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Add it to the Bucket List: Saint Mary and Virginia Falls Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the most popular National Parks in the entire system. From the NPS website: “Glacier has consistently hosted around 3 million visitors each year for the last 5 years” THREE MILLION! Despite the crowds, it is a literal gem and a must-see. I spent August of 2023 hiking the entire park for research for a guidebook, and I fell in love. One of my favorite hikes was Saint Mary and Virginia Falls, for so many reasons. Take a peak at the stats and photos below, and start planning your next trip!

Quick Stats

Total Mileage: 3.75 total
Trail Shape: out and back
Trailhead: There are two options to start this hike, one by car, and one by shuttle. The shuttle has a designated drop-off point a little further west down Going-to-the-Sun Road. 48.674398, -113.608690. If you’re in a car, you will park at the Saint Mary’s Falls Parking Lot 48.675237, -113.604550. Both trails start at the southern end of their respective parking areas.
Closest town to trailhead: Babb, Montana
Dogs Allowed: No
Permit Required: Fee and reservation needed to enter Glacier National Park

Link to AllTrails GPX and stats.

Getting There

The closest town to the trailhead is Babb, Montana. There is plentiful camping around and also great places to stay within the park, if you book early! The closest semi-large airport is in Kalispel, Montana, which is just south of Whitefish, Montana. From there, you can rent a car and drive to the eastern side of Glacier National Park (the more spectacular side, IMO!)


♦ This is bear and moose country! While the trail is usually well populated, as you get closer to Virginia Falls, more of the crowds fall away. Keep your senses sharp and your eyes peeled. We saw a moose wadding in Saint Mary Lake while we hiked.

♦ There are cascdes halfway up to Virginia falls that are too beautiful not to stop at. There are also pretty steep drops off those cascades. Bring a lunch and relax in a safe spot while enjoying the view.


New for 2024, you only need a vehicle reservation to enter Glacier National Park from the west side. This hike is on the east side! You do still need a park pass, which can be purchased ahead of time or at the gate.

Check the NPS site for updated information on vehicle reservations.

♦ Plan to arrive early — this is a popular hike!

♦ Consider purchasing an annual park pass to visit and NPS park throughout the year.

St Marys Virginia Falls Trail 9

Why hike Saint Mary and Virginia Falls in Glacier National Park?

This is one of the park’s most stunning hikes with vast lake views, vibrant turquoise glacier melt streams, and relaxing shaded forested sections. I hiked here in August and the wildflowers were blooming, the falls were pulsing, and the trail was beautiful. It’s on the Saint Mary side of the park, which, while still very populated, has a few less crowds than the west side (Apgar side). It’s not too long but still traverses a number of different landscapes and terrains. There’s so much to see in Glacier National Park, make sure this one is on the list!

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Roxanne Dawson was born and raised on the east coast but found her true stride rolling around the west in a van. She is part community manager, part journalist, part editor and now splits her time between her van and Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her husband, adventure pup, and son. She is most alive when her community is close, the environment is thriving, and nature is truly accessed by all that wish to enjoy it.