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Memorial Falls, Cascade County, Montana

Travelers along US Route 89 generally fly by the pull-off for Memorial Falls. However, if you are looking for a short hike to stretch your legs, or just want a fun walk that is family-friendly, the Memorial Falls trail is a great walk that rewards you with not one, but two nice waterfalls.

Memorial Falls is located near the town of Neihart, MT. The turn-off for the trailhead is on the east side of US 89 approximately 1.5-miles south of town.

The trailhead has a nice parking lot, and you’ll find that there is generally plenty of space to park, as this trail is a bit of a hidden gem. 

The trail is well-maintained by the Forest Service, as this trail is located in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. You’ll find that the trail is fairly steep, but because it is so well maintained, most hikers should have no problem making the trek to the first waterfall.

Memorial Falls lie at the end of Memorial Canyon which is a very popular spot for photographers. The best time to hike this trail is June through September when wildflowers in the canyon attract native butterflies.

This trail is also popular for snowshoeing in the winter, and Memorial Falls is a good spot for ice climbing in the winter.

memorial falls

Memorial Falls Statistics

  • Elevation: 6,300 feet 
  • Height: Unknown
  • Trailhead: Memorial Falls/Canyon
  • Season (when can it be accessed): Year round

Recreational Activities Near Memorial Falls

Memorial Falls is found in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest and the Little Belt Mountains which provide many great recreational opportunities for visitors and locals to enjoy.

No matter the type of recreation that you are looking to enjoy in the Little Belt Mountains, you should be aware of proper hiking and camping practices in bear country.

The Little Belts have a nice population of Black Bear, and they are often seen on trails and near campgrounds. When recreating in this area make sure you carry bear spray and properly store foods and garbage.

Hiking

The Little Belt Mountains are known for their ample hiking opportunities. Trails in this mountain range provide access to some of the wildest and most scenic places in Montana.

You’ll find that there are plenty of hiking options for hikers of all experience levels. Near the Memorial Falls Trail, you can find challenging hikes that summit some of the Little Belts’ highest peaks or there are plenty of short, easy day hikes that are great for families or visitors that want to experience the beauty of the Little Belts.

Many of the trails in the Little Belt Mountains, near the Memorial Falls trail are also great for wintertime recreation. Trails that were filled with hikers in the summer become favorite trails for snowshoers in the winter.

Camping

camping

There are plenty of places for you to pitch a tent or park your camper near Memorial Falls.

If you are looking for a developed campground that has amenities like running water and electrical hook-ups there are four nice campgrounds on US 89 near Neihart. Most of these are operated by the US Forest Service so they may require reservations in advance (and a small fee).

The Forest Service also has numerous backcountry camping sites that are accessible along trails within the Little Belts.

These camping sites require hiking, and experience with backcountry camping skills. Backcountry camping sites are usually maintained but have no amenities.

Skiing

Near Memorial Falls there are opportunities for both cross-country and downhill skiing. Many of the hiking trails in the Little Belts are great for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Near Neihart, the Silver Crest Winter Recreation Area offers miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Additionally, Showdown Mountain has a developed trail system for cross-country skiing.

Showdown Montana offers a great spot for downhill skiing that is more relaxed than many of the larger ski resorts in the state.

This small ski area has four lifts and 39 runs. Lift tickets at Showdown Montana are reasonably priced making this a great place to ski for the whole family.

Rock and Ice Climbing

ice climbing

Memorial Canyon has recently become a popular spot for rock climbing and ice climbing. In the summer the canyon walls along the Memorial Falls trail are occasionally used by rock climbers.

The first climbing routes in this canyon were developed in 2014. There are currently 3 climbing areas in the canyon with 35 noted routes.

The canyon is formed of Neihart quartz which is very hard and is some of the oldest rock formations in Montana.

During the winter, Memorial Falls has become a spot for beginner ice climbers to build their skills. Because the waterfall is fairly short, it makes for an easy climb for experienced climbers, and a safer option for beginners to learn, without the risk of a steep fall.

Trail Routes Near Memorial Falls

Memorial Canyon/Falls

This moderately easy trail is a 1.2-mile out and back that ends at Memorial Falls.

Parking and trail access are located off of US 89 just south of Neihart, MT. There is no designated parking area, but there is plenty of room for parking along the road.

The trail is fairly steep with 403 feet of elevation gain. Most of this climb is at the beginning of the trail. The trail is well maintained so this climb shouldn’t be a problem for most hikers.

The designated trail ends at the base of Memorial Falls. There are a few off-shoot social trails that pass behind Memorial Falls and lead to a second waterfall.

 

Jefferson Creek Trail

This trail is a heavily used, multi-purpose trail that is actually an old Forest Service Road. The trail is a 7.8-mile out and back hike with a modest 744 feet of elevation gain.

For the first mile or so, the road follows Belt Creek, though you’ll not see the creek often from the road. The elevation gain on this trail is fairly consistent, so you won’t work too hard, and there are no switchbacks along the trail.

In the summer, this trail/road is open to motorized vehicles, so be aware of your surroundings when hiking this trail.

During the winter the trail/road is closed to motorized vehicles so it is a great option for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

lake rhoda
Image: Jeffrey Beall

Big Baldy Mountain and Rhoda Lake

If you are looking for a mountain to the summit on your visit to the Memorial Falls area, Big Baldy Mountain is a great choice. This 3.9-mile loop trail takes you to the summit of Big Baldy Mountain. 

If you are only interested in reaching the summit of Big Baldy Mountain, this trail becomes an out and back that is shorter than the noted 3.9 miles.

The loop to Rhoda Lake descends from Big Baldy Mountain into a bowl where you’ll enjoy beautiful views along the shore of Rhoda Lake. The climb out of the bowl from Rhoda Lake is not for the faint of heart.

It is quite steep and is where you’ll find the majority of your elevation gain on this trail.

Further Reading