Located about 30 miles from Wise River, Montana, tucked away into the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, the 20-foot Pintler Falls is a welcome, backcountry sight for folks looking for a comfortable, short hike and exciting natural views.
The short trail is located off the Pintler Creek Road, deep within the “jewel of the Northern Rockies” as the Wilderness Area is called, in the Bitterroot national forests in Beaverhead County.
The falls are nearest Fishtrap, Montana, and may also be found under the name of Pintlar (a instead of e) Falls.
A Guide to the Pintler Falls, Beaverhead County
It appears that Pintler Falls is located along an unnamed double-track trail through the forest in the Anaconda Pintler Wildnerness in Montana. The trail is shorter than a half mile and may be found somewhere near the end of Pintler Creek Road.
Pintler Falls Stats
- Location: Off-Road, Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, Beaverhead County, Montana
- Latitude: 45.85978
- Longitude: -113.44509
- Stream: Pintler Creek
- Height: 20 feet
- Elevation: 6402 feet
- Season: Spring to autumn
- Campgrounds and RV parks nearby: 20+ campgrounds located near Pintler Creek within the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness and surrounding areas
Recreational Activities Near Pintler Falls
The Anaconda Pintler Wilderness is an incredibly beautiful, untamed portion of the Montana wilderness. Within the area, many wild animals such as puma and wolverines roam, while we humans enter with tents and backpacks, fishing rods, and campfires.
The wilderness area straddles the Continental Divide, between the Bitterroot Valley and Big Hole Valley, along the Anaconda Mountain Range. Because of the incredible peaks, the permanent snowfields, the glacially carved landforms, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and more, the area is one of the most incredible portions of the United States.
Yet, it is lesser known than other regions, such as Glacier National Park or Yellowstone National Park. Because of this lack of familiarity, you’ll find fewer crowds along trails and plenty to enjoy and take in on your visit.
You might want to know, can you swim in Pintler Falls? Some hikers have reported doing so, but it’s never a good idea to swim in naturally formed waterfalls. They can be extremely dangerous, thanks to the undercurrent that can pull you under and drag you away.
There are many bodies of water in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness where swimming is safer. Many of the lakes and rivers will have extremely chilly waters year-round, thanks to forming from glacial melt and mountain run-offs. So, bring a warm blanket to wrap up in afterward!
Boating in the Anaconda Pintler Wildnerness is another popular choice for recreational activities. You may bring your own boats and put them out into streams, rivers, and lakes, or rent them from local outfitters that offer boats of many varieties, including pontoons, kayaks, canoes, rafts, motorboats, and more.
Some of the most popular vendors in the area include
- Rentals and Tours and rentals from Many Glacier
- Rentals from Glacier Outfitters
- Rentals and Tours with Sea Me Paddle
White Water Rafting
Along the many rushing rivers in the region, white water rafting is also an extremely popular sport. Many outfitters and companies offer a variety of trip options, including short rides, partial days, full days, and multi-day trips.
Check out the many different options and locations that the companies service before making your final plans – not all trips are equal.
Some great places to find rafting trips include
- Get Your Guide Day Rafting Trip
- Glacier Raft Company
- Great Northern Rafting and Resort
- Rafting Trips with Wild River Adventure
Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing
While hiking your way to Pintler Falls or along one of the many other hiking trails and roads through the wilderness, you could run across a variety of intriguing different species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds.
Some of the most common sightings occur in the quietest areas where fewer hikers are about, so heading toward the lesser-known Pintler Falls will likely provide you with a few wildlife spotting opportunities.
Some of the more common animals spotted in the region include some large game animals and predators, so please prepare yourself with safety and emergency supplies, including bear spray, first aid, GPS locators, and extra water and food.
Some animals you might spot out there include
- American dippers
- Bald eagles
- Bighorn sheep
- Black bears
- Clark’s nutcrackers
- Common loons
- Gray wolves
- Grizzly bears
- Harlequin ducks
- Mountain goats
- Mountain lions
- Mule deer
- Northern hawk owls
Before you head out with a rod and reel, you’ll want to study some fishing spots to find the most plentiful streams and lakes. Or, you can hire someone through Glacier Guides or Get Your Guide for an almost guaranteed fantastic fishing trip.
Trout fishing is particularly popular in the wilderness area, with many lake trails leading out to fantastic spots for catching tonight’s dinner.
Trail Forks has put together a great map with all the best biking trails in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness pinpointed and routed for you. Be sure to check the challenge ratings, elevations, and more to ensure the trail suits your skill level.
Trail running is also popular in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, where you’ll find stunning views along the run.
There aren’t as many mappings of trails as running options, but if you check the trail ratings for difficulty levels, elevation, and lengths, you’ll like figure out which hiking trails are going to be your best bet.
If you have your own horse, pack them up and bring them along for a lovely ride or three through the incredible Wilderness Area. Many of the trails permit horses, no special permissions are needed.
If you don’t have your own ride, horseback riding in the Wilderness area is available via multiple different outfitters and stables. Each company offers a variety of trail ride lengths, ranging from an hour to a multi-day trip.
Many of them include additional amenities, as well, including everything from wine tasting to meals or lodging, so be sure to check the information on their websites before you book.
Some of the best outfitters and guides in the area include:
- Montana Trail Horse
- Royal Tine Outfitters
- Iron Wheel Guest Ranch
- Feather Woman Mountain Adventures
- Triple Creek Ranch
Museums and Educational Programs
While you’re in the area, you may want to visit some of the educational attractions around you, including museums, art galleries, and more.
You’ll find many fascinating options that discuss the local wildlife and plant life, the local history of both First Nations and early settlers, and much more.
Some of the most popular museums and galleries in the area include
- Copper Village Museum and Arts Center
- Historic Clark Chateau Museum and Gallery
- World Museum of Mining
- Steve Wilson Art Gallery
- Quinn Kirkland Fine Art
- Montana Panoramic
The most well-known cross-country ski trail in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness is the Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski Trail. The trail is well-groomed (weekly) and has eight loops, allowing for skiers of all skill levels to enjoy the trail.
Nearby plowed parking holds about 55 to 60 vehicles as well, during winter, with toilets nearby and trail maps at the trailhead. There’s also a warming hut available from December 1 to mid-April. No pets are permitted on the trail.
Other cross-country ski trails are available throughout the wilderness area as well, if this one feels too crowded for you.
With the proper licenses during the correct seasons, hunting is permitted in the Wilderness Area. Check for the proper information before heading out or book a hunting trip with guides working in the area.
Many of the guide trips have single-day, single-night, or multiple days trip options available.
There are nearly endless options for camping near Pintler Falls. From the various designated campsites in the Wilderness Area to backcountry campsites throughout the region, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from, whatever your style of camping. RV parks can be found near the Wilderness, as well, if that’s more your camping mood.
Be sure to prepare properly for whatever camping you intend to do, though, with bear spray, bear-proof food storage, proper equipment for first aid and safety, and whatever you’ll need for campfires.
Be sure to check all the campfire regulations in the area at the time you plan to camp, though, as some may fluctuate based on the season or given circumstances at the moment.
Hotels and Cabin Rentals
If you’d prefer to stay in cabins or motels and hotels, though, there are plenty of lodging options of that nature.
Some of the best accommodations in the area include:
- Sugar Load Lodge and Cabins
- Evolve Sasquatch Inn Retreat
- Vacation Home Rental – via Booking.com
- The Forge Hotel
- Gunslinger Gulch Ghost Town Lodging and Camping
- Bitterroot Getaways: Spring Gulch
- Big Enough Ranch
There are two routes to reach Pintler Falls. One is a short, easy walk from a nearby roadside trailhead. The other is a longer trail that begins at the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) about 7 miles away from the waterfall.
Pintler Falls Trail
For the easy route to the waterfall, park at the trailhead at the end of Pintler Creek Road 185. You’ll find a reasonable amount of parking here most days with easy access to the trail from the road.
The trail is short – approximately 0.6 miles one way – and moderately easy to follow. It would be difficult with a stroller or other wheeled device, so opt for walking and carrying, as needed.
- Distance: 0.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: -25 feet
- Difficulty level: Moderately easy
- Trail type: Out and back
- Notes: There are likely obstacles along the way, including roots, soft ground, fallen logs, etc. Not intended for wheeled vehicles such as strollers or wheelchairs.
Pintler Creek Trail
The Pintler Creek Trail is a 7.1-mile long, moderately challenging trail that begins at the end of Pintler Creek Road 185 and ends at the junction with the Continental Divide Trail 9 (CDT). This is one of two ways to reach Pintler Falls.
Coming from the CDT, you’ll find a marginal stock camp at the junction, with limited foraging. The trail itself is in great condition with some wet areas along the way.
The trail steadily climbs, though it is cleared and maintained throughout the year. No bikes or motorized vehicles are permitted on the trail.
- Distance: 7.1 miles
- Elevation Gain: Unknown
- Difficulty level: Moderately challenging
- Trail type: Point to point/out and back