This is one of the best waterfall hikes in the Missoula area. It is an hour drive from North Missoula to the trailhead, and you are rewarded with a very nice pair of waterfalls in just over two miles. It is, however, a good climb of over 1400 feet, so it’s best to have your hiking legs before setting out on this one. You can hear the creek the entire way, but there are only a few opportunities to access it, mostly in the first mile. The trail takes you to the top of both falls, so there are dangerous cliffs around for a dog chasing a chipmunk. And please do not be tempted to enter the water. Through early July the water is too fast to tempt a sane person but I can imagine in August pools above the falls might look inviting. The pools above the falls are not the place to play in the creek.
The trail starts up the road you have been driving. After fifty yards there are two gates - your trail is behind the gate on the right. You can step over it or take the worn path around its left side. From here the next 0.4 miles is on a road that leads to some kind of small hard rock mining operation. (I know - this hike is underwhelming so far. It gets better.) Once past the main cut (and questionable looking water running down the road - I didn’t let my dog drink from here) the trail enters the overgrown roadbed and starts to feel like a single track mountain trail.
The next section is fairly wide and smooth trail climbing steadily through an open forest with the creek audible and often visible on your left and cliffs peeking through on your right. If you look closely up to your right you will see an old sluice box perched cliff-side. At the one mile mark you cross a lovely, gentle diversion channel from the creek that must feed the sluice box. There is a narrow, flattened log bridge that makes it easy to cross. This is a great spot for your canine to cool off and re-hydrate.
The next section features some short stretches of wet/muddy trail even in early July, but there are often sizable rocks that let you minimize trail impact. There are a few very old, very large, Ponderosa Pine in this stretch, and after a little less than half a mile or so, the trail starts to climb more steeply, and it gets much rockier as it twists and climbs through an ice-age boulder field. Soon, the growing roar of the falls motivates you to press on - you know you are close.
Your first glimpse of the falls might be the best - snap a photo here. You are aside and below the falls, and as you continue your short climb, you drift away and then curve back to the left. There is a place where people admire the falls from the top, and it is worth a pause, but it was occupied when we were there so we moved on to the upper falls, another 10 minutes up the trail, not as spectacular, but we had it to ourselves and is worth the extra ten minutes.
July 5, 2020 we saw lots of Huckleberry plants, mostly green berries but a very few starting to turn. We also saw a Knapweed patch a few minutes above the second falls. Hikers before us had pulled several plants, and we followed their lead and pulled several more. The loose, moist soil made it easy to pull the plant’s entire root. If everyone who walks this portion of the trail spends 2 minutes pulling Knapweed, this immediate area will no longer be threatened.
From South Missoula drive about 29 miles south on Highway 93. As you are approaching Victor, turn right onto Mountain View Drive, then a quick right on Meridian. After 0.4 miles, turn left on Sweathouse Creek Road, then about 4 miles to the trailhead. There are a few signed junctions - follow them to stay on Sweathouse Road and you will find the trailhead.
Alternate: You can exit to the west at Bell Crossing; left after 0.5 miles on Meridian; right on Sweathouse Creek Road; then about 4 miles to the trailhead following the signed junctions.