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Monument Falls, Flathead County

Nestled deep within the backcountry realms of Glacier National Park, in the Flathead County portion, you’ll find Monument Falls, a segmented horsetails waterfall (i.e., split falls) pouring down 170 feet of rock into a gorgeous pool of icy water below. The falls form from the runoff of Sperry Glacier, along the Avalanche Lake Trail.

The waterfall is better known than many of the backcountry waterfalls, but you’ll still need to bushwhack your way in or find an existing bushwhack (unofficial, rugged) trail.

You’ll find images on Flickr and some hiking blogs to give you an idea of what beauty you’re in for before breaking away from Avalanche Lake Trail and branching out into the “wild unknown.”

A Guide to Monument Falls, Flathead County

Monument Falls has been confirmed and identified by the World Database of Waterfalls at the following coordinates. Interestingly enough, it had previously been falsely identified as a different waterfall, but after some exploration and topographical examination, the location has been more precisely pinpointed for you to be able to find the falls when you head out.

Monument Falls Stats

monument falls stats
Image: GlacierNPS
  • Location: Backcountry, Glacier National Park, Flathead County, Montana
  • Latitude: 48.64951
  • Longitude: -113.77215
  • Source: Glacier
  • Waterfall height: 170 feet
  • Elevation: 4250 feet
  • Season: Late spring to mid-autumn for best hiking
  • Campgrounds and RV parks nearby: 20+ campgrounds located within the park or nearby, with hundreds of sites available

Recreational Activities Near Monument Falls

Glacier National Park remains one of the most intriguing, exciting destinations for visitors from across the nation and around the world.

With more than 35 named glaciers, over 700 named and unnamed lakes, 563 streams and rivers, and at least 154 different trails and trail portions for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and trail running, you’ll find it difficult to run out of recreational opportunities within the park.

Swimming

For many folks, the big question is, can you swim in Monument Falls? The short answer is no. The reason is that waterfalls create dangerous circumstances with their undercurrents and rapid water flow, which can pull you under and cause severe harm.

Instead of trying to swim in this remote, though beautiful, icy pool, consider your polar swim in Avalanche Lake or other nearby bodies of water that don’t run as swiftly and dangerously.

As it is, swimming in the frigid waters of glacier run-off pools and lakes around the park, you’ll need to take proper precautions against hypothermia and other illnesses.

Other lakes that are reported as less chilling include McDonald Lake, Lake Josephine, and Kintla Lake, though that is seasonally conditional. Aim for July and August for warmer swims.

Boating

A popular option in the park and surrounding areas is boating. From canoeing and kayaking to motorboats and pontoons, boating can be an exciting part of your Glacier NP excursion.

If you have your own boat, feel free to bring it along and put it on the many lakes, rivers, and streams. If you need a rental, however, you’ll find vendors both within and without the park with many types of boat options.

Just be sure that if you rent or bring a motorboat, you only use the vehicle in approved waters.

White Water Rafting

For the more adventurous boaters out there, a different take on boating is whitewater rafting, a highly popular recreation sport within the park and nearby rivers.

If you have your own gear, you can put in at many of the access points along rivers, but if you need to join a trip, there are multiple rafting guide companies ready to take you out.

Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing

A plethora of wildlife and birds may be found within Glacier National Park. As you hike to Monument Falls or drift along a slow-moving stream, you’ll likely spot many of the small mammals, birds, and large game animals along the way.

Some of the most common creatures you’ll see while exploring Glacier include

  • American dippers
  • Bald eagles
  • Bats
  • Beavers
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Black bears
  • Clark’s nutcrackers
  • Common loons
  • Coyotes
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Grizzly bears
  • Harlequin ducks
  • Lynx
  • Marmots
  • Moose
  • Mountain goats
  • Mountain lions
  • Northern hawk owls
  • Ospreys
  • Pikas
  • Ptarmigans
  • Swifts
  • Wolverines

Scenic Drives

Glacier National Park is home to some of the most glorious scenic drives in the world. Many vistas are tucked in along the various roads, with incredible views of mountain peaks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and more all along the way.

If you don’t feel like driving, though, you may book a seat or two on a Red Bus tour. The tours do fill up quickly, though, so be sure to book ahead.

Photography

photography

Between the glorious views of waterfalls and mountain peaks, crystal clear pools, and wildlife abundant, you’ll likely want to participate in one of the most popular activities in the park: photography.

Be sure to bring a power bank (ideally solar, if you’re going to be away from a charging station for long!), extra batteries, and plenty of memory storage for your photos, though, to make sure you don’t lose out on the incredible shots along the way.

Fishing

fishing

Because of the hundreds of bodies of water within Glacier National Park, fishing is a hugely popular activity here. You may wish to book a fishing guide through Glacier Guides or Get Your Guide, or you can set off on your own.

Some of the most popular fishing spots include

Cycling

A number of the hiking trails in Glacier National Park are also excellent for mountain and off-road biking. The trails range from easy paved pathways to rugged climbing paths that only the most seasoned of bikers can handle.

To find the right trail for you, check out the MTB Project or Trail Forks for reviews, ratings, and more.

Trail Running

For trail running with spectacular views unlike any other, you won’t find a better locale than Glacier National Park. Great Runs, All Trails, and Trail Run Project all offer fantastic suggestions to help you find the right trails via difficulty rating, elevation, trail type, distance, and more.

Be sure to bring along plenty of extra water and snacks, and make sure someone knows where you’ve gone running (preferably, don’t run alone!), and a GPS locator to help ensure your safety out there.

Horseback Riding

horseback riding m

The Swan Mountain Outfitters is one of the most popular vendors in the park because they offer incredible trail riding opportunities for folks of all levels.

The company has three starting points at stables spread through the park, including Many Glacier, Apgar, and Lake McDonald. Check out their trail ride packages to determine the best times, distances, lengths of time, and add-ons for your outing.

The company offers many options:

  • Lodgepole Loop – 1 hour – $60.00
  • Ride & Dine – 1 hour + dinner – $80.00
  • Glacier Gateway – 2 hours – $90.00
  • Cowboy Cookout – 2 hours + dinner – $165.00
  • Glacier Lookout – 3 hours – $115.00
  • Mountain View – all day – $225.00
  • Private West Glacier Trail Rides – varies – inquire for pricing

Additionally, other outfitters operate in and around Glacier, with other package offerings and trails used.

Camping

Whether you prefer backcountry camping or RV parks, Glacier National Park is home to many incredible camping options you’re sure to love.

Some campsites are reservable, but many are not, though, so be sure to check the options at the various campgrounds around the park.

Backcountry camping is available throughout the park with both designated and undesignated site options, depending on your location and needs. Some of these sites have campfire rings and picnic tables, but most do not, and none have the “typical” amenities like restrooms and running water.

Because of this, make sure you bring your own supplies, including biodegradable toilet paper, fresh drinking water, and all camping supplies.

Hotels and Cabin Rentals

If camping isn’t really your thing, or you know you’re going to need a night or two with the amenities, you’ll find there are plenty of fantastic lodging options all around the area.

Start within the park at the ever-popular Many Glacier Hotel or head outward to find motels, hotels, and other cabins for rent.

Museums and Educational Programs

Inside Glacier National Park, you’ll find educational ranger-led presentations, three visitors’ centers, and the Apgar Nature Center, which is open from mid-June to late August. The ranger-led programs fill up fast so be sure to show up early enough or reserve your spot ahead of time.

Then, outside the park, take in more of the cultural and natural history of the region by visiting any of the local museums.

Trail Routes

trail routes monument
Image: Ben Cappellacci

You’ll find Monument Falls off a single hiking track within Glacier National Park, the Avalanche Lake Trail. The trail stops short of the waterfall (well, really, carries on past, but a distance away), so you’ll then have to either locate an existing bushwhack trail or make your own to get to the falls.

Avalanche Lake Trail

Bring along a GPS locator for safety and for locating the waterfall when you break away from Avalanche Lake Trail. The trail starts near Lake McDonald. The trail is considered a moderately challenging route, and no dogs are allowed to accompany you on the journey.

The nearly 6-mile trail takes most folks 2.5 hours to complete, that is, without adding in the option of searching for Monument Falls. Avalanche Lake Trail itself is quite popular among hikers, being a more moderate and shorter trail than many, so you will likely come across many other hikers on your journey.

The rather hidden waterfall may apparently be located along the inlet streams that feed the lake nearby, with the falls dropping 170 feet along a low cliff band below the basin’s headwall.

It is reported that most of the falls cannot be seen from the Avalanche Lake Trail, but some may be, so keep an eye out for these before breaking off the main track to find Monument Falls.

  • Distance: 5.9 miles + bushwhacking distance
  • Elevation Gain: 757 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderately challenging
  • Trail type: Out and back

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