Saint Mary Falls: What to Know Before Your Hike

Saint Mary Falls in Glacier National Park is a beautiful waterfall originating from the clear, cold waters of St. Mary Lake. The fall’s milky blue color, caused by the water’s glacial flour that reflects sunlight, makes it a unique attraction.

Our guide will help you explore the beauty of Saint Mary Falls. Learn about the scenic, easy hike to the spot through a forest recovering from a fire. Discover the best times to visit and what to expect, including colorful rocks and the aqua-green pools beneath the falls.

Why visit Saint Mary Falls? Its beauty and the stories it tells about nature are captivating. Experiencing such an incredible natural display is truly special, making it a must-see as you prepare to explore this spectacular waterfall.

5 Key Takeaways on Saint Mary Falls

  1. The hike to Saint Mary Falls is easy, short, and mostly flat, making it accessible to everyone. It takes you through a forest that is recovering beautifully from a forest fire.
  2. The best time to visit Saint Mary Falls is from July to September when the weather is favorable. Going-to-the-Sun Road is also open during this season, providing easy access.
  3. The Saint Mary Falls trailhead is just off the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, which offers spectacular views of St. Mary Lake.
  4. Be sure to bring essentials like water, swimming gear, sunscreen, and bear spray on your hike to Saint Mary Falls to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
  5. You might spot local wildlife, such as American dippers, and explore other beautiful spots like Virginia Falls during your hike to Saint Mary Falls.

Where Is Saint Mary Falls?

Location CoordinatesHeightNearby AttractionsLocation
48.668056° N, -113.617222° WApprox. 35 feetVirginia Falls and Baring FallsWest Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana

Saint Mary Falls is a beautiful waterfall in Glacier National Park. It flows from the fresh, clean water of St. Mary Lake. The water tumbles over rocks, creating a beautiful view and soothing sound. This spot is perfect for those who enjoy nature and hiking.

What makes St. Mary Falls unique is the milky blue color of the water, caused by glacial flour, tiny rock particles from glaciers. These particles create a light blue-green hue when they mix with water.

The hike to Saint Mary Falls is enjoyable and easy. The path is short and flat, which makes it accessible for everyone.

You’ll pass through a forest of slender trees on your way to the falls. These trees are regenerating after a forest fire in 2015, with blackened, burnt trunks alongside new purple wildflowers. It’s a testament to nature’s resilience and beauty as it regrows and recovers.

You’ll see water tumbling down three separate tiers into clear aqua-green pools when you reach the falls. A small bridge near the falls lets you stand and view the milky blue river from above.

The best time to visit St. Mary Falls is during the summer months, from July to September when the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open. The trail is free from snow and ice during this period, making it safe and easy to hike. This is the ideal time to experience this natural wonder at its best.

How to Get to the Saint Mary Falls Trailhead

A wooden bridge with railings spans a flowing river in a rocky, forested area near Saint Mary Waterfall, Montana.

The St. Mary Falls Trailhead parking is located 10 miles from the St. Mary Visitor Center, just past the Baring Falls trailhead on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Allow extra time to enjoy the scenic stops along St. Mary Lake on your drive.

The first parking area you’ll see is for Baring Falls and includes a small lot on the left with a bathroom, which also serves the St. Mary Falls trail. More parking is available just a short drive further along the road if this lot is full.

What to Know About the Hike to Saint Mary Falls

Saint Mary Falls tumbles into a turquoise pool surrounded by rugged, rocky cliffs and lush greenery.

Trail LocationRoundtrip LengthTotal Elevation GainAvg. Elev Gain Per MileTrail TypeTrail Difficulty Rating
Glacier National Park5.2 Miles700 Feet269 FeetOut-And-Back TrailModerate

The hike to the St. Mary Falls trail begins at either the Mary Falls Cutoff Trailhead or the St. Mary Falls Shuttle Stop and ends at Saint Mary Falls. You can use the park’s free shuttle system for convenient transport to and from these points.

You’ll be greeted with panoramic views of Dusty Star Mountain, Almost-a-Dog Mountain, Little Chief Mountain, Fusillade, Reynolds, and Heavy Runner Mountains early in the hike. These beautiful mountain views enhance the experience, making the hike as enjoyable as the waterfalls themselves.

The trail passes through an area affected by the Reynolds Creek Fire in 2015. This section of the path demonstrates nature’s ability to recover from destruction — a captivating sight to witness during your hike. You can choose your path when you reach the Piegan Pass Trail junction.

A highlight of the hike is spotting American dippers, also known as water ouzels. These unique birds are entertaining as they hop on rocks and dive underwater. Their presence adds to the trail’s natural charm.

You’ll arrive at Virginia Falls after walking along the peaceful Virginia Creek. This part of the hike showcases the stunning mountain scenery typical of Glacier National Park.

The park shuttle is available to take you back when you’re ready to return. This convenient service makes it easy to finish a day full of adventure and natural beauty.

You can choose to return via the Sun Point Nature Trail if you park at Sun Point. This longer route may extend the hike, but its stunning views should make it well worth the extra distance.

What to Prepare on Your Hike to Saint Mary’s Falls

A man and a woman prepare for a trip to St. Mary Falls while parked next to a sandy, desert-like area.

When packing for your hike to Saint Mary Falls, it’s crucial to bring the right items for a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are the top 11 essentials to include:

  1. Water Bottle – The trail is over three miles long with a significant elevation gain. Bring a water bottle filled with at least a liter of water.
  2. Bathing Suit and Travel Towel – Remember to pack your swim gear if you’re planning to swim in the base pool or jump off rocks at St. Mary Falls.
  3. Sunscreen – Apply a thick layer of sunscreen before starting. Some parts of the trail are exposed to direct sunlight, and you’ll want to avoid sunburn.
  4. Bug Spray or Mosquito-Repellent Bracelet – Use bug spray or a mosquito-repellent bracelet to protect against bugs, especially near the waterfall.
  5. Bear Spray – Bear encounters are rare, but it’s best to carry bear spray for bear safety.
  6. Hiking Shoes – Wear sturdy hiking boots for navigating the dirt and gravel path. They offer the necessary grip and support, particularly on rocky sections.
  7. Hiking Poles – The trail includes 450 feet of elevation. Hiking poles can make the steeper sections at the beginning and end more manageable.
  8. Binoculars – Bring binoculars for a better view of wildlife, like moose, that might appear near the trail.
  9. Waterproof Camping Tarp – A versatile piece of gear, use a waterproof tarp for extra rain cover or as a groundsheet for comfort.
  10. Sleeping Bag – Nights in Glacier can be cold, even in August, so a warm sleeping bag is essential.
  11. Research Trail Conditions – Conditions vary by season. Snow and ice can linger into July, so it’s wise to check the trail conditions and possibly pack crampons.

You’re doing more than just preparing for a hike by packing these items, you’re adding a layer of protection and ensuring you’re equipped for any situation.

Saint Mary Falls Final Thoughts

The milky blue waters of Saint Mary Falls cascade into a vibrant pool surrounded by rugged rock formations and lush greenery.

St. Mary Falls is not only a stunning multi-tiered waterfall with milky blue waters, it’s also a peaceful natural haven. The quiet surroundings and vivid colors create a magical atmosphere that enhances the beauty of the falls.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography lover, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, Saint Mary Falls offers a unique experience for everyone. The trail is relatively easy, and you can enhance your journey by using Glacier National Park’s free shuttle system.

Take in the views and explore other nearby falls like Virginia Falls, but don’t forget your essentials. Proper hiking gear, bear spray, and bug spray are essential for a safe and enjoyable hike.

Be sure to include a visit to Saint Mary Falls next time you plan a trip to Montana. It’s where the energy of the waterfall meets the peace of the surrounding lake — a memorable sight that will linger in your memory long after your visit.

Saint Mary Falls FAQs

1. How Do I Get to Saint Mary Falls?

To reach Saint Mary Falls, drive to Glacier National Park and use the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The parking area for the falls is located about 10 miles from the St. Mary Visitor Center, just past the Baring Falls trailhead.

There’s a small parking lot on the left with a restroom facility. If this lot is full, additional parking is available a short distance further along the road.

2. What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Saint Mary Falls?

The ideal time to visit Saint Mary Falls is during the summer months, from July through September. During these months, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is fully accessible, and the trails are usually clear of snow and ice, making it safer and more enjoyable for hiking.

3. Is the Hike to Saint Mary Falls Difficult?

The hike to Saint Mary Falls is considered moderate. It is a 5.2-mile roundtrip on an out-and-back trail with a total elevation gain of 700 feet. The trail itself is well-maintained and relatively flat, making it accessible for most hikers with moderate fitness levels.

4. Are There Any Safety Precautions I Should Take When Visiting Saint Mary Falls?

When visiting Saint Mary Falls, it’s important to take several safety precautions:

  • Always Carry Bear Safety
  • Use Proper Footwear
  • Ensure Hydration and Protection
  • Check Weather Conditions Before Visiting

Did you learn something from this waterfall guide? Discover other informative articles about Montana here:

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Written by:

Ashley Smith
Hello there! I'm Ashley Smith, born on a chilly winter's day, Montana has been my playground since childhood. The first snowfall of the year always brings back memories of building snowmen and winter hikes. Co-founding was my way of sharing the magic of Montana's seasons with the world. While Chris dives deep into the landscapes, I'm obsessed with Montana's rich culture, from the local festivals to the tales passed down generations.

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