Piegan Pass Trail Glacier National Park ~ slow hiker's guide™


Piegan Pass Trail

Major avalanche during winter of 2012 at Siyeh Bend. Dozens of trees broken by the avalanche along with trail signs. The trail along the creek which would normally be clear of snow is under ten feet and more of snow. Siyeh Creek was still melting it's way through the avalanche. Siyeh Bend parking 'improvements' are finished and parking spaces are more spread out. This trail usually doesn't open until mid to late July. Unless you have strong winter hiking skills wait until the snow melts! The long traverse shown in the photo above tends to collect snow in four or five major areas. While the rest of the slope clears fairly quickly these areas remains snow covered until mid July year after year.

A slow hikers guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers
Available on iBooks wildflower book cover

A slow hiker's guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers

Whitefish Pilot article on my Wildflower Guide.

When I first stood in the parking lot at Siyeh Bend and looked up to Piegan Pass Trail traversing Cataract Mountain, I didn't have a warm & fuzzy feeling. Piegan Pass Trail is one of those trails that looks tougher then it is, of course it didn't help that the day I first hiked it the view was obscured by heavy smoke. From the pass to Feather Plume Falls, the Piegan Pass Trail is the only trace of civilization. Logistically it's easier to hike to Piegan Pass and then return to Siyeh Bend.

Preston Park were the trail junction for the Piegan Pass Trail and Siyeh Pass Trail intersect is famous for wildflowers. Snow was melting from that area rapidly as in early July last year so push those dates back a month for this year.

piegan pass trail glacier national park

This is an excellent trail to get a sense of wilderness. Most hikers seem to stop at the Siyeh Trail intersection, the hike beyond that point to Piegan Pass is very gradual and fairly easy when the trail is free of snow. High wind can make this trail dangerous, so common sense and paying attention to the weather is important to safely get to Piegan Pass. Even if your not going to make the logistically challenging hike to Many Glacier Hotel, it is worth the effort to go a short way beyond the pass as the views and the terrain change rapidly. Make sure you bring a windbreaker with you on this trail.

Piegan Glacier, from Piegan Pass Trail, Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

The view of Piegan Glacier was hampered by the thick smoke filling Glacier National Park in 2007. Piegan Glacier is one of the few glaciers in Glacier National Park that shows little sign of change when comparing photographs of the glacier from the early 1900's to the present day. What does show clearly when comparing the early photographs with the one I took in 2007 is the vegetation along the Piegan Pass Trail. In Bakers photo, circa 1914, of this trail there is no vegetation at all, just rocks.

The images below are from the eastern side of the Piegan Pass Trail which is logistically challenging unless you have two cars.

white rocks piegan pass Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

The treat that I found on the far side of the pass after entering into a grove of sub-alpine-fir was Feather Plume Falls. The Piegan Pass Trail provides you with many different views of this spectacular water fall.

feather plume falls, Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

In Many Glacier you can catch the East Side shuttle ($10.00 cash ONLY) back to St. Mary Visitor Center. BEWARE THE GLACIER SHUTTLE has kept THE TRUNCATED HOURS STARTED IN 2008 YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO GET BACK TO SIYEH BEND USING THE GLACIER SHUTTLE.

Hiking from Siyeh Bend to Many Glacier is logistically easier when GNP Shuttle is in operation. Camp or stay overnight at the in park lodging and catch the 7 AM Shuttle from Swiftcurrent Inn don't know what the price will be in 2014 as there is a new park concessionaire. The shuttle will take you to St Mary hopefully in time to catch the first east side shuttle up towards Logan Pass. Get off at Siyeh Bend and start hiking. This way you will not be scrambling to catch the concessionaire shuttle back to St Mary. Of course the simplest option requires two cars or to leave your car overnight at Siyeh Bend and then return the next day and retrieve it. Not sure if that option is open until construction ends on the east side in four years. (2017)

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