The Sun Point Nature Trail was the last hike we took on our recent trip to Glacier National Park. The day was (finally) sunny and windy as we headed down from Logan Pass toward the east side of the park.
The trail begins just off the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the St. Mary Lake area. You'll see signs for Sun Point and the turn-off will take you to a parking lot. The great thing about this trail is that it converges with several others leading to waterfalls and backcountry lakes and campgrounds.
We started off the day by heading up to the Sun Point viewing area. The wind was incredibly strong, however, the viewing area offered a fantastic view of western-most portion of St. Mary Lake and the mountains that make up the continental divide. Read: It's worth being shoved around a bit by the elements.
Our plan was to see at least three of the waterfalls accessible via the Sun Point Nature Trail parking lot: Baring Falls, St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. Once you start the trail along the north edge of the lake, you'll want to stop often to take in the view.
You'll first come to Baring Falls, which is a small water feature compared to the others in Glacier. I didn't get a good picture of Baring Falls, but If you keep going you'll end up at a bridge that offers this view of the much more impressive St. Mary Falls:
Several groups of hikers had stopped on either side of the bridge to take photos and have lunch, so we opted to keep going toward Virginia Falls. The trail quickly became much quieter, so I'm guessing a lot of people turn around and head back after seeing St. Mary Falls.
Just after leaving St. Mary Falls, we spotted a deer grazing on the trail. She heard us coming and headed back down the hill before I could snap a good picture. I would imagine the trail sees plenty of wildlife thanks to its lush plant life, dense tree cover and abundant water sources.
When you reach Virginia Falls, you'll hear it before you see it. There are two viewing spots for this good-sized waterfall. One can be found after crossing a short bridge along the trail that heads around the south end of St. Mary Lake.
However, we decided to see the waterfall up close by heading up to the Virginia Falls View Point. The one sunny day during our trip and we found ourselves a place to get sopping wet at the bottom of Virginia Falls.
I loved it.
Of course, I didn't take many pictures at this point. There was so much mist coming off the falls! The water rushing down the rock walls combined with the powerful wind and the slippery rocks underfoot made for a fun, but short stay at Virginia Falls. We turned to leave and I realized that I was sporting the biggest grin ever.
If you only have one day and want to experience some beautiful waterfalls, I highly recommend this trail system. According to our calculations the hike was a little over 6 miles round trip -- from the Sun Point viewing area up to Virginia Falls and back. The hike wasn't difficult, but there were definitely some windy and slippery areas along the way. Also, be sure to follow your map and pay attention to signage as there are several forks in the trail to get to the various waterfalls.
I do have to note that the Sun Point Nature Trail is also a great starting point for a longer hike to Gunsight Lake. From what I can tell on the map, you can even hike this trail system all the way to Lake McDonald on the west side of the park!
Maybe next time. :)
Have any of you checked out the waterfalls around St. Mary Lake? I know Sun Point is a really popular area during the summer months. If you've been to Sun Point before, perhaps you can answer me this: is it always so darn windy??