Glacier NP : St Mary’s

Well, well, well. Picture this.

It’s been three days of constant rain, and pretty cold rain at that. On the one sunny day, you hiked and boated on the west side of the park which was wonderful, but you have gone as far as you can, since Going to the Sun Road is still closed at Avalanche Lake. What do you do now?

The answer is simple, even though it’s cumbersome. Head to the other side of the park! With the main road closed, you will have to go all the way around so plan for about a two hour drive there and a two hour drive back. If you have a toddler with you, make sure you have a charged iPad loaded up with Magic School Bus cause that’s a hell of a lot of driving in one day. BUT. DO. IT. ANYWAY.

If it isn’t obvious, this is the situation we found ourselves in. We bit the bullet and spent three days driving back and forth to the east entrances of the park and although it was exhausting, it was well worth it!! The rain subsided a bit, the sun even poked out a few times, and we spent days on the most stunning trails I have ever seen.

This post is specifically about the St. Mary’s area and the day hike we did there. We combined the hike to St. Mary’s Falls/Lower/Upper Virginia Falls with the hike to Barring Falls to make for about an 8 mile round trip. The views the entire way were unbelievable and you hit so many waterfalls along the way.

You spend a good amount of the hike actually hiking through a previously burned forest. This particular forest was burned in a forest fire in 2015, I believe, and although it was a bit sad to see, it’s the lifecycle of a forest and already has some pretty amazing new growth. The fact that these trees had no leaves actually gave us mountain and lake views the entire time which is a beautiful silver lining.  

The trail was long, especially for a new three year old, but overall pretty flat and moderate. We had bags full of snacks and even some hiking scavenger hunt cards like these which kept the day interesting. Our son, Owen, loves to find millipedes and flowers and good throwing rocks along the way and generally does very well. During all those rain days he kept asking when we could go “back on the mountain.” He even fell asleep twice on the ride on Dad’s back.

The views were incredible. The weather was great. The snacks were aplenty. The waterfalls were flowing fast. It was a wonderful hike and we would definitely recommend it!


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