Not all winter adventures have to be into the deep mountains. These winter waterfall trips are found mostly in or near the Purcell Trench, northwest of Bonners Ferry.
Myrtle Falls & the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
West of Bonners Ferry, along the east slopes of the American Selkirk Mountains, is the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. Across the street from the park office and their kiosk, is a parking area for a short walk to the overlook of Myrtle Falls. These falls have a pond about 2/3’s the way down, which creates another shorter fall deeper into the canyon below. The view of the entire falls is a don’t miss. Also, a winter hike from the falls back to the road along the creek can be very photogenic.
The wildlife refuge also has trails, viewing decks, and even a wildlife viewing road through the body of the refuge. I’ve never driven this road without seeing an elk or two, off in the deep grass and swamps. Being a wildlife refuge, there is always an abundance of waterfowl that migrate continually through the area. It’s also common to see deer and an occasional coyote. If you don’t see everything on the first circuit, do it again. It’s a pleasant cruise through nature.
Upper & Lower Snow Creek Falls
Snow Creek Road #402 is located just south of the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. The parking area to the falls of Snow Creek is located 1.1 miles up from the frontage road on Snow Creek Road. The short trail in “Ys” at about 1/8 of a mile. The left or east trail takes you to the lower falls. These falls are actually gigantic cascades that roar past the observation deck. The right or west trail takes you to the spectacular upper falls. This one is set back in the forest and offers great views of the falls and the creek below the falls. In the spring, the runoff is really heavy, and the trail and observation decks can be very slippery.
Copper Falls is located just south of the US/Canadian border. To get there, continue north on the frontage road past the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge to the Kerr Lake and Copeland turnoff about 10 miles north of the refuge. This road will take you back to I-95. Turn right (south) and continue to the “Y” and turn north towards Good Grief and the Eastport boarder station. About one mile from the border, look for the turnoff to Copper Falls on Road #2517. At 2.3 miles, you will find the parking area, outhouse, and trailhead. This trail is about a mile to the bottom of the falls. Be sure to take the spur trail to the left up to another observation deck that overlooks the entire falls. Copper Falls is 165 feet in height and is spectacular during spring runoff.
Bring the Right Gear for the Trail
For all of these winter waterfall hikes, be sure to bring the right equipment for the conditions. Snowshoes may be desirable after heavy snow, whereas cleats and trekking poles are always a good idea in wet and slippery and potentially icy conditions.
Drive north on Highway 95 to Bonners Ferry. Just before the bridge across the Kootenai River, turn left (west) onto Riverside Street. Head west for five miles and bear right at the “Y.” Continue for two miles to the park office.
Written by Chic Burge.