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    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    Very Easy
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    52 m
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    2.6 km
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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    Directions to Trailhead

    Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail

    Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail

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    Table of contents

    The Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail is a family-friendly adventure in the Kootenai National Forest that would make an excellent addition to your adventure itinerary. This exciting hike explores the banks of the Kootenai River and boasts breathtaking views of the cascades from the exciting suspension bridge.

    Route Description for Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail

    The Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail is an amazing adventure that the whole family can enjoy! Ranked as one of the greatest hikes in the Kootenai National Forest, you will likely enjoy some company as you explore the riverside. Due to the popularity of the area, we encourage visitors to explore in the early morning to secure a spot in the roadside parking lot and to enjoy a more tranquil experience. Compared to most hikes in the forest, this route is manageable for outdoor enthusiasts of most skill levels, though it is important to note that there are multi-level steel staircases to access the bridge. Those with joint issues are encouraged to bring a pair of trekking poles to take some pressure off and more easily navigate the climb and descent.

    Steeped with native history, the Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge are more than just popular tourist destinations. This area of unrivaled natural beauty is considered sacred to the Kootenai Indians, whose ancestors inhabited the region years ago. Today, the falls and surrounding area remain preserved though there are scenic trails and a bridge for us to indulge in the beauty of the landscape. Explore lush forests, wander over a railroad track, then escape down to the riverside where you can watch the wide waterfall cascading through the sandstone and shale layered gorge—truly a sight for sore eyes. From the suspension bridge, you may even get to see an intrepid kayaker or rafters navigating the wild waterway.

    Embark on your adventure down to the famed Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge from the Kootenai Falls Trailhead. Setting out from here, you will be guided east, away from the parking lot and into a swathe of mixed pines. Descending the hillside, the route will soon lead you through a closed pedestrian tunnel over the railway tracks—if you time it right, you can enjoy the thrill of a train passing beneath. After crossing the bridge and descending the staircase on the northern side of the tracks, you will confront an intersection. Veer right and follow the Kootenai Falls Trail east, along the rocky riverbank. Soon you will reach an overlook of the mesmerizing cascade.

    Take the time to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the fast-flowing falls that tumble the entire width of the river. Notice the cottonwood trees, which are sometimes occupied by bald eagles, and admire the visible layered sediment on the canyon walls. When you are ready to enjoy another perspective of the falls, head west, retracing your steps, then continuing onwards onto the Swinging Bridge Trail. Follow this route down the staircase and onto the bridge. Enjoy the excitement that comes along with touring a swinging bridge and revel in the expansive views of the chutes from downstream. After crossing the bridge, make your way to another scenic overlook, then loop around the northern riverbanks and back over the bridge. From here, simply retrace your steps back up and over the train tracks and back to the trailhead.

    Trail Highlights

    Kootenai Falls

    Kootenai Falls is a beautiful 17 m cascade on the Kootenai River that is the largest undammed waterfall in the state. What this incredible waterfall lacks in height, it makes up for with its flow rate—which is one of the highest in the US. This lovely fall is only a few steps away from the highway and is a popular tourist destination. Fun fact: the falls were featured in the 2015 movie, The Revenant.

    Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge

    The Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge is a suspension bridge over the Kootenai River that boasts wonderful views of Kootenai Falls. The first bridge over the river was constructed during the Great Depression to allow for firefights to access the forested hills on the other side of the river but was subsequently destroyed by a flood in 1948. Following the flood, the design of the bridge was reimagined to endure the high water—and now the exciting suspension bridge is a popular attraction.

    Insider Hints for Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail

    • Explore in the early morning or evening to avoid the rush
    • Head out in the spring during peak run-off season when the river runs high and fast
    • Bring your camera, the scenery is quite photogenic
    • Mind your footing on the terrain after a rainfall—it often becomes slippery
    • Bring lunch and have a picnic overlooking the falls
    • Don’t forget your camera!

    Getting to the Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail Trailhead

    The Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail is accessed from the Kootenai Falls Trailhead off US Route 2.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground:


    • When to do:


    • Pets allowed:

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly:


    • Route Signage:


    • Crowd Levels:


    • Route Type:

      Out and back

    Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Trail Elevation Graph

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