Have I told you that Glacier National Park is one of my favorite parks? There is something about Glacier that is special to me. My visits have been in early season when the park is still waking up from Winter and the crowds haven’t built to peak summer season. The relative quiet of the park in the early season and the chance to get out on the trails and not see people constantly is refreshing to me. The crowds are why I was so disappointed in Yosemite Valley, beautiful yes, but I felt like I was in an amusement park not a national park – the Tuolumne Meadows area of the park was a completely different experience and restored my faith in Yosemite. Back to Glacier National Park.
In a previous post I talked about several of my favorite hikes on the West side of Glacier. The East side of the park has a few of the iconic view of Glacier National Park that you have seen in pictures. The St. Mary Lake area is one of the most photographed regions of the park.
East Side Glacier National Park Day Hikes
Glacier Park has three main roads that lead into the park on the east side, plus an entry from the north through Canada. These hikes listed here are organized using the entry road/area.
The southern most is Two Medicine / Cut Bank.
Scenic Point Trail: This is a 7 mile round trip hike that Alan Leftridge rates as Moderate in his book Glacier Day Hikes (links to my review and Amazon.com purchasing are at the end of the blog). We attempted this hike on a cold, windy day in June and hiked in for about 2 or 3 miles before turning back due to the cold. We had proper equipment and clothing, but it just wasn’t worth pushing on, as the overcast was limiting the view and we had other hikes we that looked like a better use of time. The trail does give a view of different topography as you climb higher on the trail, it turns into more an alpine environment.
Appistoki Falls: This is a short 1.2 mile round trip is easily combined with the Scenic Point Trail hike, which we did. The falls are beautiful and the view is amazing. This is an Easy hike that requires minimal skill, just a desire to get away from the parking lot and explore. If you are planning on taking the Scenic Point Trail, this short side trip is worth the time.
Running Eagle Falls: I can’t call this a hike, more like a leisurely 0.3 mile round trip stroll from the parking lot. Still, it is well worth the visit. The falls are impressive in the spring and well worth the few minutes of walking. Leave your pack and water bottle, just grab your camera.
The St. Mary’s Lake area is on the east end of the Going To The Sun road through the park. The traffic through this area is higher, and finding parking is a challenge during the peak season, but the hikes are worth it.
Baring Falls, St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls Hikes: These three are east to combine into one hike. Depending on where you park and join the trail, the hike can exceed 4 or more miles round trip, but the hike has an Easy. Baring Falls is a short walk from where the parking lot, only about 0.7 miles. Continue on the trail around the edge of St. Mary Lake and you will join the trail for St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. You will hear St. Mary Falls before you see it, and if it is early in the spring runoff you may even get damp as you walk the bridge over the St. Mary River.
The same holds true for Virginia Falls, you will hear it first. We continued on the St. Mary Lake trail for a while just to explore the area. The crowds thinned out quickly after Virginia Falls and the views of the lake were worth the walk.
The northern entrance on the east side is the Many Glaciers area. We were running short of daylight, but wanted to see part of this area.
Appekunny Falls: This is the only hike we had time to do in the Many Glaciers area, but this hike was a highlight. The trail is only 2 miles round trip, but the last part of the hike approaching the base of the falls is over loose rock and this is what gives the trail a Moderate rating. There was still considerable snow pack at the base of the falls when we hiked it in late June. This provided a unique look to the falls and presented a few challenges at the end of the trail. Still, the day we hiked the trail, a family with three elementary aged kids were enjoying the snow.
The east side of Glacier is an area of the park that I look forward to exploring in more depth. I have yet to make it up to Goat Haunt, the entrance reached through the Canadian entrance. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the trail guide that I like best for Glacier National Park is Glacier Day Hikes, by Alan Leftridge. If you would like my full review of the book, here is the link to that post.
I hope this encourages you to put on some trail shoes or boots, grab a daypack, some water and snacks and get away from the parking lots. It always amazes me, how quickly the crowd thins out just a half mile or so onto the trail. If you venture out on the trails, do be smart and make sure you have basic supplies. I am probable over-prepared, but I have rain gear, food, water, basic first air kit, knife and maps or a trail guide. Glacier National Park is one you do need to keep an eye out for the wildlife, there are bears and other predators around, but a little common sense goes a long way. Oh, grab a camera!