Hikes Around St. Mary Lake
Walk out to Sun Point for a view of St. Mary Lake and the surrounding mountains. For visitors who aren’t up to a long backcountry hike, Sun Point is a good place to stretch your legs without exhausting yourself and get a dramatic view of the scenery.
This was the site of the most elaborate of the Glacier’s chalets; it fell into disuse and was dismantled in the late 1940s once Going-to-the-Sun Road became the focus of trips to the park.
From Sun Point the trail skirts the lakeshore for less than a mile to Baring Falls.
Sunrift Gorge is on Baring Creek just above the falls; cap off the Sun Point walk by taking the spur trail and climbing to the gorge. Or, follow the lead of most gorge viewers and park in the Sunrift Gorge pullout and walk 50 yards up the path to the narrow chasm, formed not by erosion but by a vertical slip of the rock.
Siyeh Pass and Preston Park
Those in search of a real hike will want to continue past Sunrift Gorge to Siyeh Pass and Preston Park. This is no easy amble; the trail shoots up once it leaves Baring Creek, and Siyeh is Glacier’s highest pass.
As one would expect, persevering hikers are rewarded with great views and a delicate alpine environment. After passing alpine larch trees and wildflower meadows at Preston Park, the Siyeh Bend cutoff trail heads back to Going-to-the-Sun Road, making this a 12-mile hike. (Actually, most people do this hike in the opposite direction, which is easier uphill, but yields less-spectacular views.)
Park naturalists lead 10.5-mile hikes from Siyeh Bend on Going-to-the-Sun Road about once a week during the summer (starting at 8:30 a.m., about 8 hours); it’s one of the park’s best naturalist-led hikes.
An eight-mile hike to Gunsight Lake starts at either Sun Point, or more commonly at the Jackson Glacier Overlook west of St. Mary Lake on Going-to-the-Sun Road. There’s a campground at Gunsight Lake; Gunsight Pass is another steep two miles up the trail. From the pass, the trail drops down to Lake Ellen Wilson and Sperry Chalet, and ultimately reaches the road again at Lake McDonald Lodge. The whole 18-mile Gunsight Pass route takes most hikes two days. Besides the inevitable switchbacks and vistas, expect to see mountain goats along this trail.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition