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There are so many Glacier National Park hikes to choose from. When preparing for my recent 3-½ day visit, I debated which trails to explore for weeks. I was determined to find the best hikes in Glacier National Park. After much research, the Siyeh Pass Trail made the list and I am so happy that it did.
The Siyeh Pass Trail in Glacier National Park is the perfect moderate dayhike for any hiker that’s ready to put in some work to get epic views of the valleys and one of the few remaining glaciers in the park. The trail is diverse ranging from hemlock forest, alpine meadow, stream crossings, waterfalls and forest fire damage. The Siyeh Pass Trail has to be one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park.
Siyeh Pass Trail Basics
- Distance: 10.3 miles from Siyeh Bend to Sunrift Gorge, 4.7 miles from Siyeh Bend to Siyeh Pass (one way)
- Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
- Elevation Loss: 3400 feet
- Maximum Elevation: 8080 feet
- Trailhead Start: Siyeh Bend Trailhead, on Going-To-The-Sun Road
- Trailhead End: Sunrift Gorge, on Going-To-The-Sun-Road
- Difficulty: Challenging (steep uphill and downhill, ledges, sun exposure, bear activity)
- Recommended Start Time: Before 8am
- Time on the Trail: 6-9 hours
Note that while you can hike the trail in the opposite direction (from Sunrift Gorge to Siyeh Bend), this will have you hiking up an extra 1200 feet of elevation.
Getting To and From the Siyeh Pass Trailhead
Because this is a through-hike (one way), if you want to drive to the trailhead, keep in mind that you’ll need a way to get back to your vehicle. There is limited parking at Siyeh Bend along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you get there early (before 7:30-8am), you should be able to snag a parking spot. If you plan to leave later than that, I recommend you make alternate plans.
An alternative to parking at Siyeh Bend is to take the hiker shuttle from one of its stops. I parked in the St Mary’s Lodge parking lot and grabbed the first shuttle of the day at 7am. After the hike, I grabbed another shuttle headed towards St Mary’s. The hiker shuttle stop at Sunrift Gorge (the end of the hike as recommended) is well marked. Just follow the hiker shuttle signs and wait for the next one to take you in whatever direction your vehicle or campsite are located. Be prepared to wait as the shuttles run every 15-30 minutes and often fill up so you may have to wait for more than one. Be aware that the hiker shuttle stops service at 7pm!
If you don’t feel like messing around with shuttles and getting to/from your vehicle, you can also park at Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and turn around once you reach the summit. This will offer great views of the valley, Lake McDonald, and Sexton Glacier before turning back on the same route you climbed.
Siyeh Pass Trail Highlights
Siyeh Pass Trail: The Ascent
From the trailhead at Siyeh Bend, the first 200 yards of the trail wrap along Siyeh Creek before turning right, into the forest. If you’re one of the first on the trail, be sure to make noise to let the bears know you’re coming! About 1 mile from the trailhead, you’ll arrive at a split in the trail. Go left towards Siyeh Pass.
This trail is incredibly diverse. The first section of the trail winds around the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain through a dense forest of firs and spruces. You’ll make your way through the valley, with the Going-to-the-Sun Mountain towering above you on the right and Piegan Mountain on your left. Be sure to pause occasionally to enjoy the incredible views behind you.
In another 1.5 miles there’s another split in the trail at Siyeh Pass Trail junction. Stay to the right to go towards Siyeh Pass. The left takes you towards Piegan Pass. From here, you enter a completely different landscape, a subalpine valley carved by glaciers. This area, called Preston Park has beautiful fields of wildflowers but is also frequented by bears.
As you hike through Preston Park, enjoy the view of Mount Siyeh to your left and Matahpi Peak to the right. Siyeh Pass nests right between these two peaks. Mount Siyeh is one of six peaks in Glacier National Park that is over 10,000 feet high.
At 3.5 miles, you’ll cross Siyeh Creek and begin the toughest section of the trail. This final climb is about 1 mile of switchbacks. There is a stark change in landscape here as the lush Preston Park shifts to rocky alpine terrain.
Siyeh Pass Trail: The Summit
The summit will play mind games with you as it seemingly shifts farther and farther away. But, the moment you reach it, you’re rewarded with dramatic views of Boulder Creek Valley below. There is a flat, rocky area here that makes a perfect lunch spot to relax before beginning the long downhill.
Siyeh Pass Trail: The Descent
When you’re ready, begin the 5.6 miles downhill into Baring Creek Valley towards Sunrift Gorge. But don’t be in a rush because as you make your way down you’ll have an awesome view of Sexton Glacier, one of the few remaining glaciers in the park.
This section was one of my favorites. The trickle of streams, the rush of waterfalls, and the evidence of recent forest fires engage all of your senses. If you’re extra lucky, you might spot a marmit on the trail like I did!
Siyeh Pass Trail Tips
If you hike from Siyeh Bend to Sunrift Gorge like I did, you’ll have 5.6 miles of somewhat steep downhill hiking. This can be hard on your knees. I recommend bringing hiking poles to distribute your weight and minimize the impact.
The backside of Matahpi Peak is known to have snow sometimes as late as July, resulting in trail closures. Check trail conditions and closures with a ranger before beginning this trail. If you don’t, you may get more than halfway only to realize you have to turn back. Even during my hike in July, there were sections of the trail with snow, but they were easy to navigate with hiking poles.
I was shocked to find this trail was not crowded at all, considering how beautiful it is. I recommend starting early (by 8am), if possible, not to avoid crowds but to avoid high temperatures in the afternoon.
There are no toilets on this trail, so plan accordingly. As always, if you need to go along the trail, be mindful of bear activity and leave no trace by packing out any garbage.
Siyeh Pass Trail Safety
It’s safe to assume that there are bears on just about any trail in Glacier National Park, and Siyeh Pass is no exception. Both Preston Park and the downhill hike through Baring Creek Valley are known grizzly bear hangouts, especially during berry season. Because this trail has less traffic than others, make your presence known by talking loudly, clapping or making whooping noises consistently as you hike. Take extra precaution early in the morning or as you approach blind corners. Also, always have your bear spray with you and easily accessible.
The downhill section of the trail has been ravaged in recent years by forest fires. With the afternoon sun beating down, there is little opportunity to avoid sun exposure. Bring sunscreen, plenty of water and a hat to protect yourself.
No matter what the weather looks like when you start the trail, it can shift rapidly. I strongly recommend that you bring a rain jacket and small dry bag to protect your electronics. Be aware of lightning safety while hiking. This may sound extreme, but this hike has you exposed as you summit. Recent forest fires in Glacier National Park were started by lightning.
Is the Siyeh Pass Trail one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park?
I honestly find it hard to say which are the best hikes in Glacier National Park because there’s just so many great options. But, what I appreciate about the Siyeh Pass Trail is that it is incredibly diverse and not crowded. It also offers a close up view of one of the few remaining glaciers in the park. With the epic views from the summit and the fields of wildflowers along the way, it’s hard to complain about this hike. This trail is a true hidden gem in such a high traffic park. The Siyeh Pass Trial is not appropriate for all hikers. It’s best suited for moderate to advanced hikers, simply due to distance and the elevation gain/ loss.
My opinion: Siyeh Trail IS one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park.