Bird Woman Falls and the Going-to-the-Sun Road Waterfalls

Glacier National Park / Logan Pass / Glacier County / Flathead County, Montana, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 1
Panoramic look at the Bird Woman Falls from the signposted lookout

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Bird Woman Falls was perhaps the tallest and most recognizable of the waterfalls seen along the Going-to-the-Sun Road (also called the Sun Road for short), especially near Logan Pass. It was said to be 492ft high as it plunged off a hanging valley left behind by a tributary glacier that had since receded and disappeared before the main glacier responsible for the U-shaped valley between Mt Cameron and Heaven Peak also disappeared. It was such a waterfall highlight that they dedicated several pullouts on the west side of Logan Pass to take in the views, but one of them had a signpost for the most direct viewing spot. There were also many other roadside waterfalls along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and this page was dedicated to appreciating these falls while also helping you to spot them out as you traverse the only road that cuts through Glacier National Park. It would typically take about 2 hours to drive between West Glacier and St Mary (on the opposite ends of Glacier National Park) without stops, but it's likely a typical visit would spend far more time than that due to views and hikes along the way.

Below are the waterfalls we've managed to identify or visit during our trips to Glacier National Park. This list is going from east to west since we think this would be the best way to experience the park as far as vistas are concerned). The waterfalls not directly visible from the road and/or requiring a hike each have dedicated writeups and are linked accordingly.
  • unnamed waterfalls seen from Sun Point and Wild Goose Island
  • Baring Falls
  • St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls
  • other unnamed waterfalls feeding Reynolds Creek further to the east
  • "Lunch Creek" - a dramatic unnamed waterfall at the head of Reynolds Creek plunging eastwards away from the Logan Pass Visitor Center
  • Oberlin Falls - where Logan Creek tumbled right besides Going-to-the-Sun Road near Logan Pass at the so-called Oberlin Bend before continuing further downstream and plunging westwards beneath Mt Oberlin
  • the Weeping Wall - where some ephemeral (and manmade) waterfalls spilled right onto the Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • cascade on Haystack Creek - which can be seen from the same pullout as that of Bird Woman Falls
  • Bird Woman Falls - the feature waterfall of this page
  • McDonald Creek Overlook
  • Sacred Dancing Cascade
  • McDonald Falls
I'm sure there are still more I haven't named, but these are the ones we've managed to identify while either cruising the busy Going-to-the-Sun Road or riding one of park's shuttles. Most of the ones named above have pictures so you have an idea of what they look like as you make your tour. The National Park Service has also put together a nice series of short videos to get deeper into the points of interest on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

We actually had to wait several years before we finally got to experience the Bird Woman Falls and the neighboring waterfalls for ourselves. That was because on our first visit to Glacier National Park in September 2010, the road was closed from west of Logan Pass Visitor Center to Avalanche Creek. It wasn't until August 2017 that we got to make a return visit, but it always seemed as if some part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road would be in a state of repair every year. After overhearing a shuttle bus driver talking about the park's lack of funds situation to keep up with maintenance and ever increasing crowds, we gained a better appreciation of how expensive it was to keep this road open. After all, it was full of narrow ledges and hairpin turns as well as cliff overhangs. It was also prone to avalanches, heavy snow, and it was difficult to plow given the rugged terrain. So it's pretty hit-and-miss when it comes to whether you can get the complete experience along the Sun Road on a given visit. It took us two tries before we finally got to have the full experience.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road wasn't without its share of controversy. Conservationist, activist, and writer George Bird Grinnell (after whom many of the features of Glacier National Park were named) vowed to never return to the park after the Going-to-the-Sun Road was to be built, and he made good on his promise for the remainder of his life. As a key advocate to properly protecting Yellowstone National Park's wildlife and geysers, he was much against the idea of a national park designed with automobile tourism in mind. Today, with the difficulties that Glacier National Park was facing with lack of funds, ongoing and expensive maintenance costs, and overgrowding, the park seems to be at a crossroads in terms of how to keep the park accessible while also maintaining its viability to operationally stay afloat. The opposite extreme would be to administer Glacier National Park like a wilderness park where Going-to-the-Sun Road would be more like a trail than a throughfare. This would be much like the way Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks does not have a corridor to go across the California Sierras as they're dominated by roadless wilderness. I'm sure there will be more to come on this topic in the near future, but you do have to bear this in mind when making your visit, especially given the park's short season in the busy Summer months.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Wild Goose Island on St Mary Lake.  We stopped by this beautiful viewing spot while heading up the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east towards Logan PassWild Goose Island on St Mary Lake. We stopped by this beautiful viewing spot while heading up the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east towards Logan Pass
Gorgeous mountains surrounding us fronted by some Autumn colorsGorgeous mountains surrounding us fronted by some Autumn colors while we were driving on the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Looking eastward from around the Logan Pass area. As we were on the Continental Divide, water flowing east of here eventually went to the Gulf of Mexico. Water flowing west of here went to the PacificLooking eastward from around the Logan Pass area. As we were on the Continental Divide, water flowing east of here eventually went to the Gulf of Mexico. Water flowing west of here went to the Pacific
On the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was Lake McDonald, which was a large and serene lake that also surprised me with a sunset viewing opportunity during my second visit here in 2017On the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was Lake McDonald, which was a large and serene lake that also surprised me with a sunset viewing opportunity during my second visit here in 2017
You never know what you might find while driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We got this fleeting shot of a moose while driving this road early in the morningYou never know what you mind find while driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We got this fleeting shot of a moose while driving this road in the morning

A particularly tall waterfall we noticed at Sun Point back in 2010.  I believe this could very well be Virginia Falls (or possibly Florence Falls) seen across the far western end of St Mary LakeA particularly tall waterfall we noticed at Sun Point back in 2010. I believe this could very well be Virginia Falls (or possibly Florence Falls) seen across the far western end of St Mary Lake

More contextual view of the falls above which I believe to be either Virginia Falls or Florence FallsMore contextual view of the falls above which I believe to be either Virginia Falls or Florence Falls

Some other cascade that I think we saw somewhere near Sun Point (if so, then these cascades are likely to be on Reynolds Creek)Some other cascade that I think we saw somewhere near Sun Point (if so, then these cascades are likely to be on Reynolds Creek

Some cascade we noticed near Wild Goose Island overlook, which could very well be an angled look towards Virginia FallsSome cascade we noticed near Wild Goose Island overlook, which could very well be an angled look towards Virginia Falls

Looking west on the eastern side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road near the St Mary Falls shuttle stopLooking west on the eastern side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road near the St Mary Falls shuttle stop

What's left of the Jackson Glacier as seen from the Jackson Glacier OverlookWhat's left of the Jackson Glacier as seen from the Jackson Glacier Overlook

A tall cascade not far from the Jackson Glacier Overlook. I suspect that these cascades were also on Reynolds CreekA tall cascade not far from the Jackson Glacier Overlook. I suspect that these cascades were also on Reynolds Creek

More contextual view of the falls aboveMore contextual view of the falls above

Contextual view of mountains backing some thin cascade near the falls seen above from the Jackson Glacier Overlook vicinityContextual view of mountains backing some thin cascade near the falls seen above from the Jackson Glacier Overlook vicinity

More zoomed in look at the falls aboveMore zoomed in look at the falls above

Contextual view of pair of cascades beneath a peak as we got closer to Logan PassContextual view of pair of cascades beneath a peak as we got closer to Logan Pass

More zoomed in look at the falls aboveMore zoomed in look at the falls above

Looking east on the Going-to-the-Sun Road while it was unpaved and undergoing some road work in September 2010Looking east on the Going-to-the-Sun Road while it was unpaved and undergoing some road work in September 2010

Whilst taking the shuttle bus from Logan Pass to St Mary Falls, we noticed this cascade on a hot August day in 2017 somewhere not far from the Siyeh BendWhilst taking the shuttle bus from Logan Pass to St Mary Falls, we noticed this cascade on a hot August day in 2017 somewhere not far from the Siyeh Bend

More contextual look at that waterfall seen from the shuttle bus on our second visit to the area in August 2017More contextual look at that waterfall seen from the shuttle bus on our second visit to the area in August 2017

One of the larger waterfalls seen along the Going-to-the-Sun Road just east of Logan Pass. This was at the head of Reynolds Creek, and apparently, the park literature said this was historically called Lunch Creek because visitors from the past would rest here and take a lunch break.  There's no formal trail to get closer and social trails to scramble for a closer look is prohibited as it's now an active revegetation area.
One of the larger waterfalls seen along the Going-to-the-Sun Road just east of Logan Pass. This was at the head of Reynolds Creek, and apparently, the park literature said this was historically called Lunch Creek because visitors from the past would rest here and take a lunch break. There's no formal trail to get closer and social trails to scramble for a closer look is prohibited as it's now an active revegetation area.

Context of that waterfall at the head of Reynolds Creek or 'Lunch Creek'Context of that waterfall at the head of Reynolds Creek or "Lunch Creek"

Just to give you an idea of how chaotic it can get in peak season, this was the crowded Logan Pass in the early afternoonJust to give you an idea of how chaotic it can get in peak season, this was the crowded Logan Pass in the early afternoon

Continuing west from Logan Pass, this was a cascade that spilled right by the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Oberlin Bend.  I believe this to be an upper tier of Oberlin FallsContinuing west from Logan Pass, this was a cascade that spilled right by the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Oberlin Bend. I believe this to be an upper tier of Oberlin Falls

Contextual look back towards the upper drop of Oberlin FallsContextual look back towards the upper drop of Oberlin Falls

This was a lookout peering west into the steepest parts of the canyon west of Logan Pass.  The park literature recognizes this viewpoint as part of the Oberlin BendThis was a lookout peering west into the steepest parts of the canyon west of Logan Pass. The park literature recognizes this viewpoint as part of the Oberlin Bend

Near that overlook west of Logan Pass at Oberlin Bend, I also managed to spot this mountain goat by the boardwalkNear that overlook west of Logan Pass at Oberlin Bend, I also managed to spot this mountain goat by the boardwalk

This drop might have been the part that's referred to on the maps as Oberlin Falls.  It's further downslope of Oberlin BendThis drop might have been the part that's referred to on the maps as Oberlin Falls. It's further downslope of Oberlin Bend

Heading west on the Going-to-the-Sun Road west of Logan PassHeading west on the Going-to-the-Sun Road west of Logan Pass

There was no pullout to get a good look at the Triple Arches so Julie managed to take this shot while I was driving east towards Logan Pass in the morningThere was no pullout to get a good look at the Triple Arches so Julie managed to take this shot while I was driving east towards Logan Pass in the morning

This pullout was the closest to the Weeping Wall, which spilled on the road towards the right side of this picture.  There were also lots of wildflowers in bloom during my August 2017 visitThis pullout was the closest to the Weeping Wall, which spilled on the road towards the right side of this picture. There were also lots of wildflowers in bloom during my August 2017 visit

This was the official signposted pullout for the Bird Woman FallsThis was the official signposted pullout for the Bird Woman Falls

This cascade was on Haystack Creek, which crossed the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and it can be seen from the official Bird Woman Falls pulloutThis cascade was on Haystack Creek, which crossed the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and it can be seen from the official Bird Woman Falls pullout

Contextual look back at Haystack Creek and the Going-to-the-Sun RoadContextual look back at Haystack Creek and the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Looking towards the Bird Woman Falls with wildflowers blooming in the foregroundLooking towards the Bird Woman Falls with wildflowers blooming in the foreground

Julie managed to take this shot of Heaven Peak from the car while I was driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the morning towards Logan PassJulie managed to take this shot of Heaven Peak from the car while I was driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the morning towards Logan Pass

Another direct look at the Bird Woman Falls from further west along the Going-to-the-Sun RoadAnother direct look at the Bird Woman Falls from further west along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Looking east on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from one of the first pullouts with a view of Bird Woman Falls. Notice how narrow the road is, which is precisely why longer vehicles can't do this roadLooking east on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from one of the first pullouts with a view of Bird Woman Falls. Notice how narrow the road is, which is precisely why longer vehicles can't do this road

Looking west on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the same spot, showing how tight it can getLooking west on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the same spot, showing how tight it can get

This was my westernmost view of the Bird Woman Falls from the Going-to-the-Sun RoadThis was my westernmost view of the Bird Woman Falls from the Going-to-the-Sun Road


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Long video showing the panorama around the Bird Woman Falls


Sweep from the signed pullout for Bird Woman Falls revealing the panorama that includes the falls as well as a cascade on Haystack Creek


Broad left to right sweep starting at the road heading east and ending at waterfalls and peaks in the direction of Logan Pass. This viewing spot could very well be the view of "Lunch Creek" that the park service was referring to


Bottom up sweep of an attractive cascade on Reynolds Creek ("Lunch Creek") ending at a mountain right by Logan Pass.


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The waterfalls on this page were primarily seen on the Going-to-the-Sun Road between St Mary and West Glacier. Most of the waterfalls were concentrated around the Logan Pass area about as far west as The Loop and as far east as the Jackson Glacier Overlook. Logan Pass represented the mountain pass in the middle of the Going-to-the-Sun Road right at the Continental Divide. The map shown here pegs some of the roadside waterfalls that we've seen along this stretch.

Rather reproduce someone else's work, I found this website by Quirky Travel Guy that has a useful mile-by-mile pictorial guide of the points of interest along the road. You can open up his website and compare side-by-side with the waterfalls in this page to get a sense of which waterfalls you'd like to target on your tour.

For additional context, West Glacier on the west end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was 50 miles (2 hours) west of St Mary on the east end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

St Mary was about 8.5 miles (10 minutes drive) south of Babb, 30 miles (under an hour drive) north of East Glacier Park Village, 29 miles (over 30 minutes drive) northwest of Browning (administrative center of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation), and 202 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Helena.

West Glacier was about 28 miles (40 minutes drive) east of Whitefish, 35 miles (50 minutes drive) northeast of Kalispell, and 140 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Missoula.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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