With so many trails, lakes, waterfalls, and campgrounds at Glacier National Park, it can be hard to keep up – but lucky for you, we’re here to help. One of our favorite falls this side of West Glacier is Feather Woman Falls, a gorgeous striation of water streams emanating out of exquisite Montana rock formations.
Dropping a massive 350 feet into the valley below, these falls – actually four waterways in one – originate from a nearby former glacier, and can be traversed via the historic Sperry Chalet.
Originally on Blackfeet and Salish land in current day Flathead County, the Feather Woman emerged as a signature motif in Blackfeet mythology, sharing the tragic love story of Soatsaki, or Feather Woman, as she captivated and then lost the immortal sky being, Morning Star.
Feather Woman figures prominently in the Blackfeet Sun Dance and other cultural ceremonies, so it’s no surprise that this waterfall in what is now Glacier National Park culminated from this oral history.
To even get up to Feather Woman Falls, you must first pass through Sperry Chalet, one of our favorite backcountry lodges in Glacier. After a day or two of hiking, this chalet and its neighboring backcountry sites are a welcoming oasis in a park universe of vistas and climbing trees.
And because a fire broke through the chalet and its area in August of 2017, you may find yourself in spots without shaded trees – so bring a hat, sunscreen, and extra water for the climb up!
The good news, if we may be so bold, is that this fire gave the national park reason to reevaluate its accommodations, now offering comfier beds to enhance a historic stay after a trip to the falls, their neighboring trails, and lakes.
Let’s get into some of our favorite things to do around Feather Woman Falls. Glacier never disappoints with its many recreational activities, from swimming and fishing to camping and hiking.
Feather Woman Falls, Flathead County Stats
- Size and Scope: 350 ft
- Season: Year Round
- Hours: 24/7
- Number of Campsites: None
- Wheelchair Accessible: No
We’ll be real: Feather Woman Falls may not have its own campsites, but its natural beauty and close proximity to other recreational activities keep us coming back for more.
There’s plenty of camping to be found around the falls, as well as lakes of all sizes for swimming, fishing, boating, and canoeing. And if you’re lucky, you may get a night’s stay at the historic Sperry Chalet – let’s get into it below!
Hiking & Biking
If you came to this part of Glacier looking for hiking trails that lead you through alpines, along river streams, set you up next to curious mountain goats, or offer a chilly lake to swim in towards the end, you’ve come to the right place.
While Feather Woman Lake and Gunsight Mountain are obvious gorgeous nearby attractions, we also recommend hightailing it west for a trek around Johns Lake Trail near Lake McDonald.
Head even further northeast for locals’ pro-tip: the Trail of the Cedars – more easily accessible than most! – leads you to the spectacular Avalanche Trail, both stunning natural masterpieces with lush greenery and epic views.
Why do we love Trail of the Cedars so much? It’s one of the few ADA-accessible trails at Glacier – that inclusivity certainly counts for something!
And lastly, heading a bit southeast of Feather Woman Falls gets you to the gorgeous Siyeh Pass Trail, abundant with wildflowers, streams, and perfect stopping points for a mid-day picnic when the sun gets too hot. No, we never want to leave, either.
Swimming & Fishing
Lake Ellen Wilson and Lake McDonald sit near the top of our list for swimming, fishing, and water play, but nearby Gunsight Lake and Lincoln Lake also provide plenty of time in the sun.
And while it’s a bit of a jaunt, one of our favorite neighboring outdoor recreational sites is Avalanche Lake, perfect for an afternoon of trout fishing and lake swimming with your dogs. (Be extremely mindful of the water at the nearby river sites, though, as they can sometimes get a bit fast!)
Venturing to Glacier for some meditative fishing? Right off of Lake McDonald, we strongly recommend John’s Lake for a bit of morning solitude – just you and the fish. Even better is the loop that gets you to McDonald Falls once you’re done communing with the local fish: this is a gorgeous site.
But summertime swimming and boating truly are the best at Lake Ellen Wilson and Lake McDonald, with Ellen Wilson best for more private swimming and McDonald ideal for a few hours in your kayak.
Camping & Lodging
Starting with the closest lodging, let’s talk more about the Sperry Chalet and its accompanying accommodations. This 1913 hotel is reached only by foot or horse, snuck right into Glacier’s beautiful surrounding mountainscape.
While we already mentioned the fire that brought this historic site to its knees in 2017, the chalet is now open for visitors looking for lodging, breakfast, dinner, and – our favorite part? – free hot cocoa until 10 pm (Yes, please!).
Its private guest rooms are primitive, rustic, and well worth the hike up after an exhausting day – or four – of adventure. This spot has plenty of mountain goats to appreciate from afar, homemade bread to nosh on, and backcountry campsites to reserve at your leisure via Sperry Chalet Campground.
As for actual camping? You’ll find plenty of that around Feather Woman Falls, from the secluded Snyder Lake Campground to the west to the Lake Ellen Wilson Campground to the east – one of our favorite swimming spots, as you now know (It’s not cold – it’s refreshing!).
Travel a bit further south and you’ll hit Lincoln Lake Campground, a unique backcountry site with new growth alpines and a rewarding lake at the end.
Heading northeast, we recommend Gunsight Lake Campground for its fantastic beach access, food prep quarters, and pit toilets. More than any other campground, this is the one we suggest if you’re more extroverted, as you’ll be more likely to experience a community feels here over a more isolated backcountry site.
And lastly, check out Sprague Creek Campground on Lake McDonald for incredible lake views, privacy, and a good story or two from its hospitable camp host. For obvious reasons, we always recommend bringing bug and bear spray, but perhaps even more logistical is keeping an eye on your underwear.
Last but not least, we highly suggest the Lake McDonald Lodge if you’re craving something a bit more modern. This historic lodge built in 1913 has an incredibly cozy and picturesque lounge area, as well as offers meals and 82 modest guest rooms between the main lodge, cabins, and other facilities.
And maybe most importantly, a limited number of rooms here are ADA-accessible, so we recommend reaching out to the lodge for special accommodations.
Since you asked, we suggest a stay in one of their Deluxe Lodge rooms or the Cobb House suite, but all rooms will provide easy access to nature, a beautiful lake, and a good night’s rest.
Length: 0.9 miles-3 miles: It can’t be overstated: Trail of the Cedars is a fantastic ADA-accessible trail that works for all hiking levels due to its raised wooden walking path, something we’re all grateful for.
Even more magical: some of its cedars and hemlocks are around 500 years old, spared by the types of fires that have affected the Sperry Chalet area.
Towards the end of the trail, you’ll notice a sign for Avalanche Lake Trail which takes you another two and a half miles up to a crystalline blue, pristine lake.
We’d only recommend traversing the Avalanche path if you’ve got a few hikes under your belt, as it can be challenging for smaller children or beginners. Be on the lookout for moose, and let us know how the water is!
Length: 1.9 miles The trail around Johns Lake should sound familiar to you, since we mentioned it earlier around Lake McDonald, but this loop gets its own Montana welcome due to its relative ease, old-growth forest, and fantastic views of McDonald’s Falls.
It’s one of our favorites for families, helping to break up the daunting larger nearby hikes (Highline, anyone?), but we should probably warn you now that dogs aren’t allowed on this trail. Rules are rules, our friends!
Regardless, this loop feels like an old friend, at this point. We know we’re gonna love it every time we go.
Length: 14.7 miles We had to throw a 14-er in there for you! Unlike the first two recommended trails, The Garden Wall should only be traversed by experienced hikers.
Here’s the truth: it’s a challenge – a challenge surrounded by dancing wildflowers, adorable marmot, and wily mountain goats, and the option to check out Grinnell Glacier Overlook.
There are a few really steep junctures on this route, so you’ll want to have strong knees and ankles for this one. Sound like a fun undertaking? Alright, we’ll see you there with the Rocky theme song to cheer you on.
Length: 9.7 miles Let’s ease on the brakes for our last mountain trek, Siyeh Pass. Don’t be demotivated by the sheer number of people you may see here; there’s a reason it’s so well-traveled. But those numbers may diminish the earlier you get to Siyeh Pass, creating a symphony of animal sounds and focused foot traffic.
This trail has a highly diverse mix of terrain, and because of that, you may find yourself face to face with a mountain goat or two. Wave to them from afar, and keep on grooving along because this is one exceptional pass.