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Cataract Falls, Montana

Located along the Rocky Mountain Front of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, Cataract Falls are a beautiful plunging waterfall feature along Cataract Creek in Montana’s Lewis and Clark County.

Only 0.5 miles from the nearest road, the falls are easily accessed through a short but inspiring hike. Once at the falls, the surrounding region offers plenty of fun hiking, fishing, and camping opportunities throughout the national preserve.

Cataract Falls, Lewis and Clark County Stats

cataract falls stats

  • Elevation: 5319 feet
  • Latitude:32195
  • Longitude: -112.60367
  • How to Get There: About an hour’s drive southeast of Augusta, the Cataract Creek Trail leading to the falls starts from the Elk Creek Trailhead. From there, it is only a 0.5-mile walk to reach Cataract Falls, Montana.

Recreation Activities

Hiking

While the nearby Elk Creek Road will bring visitors within 0.5 miles of the Cataract Falls by car, the last leg of the journey to the landmark can only be undertaken on foot.

And despite being only a short trek through the Lewis and Clark National Forest, the journey is packed with plenty of breathtaking views and natural attractions ready to inspire any of its visitors.

Of course, occupying over 1.8 million acres of preserved countryside, the forest is also home to several other hiking paths weaving their way through the park.

Accessed from the same trailhead, visitors should package their hike to the falls with a journey down the Elk Creek Trail. Another short hike, this path extends the journey through the region’s majestic water features and is a perfect way to fully enjoy the natural attractions of the park.

For further adventures through the Lewis and Clark National Forest, visitors should also check out the nearby Smith Creek Trailhead to the fall’s north and Fall Creek’s Trailhead to its south.

Fishing

The region surrounding Cataract Falls features several fantastic fishing spots throughout its weaving creeks, despite not having any significant lakes in the area.

For the best fishing, wranglers should head to Elk Creek just north of the falls. This crackling brook is known for its diverse native species, including Longnose Dace, Mottled Sculpin, Mountain Whitefish, and the White Sucker.

Camping

The US Forest Service permits dispersed camping throughout designated regions of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. This makes it easy for visitors to the falls to package their trip with a night camping out in the wilderness for further adventures into the protected woods.

Potential campers should review the park’s dispersed camping areas and plan their trip accordingly.

Trail Routes

Cataract Falls from the Elk Creek Trailhead

elk creek

Starting an hour’s drive from the nearest town, the journey to the trailhead is filled with plenty of sightseeing opportunities through the preserve’s Rocky Mountain Front.

At the trailhead, the large parking lot features a hitching post, outhouse, and informational kiosks providing guests further insights into the region and its ecosystem.

Towering over the trailhead’s parking lot is the 8,297-foot Steamboat Mountain, which visitors will approach as they begin their journey along the Cataract Creek Trail.

The 0.25-mile trail to the falls is short but offers plenty of adventure for passing guests. With three creek crossings, the potential for hikers to get wet is high. But don’t worry. Those who dip into the waters will find the creek only a few inches deep and easy enough to traverse.

After following the trail for a couple of hundred feet, visitors will arrive at a fork in the road. The path to the right will bring guests along a two-hour trek to the top of Steamboat Mountain. While this is a fantastic hike in its own right, those attending the falls will want to take the path leading to the left.

Continuing along the path, hikers will arrive at the beautiful Cataract Falls cascading off the steep granite rocks.

Once visitors have experienced their fill of the water feature, they can head back along the trail to the parking lot, where they can continue their adventures through Lewis and Clark National Forest.

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