Discover the Tallest Waterfall in Glacier National Park

Written by Katie Melynn Wood
Updated: September 1, 2023
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Glacier National Park is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States. This national park is almost one million acres in size and has everything from majestic mountains to tranquil meadows. If you are planning a visit to Glacier, it can be hard to decide which landmarks to stop by. Two that should be at the top of your list if you love waterfalls are Feather Plume Falls and Bird Woman Falls.

The tallest waterfall in Glacier National Park is Feather Plume Falls at around 1,500 feet. This impressive waterfall is actually the tallest in the entire state. It is very wispy, giving it its name, and actually comprised of three drops rather than one. Bird Woman Falls is an amazing natural wonder that is 492 feet tall and one of the tallest substantial waterfalls in the park. Both are worth mentioning for their beauty.

Feather Plume Falls is off the beaten path but accessible via the Grinnell Lake Trail. This trail is around 10 miles long and goes through another great spot, the crystal clear waters of Grinnell Lake. Views of Bird Woman Falls are along some of the most famous roads in Glacier National Park and are easy to access for motorists. For the more adventurous, a hike in the area is another great way to enjoy both spots.

Feather Plume Falls are taller but incredibly thin. This gives them an almost otherworldly quality that makes them unique in the park. There are peak times to see Bird Woman Falls. Spring and summer are the ideal times because the water from the melting snowfields feeds the falls. In the fall, the falls can be significantly weaker.

Bird Woman Falls between Mountain Oberlin and Cannon in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Bird Woman Falls is easy to spot from the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

Visiting Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana and extends into Canada. Getting to Glacier is relatively easy. Depending on your distance, you can drive or fly. The Glacier Park InternationalĀ Airport is the closest airport, just under an hour away.

Because it is such a large park, keep in mind that you will need to drive to see the falls. Fortunately, getting around Glacier National Park is one of the main highlights of a trip to this part of the country. Stopping on the Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the best ways to view Bird Woman Falls. This road is 50 miles long, takes an estimated 2 hours to drive, and runs through some of the most picturesque parts of Glacier National Park. There are multiple sections and some are only open during the summer months due to weather restrictions.

Feather Plume Falls takes more effort to get to, although you will be happy with the reward once you get there. You can stop by the picturesque Grinnell Lake, fed by the Grinnell glacier. Seeing its turquoise blue water is one of the favorite photo ops in the entire park.

Depending on the time of year, you may need a reservation to drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road as well as other popular spots in Glacier National Park. In peak seasons, the number of visitors allowed on the road each day is restricted. The park also requires an entry fee, even if the gate is unmanned. There are self-pay options or you can get a pass online. If you are a frequent visitor, an annual pass might be the best way to go.

Grinnell Glacier at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Grinnell Glacier at Glacier National Park, Montana.

©iStock.com/JeanMarieBiele

Where Is Feather Plume Falls?

Feather Plume Falls feeds into Cataract Creek. They are located near Grinnell Lake and Many Glacier, one of the most popular places to visit in Glacier National Park. It is also near Mount Gould and accessible via a cutoff from the Piegan Pass Trail. It is more remote than some other areas of Glacier and often has large wildlife in the area, including bears and elk. You will need to hike to get to be able to see Feather Plume Falls.

Where Is Bird Woman Falls?

Bird Woman Falls is located in the Western part of Glacier. The falls go down between Mount Oberlin and Mount Cannon. Mount Oberlin is considered one of the easier peaks to climb in Glacier. It is still a strenuous challenge, however, and best done by those with experience or a guide. If you want to see the falls without climbing a mountain, the views from the Going-to-the-Sun Road are also spectacular. The best viewing point from this road is approximately 2 miles from the actual falls.

Staying in Glacier National Park

Camping and lodging are plentiful in Glacier National Park but fill up quickly. If you have a set schedule or preferred location, it’s best to book as early as you can to make sure it is available. Some spots get booked months in advance. Luxury accommodations, such as hotels, are around the most popular spots in Glacier. There are also two chalets that you can hike to and stay overnight. Glacier has 13 designated campgrounds with over 1,000 sites.

You can also embrace a more rugged trip and stay in the backcountry. There are 65 wilderness camping locations throughout the park. They are extremely primitive and offer a designated place to stop rather than actual amenities. The benefit of staying in a wilderness camping location is the unparalleled natural beauty that will surround you.

The park is open 24 hours a day. Some parts close occasionally due to weather. Fortunately, Glacier posts frequent updates on weather conditions and closures. It is important to check periodically to ensure your plans do not need to change.

Road and Tunnel with Valley View, Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park spans more than 1 million acres.

©Zack Frank/Shutterstock.com

Wildlife Around Feather Plume Falls and Bird Woman Falls

Glacier National Park is named for the many glaciers that are located in its area. There are 26 glaciers, although there were once many more. These glaciers are essential not only to the environment within the park but also to the larger ecosystem within the United States as well.

Animals in Glacier National Park are plentiful and seeing them is one of the highlights of a trip for many visitors. Black bears and grizzly bears both call the area home. With a lot of their habitat threatened, these bears rely on the protected areas in Glacier National Park to maintain their population. Whether camping in one of the more developed campgrounds, enjoying wilderness camping, or just hiking on one of the many trails, it’s important to be aware of bears and know what to do if you encounter one. As with all wildlife, you should always keep your distance.

Other animals in the park include bighorn sheep. These large mountain-dwelling sheep have interesting horns and are great to capture in a photo. You can often see them on steep rocky inclines. You may also see mountain goats in the same areas. Elk, lynx, and mountain lions are other larger animals in the park. Birds in Glacier include bald eagles, loons, owls, ospreys, ducks, and ptarmigans, as well as numerous smaller songbirds.

With plenty of water, there are also a lot of fish in Glacier National Park. These include bull trout, cutthroat trout, northern pikeminnow, and others. Many of the fish species now found in the park were introduced later. Not only does this impact the native fish populations, but it can also bring new parasites and diseases to the area. It’s important to always follow regulations regarding wildlife in natural areas. You can fish throughout Glacier National Park but you have to follow regulations, which can vary in each area.

American black bear (Ursus americanus), Glacier National Park, Montana

Before you go, know what to do if you see a bear in Glacier National Park.

©Greens and Blues/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kelly vanDellen/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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