South Boundary Trail

  • South Boundary Trail
       5.3 miles elevation gain 360 feet ~ rolling hills
       No Shuttle Service
       Take the first right after entering West Glacier Entrance on Old River Bridge Road
       follow road until it ends at the Old River Bridge
       trail dries out early in the season
       south facing trail gets hot during the summer
  •    wildflowers peak in June even in heavy snow years
       parts of trail are wooded, parts are without Shade
       Moderate hike
  • NPS Trail Crew hasn't started work on the south Boundary Trail for 2014. This usually takes place mid month in May. Trail is clear of snow.
    Trail has several wind blown logs across the trail.
    Trail has several rock slides on the trail, including one that narrows the trail to a few inches wide just above an avalanche chute down to the Middle Fork River.
    NPS Trail Crew Report 2013
    South Boundary Trail Headquarters to Lincoln Creek Tr. Jct. / 5.3 mi. Initial clearing scheduled for: : complete 5/14/13. Lincoln Creek Cable Bridge: Installed on 5/14/13

    South Boundary Trail Headquarters to Lincoln Creek Tr. Jct. / 5.3 mi. Initial clearing scheduled for: : scheduled for 5/17/13.
    Lincoln Creek Cable Bridge: Scheduled for installation 5/17/13.

    NPS Trail Crew Report 2012
    Headquarters to Lincoln Creek Tr. Jct. / 5.3 mi.
    Complete as of 4/26/12 Lincoln Creek Cable Bridge installed on 4/27/12
    Initial clearing scheduled for: Complete 7/6/2011.
    Suspension Bridge over Lincoln Creek re-installed on 7/6/2011.

Please note above the difference in timing between this year and last!

South Boundary Trail is the earliest view trail to be snow free in Glacier Park.

April 21, 2012
Trail is snow free
Too early for wildflowers
Ticks in abundance.

Three trees across trail, unlike last year these trees are not next to each other and are easy to get around. Small rock-slide about half-way down the trail. After about three miles large, long dead cedar fell across the trail. This is one of the first trails that gets worked on in the spring so these trees should be gone by the middle of May.

This is another one of those trails that I seriously miscalculated the amount of water needed for the hike and suffered for it. The South Boundary Trail follows the north shore of Middle Fork of the Flathead River providing dramatic views of the river and it's rapids. The South Boundary Trail is a rolling up and down trail sometimes densely wooded other times completely exposed. In late spring this is a good wildflower trail. In season you will be able to watch the river rafters and kayaker's coming down from Nyak to West Glacier. This is also a good trail for those interested in the railroad as the trains can be seen across the Middle Fork River as the trains make their way thorough a series of tunnels.

Mary Roberts Rhinehart Tenting To-night published in 1917 "What odds and ends of knowledge we picked up on those long days in the saddle! That if lightning strikes a pine even lightly, it kills, but that a fir will ordinarily survive; that mountain miles are measured air-line, so that twenty-five miles may really be forty, and that, even then, they are calculated on the level, so that one is credited with only the base of the triangle while he is laboriously climbing up its hypotenuse. I am personally acquainted with the hypotenuses of a good many mountains, and there is no use trying to pretend that they are bases. They are not."

Mary Roberts Rhinehart description of the hypotenuse of the triangle are equally apt for this trail which on the map looks simple, the distance not that great, but neither successfully convey the irregularity of this trail, that dips and rises as it wanders, along the northern edge of the Middle Fork River, on the southern boundary of Glacier National Park.

blue-eyed-mary-Collinsia-parviflora Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

This is one of those trails that you hike until you decide that it's time to turn around, it's 5 miles (by air) to Lincoln Creek which I didn't make on my first time on this trail due to the heat and lack of enough water. Bring a water filter as there are numerous creeks along the trail.

A good trail if you want to watch white water rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

 rafting-on-the-middle-fork Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

This is not a quiet trail, between the rafters, the trains, jake brakes on the tractor trailer trucks and the helicopters the sounds of silence are few and far between. The railroad came through in 1891. You will see more rafters then hikers on this trail.

The wildflowers, the river rapids, the many mountain creeks rushing to the river plus the views of the forested mountains to the south make up for the loss of silence.

grain train above middle fork Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the shoe leather has passed into the fiber of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson