Virginia Falls is one of our favorite hikes in Glacier National Park. The short out-and-back trail passes two amazing waterfalls (three if you go to Baring Falls). The final waterfall allows you to stand right in the spray of glacial water dropping over fifty feet.
- Rating: Moderate
- Distance: 3.6 miles
- Elevation: 525 feet
- Fees: Glacier National Park fee
- Tips: Arrive early if you want a parking spot or take the shuttle.
The main problem with this trail is parking. Because this is such a great hike, and because the National Parks are getting busier every year, it is difficult to find a place to put the car. For this reason, we recommend getting to the hike early, or even better, using the park’s shuttle system.
The trail starts downhill through the thick brush. We saw woodpeckers, deer, chipmunks, and a large bull moose along the way. It is well marked and well traveled, so you won’t get lost. The trail goes down until it reaches the river in the bottom. This is the site of the first waterfall called St. Mary’s Falls.
The beautiful thing about St. Mary’s is that the bridge crosses the river directly below it. This means that you can stand on the bridge for a perfect view of the water as it cascades in front of you and disappears below. There is a nice, wide curtain, and the water plummets around 25 feet. It is considerably more impressive than Baring Falls, but not anywhere close to Virginia Falls.
From the bottom of the canyon the trail starts back up the opposite side. This time it climbs more steeply following the river as it tumbles down the mountainside. We could hear the cascading water for almost the entire climb. There are also lots of mini waterfalls along the way. We loved this because it broke up the climb to Virginia Falls. Hike uphill for a bit and then stop to see a waterfall, then repeat. It helped our boys with the climb to Virginia Falls.
At about the one and half mile mark (just a third of a mile from the falls) it gets really steep, but don’t turn around! There is a junction at this point. If you take the left trail you will shortly come to a bridge that overlooks the falls. After a quick peek, continue on the right trail this time as it steeply climbs to Virginia Falls. Suddenly it opens up to a wide area and the falls is right in front of you.
Of course we hurried over to the bottom of the falls where the ice cold water was splashing all over us. We were giggling and smiling the entire time. We were drenched after just a few minutes, but it was amazing to stand next to such a beautiful waterfall. Virginia Falls did not disappoint.
You can also view the falls slightly lower away from the spray. We headed to this area afterward and enjoyed the views, too. This was our favorite hike in Glacier National Park. The hike to Virginia Falls is about 3.6 miles the way we’re describing it. However, by adding just a little distance, it is also possible to visit Baring Falls, which is also quite beautiful.
Be sure to check out all of our Glacier National Park Kid Hikes to help you plan your trip!
The hike to Virginia Falls begins at the St. Mary’s trailhead parking area which is 10.6 miles west from the St. Mary’s entrance station.