Lake, visitors will continue to follow the path past the first fork in the road and take the following pathway a little further down. Now on Big Salmon Creek Trail, hikers will continue along this path for a few miles before arriving at the falls on their left.

At this point, hikers can either head back to Holland Lake from the same route they came, or they can return along the Sapphire Smokey Trail and complete the course as a loop hike.