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Rainbow Falls, Glacier County

Rainbow Falls is a popular waterfall within the boundaries of Glacier National Park, in the Glacier County portion. The beautiful falls are down a short hike that’s considered easy, making it a great option for families with younger kids, lower conditioning, or mobility limitations.

Rainbow Falls, Glacier County

On some websites, the falls are confused with the unofficially named “Rainbow Glacier Falls” in the Flathead County portion of the park. Be sure you’re headed out on the right trail before you go, by checking for the correct latitude and longitude listed below.

Rainbow Falls Stats

rainbow falls stats
Image: Ted McGrath

Rainbows Falls is a smaller, but highly popular waterfall to visit within Glacier National Park. The beautiful falls are easy for families to reach, so the trails may be crowded during peak hours, but the hike and falls are well worth the time and crowds, according to most casual hikers.

  • Location: Glacier National Park, Glacier County, Montana
  • Latitude: 48.9491506°N
  • Longitude: -113.898364°W
  • Stream: Unknown
  • Elevation: 4245 feet
  • Season: Spring to autumn
  • Campgrounds and RV parks nearby: 20+ campgrounds located within the park or nearby, with hundreds of sites available

Recreational Activities Near Rainbow Falls

There are lots to do around Rainbow Falls, thanks to its fantastic location within Glacier National Park. You could literally spend months here, seeing and doing everything – and you still wouldn’t actually manage it all.

So, while you’re here, focus your time on the things you most want to see and do, from hiking to backcountry camping, swimming, nature photography, or trail running.

Swimming

Can you swim in Rainbow Falls? Swimming in waterfalls is never recommended, and at Rainbow Falls, it is restricted and should never be done. The current at any waterfall can be highly dangerous and particularly so with falls like Rainbow, where the flow is so dramatically changing by season.

Instead, find other bodies of water within the park to swim in, like Margaret Lake, Lake Josephine, or Grinnell Lake in the backcountry.

Just be warned: many bodies of water within the park are frigid year round, due to the glacier melt and mountain drainage.

Boating

boating

A popular option throughout much of Glacier National Park, boating may be done in many lakes, rivers, and streams. Some of the bodies of water, like Ipasha Lake, are portage only, while others are easy to access via rentals and easy boat access points.

Kintla Lake, Lake Josephine, Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, Two Medicine Lake, and Swiftcurrent Lake are some of the most popular boating spots in the park. Be sure to check details before choosing your location, though, as some have boat type restrictions, meaning no motorboats in some areas.

If you don’t have a boat of your own, there are many outfitters in the area that have options. Some of the most popular companies include

White Water Rafting

White water rafting is another highly popular activity within Glacier NP. The sport is certainly adventurous with thrills a mile a minute, depending on the locale.

Many companies offer a variety of trip lengths and types, as well as skill levels and interests. Some also include special add-ons like snacks, meals, or lodging, as well as longer trips that would include all of the above. Be sure to check packages before buying tickets to ensure you get the right option for your group.

Some great tour companies include

Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing

The magnificent wildlife at Glacier National Park is one of the largest draw factors for nature lovers. While here, you have the potential for seeing large game and small game, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians as you hike, bike, jog, or kayak your way through the Great Outdoors.

Some of the most popular animals and birds you might spot while here include

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

Scenic Drives

scenic drives

If you’re up for some scenery without the hiking, taking a leisurely drive through the park is a great option. You’ll catch glimpses of wildlife, as well as look out over incredible vistas. And if driving doesn’t feel like a great option, Glacier has Red Bus tours you can book into.

Be sure to plan ahead and get tickets early, though, as tours fill up fast.

Photography

The incredible mountain peaks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, wildlife, and other fantastic views have helped to make Glacier National Park a favorite for both professional and amateur photographers alike.

If you plan to enjoy this activity, it’s highly recommended that you bring along a good-quality camera and plenty of pre-charged batteries. And since you’re likely to take thousands of photos, you’ll also want to make sure you have loads of memory cards at the ready so you don’t miss that amazing shot.

Fishing

Many folks enjoy fishing throughout Glacier National Park, including at Rainbow Lake. The lake – like all other bodies of water in the park – is open for fishing year-round.

You will need proper gear and licensing, and may want to hire a guide to help you find the best fishing spots. Both Glacier Guides and Get Your Guide are helpful for finding a great expert for the experience.

If you want to go on your own, the following locations are most esteemed for solo fishing outings.

  • Trout Lake
  • Logging Creek
  • Flathead Lake
  • Mary Lake
  • Yaak River
  • Stillwater River
  • Flathead River

Cycling

Many of the hiking trails in Glacier double as amazing off-road bike trails. Some do have limitations and don’t permit any vehicles of any kind (bikes included), though, so be sure to check signage and any restrictions before setting out.

Some of the paths within the park are paved, while many are rough and rugged and require mountain bikes or hybrids. For details on the trails, check out Trail Forks and MTB Project.

Trail Running

Numerous trails throughout Glacier also make for great trail running options. Some are more challenging than others, of course, and some are practically impossible.

Many of the trails are level, smooth, paved, or reasonably well-maintained and suitable for running for runners of varying skill levels. Great Runs and All Trails can help you find the right trail for your skill level.

Horseback Riding

Swan Mountain Outfitters offers horseback riding from within Glacier National Park, from their three different stables. Their locations are at Many Glacier, Apgar, and Lake McDonald, and each takes different routes through the natural wonder of Glacier.

The company offers a variety of trail ride options to choose from, with different add-ons and trail ride lengths.

  • 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

Camping

camping

Campgrounds and individual sites are available throughout Glacier and nearby outside the park’s boundaries. Backcountry sites, primitive sites, cabins, and RV sites are all available within the park, with varying levels of amenities available.

Some sites have bathrooms and campfire rings available to them, along with picnic tables and parking areas, while others have cleared patches for pitching a tent only. You’ll also find both designated backcountry sites and the option for pitching a tent “as you like” in some of the more remote locations.

Many of the sites are first-come, first-serve, but there are some that may be reserved. Check ahead of time to ensure you’ve got someplace to stay – or arrive early if the sites are limited and unreservable.

Hotels and Cabin Rentals

Glacier National Park is one of the prime destinations for outdoor lovers in the United States, so there are many lodging options within and near the park’s various entrances.

As you plan your stay, be sure the hotel or cabin you’re booking is located conveniently for the portions of the park you intend to visit.

Some of the best lodging options include

Or cabins through any of the following popular sites:

Museums and Educational Programs

Mother Nature doesn’t have to be your only educator while visiting Glacier and surrounding areas. There are many ranger-led presentations and hikes/walks that make for great outings and educational opportunities while you visit – with or without the kids! The programs are filled first-come, first-serve, so show up early to guarantee a spot.

Within the park, you’ll also find three visitors’ centers where maps, guides, other programming, displays and exhibits, and gift shops may be found. You may also visit the Apgar Nature Center, which is open from mid-June to late August.

Outside the park, you’ll find plenty of museums and galleries, including:

Trail Routes

Rainbow Falls is primarily reached via the Rainbow Falls Trail, a 1.9-mile hike there and back, near Babb, Montana. The beautiful hike is greatly appreciated by families and folks looking for a lovely trail at an easy pace.

Rainbow Falls Trail

rainbow falls trail

According to All Trails, the easy 1.9-mile round trip hike to Rainbow Falls is a popular trail in Glacier National Park.

The trail may be crowded during peak hours, though not as much as many other hikes, but you’re still likely to find some peace and quiet during the off-season or low visit times.

The trail is recommended for April to October to avoid seasonal obstructions. And please note: no dogs are permitted on the trail.

The beautiful hike roams through a forest filled with huckleberries and winds up at the waterfall, facing Mount Cleveland as the backdrop.

This is one of the only hiking trails in Glacier National Park that requires you to carry a passport – it crosses into Canada and back. The trail heads out from Goat Haunt pass, after a boat ride through the incredibly beautiful area, and then continues on to the Waterton River.

The boat ride takes place in a boat that’s nearly 100 years old at this point, having been built in 1926. The lake-worthy vessel makes the hike possible for folks with less than hardy hiking skills. The waterfall is approximately 1 mile down the trail.

  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 98 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Trail type: Out and back
  • Notes: Bring your passport! The trail crosses the Canadian border.

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