Off the road to Two Medicine Lake is a short side trail that goes to a small water fall that has a second fall in it. The second fall is the result of a hollow in the stone, that diverts part of the flow to a secondary exit about half way down the larger fall. There were lots of beware of bears warnings (but I still have not seen a bear in the wild.)
The marmot is one of the classic mountain creatures and even if you never see one while hiking, you are bound to hear one. They make a shrill whistle presumably to warn other marmots of your approach. These large furry rodents are actually just super-sized ground squirrels, differing mostly by habitat. They frequent rocky areas at high elevation and hibernate during the cold winter months so must eat lots to put on the necessary weight for survival. Come to think of it, I've never seen a skinny marmot!
I have seen many marmots over the years on many alpine hikes but I think the cutest one was in Glacier National Park on the Garden Wall hike. This was a fairly narrow trail but we came to a nice open rocky area and decided to take a break. It was quite nice out and it was so relaxing to get our packs off and soak up the sun. We noticed a marmot doing exactly the same. He was just standing there, his face to the sun with his eyes closed. This was living proof that animals do enjoy themselves just like we do, often relishing in simple pleasures.
Whereas Olympic National Park in Washington State debates the right of mountain goats to flourish within its confines due to their not being native, Glacier National Park has chosen the animal as their official symbol. These adept climbers are spotted in the most precipitous places and it is no wonder they exhibit little fear or shyness around humans eager to take their photo. You will have to be at a fairly high elevation to see one as their habit is typically above 4000 feet. Males are much larger than their female counterparts and can reach up to 300 pounds, have longer horns and beards. As a rule, females are more social, are seen with their young while males tend to be loners.
Their cloven hooves are well suited for climbing as they separate and pads underneath provide traction so your best chance of seeing one is on the side of steep trails up on rocky outcroppings. We saw quite a few including a very cute nanny with its kid and no billy in sight. The baby was likely about 3 months old as nannies give birth typically in late May or early June. The kids remain with her for a year even though they are weaned by one month.
Bighorn Sheep are one of the most impressive animals in Glacier National Park. Seeing one in the wild is one of the park's great joys and while you have to look hard to see them elsewhere, they are fairly common here. Large males can be well over 300 pounds and their massive horns can weigh up to 30 in themselves! These majestic creatures made their way to North America over the Berring Land Bridge before it became the Strait from Siberia. Once numbering close to 2 million, they were hunted and decimated by disease to a mere few thousand by 1900. Conservation and reintroduction have brought their population back to healthy levels though not near their former prevalence or range.
Males are not only much larger than their female counterparts but also have the classic rounded huge horns most associated with the animal. Female do have horns but they are much smaller and only slightly bent. Males need every inch in rutting season, when the males square off to see who gets to mate. Older males generally have lots of damage and scarring on their horns from their many contests over the years. They are great climbers and you will most often spot them negotiating rocky outcroppings if they are not feeding on grass and other vegetation that makes up the bulk of their diet.
We saw many Bighorn Sheep on the Grinnell Glacier and Garden Wall hikes. They are not particularly shy but I guess we don't look all that agile lumbering down the trail with our big backpacks!
Chipmunks, much like squirrels are the entertainers of the forest but what to us is entertainment, for the chipmunk is the work of storing food for the winter. They just move so fast it appears comical to us but make no mistake, these are serious omnivores whose diet includes nuts, insects, grain, small frogs, fungi, worms and bird eggs. One of the things that makes them so cute is also one of its greatest food-gathering assets. Their cheek pouches expand their entire face but make it possible for them to carry a lot more food to their dens or food caches.
These cute critters play an important part in the ecosystems they are part of and feeding them is a selfish way to get a photo or make yourself feel like a do-gooder. You are actually hurting them by forging bad habits and taking them from what they were put on this planet to do. We know deep down that a carrot is better for us than a candy bar but many still choose the latter. Chipmunks do not know candy bars and the like unless we expose them to them. Let chipmunks eat what is right for them and keep man-made garbage solely for polluting our own bodies.
Running Eagle Falls is quite simply the reason I went to Glacier National Park. It is unique among any other waterfall I’ve ever seen. This waterfall takes on two completely different forms depending on how much water is flowing over them.
In the summer the falls have a lower amount of water flowing and the entire flow seeps into porous rocks above the falls. The result is a fall that comes straight out of the rock face like a pipe. In the times of higher water the water cannot seep into the rocks fast enough and comes out over the top of the cliff like your more typical waterfall. At the perfect water levels you can get a small stream over the top and a noticeable amount through the hole in the cliff.
I was not lucky enough to see the falls in that condition so I will have to return at another time. The falls are still quite spectacular and only left me wanting more. The falls are about 50 feet (15 meters) to the top of the cliff but the pipe part exits at about 20 feet (6mMeters).
One additional note about the falls. It was named after Running Eagle whom was a Blackfoot tribeswoman who lived around 1825. She was a warrior and was said to have taken her vision quest in the area near the falls.
From the 2 medicine lake area the falls are accessed by a small but well signed turnout. From there follow a trail with essentially no elevation change for a short distance to the falls.
Redrock Falls is more about enjoying the surroundings and the lake than the falls. The falls hop between the large boulders and never really make themselves very well seen. I’d say that the falls are about 40 feet (12 meters) in total but without an above vantage point you would not be able to see them all at one time.
The main interest of this area is certainly the bright red rocks found in all around the area and the towering peaks to all sides of the lake. The broad U Shaped valley that these falls and lake area within are very open and really present the vast feeling that Glacier National Park gave me.
From the Many Glacier area park at the Information Center and follow the path at the end of the parking area. About 500 feet in a sign points the way to Redrock Lake. From there it’s about 2 miles (3.2 km).
What I’m calling Upper Virginia falls may just be more small falls along Virginia creek. This fall is smaller than the one downstream from it and is a little less impressive. I think that I may have missed the real Virginia falls which I think is further down the trail.
These were a good consolation prize though. The falls pictured are about 25 feet (7 meters) and drop into a narrow gorge. The above portions are similar to those at Lower Virginia falls. They are small falls into pools that are in rapid succession.
From the St. Mary's Falls Trail head follow the trail past St. Mary's Falls. The first water you encounter heading along the trail has several small falls. From there continue another short distance and another set of falls will be on your left side.
I’m pretty confused as to what waterfall is actually Virginia Falls. There are so many waterfalls in this area and throughout the park which are not labeled and it is tough to tell what you are actually looking at.
The falls I have pictured are the first encountered after St. Mary’s Falls. The last tier of the falls was the most interesting to me. It was about 30 feet (10 meters) and gently cascades over a striated wall of rock. The Upper portions of the falls are mostly small drops into small pools.
From the St. Mary's Falls Trail head follow the trail past St. Mary's Falls. The first water you encounter heading along the trail has several small falls. Make your way down the cliff to see the lower portion.
Apikuni falls is certainly the most impressive fall I saw during my time in Glacier National Park and i wouldn't even have known about it if it weren't for Glenn (Bwana_Brown). I have seen no figures as to how tall the falls are but if I were to guess I’d put it at or around 300 feet (91 meters). It drops nearly vertical in two steps over a saddle created by Mt. Altyan and Apikuni Mountain.
The hike is less than 1 mile and is very easy. The falls and trail are labeled on park maps but I think most people miss it because the Many Glacier area is so full of other things to do. Wildlife is certainly very prevalent in the area and the extremely popular Grinnell glacier trail takes the interest of most hikers.
In the Many Glacier about 3 miles west of the entrance their is a turnout for one of a trail to one of the peaks. One trail goes right to the peak and this one goes left to the Falls.
Baring Falls is an excellent example of the geology of Glacier National park. The falls pass over a layered rock formation that causes its crest to angle downward. The falls are about 30-40 feet (10 meters) and are located in one of the more accessible amphitheatres in the park.
The hike to the falls is accessed by the Sunrift gorge parking area and is very short. I apparently missed a few other waterfalls in the same area but I’m glad I got to see this one. I have a video I attached of this fall cuz the lighting was just terrible for photo’s.
Turnout and park at the Sunrift Gorge parking area. From there follow the trail under the road and continue to the falls in about 1 mile.
The hike to Avalanche Lake is an easy 2 mile (3.2 km) one way with an elevation gain of only 500 feet (152 meters). The hike meanders through an evergreen forest and passes by many large Drop Stones and eventually makes its way to the lake.
Once you get to the lake you will be greeted by 3 extremely tall waterfalls and a very serene lake. The waterfalls, as best I can tell are called Avalanche Basin Falls and Monument Falls. These falls are both sited as being over 1500 feet (457 meters). Depending on your definition of a waterfall you may have a differing opinion.
One thing is for sure though; this lake is a noisy place to be. The water cascading down the cliffs opposite the access point make for a constant roar. Capturing the lake and falls in a good picture proved to be a difficult task for me since the lake is socked in by fog more than it isn't.
To access Avalanche Lake drive about 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Lake McDonald and find the well defined Avalanche parking area. From there take the 'Trail of the Cedars' to the cutoff trail and pass Avalanche Creek Falls along the 2 mile (3.2 km) hike to the lake.
OK I know that is so cliché and corny but there really are some interesting mushrooms to see in the park. Over 1,000 species of fungi are said to be present. I didn’t see that many but after hiking a bit I couldn’t help but notice the variety.
It is illegal to collect mushrooms in the park and I always go by the rule of thumb that mushrooms are not to be eaten. Yes, of course, some mushrooms are edible. However, some are completely deadly and since I am not educated as to which are good and which are bad I steer clear completely.
Fungi are a vital part of a forests ecosystem especially in a northern climate. They serve to recycle decaying trees back to soil. It is estimated that in the McDonald Valley, (west side of park) the amount of fungus rootlets in the soil may approach 4,000 lbs per acre (1815 kg/ 4,000 sq meters). Thinking back it has also occurred to me that the all of the mushrooms pictured below were documented in that area.
St. Mary’s Falls is one of the most accessible and easily viewed waterfalls in the park. It is also one of the more impressive. As a two tiered falls they are sited at 40 feet (12 meters) but my suspicion is that this falls is actually taller than that. The falls certainly provides a different feel in times of higher water which should be expected in June and July.
The teal blue color of the water is due to the presence of much glacial silt in the water which makes the milky blue color that is noticeable. The falls are visible from many different viewpoints. I would suggest getting a few of them to really appreciate the falls.
From the Going to the Sun Road, find the ‘sun point’ turnout 10.1 miles (16 km) west of St. Mary’s. From there follow the hiking trail for about .8 miles (1.2 km) to the falls.
Open May 15 to September 30 - Maintenance variable and closed at Belly River Bridge from October 1 to May 14.
The Chief Mountain Highway is the primary route between Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Parks. The highway climbs from the grasslands near Maskinonge Lake to a viewpoint which offers a magnificent panorama of the Waterton and Blakiston valleys. En route to the international border crossing, the highway passes through wetlands and the site of the Sofa Mountain fire. Travellers can continue across the international border past Chief Mountain to the community of St. Mary, on the boundary of Glacier National Park.