Woodbine Falls

Custer Gallatin National Forest / Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness / Nye / Stillwater County, Montana, USA

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 2.5
Woodbine Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Woodbine Falls was certainly one of the tallest and most impressive waterfalls that we've encountered in the state of Montana outside of Glacier National Park. It was actually geographically closer to Yellowstone National Park, but either way, the fact that this waterfall sat in a relatively less-visited part of the state meant that we got an experience that was tranquil, rejuvenating, and memorable. This contrasted mightily with the crowds and the stress that can come with it in the more heralded places like Glacier and Yellowstone, and thus it was a refreshing off-the-beaten path excursion during our Summer Road Trip in August 2017. The falls tumbled down a steep ravine with a cumulative drop of probably around 260-208ft or so (though I suppose you could add more to the height by including the cascading drops as Woodbine Creek continued its descent towards the Stillwater River). In addition to the waterfall itself, we were also treated to nice scenery downstream of the falls as we saw commanding views of the surrounding mountains that reminded me of what I might have expected to see in Kings Canyon National Park in California.

Logistically speaking, our hike was short and sweet. At 1.6 miles round trip with about 280ft in elevation gain, and we spent a leisurely 90 minutes away from the car hiking as a family. Obviously with a quicker pace, I'm sure this hike could be completed in an hour. The trail included a bridged crossing of Woodbine Creek and ultimately led up to an official overlook as well as a pair of informal lookouts for less obstructed views of the falls. And since we were in grizzly country, we definitely had to come prepared with bear spray. Given how quiet it was during our visit, we also enjoyed a picnic lunch at the conclusion of our hike where we enjoyed the views of the surrounding mountains and simply basking in the peace that we knew would be absent in Yellowstone.

As for a more detailed description of the trail, we started from the day use trailhead within the Woodbine Campground (see directions below). The well-used and well-signed trail initially meandered through a lightly wooded forest alongside Woodbine Creek before crossing a bridge traversing the rushing creek. Beyond the footbridge, the trail continued its gradual meander and gentle climb around a bend before momentarily skirting Woodbine Creek once again. As the trail veered away from the creek, it continued its climb presenting distant views of the jagged Beartooth Mountains in the distance before flirting with Woodbine Creek once again as we entered the signposted boundary of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. The trail then went up an elongated switchback before narrowing and climbing into a more densely wooded area. Eventually, after 0.8 miles, we reached the view at the end of the official trail where we got a somewhat unsatisfying obstructed view of Woodbine Falls barely protruding from the borders of the gully it was in.

I noticed that there were some informal trails climbing higher up a dry gully set back from the official lookout, where I found myself at a pair of higher and more direct views of Woodbine Falls. The first view probably yielded the best view as it presented the full drop of the falls and some of the cascades immediately downstream of it. The second view I attained had a more direct look at the Woodbine Falls' main tumbling section, but the cascades further below were obstructed from view. On the morning of our visit, the sun was somewhat against us, and I'd imagine afternoon backlighting would be better for photos. Nonetheless, from these higher vantage points, I was pretty much above most of the trees and I could look further south towards the rugged mountains surrounding this rural part of Montana. After having our fill of these lookouts, we returned back the way we came.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was the commanding view looking downstream from Woodbine Falls towards the rugged mountains of the Beartooth RangeThis was the commanding view looking downstream from Woodbine Falls towards the rugged mountains of the Beartooth Range
Between Bozeman and Nye was the detour to the Natural Bridge Falls, which was not only an intriguing waterfall attraction, but it was also a natural bridge as wellBetween Bozeman and Nye was the detour to the Natural Bridge Falls, which was not only an intriguing waterfall attraction, but it was also a natural bridge as well
We made the long drive from Bozeman to Woodbine Falls; Bozeman featured a nice downtown area and had plenty of healthy eating optionsWe made the long drive from Bozeman to Woodbine Falls; Bozeman featured a nice downtown area and had plenty of healthy eating options
At the day use parking area within the attractive Woodbine CampgroundAt the day use parking area within the attractive Woodbine Campground

Julie and Tahia getting started on the trail to Woodbine FallsJulie and Tahia getting started on the trail to the falls

Initially, the Woodbine Falls Trail went through lightly wooded terrain as it meandered closer to Woodbine CreekInitially, the trail went through lightly wooded terrain as it meandered closer to Woodbine Creek

Looking upstream along Woodbine Creek towards the footbridge traversing itLooking upstream along Woodbine Creek towards the footbridge traversing it

Beyond the footbridge the trail started climbing as it momentarily veered away from Woodbine CreekBeyond the footbridge the trail started climbing as it momentarily veered away from Woodbine Creek

Julie and Tahia on the Woodbine Falls Trail as it skirted the other side of Woodbine CreekJulie and Tahia on the trail as it skirted the other side of Woodbine Creek

As we got higher up on the Woodbine Falls Trail, we started to get these distant views of shapely mountains that reminded me of the kind of scenery found in Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierras of CaliforniaAs we got higher up on the trail, we started to get these distant views of shapely mountains that reminded me of the kind of scenery found in Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierras of California

The Woodbine Falls Trail now meandering alongside Woodbine Creek againThe trail now meandering alongside Woodbine Creek again

Julie and Tahia hiking past the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness signJulie and Tahia hiking past the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness sign

Going up this switchback as the Woodbine Falls Trail was making its final climb to the overlookGoing up this switchback as the trail was making its final climb to the overlook

Tahia approaching the official lookout for Woodbine Falls just straight aheadTahia approaching the official lookout for Woodbine Falls just straight ahead

This mostly obstructed view of Woodbine Falls was from the official lookoutThis mostly obstructed view of Woodbine Falls was from the official lookout

With a little bit of scrambling up an informal trail-of-use, I managed to get this very satisfying view of Woodbine FallsWith a little bit of scrambling up an informal trail-of-use, I managed to get this very satisfying view of Woodbine Falls

Looking back down at where Julie and Tahia were still at the official lookoutLooking back down at where Julie and Tahia were still at the official lookout

Looking down at the short but steep scrambling path taken to get up to the more satisfying views of Woodbine FallsLooking down at the short but steep scrambling path taken to get up to the more satisfying views of Woodbine Falls

I managed to scramble a little higher to the next lookout for Woodbine Falls, which was more directI managed to scramble a little higher to the next lookout for Woodbine Falls, which was more direct

Julie and Tahia managed to scramble up to the first of the informal lookouts so they could have a more satisfying experience with Woodbine FallsJulie and Tahia managed to scramble up to the first of the informal lookouts so they could have a more satisfying experience with Woodbine Falls

Julie and Tahia hiking back down to the trailheadJulie and Tahia hiking back down to the trailhead

Just to give you an idea of how high we climbed, the trail shown here was descending towards Woodbine CreekJust to give you an idea of how high we climbed, the trail shown here was descending towards Woodbine Creek

Hiking past one of the campsites near the trailhead by the day use parking areaHiking past one of the campsites near the trailhead by the day use parking area


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Comprehensive sweep of the entire waterfall as well as its surroundings from the first of the unofficial overlooks


Up and down sweep of the main drops of the falls as well as the immediate surroundings


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Woodbine Falls was near the rural town of Nye, which was well southwest of Columbus and Absarokee. Since we were based in Bozeman, we'll describe the driving directions from there, even though we recognize that there were many closer towns.

From Bozeman, we caught the I-90 going east for about 98 miles to the exit 408 for Route 78 (N 9th St) in Columbus. After about 3/4-mile, we then turned right onto E Pike Ave, then we turned left onto S Pratten St to continue south on Route 78. In another 3/4-mile (crossing over the Yellowstone River en route), we then kept right to continue on the Route 78, where we then followed it for the next 16 miles to the turnoff for Nye Rd south of the town of Absarokee. Then, we followed Nye Rd for a little over 28 miles to the Woodbine Campground turnoff on our left (shortly past the small town of Nye). After crossing the Stillwater River to enter the campground, we kept straight at the junction then veered left for the day use parking area where the Woodbine Falls Trailhead was. Overall, this drive took us a little under 2.5 hours.

Finally, for some geographic context, Bozeman was about 44 miles (about an hour drive) north of Big Sky, 89 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of West Yellowstone, 26 miles (30 minutes drive) west of Livingston, 78 miles (under 90 minutes drive) northwest of Gardiner, 98 miles (over 90 minutes drive) southeast of Helena, 203 miles (about 3 hours drive) east of Missoula, and 324 miles (over 5 hours drive) southeast of Whitefish.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.


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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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