Glacier National Park – Saint Mary Falls And Virginia Falls

This past June, my wife Joann and I spent some time on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. While we were there, we were able to explore Glacier National Park, drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and do several short hikes.

This post, which is part two of four, contains images and descriptions of our 3.8 mile round trip hike to the popular Saint Mary Falls and Virginia Falls.

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Our hike began at the Saint Mary Falls parking lot, off of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The parking lot is located about eight miles east of Logan Pass and about another ten miles from the park’s entrance.

This shot was taken shortly after we left the trailhead. That’s 8,064 foot Dusty Star Mountain looming directly in front of us. As we walked it became apparent, as evidenced from the blackened trees, that the area had been damaged by fire.

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According to what I’ve found online, a fire known as the Reynolds Creek Fire began on July 21st, 2015. In places, it burned on both sides of the Going-to-the-Sun Road and extended from east of the Rising Sun area to a bit west of Saint Mary Lake. Before it was contained, it had burned at least 3,170 acres and had destroyed a historic cabin.

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Even with the fire damage though, the area is still very pretty. Here, a small field of wildflowers are growing along a slope in the foreground of the lake.

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We saw a number of other wildflowers on our short hike. I’ve tried to identify some of them here, so clockwise from the top left are Indian Paintbrush, Wild Lupine, Thimbleberry, Wandering Daisy, and Alpine Yarrow.

This deer was grazing at the side of the trail. It was aware of our presence but seemed rather nonchalant. I guess nothing rattles you once you’ve survived a forest fire.

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After hiking about 1.1 miles, we arrived at Saint Mary Falls. The water tumbles down three separate levels as it drops thirty-five feet from the top of the falls to the pool at the bottom.

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The water in the pool was a beautiful sort of turquoise color. It was quite turbulent though as it swirled around and passed under a large rock ledge before heading downstream.

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We spent a few minutes taking pictures and enjoying the view before we resumed hiking. Almost immediately the trail began to climb up and away from the river.

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Here, Joann and I crossed a small feeder stream as we continued onward towards Virginia Falls.

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We passed this impressive cascade along Virginia Creek. There are many such cascades but they are hard to see unless you get off the beaten path.

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At approximately 1.9 miles from the trailhead, we crossed a small wooden bridge and arrived at the foot of Virginia Falls. The falls are roughly fifty feet high and if you don’t mind getting a little wet from the spray, you can get pretty close for a nice picture. Just be careful walking on the slippery rock.

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The water coming over the falls rushes down this narrow chute not far from the base.

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I think that that’s more Thimbleberry lining both sides of the trail on our hike back to our vehicle.

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After reaching our vehicle, we began the drive to our hotel in East Glacier Park. Looking at a map, it appeared that taking hwy 49 would be a more direct route, so we took that. While it’s a very scenic drive, it is a bit unnerving. The road is steep, winding, and narrow. In places it’s bumpy and in other places there are depressions where the road appears to be sinking. It has no guard rails, and according to Wikipedia, it’s prone to landslides. Yikes!

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More beautiful views from along Montana Die-way 49. Oops, I mean Highway 49.

Big Sky Country indeed! Big Blue Sky Country!

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After driving a few more miles, we pulled off the road and hiked down a short unmarked trail. The trail led us past more Wild Lupine and to an overlook with great views of Lower Two Medicine Lake. At the overlook, we also found a couple of crosses that are part of a small family memorial.

Later in the evening, we caught up with our friends Tony and Robin (President/Executive Director of God’s Grace Ministry) and their daughter Madison. We ate a nice dinner together then headed back to our hotel rooms. All in all, this had been another awesome day!

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