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Sentinel Falls, Carbon County

Sentinel Falls is one of two small waterfalls along the West Fork of Rock Creek. Located in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, near the town of Red Lodge, hiking to Sentinel Falls is a great hike that you can enjoy while in the southern part of Montana.

While many people spend only their time in Montana in Yellowstone National Park or Glacier National Park, there are many great hikes and waterfalls to be enjoyed in other parts of the State. The Beartooth Range has plenty of adventure and exploring to offer visitors that are looking for a quieter Montana experience.

Sentinel Falls is accessed from the trailhead located at the end of West Fork Road, just outside of Red Lodge. The hike is an easy 7.2-mile round trip hike. Much of the trail passes through burn scar which allows you to have great views of the Beartooth Mountains that run along the north side of the trail.

The West Fork trail #1 passes by both Calamity Falls and Sentinel Falls. Sentinel Falls is not the end of West Fork trail #1, the trail continues on for a number of miles where it climbs Sundance Pass, eventually becoming Lake Fork trail. Adventurous hikers may also want to take the connector trail beyond Sentinel Falls to Lake Mary.

Sentinel Falls, Carbon County

Sentinel Falls Statistics

sentinel falls statistics
Image: Peter Teige
  • Elevation: 8,367 feet (2,551 meters)
  • Height: Unknown
  • Trailhead: West Fork Trail #1
  • Season (when can it be accessed): Year Round

Things to Do Near Sentinel Falls

things to do near sentinel falls

There are lots of activities to participate in, near Sentinel Falls. Its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park allows visitors to enjoy Sentinel Falls as well as the beauty of the National Park.

Besides visiting Yellowstone National Park you can enjoy plenty of other recreational activities in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Hiking

Custer Gallatin National Forest offers a wealth of hiking trails to be explored. The West Fork Trail is one of the more popular trails thanks to its proximity to Red Lodge.

From the West Fork trailhead, there are five additional trails that can be explored. In the Red Lodge area, there are around 20 well-known trails that are popular with hikers.

Many of the trails in the National Forest are multi-use, so hikers on trails near Sentinel Falls will need to keep an eye out for horses and mountain bikes.

Camping

Just a short distance from the West Fork trailhead and Sentinel Falls are a few nice Forest Service campgrounds. These campgrounds are nicely maintained and provide visitors to the area with easy access to the many hiking trails.

Like most Forest Service campgrounds, there are limited amenities, and in general, the campgrounds are only open during the summer months. If you would rather camp off the beaten path, there are numerous places in the National Forest for dispersed camping as well as backcountry sites for camping.

The Red Lodge area also offers camping opportunities that are more suitable for visitors that may be traveling by RV or would like to use a camping cabin.

Skiing

Red Lodge Ski Mountain is a popular place for downhill skiing during the winter months. This small ski area has 6 chairlifts and a variety of ski runs for beginners to expert skiers and boarders.

If downhill skiing isn’t your idea of fun, many of the hiking trails in the Sentinel Falls area are accessible in the winter for cross-country skiing. There is also an established Nordic ski center at Aspen Ridge Ranch that can be utilized for a small fee.

Horseback Riding

Most of the hiking trails in the Custer Gallatin National Forest are multi-use trails, so they are open for horseback riding.

If you are bringing your own animals, there are a number of trails in the Sentinel Falls area, including the West Fork Trail #1 that are open to horses.

Do make sure when you are selecting a trail to ride that you do not venture into designated wilderness areas. These areas are closed to motorized vehicles and horses as a way of protecting delicate ecosystems and habitats.

Fishing

Rivers and streams crisscross the area near Sentinel Falls. Red Lodge, MT is one of the best-known spots in Montana for outstanding blue ribbon trout fisheries. Many people come to this part of Montana to experience world-class fly fishing opportunities.

There are also small lakes in the Sentinel Falls area that can be fished from the shore for a variety of game fish.

Before heading out to fish near Sentinel Falls, make sure to check the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks website for current fishing regulations and to purchase your Montana fishing license.

Can You Swim at Sentinel Falls?

Sentinel Falls is located on a fairly fast-moving and rocky section of the West Fork of Rock Creek. The combination of swift currents and shallow depths make swimming near these falls mean that swimming is not advised and strongly discouraged.

As you hike to Sentinel Falls, the creek is fairly close to the trail, so you can stop and wade a bit in the cool water.

Where to Stay Near Sentinel Falls

Sentinel Falls is located just a short distance from Red Lodge, MT. There are a variety of lodging opportunities in this area. Lodging options include campgrounds, RV parks, hotels, guest ranches, vacation rentals and cabins.

Trail Routes Near Sentinel Falls

trail routes near sentinel falls

The Custer Gallatin National Forest offers numerous hiking opportunities near Sentinel Falls. This area is a popular area for hikers, bikers, and equestrians.

When heading out on a trail make sure to be considerate of others on the trail with you and be aware of horses and bikers.

West Fork Trail

West Fork Trail #1 is a portion of a longer trail that loops through the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The trailhead is located at the end of West Fork Road and travels for 3.6 miles to a junction point just past Sentinel Falls.

There is minimal elevation gain along the trail, and in general, this trail is considered to be fairly easy. The trail is well-maintained and has great views of the surrounding Beartooth Mountains.

This is a great trail to introduce children to alpine hiking.

Silver Run Trail

The Silver Run loop trail is a 5.3-mile loop trail that is considered to be fairly easy. This trail is fairly popular with trail runners and families because it is an easy-to-access loop, and has minimal elevation gain.

The trail is fairly meandering and follows for a bit along the West Fork of Rock Creek.

Basin Lakes Trail #61

The Basin Lakes trail #61 starts fairly close to the Silver Run loop trail. This moderately challenging 7.4 miles out and back trail takes you up a fairly decent elevation climb (2,073 feet) to Basin Creek Lake.

This small lake is a nice place to stop for a picnic lunch or snack. Camping at the lake is possible on the east and south shores.

The north and west side of the lake is fairly marshy. Along the trail, there are a few small cascades which are nice for photos, and there are remnants of an old log cabin along the trail.

Timberline and Gertrude Lakes

For the more advanced hiker, the trail to Timberline and Gertrude Lakes offers a great 9.8-mile out and back hike. This trail is considered to be moderately difficult, with 2,086 feet of elevation gain. The trailhead is located just off West Fork Road, and there is a fairly nice parking area.

For most of the hike, the trail follows Timberline Creek which is a nice little creek that is fed by Lakes Timberline and Gertrude.

Hikers on this trail need to be aware that the trail crosses into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness near Lake Gertrude.

Motorized vehicles and horses are not permitted beyond this point.

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