Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hiking in Glacier National Park Part I

There are great publications that you can pick up at the visitors center when you come into the park. One of them is the newspaper they give you at the toll booth--Day Hikes in Glacier. Another one is picked up in various locations at other visitor's centers--it's called Visitor's Guide to Glacier National Park and the Rocky Mountain Front-Glacier Gateway. Inside this last one among many other interesting sections, is a section titled 25 Favorite Hikes. The hikes are divided into park sections--Lake McDonald Valley, Logan Pass, St. Mary, and Many Glacier. With more than 700 miles of hiking trails, you can spend a LOT of time in the park hiking.

little details

So we decided to do one of the listed hikes under the St. Mary's section--St. Mary's Falls, a 0.8 mile trail from the trailhead.....The trailhead is located about 10.5 miles west of St. Mary, which is on the eastern side of the park, past Logan Pass. It took about an hour and a half by car to get to the trail from the western entrance of the park to the trailhead, with some construction delays on the Going to the Sun Road. The trail gradually descends 260 feet from the parking area to the falls. If you continue on the trail from St. Mary's Falls, it's only 0.7 mile more and a 285 foot climb to reach Virginia Falls. You pass lots of mini waterfalls and cascades on your way to Virginia Falls, like the ones in the above photo. There were the usual bear warning signs at the beginning of the trail, although there was so much foot traffic on the trail, I don't think we needed to worry about having bear spray today. Carrying bear spray is highly recommended by all the literature and the park rangers if you plan to do a lot of hiking, the spray recommended even on the most populated trails. We heard LOTS of bells by hikers (articles about the park say bells are not effective) and people clapping occasionally to make noise (good idea). Here are some of the beautiful views we saw on the way down to St. Mary's Falls today....
beautiful red rock and other colorful rocks on the river stream bed

And after hiking quite a while, of course I had to stick my feet in the river/creek and boy, was it cold! And even though it doesn't look like it, my feet ARE in the water! And they are starting to turn a nice shade of bluish red. (Uh, Sparky, these are glacier fed streams, rivers, and lakes, dear!) You're telling me!

We thought we might have seen a bear scrape, but not sure....

We looked for bear scat, but all we saw was horse poop! (Sparky, do you even know what bear poop looks like?) Nope! That would be a great question to ask the ranger the next time I see one. Anyway, we get to St. Mary's Falls, and here they are!
On to Virginia Falls......

When we got to Virginia Falls and hung around for a bit, we experienced an odd bout of coughing, both of us, along with another family with small children nearby. We think it's because the falls are glacier fed. When the glaciers melt, they pulverize the rocks and a very fine dust is swept down the rivers and over the falls. It actually has a name, glacier flour and it's what gives the rivers the beautiful deep aquamarine colors you see in the water all around the park. We think the waterfall mist had fine particles of dust in it and caused us all to cough.

And you might see some idiots like we did once we got to Virginia Falls...two guys decided it wasn't enough to hike a mile and a half one way to the beautiful falls, nope! They wanted to get up close and personal at the top of the falls. There is no trail to the top, but that's where they ended up, dangerously close to slippery rocks. One misstep and we'd be reading about them in the news. Here is a photo of them, but picture them at the TOP of our photo above and to the left of the falls. These guys are idiots!

Would you believe we're gonna do another hike tomorrow, two hikes two days in a row for our last day in North American RV Park? Yep, he wants to be able to say he hiked in grizzly country not once, but twice!  (Sparky promised him a heckuva foot massage after the second one as his legs bother him after hikes.) Yippee! We're gonna do the Avalanche Lake Trail hike.....see you there tomorrow.....


  1. I have friends who are hiking Glacier, now, and they took pictures of the same falls!

    Looks just great; especially from the southeast!

  2. Where are you staying? I'm starting to pay attention to things like that now :`) Thoese fall sure are beautiful.

  3. Gotta put this on my list but 3 hours in driving to and fro? That's the real problem in these huge western parks. You either have to move the motorhome to 2 or 3 different campgrounds to close to hikes or you have to drive a LONG way. Good for you guys, out tomorrow. Can't wait to read about it and to see you here.

    Tonight Entertainment and an ice cream social compliments of Jim & Mary. See you soon!