Monday, January 20, 2014

Glacier National Park: Hidden Lake, Piegan Pass & St. Mary Falls

Glacier NP – 8/22/13 – Hidden Lake & Continental Divide Trail to Piegan Pass Plus St. Mary Falls – 15 Miles

Wait, didn’t we just get here?  This morning we broke camp again and left Avalanche Creek Campground, heading back to the east side of the park and St. Mary’s (yay, showers again!)  Today’s adventures included a short hike, a medium hike, and a last-minute short jaunt to a waterfall.

First, another ride on the Going-To-The-Sun Road back up to Logan Pass and its crowded parking area.  Gee, don’t all these people ever leave?  When does school start?  This is where you catch the trailhead to Hidden Lake.

Hidden Lake Trail to the lake overlook is 3 miles round trip, much of it on boardwalk, through lovely meadows with open vistas.  We hid our hiking poles under the boardwalk and strolled along.  There were already more people than I wanted to see on a trail and I imagine as the day went on it became a full-on throng of folks peering over shoulders to see the lake.  But…we want people to see and enjoy our national parks so they will support them financially and otherwise, so bring on the crowds!  It’s similar to Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains.  You just have to be ready to share the wonders with lots of new friends.

Clements Mountain on the way to Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain – on the other side of Bearhat Mountain is Avalanche Lake, where I was yesterday

Reflection in Hidden Lake

The guys do not seem to be in a hurry to get to our next hike

The trailhead to Piegan Pass is a short drive away at Siyeh Bend, a hairpin turn where Siyeh Creek flows underneath the Going-To-The-Sun Road.  We will hike up through the trees in the right foreground, then on a level trail just below the edge of the mountain stretching along the background before we disappear between the mountains at the notch on the left.  Easy, right?  It really wasn’t bad, or else I had finally become accustomed to the terrain.  The trail climbed moderately through fir and spruce trees.  At Mile. 1.2 we turned left onto the Continental Divide Trail and easily climbed through increasingly open areas on the slope of Going-To-The-Sun Mountain.  At mile 2.7 we turned left again, away from GTTS Mountain, toward Piegan Pass.

I. Love. Walking. On. The. Edge!  Walking on the talus slope of Cataract Mountain toward Piegan Pass.  See the sharp pointy peak?  That's one of two peaks that Jeff and Ken bagged today.  The pass is on the far side of Cataract, beyond the snow field.

With Cataract Mountain behind me, this is looking directly at Piegan Glacier on Piegan Mountain (which Jeff and Ken also summitted because they are insane that way).

Looking down at Siyeh Creek running through the valley, Piegan Mountain and Piegan Glacier in the top right.  
Welcome to Piegan Pass!

Some notes about where we were in relation to where we’ve been:  I am pointing at Mount Gould, part of the Garden Wall where we hiked two days ago on the Highline Trail.  Today we were on the opposite side of the Wall.  And if we had continued on the Piegan Pass Trail today, we would have descended steeply down to walk at the foot of Angel Wing, then around Lower Grinnell Lake and Lake Josephine (on the opposite side from where we hiked three days prior).  Awesome, am I right?

Laid back at the Pass (Jeff's photo).  We spent the better part of an hour eating, gawking and marveling much as we had for the past five days.  Jeff and Ken did their superhuman peak bagging; Brandon skipped these two because of blisters plaguing his tenderized feet.  Cathy, Dolores, Brandon and I enjoyed a leisurely trek back down the trail. 

Soaking in Siyeh Creek

While Brandon waited for the other guys, the fearless females added to the itinerary a quick hike to St. Mary Falls, just a couple of miles down the road (if we had planned ahead better, we could have continued to hike southbound on Piegan Pass Trail all the way to the falls).  From the parking area it was a speedy 1.6-mile round trip.  St. Mary is a stunning two-tier falls and there is actually a third tier as the river makes a quick turn to the right.  Virginia Falls is farther along the trail but by this time we were ready to clean up and sit down so we headed back to the car.

Cathy and me at St. Mary Falls

At St. Mary Campground again, we located our new campsites.  There was a most impressive pile of bear scat in the parking pull-through.  (The next morning the rangers were there examining, measuring and photographing it, and asked us if it had appeared overnight.  “No, it was here when we got here.”) 

We set up our tents, got showers and waited…and waited…and waited for the guys until we were a little concerned.  Around 7:00 p.m. they showed up, though, and we enjoyed another marvelous meal, this time at the St. Mary Lodge. 

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” ~Edward Abbey


1 comment:

Linda W. said...

Lovely photos and great hikes. I've hiked to Hidden Lake too and that mountain looked familiar! Enjoying your vacation recap.