Situated in one of the most remote areas of the Glacier National Park backcountry, Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, Montana certainly has a magical allure to it. And while it’s nearly inaccessible to beginner hikers, this natural beauty falls under a larger ecosystem of waterfalls, trails, and expansive mountain peaks on the northern grounds of Glacier.
Even if you have to work your way up to this bad boy, Hole-in-the-Wall Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the intrepid traveler.
Hole-in-the-Wall is actually a large basin encircled by numerous waterfalls, but the magic begins when the waterfalls pool together at the lower part of the basin – and you can guess what comes next. Yep, these waters converge and lunge 800 feet into the valley below, making an epic sight for any visitor
One of the biggest rewards of making it to Hole-in-the-Wall is its idyllic nearby campground, which – of course – the waterfall runs right through. After a multi-day hike, it truly does feel like heaven to stake a tent in such a beautiful spot right under the Milky Way.
So how do you get there? Once you’re traveling along the Boulder Pass Trail, the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail is just a short side-branch around the 10-mile mark leading in towards the campsite and waterfall – only a half-mile’s journey to reach your destination.
This campsite with a solar composting toilet is a stunner, located in a meadow of whimsical flowers, alpines, wildlife, and, naturally, waterfalls. (Go ahead – we’ll wait while you sing the theme song to ‘The Sound of Music!’)
But the best part about Glacier National Park is that you’re continuously surrounded by stunning views, waterfalls, snow-capped mountain ridges, trails for hiking, lakes for swimming or kayaking, and even a cabin rental or hotel.
Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, Flathead County – A Complete Guide
Let’s get into some of our favorite sights near Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, from campgrounds to lakes to the best rest stops for a picnic. Off we go!
Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, Flathead County Stats
- Size and Scope: 800 ft
- Season: Year Round
- Hours: 24/7
- Number of Campsites: At least 1; First-Come, First-Serve
- Wheelchair Accessible: No
Backcountry hiking and camping take a bit more preparation than, say, the more popular Highline hike a bit further south. But this high-risk-high reward area of Glacier will place you right in the center of some of the most picturesque views Montana has to offer.
So, let’s go over some of our favorite places to swim (if you dare!), hike, bike, and – one of the best parts of northern Glacier – camp.
Hiking & Biking
With little exception, you’ll be doing a lot of hiking around Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, Montana, unless you’ve got a few strong men carrying you around Glacier (And in that case, enjoy!).
We’ll explore some of our favorite trails in more depth below, but for now, just know that Boulder Pass and Brown Pass offer excellent scenery and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
We’re also fans of the hike down to Thunderbird Pond, as well as the trek over to Upper Kintla Lake and its accompanying campgrounds.
However you look at it, you’re going to need ample tenacity, flexibility, and resilience to get through these hikes – but that’s the best part of the northern end of this national park. You may be tested, but with good company, cool air, and bright stars, you can’t go wrong.
As with other areas of Glacier, biking is only permissible on certain roads and trails, so you’ll want to check out the National Park Service’s website for up-to-date information on the most thrilling and jaw-dropping treks.
Bicycles are definitely not allowed in these backcountry areas – for your safety! – but you’ll find numerous options at the NPS website to get your ride on.
Swimming & Fishing
Can you swim at Hole-in-the-Wall Falls? Well, we wouldn’t recommend jumping 800 feet into a cool body of water, but if you’re camping at its campgrounds, you’ll find plenty of spots to dip your feet in the water.
If you’re willing to withstand the cooler temps, we suggest the nearby Lake Nooney or Lake Wurdeman. Swimming in a northern Montana lake isn’t necessarily the warmest experience, so just be prepared for a very refreshing dip in-and-out! After a long hike through the backcountry, it’s definitely worth a shot.
On both these and surrounding lakes and creeks, you can try your luck at catching northern pike, rainbow trout, or bull trout, but once again, these waters are chilly so you may want to fish from the shore.
But more than swimming or fishing, we like to bring along an inflatable kayak, which takes up practically no space but offers a great cooling opportunity after long stretches of terrain. Now that’s refreshing!
Camping & Lodging
While we genuinely love the campgrounds right near Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, we understand that not everyone wants to camp right next to a waterfall.
Before we move on, we must clearly state that neither horses nor open fires are acceptable along these campgrounds – too many bears, too inaccessible should a wildfire come through. But we suggest using that energy to carry bear spray, a camping stove, and your best chili mac recipe.
Moving on, we do recommend the Boulder Pass Campground just a bit west of the falls, especially if you’re coming from that direction. Although it’s far more open and exposed than the waterfall adjacent to the Hole-in-the-Wall campground, it’s great for a quiet night’s rest out under the stars. Pack for all weather conditions here!
For another site in the remote northern wilderness, check out the more southern Brown Pass Campground, another great way to get up to the falls.
But unlike Boulder Pass, Brown Pass’s water source is about a mile away, so please ensure you have enough before stopping for the night. And another option is the further south Hawksbill Campground, although we only stop there if necessary. The Passes are beautiful and worth the effort!
And we’ll be perfectly clear here: the northern edge of Glacier doesn’t have much by way of cabin rentals or hotels. (You’ll have to travel a bit further south for those kinds of amenities!)
While you’d have to adventure far, we recommend backpacking for a few days and celebrating at the finish line, which just so happens to be the Many Glacier Hotel. It’ll be downright luxurious after so many nights in a tent!
We’re also fans of the historic Granite Park Chalet for the same reason, although their rustic accommodations and kitchen certainly don’t have as many amenities as the hotel.
It all depends on your priorities: a homemade meal or a prime rib at The Ptarmigan Dining Room? We’ll let you decide.
Length: 29.3 miles: First things first, we know almost 30 miles sounds like a lot, but Boulder Pass Trail is meant to be broken up into manageable pieces with campgrounds – Hole-in-the-Wall, anyone!?
We recommend starting near Kintla Lake before jumping into Boulder Pass and Hole-in-the-Wall and then moving on into Hawksbill and Waterton.
Expect plenty of gorgeous wildflowers, eye-popping views, spidery waterfalls (including our favorite!), and wildlife along the way to make it more bearable. Speaking of bears, you’ll want to carry your bear spray on you – grizzlies are common out here and definitely want to be left alone.
Length: 26.2 miles Another doozy. What makes Bowman Lake Trail worth a spot on our list? Absolutely the view at the trailhead.
Some parts of the hike are overgrown (so watch out for bears!), covering views of the lake, but the campground breaking up the trek is spacious and quiet.
We actually think the views leading down into the valley are better than the views at the top – a bit backward from a typical hiking experience, but that’s what makes it unique!
Be careful on the rugged road on the way to the turquoise Bowman Lake, as it’s been known for its, um, rustic qualities. The actual lake, however, is worth all that activity, although we do prefer coming into Hole-in-the-Wall through Boulder Pass. Thankfully, you’ve got options!
Length: 9.8 miles For something a bit easier, let’s head over to Lake Francis for a moment. Not even 10 miles, we’d actually recommend this hike over the others if you’re wanting an adventure that doesn’t involve so many bears.
We love Lake Francis, especially for its waterfall that’s clearly just showing off, but it’s a great spot for a picnic, as long as you’ve got some bug spray.
Off to the left on your trajectory west, be on the lookout for Thunderbird Mountain and its accompanying glacier, and you’ll eventually meet up with Bowman Creek and the Hole-in-the-Wall campground to the east.
This hike is easier on the legs with stunning views, so we’ll take it!
Length: 1.9 miles Lastly, we’ve got the beautiful and much easier Rainbow Falls trail. Sure, you have to work your way northeast to get there, but this is a fantastic hike for kids that blasts you with colorful wildflowers, mountain passes and rushing falls.
Although they’re nothing like Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, they provide an excellent contrast to the backcountry mountain air of Flathead County.
No matter where you place your feet, Glacier has plenty of opportunities for everyone to enjoy the beauty of nature.