About Woodbine Falls
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.
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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