Morning Eagle Falls is a beautiful hike in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
This hike to Morning Eagle Falls (Feather Plume Falls) is an extension to the Grinnell Valley hike.
A relatively flat, morning hike from Many Glacier Hotel to Lower Grinnell Lake becomes an aggressive 1,500 ft (457 M) elevation gain, on the connector trail from the bottom of Grinnell Valley via well-graded switchbacks through forest, to a level plain above. The connector trail arrives at the Piegan Pass Trail and is followed by a right turn to hike beneath steep cliffs hosting many spectacular, slender waterfalls, cascading thousands of feet down the rock face from the melt of snow fields high above.
Massive mountains surround the hike and 9,553 ft. (2,911 M) Mount Gould soars above to the right on the other side of Cataract Creek. The mountain is named for George Huntington Gould (1851 – 1926) from Santa Barbara, a friend of George Bird Grinnell. Among other important initiatives, Gould assisted in the defense of Indian rights during the development of Glacier National Park.
A short swing bridge crosses the pristine Cataract Creek, color enhanced by deposits of smooth, red and green Grinnell Argillite before the trail enters a large avalanche chute containing fields of raspberry and huckleberry bushes.
Hiking alone, careful attention requires making noise because there is ample evidence of very recent bear activity which includes fresh footprints and scat combined with fresh paw scratching along the trail. No bears are visible but it is possible the bears are hiding and waiting patiently to return to their activity.
The sound of falling water stimulates the senses and warm sun is tempered by a slight breeze travelling over the Continental Divide and through the alpine valley. Soon, the first view of Morning Eagle Falls appears about a mile (1.6 KM) distant.
There are many large snow deposits remaining at the base of cliffs as the hike continues along the shore of beautiful Cataract Creek. The route to Morning Eagle Falls is easy on excellent, narrow, relatively flat trail. The waterfall roars as the valley narrows and sound is reflected and amplified. At the waterfall there is a perfect sitting stone to enjoy food, water, peaceful solitude and personal reflection. Hiking is a lot about planning, peace, sensory stimulation and personal reflection.
'Morning Eagle' was a legendary Blackfeet warrior. In the mid 1800s, when the Assiniboines stole the sacred albino otter hide from the Blackfeet, Mad Wolf and the Elder, Morning Eagle, led one of two parties dispatched for its recovery. Mad Wolf brought the sacred hide home but Morning Eagle was killed when he paused to drink from a stream.
There is the option to continue to Piegan Pass, at the top of the Continental Divide, where the view will be spectacular, but the addition will add 6 miles (9.6 KM) and significant elevation to the day. It might mean completing the hike in darkness and rain as clouds darken and ceilings drop.
This opportunity will be passed up in favor of potentially making a shorter hike to Piegan Pass later in the week from Going-to-the-Sun Road. This days endeavor will return to the Many Glacier Hotel on the Piegan Pass Trail for a late afternoon arrival.