Kootenai Falls and More Things to Do in Libby, MT
Waterfalls, swinging bridges, massive eagle sculptures, and more await you in Libby, Montana.
Libby is a small town located off of Highway 2, about 90 minutes from Kalispell, MT. Libby is a good stopping place for those road tripping to Glacier from northern Idaho, or for those looking to get into nature in northwest Montana away from the busyness of Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake.
Highway 2 goes right through the middle of Libby, and the name of the highway switches from E 9th St to Minnesota Avenue as you drive through town. While there are lots of stores and service shops located alongs this road, you’ll want to veer off it onto Mineral Avenue to see the heart of Libby.
Mineral Avenue is the Main Street of Libby and the downtown area of this mall town. It’s where the iconic eagle entrance sign is (more on that below) as well as the historic Dome theater and lots of eateries and bars.
Libby’s downtown area doesn’t have some of the charm of Montana’s other small towns, but what it lacks in architectural aplomb, it makes up for with friendly faces, great spots to stop and rest during a road trip, and being smack dab in the middle of two incredible wilderness areas: Kootenai National Forest and Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area.
We cover all that and more below.
What to Do and See in Libby, Montana
Here are the top things to do in Libby:
Kootenai National Forest
With hundreds of miles of hiking trails in summer and 70 miles of ungroomed snowmobile trails in winter, Kootenai National Forest is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
In addition to hiking and snowmobiling, popular things to do in the 2.2 million acre Kootenai National Forest include cross-country skiing, mountain biking, fishing (both in rivers and lakes), camping, and more. During all of these activities, you have the chance to see wildlife, too. Don’t forget the bear spray!
Walk Across the Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge
On the southern edge of Kootenai Forest, you’ll find the famous Kootenai Falls Suspension Bridge (also referred to as the Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge) and the trail to the actual Kootenai Falls.
Hiking to Kootenai Falls and walking across the nearby swinging bridge are two of the most popular things to do around Libby. The trailhead is located right off Hwy 2, about 12 minutes west of Libby, with a parking lot lining the road.
The suspension bridge is very narrow and wobbly, but it’s well enclosed and has incredible views of the river and surrounding forest.
Both the bridge and the falls are reachable from the trailhead though each is down a different arm of the trail.
Ice Cream at Kootenai Falls Trailhead
Need a snack?
There is a stand open in the summer by the Kootenai Falls trailhead. Even if you don’t do the hike, you can park close to the stand and get an ice cream cone or coffee before you continue on your drive.
Eagle Statues in Libby, MT
They’re hard to miss, but keep an eye out when you’re driving through downtown Libby for various eagle statues. The one right off Hwy 2 where E 9th St veers off is large and impressive and provides a cool welcome or goodbye at the eastern end of town.
Also make sure to look north when driving on Hwy 2 to see the iconic “City of Eagles” entrance sign over Mineral Avenue that has a bronze eagle sculpture with a huge wingspan atop it. Or better yet, turn off the highway and drive right under it.
Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area
Those looking for peace and solitude should head to the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area that is part of Kootenai National Forest.
With a little under 100,000 acres in its boundaries, this wilderness area is a mecca for backpackers. No motorized vehicles are aloud in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area, and a permit is required in order to do some backcountry hiking and camping,
The Libby Dam is a massive concrete dam built over the Kootenai River, a short drive from the town of Libby. The dam is 422 feet tall and was built to control flooding in the area from the Kootenai River as well as generate hydroelectric power.
When open, Libby Dam Visitors Center has incredible views and informational boards about the dam.
This large lake is shared with Canada and is just a short drive northeast from Libby, though it takes a couple hours to drive around the lake.
Koocanusa Lake was created by the Libby Dam. The lake is a popular and peaceful spot for boaters and camping. Anglers will enjoy fishing on the calm lake water.
If you prefer scenic drives, head to Hwy 37 and the Forest Development Road, which was designated a scenic byway and cuts through the forest.
Also drive across the Koocanusa Bridge, which is the longest and highest bridge in Montana. This bridge is located right off the scenic byway. There is also a parking lot and viewing area by the bridge. Koocanusa Bridge is a good point to turn around and head back down toward Libby if you don’t want to drive up to Canada. (It’s roughly an hour from Libby to Koocanusa Bridge.)
Deer, elk, bears, and even bighorn sheep are often spotted around Lake Koocanusa.
Read More: The Best Lakes in Glacier National Park
Turner Mountain: Libby’s Local Ski Area
Just 22 miles north of Libby is a unique ski area called Turner Mountain. This is a small, but impressive ski area with a 2,400 feet of vertical rise. Turner Mountain was started in the 1960s as a community effort and was mostly run by volunteers for decades. It has one chairlift, which wasn’t added until 2001. Also, what once was just a warming hut is now a 4,000 square foot lodge.
Turner Mountain has come a long way, but at its heart is still small town skiing with epic runs. From the top of the chairlift (at an elevation of 5,952 feet), skiers have a surprising number of run options, down both the front and back of the mountain.
Beginner skiers and snowboarders should be aware there aren’t that many green runs; the green runs are trails that cross the mountain and can only be reached via a blue (intermediate) run first. There is no rope tow or magic carpet.
Read More: The Best Ski Resorts in Montana
Heritage Museum in Libby
Learn more about the history of Libby and its surrounding region with a visit to the Heritage Museum (only open in the summer).
The Heritage Museum is housed in an interestingly shaped 12-sided log building that was built by volunteers to help preserve the region’s heritage.
Inside you’ll find exhibits on those who made this area their home over past eras, including the Kootenai Native American Tribe and early pioneers. You’ll also learn more about the early lumber and rail industry near Libby.
There is also a wildlife exhibit with various taxidermied animals that are local to the area on display, including a silver-tipped grizzly bear.
On the grounds of the museum you’ll get to see a vintage steam locomotive, a miner’s cabin decorated to reflect the era, and old equipment for milling, logging, and mining.
Cabinet View Golf Course
If you enjoy golfing and love mountain views, then you’ll have a great time golfing at Cabinet View Golf Course, an 9-hole course near Libby with views of the Cabinet Mountains. Cart and club rentals are onsite and there is also a pro shop and club house. In addition to the 9-hole course, there is a practice green and driving range.
Where to Eat and Drink in Libby, Montana
Libby is a good spot to grab a bite to eat as you journey along Hwy 2 or after you hike to Kootenai Falls. Here are a few good spots to check out. (Or, for parents who need a Happy Meal diversion for kids, there’s also a McDonald’s in town right off Hwy 2!)
Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company: This family-friendly, women-owned brewery is located right in downtown Libby and is a favorite of both locals and visitors, so much so that it’s nicknamed “Libby’s Living Room.” Order a pint and enjoy. The brewery also has a pub-style food menu.
Brad’s Burgers: Casual eatery with large, expertly cooked hamburgers with a side of crinkle fries and huckleberry soda.
Black Board Bistro: Upscale, locally-inspired restaurant with a constantly rotating 4-course dining experience. Each night is a different menu, written on the dining room’s blackboard, hence the name.