Kootenai Valley in Montana

Whitefish Montana
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Kootenai Valley

For those looking to explore remote wilderness, secluded mountain lakes and a grove of ancient red cedars all in one scenic drive, head to the Kootenai Valley.

  • Dropping 300-feet into the Kootenai River, the thundering Kootenai Falls is the highest waterfall in Montana. 
  • Enjoy a moment of quiet reflection as you wander through an old-growth forest of red cedar at the Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area. 
  • Take a few hours to admire the stunning scenery around Lake Koocanusa. From wildlife viewing to fishing, the lake offers some of the best recreation opportunities in northwest Montana.

Why should I drive the Kootanai Valley?

Since the Kootenai National Forest makes up over 80 percent of the county, expect your drive along Highway 2 to pass through dense wilderness areas chock full of wildlife and pass through a few charming towns that are big on country-style hospitality.

Where does the Kootenai Valley begin and end?

The Kootenai Valley covers the northwest corner of Montana, stretching south from the Canadian border. It follows along the Idaho border to meet with the Lolo Forest and Flathead Valley.

To enjoy the very best the Kootenai Valley has to offer it will require an extensive drive. But it’s well worth the miles. From Whitefish follow Route 93 North to Eureka, which is about 50 miles. Once in Eureka pickup Route 37 and follow the picturesque stretch of road along Lake Koocanusa until you reach Libby. The 60-mile swath of road that follows the lake shore offers stunning vistas. Finish your Kootenai Valley tour with a stop in the charming town of Libby. The entire journey from Whitefish to Libby is over 100-miles one way, so expect to spend an entire day enjoying the Kootenai Valley or stay overnight at one of the many lakeside campgrounds or quaint cabins in the area.

How long does the Kootenai Valley take to drive?

Depending on how many stops you make along the way, the 110-mile drive will take the better part of a day. To really set a leisurely pace, it is best to choose a location for an over-night stay.

What will I see along the way? 

Lake Koocanusa stretches for 90-miles between Canada and Montana. Nestled in the heart of the Kootenai Valley, the lake offers visitors loads of recreation fun such as boating, fishing, swimming, camping and wildlife viewing. Highway 37 moves through some of Montana’s most scenic water vistas as it traces Lake Koocanusa’s shore. 

The Cabinet Mountain Wilderness is located just south of Libby and offers some of the best remote hiking in Montana. The narrow stretch of glacier-tipped mountains, deep forests and thundering waterfalls is located southwest of Libby. 

A must see spot is the Ross Creek Cedar Scenic Area. Just outside of Libby, there is a small grove of ancient red cedars, which reach upwards of 175-feet. 

More than just the largest waterfall in Montana, Kootenai Falls are a natural treasure. A great place for spotting wildlife like bighorn sheep, mule deer and black bear. 

If you are looking for a pristine fishing or swimming spot, then head to the northwest corner of the state, which is home to the Ten Lakes Scenic Area. There are so many great watering holes to choose from, but each offers a beautiful vista and great fishing.