St. Mary and Virginia Falls is one of the best short hikes I’ve been on in Glacier National Park. It’s pretty much just one long waterfall for miles! As you hike along through the forest, little openings appear with so many sets of falls that I lost count. The main attraction is obviously the 2 big falls that the trail is named after, but the falls in between were really nice too.
The roundtrip is 3.6 miles and you only gain 525′ of elevation making this hike great for a half day adventure, or even something to do on your rest days in between bigger hikes. Just like any falls, they’re the best first thing in the season with the snow still melting in the mountains because the falls will be thundering over the rocks!
The trailhead starts right before you reach St. Mary’s Lake, and as you walk through the trees you get a glimpse here and there of the head of the lake. The St. Mary’s side of the park is currently under construction and the trailhead isn’t in it’s usual spot. We ended up stopping to ask someone where the trailhead was because the sign isn’t up right now. So currently as of July 2015, the trailhead shares the same trailhead with the Gunsight Lake trail. I’m not sure when/if this will change, but I thought I’d share our experience and that way you can ask at the visitor’s center when you come for the most recent up to date information.
This is the first view of St. Mary’s falls as you approach the bridge crossing it. The color of the water is absolutely unreal, and the bridge gets up close for a nice view, (see below pictures).
From the St. Mary’s Falls, you travel on through the wood with wildflowers and little creeks burbling across the path.
There are 2 views of Virginia Falls and I recommend seeing them both because they’re both spectacular! We had the weirdest weather the day we went, we started out with sunshine but by the time we got to the upper falls view it was completely overcast. Only 15 minutes later at the lower falls, the sun was peaking out again – I think that’s why they say ‘if you don’t like the weather in Montana, wait 15 minutes and it will change’! (The view of the lower Virginia Falls is the first photograph in this post if you’re curious.) Right at the end of the hike, the rest of the clouds evaporated, and we ended up with blue skies for the rest of the day!
If you have a little time leftover in your day, I recommend spending the evening picnicking at either one of the big lakes in Glacier. If you’re staying in the St. Mary’s region, it’s nice to hang out at St. Mary’s Lake (although be prepared because it’s really cold). If you’re camping in the Apgar region on the west side, a picnic at Lake McDonald is one of my all time favorite things to do, and the water is considerably warmer than St. Mary’s Lake!