Here’s the truth: Glacier National Park offers so much resplendent beauty that it’d be nearly impossible to visit its many sites in even one week. While we’ve visited many of Glacier’s waterfalls, mountain peaks, and campgrounds, one of our favorite spots is Gros Ventre Falls along the Mokowanis River.
Surrounded by wildlife – moose, deer, bears, and more – these falls encapsulate so much of what we love about Glacier National Park, a gathering mecca for Americans and travelers alike. And because of its close proximity to lakes, campgrounds, and trails, Gros Ventre rounds out near the top of our Glacier waterfall list (Yes, of course we have a list!).
Named for the Gros Ventre tribe, a historically Algonquin-speaking people currently located in north central Montana, you can probably venture to imagine why these falls would have such a name. In the past, Glacier National Park was home to numerous indigenous tribes, from Kalispel to Gros Ventre to Blackfeet and beyond.
While this particular tribe has now been sequestered into the Fort Belknap Reservation, they remain spiritually connected to these falls and their surrounding areas.
Gros Ventre Falls, Glacier County – A Complete Guide
What’s the best way to get to Gros Ventre Falls, Montana? We love coming in through the nearby Glenns Lake, but as you’ll soon see, there are numerous ways to pay homage to this beautiful site. Read on for more information about our favorite campgrounds, hikes, swimming holes and lakes, fishing spots, lodges, and more. Sound magical? It is. Let’s get into it!
Gros Ventre Falls, Glacier County Stats
- Size and Scope: 4,800 ft
- Season: Year Round
- Hours: 24/7
- Number of Campsites: None; Many nearby
- Wheelchair Accessible: No
The good news? There are plenty of ways to experience the beauty of Glacier National Park around the falls, and you know we’ve got a few ideas to get you started.
Whether you’re wondering if you can swim in Gros Ventre Falls, are interested in dipping into one of the nearby lakes, or figuring out where to stake your tent for the night, we’ve got you covered!
Hiking & Biking
Gros Ventre Falls ventures out towards multiple mountains and lakes, but we’ll try to boil it down to some of our favorites. You can’t go wrong traveling along the Stoney Indian Peaks, named for the indigenous people native to the area, bitter enemies of the Blackfeet.
We also love the Belly River Trail to Cosley Lake, along it’s a bit long-winded and certainly counts as a full-day excursion. But we also recommend hiking from the Chief Mountain parking area into Glenns Lake so that you can stop at Gros Ventre Falls along the way.
Glacier’s main roads are the only ones available for biking, with a few exceptions, but we still recommend taking your bike to experience your natural surroundings without the barrier of a car.
Swimming & Fishing
So, can you swim at Gros Ventre Falls? Absolutely! We’d highly recommend it as a natural evaporative cooling device during the zenith of summer.
And sure, this swimming hole is refreshing and cleansing, but we also like to show our appreciation for the people who cared for this land before we got to it, whether it’s the park rangers or the indigenous tribes.
Either way, Gros Ventre Falls is magnificent. As we’ll get into in a few moments, you’ll find a good amount of lakes with campgrounds attached, but a few of our favorite lakes are in incredibly close proximity to Gros Ventre: Cosley Lake and Glenns Lake.
And of course, there are a number of beautiful creeks to dip your feet into – but we prefer kayaking in Cosley Lake, especially after a long hike!
You can also try your luck catching rainbow trout at Cosley Lake, as well as yellow perch at Glenns Lake, but if you travel a bit further south, you’ll hit Elizabeth Lake – perfect for arctic grayling. Just beware that you’re in bear country, so be sure to bring some bear spray along, especially at Glenns Lake!
Camping & Lodging
Speaking of swimming, we’re swimming in options when it comes to campgrounds and lodges around Gros Ventre Falls.
If you’re visiting Glacier in May as it’s continuing to wake up for Spring, we highly recommend the nearby first-come, first-serve Cosley Lake Campground which has a short spur trail out to the falls.
Travel a bit further southwest and you’ll hit Glenns Lake Campground, one of our favorite spots completely surrounded by lush forests and, of course, Glenns Lake.
We recommend securing a spot on the eastern side of the lake for the best views, although the entire area is unanimously beautiful. In the opposite direction, we also love the easy access of Gable Creek Campground, which has its own outhouse and a fantastically cold creek running alongside it.
You’d have to travel a bit to get to Many Glacier Hotel, but if you have the bandwidth, we do recommend spending at least one night at the largest hotel in Glacier National Park.
Hotels aren’t really a thing in Glacier, but you may have some luck at the Granite Park Chalet, the closest you’ll get to a cabin rental in the area.
Otherwise, check out the Glacier National Park website for backcountry options – they’ve got their rules and regulations handy on-site to keep you in the loop.
Length: 6.3 miles: This gorgeous out-and-back trail is relatively challenging, but don’t let that intimidate you from attempting the climb! Clocking in at a little under 5 hours’ time, it does have some steep areas, especially after the first mile and a half. But the scenery at the top?
Totally worth it. Being so close to Canada, you can see it from the Chief’s highest elevation, something we jokingly brag about to anyone who will listen. And you’ll definitely need some great hiking shoes to keep you steady and prepared for anything.
This sacred spot to the Blackfeet Nation – and others! – is certainly breathtaking and worth any temporary knee pain.
Ptarmigan Trail to Cosley Lake
Length: 26.6 miles Yes, 26 miles is more hours than you have in one day, but we challenge you to do this trail in spurts, over a few days’ time – or just break it up entirely.
This is one of those healthy challenges that you look back on and say, “I did that!?” The lakes are absolutely gorgeous, a crystalline hue usually reserved for postcards. Portions of this trail are extremely steep and can contain rocky areas, so definitely be mindful of that.
With three separate elevation gains and the potential for bear sightings, you’ll want to pace yourself well. And one more thing: leave the pups at home for this one. Not only would they be whining for snacks most of the time, but they’re also not allowed here.
Just to ensure you’re also not whining for snacks (it happens!), make sure to pack plenty of trail mix, dried fruit, jerky, water, and electrolyte powders. You’re gonna need it! We have faith you can complete this one.
Belly Lake to Cosley Lake
Length: 17.8 miles You’ve got options to inch your way closer to Cosley Lake! We also love this nearly 20-mile hike that starts off downhill surrounded by gorgeous pines, before widening into an epic meadow view about 3 or 4 miles in.
Because it’s a downhill trot to the bottom, you’re going to need to reserve some strength for the uphill climb back to the top. (So that’s why we use the Stairmaster at the gym!)
Actually, this is our preferred method to get to Cosley Lake and spend the night at its campground. Much like other regions of Glacier, you’ll want to remain bear-aware here, especially in the last few sections of the trail route.
Don’t forget to check out the swinging bridge along the way!
Stoney Indian Lake to Lower Glenns Lake
Length: 8.8 miles To round out our list, let’s venture a bit west to Stoney Indian Lake for a moderately challenging out-and-back hike. A
t the southeast end of the lake, you’ll venture out as you get to Stoney Indian Pass, eventually finding yourself in the headwaters of the Mokowanis River, meaning “big bellies” in Blackfeet.
Don’t get intimidated by the numerous switchbacks you’ll encounter, because they’ll lead you towards the gorgeous Paiota Falls and Atsina Falls.
You’ll get to a background campsite entrance, but we like to spend our time at the Glenns Lake Campground before moving into the next phase of our adventure towards Gros Ventre Falls.
No matter where you’re coming from or heading towards, Gros Ventre Falls and its surrounding areas make for an epic Big Sky Country adventure. Let us know where your adventure takes you!