Piegan Pass

Just east of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park lies Siyeh Bend and the start of the Piegan Pass trail. On this blog, I hiked through from Many Glacier as part of an 8 day backpacking trip to my car which was waiting for me at Siyeh Bend. I had hiked it as an out and back from the Going to the Sun Road a couple of times, so I’d only seen half of the journey… and I was missing out on another fantastic side.

From Many Glacier, you work your way up through trees with a few glances down at Lake Josephine and Grinnell Lake as you pass through avalanche chutes. While passing through those avalanche chutes, towering views of Mt. Gould flanking Angel Wing round out a beautiful start.

Eventually, you’ll begin entering some spooky forest with beautiful meadows and cross Cataract Creek. You’ll follow Cataract Creek and cross it again as you begin to enter the subalpine. The fauna begins to diminish and the views open up to the cathedral walls which make up the back of the Garden Wall. Feather Plume Falls cascades from breathtaking heights, but you aren’t done with waterfalls. A ways up Cataract Creek, you’ll come to the gorgeous Morning Eagle Falls. You could turn around here and have chalked it up to a wonderful day.

If you keep going, you’ll encounter a few switchbacks to get up to a terraced alpine landscape surrounded by gorgeous cliffs. You look up towards the pass and wonder how the trail works its way up, but it does make it and you start into the shale covered cliffs and work your way up with a glance into a beautiful little glacial pond.

Once at the pass, you can enjoy views of two fantastic drainages. The way to Going to the Sun Road has wonderful views for some time, eventually entering some alpine firs and the outer edges of Preston Park with its dizzying display of flowers. It eventually gets swallowed up in the trees and finally makes its way out to the road.

If you’re looking for a great out and back from either side or are able to do a through hike, this trip is fantastic! Beautiful views, waterfalls, varied terrain and a great chance to see a wide array of animals.

Piegan Pass
Leafy Aster

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14 responses to “Piegan Pass”

  1. Jackie Avatar

    Thanks so much, feeling a little guilty getting to see these great sites without doing the work, but since I probably won’t in my lifetime, so glad you are willing to share! Of course you do give me lots of inspiration to get out there! Thanks again, love your 21st century media, and it does give me the opportunity to share with my students who live so close and many of which will never get there!

    1. hike734 Avatar

      Sweet! What grade level do you teach? Whereabouts? I’m super curious how you use my videos in your classroom and maybe how I could taylor a few of them to what you are doing!

  2. Marjorie Brown Avatar
    Marjorie Brown

    Enjoyed the video! Piegan Pass is one of my favorites. We’ve hiked it from Going to the Sun down to Many Glacier several times. Loved the bull elk! And your camera may have run out of memory, but I’m sure you haven’t! What a great experience! We’re getting excited for our trip there next month. Whoo Hoo!

    1. hike734 Avatar

      I really want to do it again in better weather, but sometimes bad weather brings out the best in the woods. Where you going when you get here?

  3. Mike Kinsella Avatar
    Mike Kinsella

    Doing it in the other direction is, of course, much easier with less elevation change, and the option of catching the tour boat at Josephine Lake, saving 3 miles. That makes it a more reasonable 12 mile day hike. Logistics aren’t easy because the 2 trailheads are 45 miles apart by road and I don’t believe the shuttle system runs to Many Glacier. But it’s a great hike and worth some planning. With our usual luck, we missed the last boat by 10 minutes because the bridge at Cataract Creek hadn’t been installed for the season yet. It’s not a fun creek to wade early in the season, earning its name!

    1. Mike, Glacier Park Inc. operates a shuttle that goes between Many Glacier and St. Mary, so the easiest option is if you are already in the Many Glacier area, you can take the morning shuttle to St. Mary for $10 per person, then catch the free NPS shuttle to Siyeh Bend and hike it from there. You’ll get a little later start than ideal, but I don’t recommend doing the reverse approach of starting at Many and banking on catching the shuttle back later in the day. I did that once, but the NPS shuttle was delayed, so I hitchhiked to St. Mary and just barely caught the return shuttle to Many. Check out the timetable at http://www.glacierparkinc.com/images/_userfiles/files/2012%20GPI_Shuttle%20Brochure.pdf.

      1. Mike Kinsella Avatar
        Mike Kinsella

        Kevin- I checked out the feasibility of parking at Siyeh, doing the hike, and taking the shuttles back from Many Glacier. It could be done- the last shuttle from Many Glacier is at 4:45 and it apparently meets up with the last hiker’s shuttle from St. Mary’s to Logan Pass at 5:30. Of course, if either shuttle were full, you would be screwed and there are no reservations.
        I always loved planning the logistics for these hikes. My favorite saying at the beginning of a hike was “I love it when a plan comes together!” Unfortunately some of the plans also fell apart due to late starts, storms, bears on the trail, etc. But that’s Glacier.

    2. hike734 Avatar

      I would agree that it would be much easier! My original plan was to do it that way, however, it didn’t work out logistically and so it was the last day of a long trip and after Logan Pass was closed so they could work on the road. I also had to ford that creek because the bridge was damaged and it was running high because of the recent snow/rain (note the muddy color… in September!!).

      1. hike734 Avatar

        Also, Kevin, thanks so much for that info and Mike for doing some math! I have had a lot of people ask me about trips and I keep in mind the shuttles on the eastern front as an option. The trick with all of this is knowing when they’re running, both during the day and when they start up/stop running during the season. I’ve been toying around with a page with important dates to aggregate all of the free and fee based services for transportation such as GPI, the park shuttle, boat services, logan pass closures, goat haunt closures, etc.

  4. John Yingling Avatar
    John Yingling

    Oh man…as a heavy smoker who had never hiked such a crazy trail, this destroyed me. However, I did it! It was one of the best things I had ever did. Here’s a short video of Redrock and Piegan I made. Ended up moving to Montana 2 months after this. Stoked for May.

  5. Woops, here’s the link. Love your site. Stoked to dig around. Cheers! https://vimeo.com/48756050

    1. Super stoked for you!! That’s the way to do it! 😉

      Mind if I use this for a “Feature Friday” sometime?

  6. Sally Estes Avatar
    Sally Estes

    Hey Jake. We are planning our 5th trip to Glacier. We have never done either Piegan Pass or Siyeh Pass and have never made it to Morning Eagle Falls. We have been to Feather Plume twice and know how boring that hike up from Swiftcurrent can be. We would also like to do the full length of Highline and also go to Grinnell Glacier again. Do you have any suggestions on which order we should do these hikes as to have variety to our week? Also, is there a reason why people go down to Sunrift Gorge rather than back to Siyeh Bend after hitting the pass? Also, did these trails get hit by the Reynolds Creek fire last year?

    1. Hello Sally! Lots of questions! 😛 You are right that the trip down from Feather Plume is boring, but the section from Piegan down to Feather Plume is great! Sometimes you just have to take a forested walk. I usually drop down to the lakes to make it a bit more interesting instead of taking the Piegan Pass trail that stays higher. People usually go down to Sunrift because you get to see new things. With the shuttle, especially, you get to make it a loop. It will be interesting to hike the bottom part of the Siyeh Pass trail to see what the burn looks like. It had burned awhile ago and the other trees were the shorter subalpine fir, so it will be interesting to see the difference. As far as order, I’m not sure it will matter much. All of those are big days, so it’s not like you can put one of them in the middle as an easy day. I would probably separate Piegan and Siyeh as they both start out the same. Perhaps start with Siyeh, then do the Highline and Grinnell, then end on Piegan. You’ll definitely get a great familiarity with the Garden Wall!

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