January 23, 2018

Updated Info 2015 for hiking to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls, Glacier National Park

Neill family at St. Mary Falls 2015

I have written about the wonderful family hike to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls on my blog before. But here is some updated information about the hike since they changed the parking situation in 2015.

Glacier National Park is now encouraging more people to use the free shuttle service. The Park Service has now closed the parking area that says it is the “St. Mary Falls Trailhead” and made that parking area only open to shuttles stopping here. The next parking area east, the first one past the St. Mary Falls Trailhead if you are driving from Logan Pass toward St. Mary is where you will need to park if you are driving. This parking area currently says it leads you to Gunsight Lake. Yes, it will lead you to Gunsight Lake if you hike far enough. But you will take the trailhead here and actually follow it to St. Mary Falls, following the signs to the falls, rather than the sign that would lead you to Gunsight Lake. (By the way, if you do want to hike to Gunsight Lake, you should drive closer to Logan Pass and park at the Jackson Glacier Overlook and begin hiking from there to cut off some miles.)

So even though it says Gunsight Lake, you can take this trail departing from this parking area and you will take your first right when you hit a fork. (If you turn left, it will lead you down to St. Mary Lake.) There is currently a handmade sign pointing right to St. Mary Falls at this turn. {IMPORTANT: On your way back, it is critical you take that turn — it will be to your left on your way back. This is not marked on the way back. When you hit that fork, you will see the sign that points to keep going down to St. Mary Lake, but you will go to your left that leads you back up to the parking area where you began.} So, take your first right, and then you will hike until you see a sign on your right that would take you back up to the Going-to-the-Sun Road (this is where the shuttle stop will come down). Keep going straight. Then you will hit another sign that is well-marked, that points to go left to reach St. Mary and Virginia Falls, or right to go to Gunsight Lake. Here you will go left, and that trail will take you all of the way to both waterfalls.

If you depart from the shuttle stop, it will actually make your hike shorter by cutting off the section of trail you must hike to get back to the parking area. If you are on your way back and see the turn to the left that says “Going-to-the-Sun Road 0.3 miles”, that turn will lead you back up to the shuttle area. You can take this trail, and then when you reach the road, just walk along the road to the next parking area. However, I don’t recommend this because there is not a lot of space for walking, and the blacktop is very hot to walk on, and there is a ton of traffic! If you took the shuttle, definitely catch that turn to take you up to the shuttle stop. If you drove, keep going past that turn, and catch your next turn to your left up to the parking area (as I said before, that turn is currently unmarked).

I am really hoping the Park Service places some better signs along this hike now that you can no longer park at the actual “St. Mary Falls Trailhead.” But in the meantime, this post will help you understand where to go!

Enjoy this amazing hike to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls in Glacier National Park! Click here to see photos from our 2015 hike.

Warm Wishes from Big Sky Country,

Alex M. Neill

Montana Vacation Blog



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