The Great Northern Route

On the banks of the broad Kootenai (pronounced “KOOT-nee”) River, 14 miles east of the Idaho border, the mining and lumber-milling town of Troy (pop. 938) is at nearly the state’s lowest elevation—1,892 feet above sea level. There’s not a lot to the place, apart from a short stretch of motels, gas stations, taverns, churches, and cafés—the best of which is the family-friendly Silver Spur (13891 US-2, 406/295-2033), right in town—plus a small historical museum and visitor center at the east end of town. Some seven miles west of Troy, there’s a nice USFS campground at the confluence of the Yaak and Kootenai Rivers.

Though the only sign says simply Historic Point, the nicest spot to stop is nine miles west of Libby, two miles east of Troy, where the thundering cascade of Kootenai Falls drops down a half-mile-long series of terraces. Two hiking trails leave from the well-marked roadside parking area, one leading 400 yards upstream to the main falls, the other heading downstream to a rickety old swinging bridge that sways from cables suspended 50 feet above the green water.

For most of the way between Troy and Libby, US-2 is bordered by marked turnouts where trails lead to the narrow, twisting old highway, preserved as a hiking and cross-country skiing trail through the dense forest.