Woodbine Falls

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

About Woodbine Falls


Hiking Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 75-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2017-08-09
Date last visited: 2017-08-09

Waterfall Latitude: 45.35378
Waterfall Longitude: -109.88571

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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.

Woodbine_Falls_080_08092017 - Woodbine Falls
Woodbine Falls

Nevertheless, 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.

Therefore, we relished in this refreshing off-the-beaten path excursion during our Summer Road Trip in August 2017.

Woodbine Falls tumbled down a steep ravine with a cumulative drop of probably around 260-280ft or so.

Woodbine_Falls_083_08092017 - Looking away from Woodbine Falls towards the impressive knobby mountains that reminded me of something I might find in the granite wilderness of the Sierras in California
Looking away from Woodbine Falls towards the impressive knobby mountains that reminded me of something I might find in the granite wilderness of the Sierras in California

I suppose you could add more to the height by including the cascading drops further downstream 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.

Indeed, we saw commanding views of the surrounding knobby and dome-like mountains that reminded me of what I might have expected to see in Kings Canyon National Park in California.

The Woodbine Falls Hike

Logistically speaking, our hike was short and sweet at 1.6 miles round trip with about 280ft in elevation gain.

Woodbine_Falls_040_08092017 - The Woodbine Falls Trail flirted with Woodbine Creek as it would go away from it and then alongside it from time to time
The Woodbine Falls Trail flirted with Woodbine Creek as it would go away from it and then alongside it from time to time

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.

Since we were in grizzly country, we definitely had to come prepared with bear spray.

Woodbine_Falls_114_08092017 - Context of Julie and Tahia returning from the Woodbine Falls in anticipation of a picnic lunch afterwards
Context of Julie and Tahia returning from the Woodbine Falls in anticipation of a picnic lunch afterwards

Given how quiet it was during our visit, we also enjoyed a picnic lunch at the conclusion of our hike.

Whilst engaging in our picnic, we enjoyed the views of the surrounding mountains and simply basking in the peace that we knew would be absent in neighboring Yellowstone.

Woodbine Falls Trail Description

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.

Woodbine_Falls_013_08092017 - The Woodbine Falls Trail started off in a lightly wooded area
The Woodbine Falls Trail started off in a lightly wooded area

Beyond the footbridge, the trail continued its gradual meander and gentle climb around a bend before momentarily skirting Woodbine Creek once again.

As the Woodbine Falls Trail veered away from the creek, it continued its climb presenting distant views of the jagged Beartooth Mountains in the distance.

The path then flirted 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.

Woodbine_Falls_053_08092017 - The Woodbine Falls Trail turning on this switchback as it makes its final climb towards the official viewpoint of the Woodbine Falls
The Woodbine Falls Trail turning on this switchback as it makes its final climb towards the official viewpoint of the Woodbine Falls

Eventually, after 0.8 miles, we reached the view at the end of the official trail.

That was 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.

After pursuing these trails, I found myself at a pair of higher and more direct views of Woodbine Falls.

Woodbine_Falls_064_08092017 - Substantially better view of Woodbine Falls from one of the informal paths further up the canyon from the official lookout
Substantially better view of Woodbine Falls from one of the informal paths further up the canyon from the official lookout

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.

Woodbine_Falls_111_08092017 - Julie and Tahia heading back to the trailhead after having their fill of Woodbine Falls
Julie and Tahia heading back to the trailhead after having their fill of Woodbine Falls

After having our fill of these lookouts, we returned back the way we came.

Authorities

Woodbine Falls resides in Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness of the Custer Gallatin National Forest near Nye and Columbus in Stillwater County, Montana. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Woodbine_Falls_011_08092017 - Julie and Tahia getting started on the trail to Woodbine Falls
Woodbine_Falls_016_08092017 - Looking upstream along Woodbine Creek towards the footbridge traversing it as Julie and Tahia were about to cross the bridge
Woodbine_Falls_023_08092017 - Julie and Tahia continuing on the Woodbine Falls Trail as the forest got a little more thicker along the way
Woodbine_Falls_024_08092017 - Beyond the footbridge, the trail started climbing as it momentarily veered away from Woodbine Creek
Woodbine_Falls_030_08092017 - Julie and Tahia on the Woodbine Falls Trail as it skirted the other side of Woodbine Creek
Woodbine_Falls_034_08092017 - 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 California
Woodbine_Falls_050_08092017 - Julie and Tahia hiking past the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness sign
Woodbine_Falls_058_08092017 - Tahia approaching the official lookout for Woodbine Falls just straight ahead
Woodbine_Falls_097_08092017 - This mostly obstructed view of Woodbine Falls was what we saw from the official lookout
Woodbine_Falls_077_08092017 - Looking back down at where Julie and Tahia were still at the official lookout while I was higher up at one of the informal lookouts with a much better view of Woodbine Falls
Woodbine_Falls_079_08092017 - Looking down at the short but steep scrambling path taken to get up to the more satisfying views of Woodbine Falls
Woodbine_Falls_085_08092017 - Broad view of Woodbine Falls with conical mountain in the background as seen from the higher of the two informal spots where I got decent looks at the waterfall
Woodbine_Falls_093_08092017 - Julie and Tahia managed to scramble up to the first of the informal lookouts so they could have a more satisfying experience with Woodbine Falls
Woodbine_Falls_105_08092017 - Julie and Tahia starting the return hike back from Woodbine Falls to the campground and trailhead
Woodbine_Falls_119_08092017 - Hiking past one of the campsites near the Woodbine Falls trailhead by the day use parking area
Woodbine_Falls_122_08092017 - Julie and Tahia making it back to the Woodbine Falls Trailhead after our nice hike to the falls

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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.

Woodbine_Falls_003_08092017 - The trailhead parking area within the Woodbine Campground for the Woodbine Falls hike
The trailhead parking area within the Woodbine Campground for the Woodbine Falls hike

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.

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

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: nye, custer gallatin, beartooth mountains, montana, waterfall, stillwater county, columbus



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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