Glacier National Park
Located: Montana - Established: May 11, 1910
The Park: The crown jewel of the Rockies, Glacier National Park will dazzle you with an incredible array of mountains, mammals, meadows and an occasional glacier. Sadly, warmer global temperatures have led to the considerable shrinkage of this park’s namesake.
In 1850, this region had 150 glaciers. Today, only 25 remain. It is estimated that by 2030, all glaciers in the park will have vanished! Nevertheless, Glacier is a veritable playground for the outdoor enthusiast! A hiker’s paradise with over 700 miles of trails!
Getting there: The continental divide of the Rocky Mountains splits this park into an east/west orientation. The West Entrance of the park is accessed via Hwy 2 from Kalispell/Columbia Falls. The eastern section of the park has several different entrance locations from Two Medicine in the south to the Many Glacier Entrance further north.
When to go: Glacier is open year round, although heavy winter snowpack will close the upper sections of the very scenic Going-to-the Sun Road until late June or early July. Summer attracts large crowds to this strikingly beautiful landscape. We’ve found September to be an excellent time to visit Glacier. School’s back in session. Crowds have thinned out.
Where to stay: Six of the sixteen Great Lodges of the National Parks are located in and around Glacier-Waterton. In addition, other lodging is available just outside the park boundaries in St. Mary on the eastern side of the park as well as in Columbia Falls/Kalispell on the west. Sadly, the 114-year old Sperry Chalet was burned to the ground in August of 2017.
As for camping, Glacier has 13 developed campgrounds with over 1000 campsites. Most of the campgrounds are first-come, first-served although a few sites can be reserved in advance.
What to do: If you visit Glacier, you must drive the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road either in your own vehicle or via the popular Red Bus Tour. The apex of this most unforgettable drive is Logan Pass where the Continental Divide splits the park into the western and eastern sections. Explore this area and hike out to the Hidden Lake Overlook. If heading eastbound, pull over to take a look at Jackson Glacier...one of the few remaining glaciers visible from the road. Stop at Wild Goose Island Overlook before heading into the town of St. Mary. Along the way, take in Sunrift Gorge and St. Mary Falls before enjoying a tasty slice of pie at the Park Café in the town of St. Mary!
Hiking: There are over 700 miles of hiking trails in Glacier; however, if you take only one hike when visiting this magnificent mountain wonderland, take the Avalanche Creek Trail to Avalanche Lake! This easy 2-mile trek is located on the western side of the park just northeast of Lake McDonald. It is a beauty and remains as one of our most memorable hikes!
Another beautiful day hike is down to Hidden Lake. The trailhead for this lovely trek begins at the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center. The hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook is a about a mile and a half (one way) and is relatively easy. The hike down and back to the lake is a bit more arduous!
Wildlife: Glacier is home to a wide variety of wildlife. There are 71 species of mammals, ranging from the tiny pygmy shrew, about the weight of a dime, to majestic species such as the grizzly bear, gray wolf, elk, moose, lynx, wolverine, cougar, mountain goat and bighorn sheep. At Logan Pass, you will most likely spot Mountain Goats roaming the high meadow and Big Horn prancing about the meadows. Glacier is home to one of the largest remaining populations of brown bear (grizzly) in the lower 48 states.
Memorable moment: Hiking the Avalanche Creek Trail out to Avalanche Lake in a gentle rain shower with Charlie and Terry.
Trivia: If current warming trends continue, scientists say Glacier will become sans glaciers by the year 2030.
Banner: Mountain view from Wild Goose Island Overlook.
Experience these Check List:
- Stop by any of the park's three Visitor Centers (Apgar, Logan Pass, St. mary)
- Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Hike Avalanche Creek Trail
- Hike the Hidden Lake Nature Trail
- Hike to Grinnell Glacier
- Hike to St. Mary Falls
- Get a glimpse of the glaciers before they are gone!