St. Mary Falls Trail
- St Mary Falls
0.8 miles drops 260 feet to St Mary Falls
- Virginia Falls
1.5 miles drops 260 feet to St Mary Falls
then up just over half a mile from Saint Mary Falls and gains two hundred eighty five feet
to Virginia Falls
Drowning not Bears is the number one killer in Glacier Park
Saint Mary Falls
The forest that Saint Mary Falls Trail winds its way through burned during the Reynolds Fire of 2015.
St Mary Falls parking area is now where the shuttle stop used be while the shuttle stops are now located at the old parking area. So the hike is slightly longer. Almost all of the GTSR on the east side is gravel for 2014 season. Parking at the falls fills quickly so get an early start or take one of the ranger led boat tours. While I had zero problems with the east side shuttle on 7-8-14 shuttle service on the east side can be IFFY ! ! Shuttle service on the west works like great.
It's a very short walk, not even what I would call a hike to St. Mary Falls. The trail drops 260 feet from the road & is almost a mile from the parking area. From the shuttle stop the trail drops the same amount but is slightly longer then a mile to the falls. You can also take Glacier Boat from the dock across from Rising Sun and then it's a mile & half without the elevation change. When it has been raining there are parts of this trail crossing slick rock, sloping down the trail. Avalanche Gorge and Running Eagle are without a doubt the easiest waterfall hikes in Glacier National Park but St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls when combined into one hike provide a very nice view or photo opportunity.
After you have enjoyed the view & the spray from St Mary Falls you can continue over the bridge & along the trail to Virginia Falls. Although the St Mary Falls Trail isn't super crowded, it also is rarely completely tranquil. Most people seem to stop at St Mary Falls & not continue on to the much larger Virginia Falls. I believe this is because the sign on GTSR points to St Mary Falls.
As usual there are several ways to get to St Mary Falls in addition to the one described above from the Glacier Boat dock, the most common is the tiny parking area at the trailhead. Next not as used due to the infrequency of the shuttle service on the east side is GNP's free shuttle. The shuttle stop is east of were most hikers start the trail to St Mary Falls. There is actually a trail ending just at the shuttle stop but there is no sign-age at the stop. If you walk past the stock loading dock you will see the trail sign. The third option which isn't very feasible for 2013 since GNP is closing the parking lot at Sunpoint is to start your hike at Sunpoint. Visit Sunpoint then go up the trail to Baring Falls and after visiting that falls continue on along the lake to the far boat dock for St Mary Lake. Continue along the lake shore trail which gives you views of St Mary Lake usually only seen by passengers on the boat. This trail finally joins up with the two spur trails coming from first the shuttle stop and then from the small parking area. The trail at this point wanders through the woods until it reaches the bridge at St Mary Falls. Be sure to visit Virginia Falls which is several times larger then St Mary Falls.
A slow hiker's guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers
Whitefish Pilot article on my Wildflower Guide.
Drowning, not driving off the edge of Going to the Sun Road, or being eaten by a bear, is the leading cause of accidental death in Glacier Park. ~ When I hike in Glacier National Park I always carry bear spray This trail can at times have nice small isolated displays of wildflowers. No large fields of flowers but more of a peak a boo effect alongside the trail.
The Reynolds Fire of 2015 swept through the St Mary Valley starting next to Reynolds Creek below Jackson Glacier Overlook down to Rising Sun. The Going To Sun Road was closed on the east side first at Logan Pass then later at Siyeh Bend which cut the East side of Glacier Park from the West side of the park. While as forest fires go the Reynolds Fire wasn't that large its location down both sides of the Going to the Sun Road created a logistics nightmare. Shortly after the Reynolds Fire was under control and away from The Going To Sun Road another fire started on the east side of the park. The Thompson Fire started on August 9, 2015 while I was camping at Red Eagle Lake. I first saw the smoke and the glow under the smoke at three pm. All of the campers at both Red Eagle Lake campsites were evacuated. This fire was still burning on August 26, 2015 with no sign of stopping until the fall rains start. At this time 400,000 acres are burning in Washington State frequently filling the air with dense smoke.