I love being outdoors and national parks are a great way to see the outdoors. My favorite national park that I’ve seen to date is Glacier National Park.
Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana. It encompasses over 1 million acres and reaches the US/Canada border.
To explore the different parts of the park, you can drive the Going to the Sun Road. This 50 mile long east-west road spans the width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide. The majority of this road is closed thru the winter, it’s opening date is different each year depending on how long it takes to clear the snow, sometimes up to 80 feet deep, from the road. The road is normally open by late June but some years if there is a good amount of spring snow it may not open until July! There are numerous ways to ride along the Going to the Sun road. You can drive your own car or if you don’t want to risk full parking lots, you can take the park transportation. There are also tours like the famous Red Bus Tour, pictured here.
There is so much to see at the park, you could spend weeks here. I was just here for a few days but was still able to check out the major areas of the park. Here are some of the major areas to see.
Taking the western entrance into the park, you enter the Lake McDonald valley. There are so many great outdoor activites to explore this beautiful area.
Boating: At the Lake McDonald Lodge, board the historic DeSmet for an hour long ride around the lake. Rent a kayak or paddle board and explore the lake on your own.
Hiking: There are multiple hikes in this area, from easy to difficult. The most popular hike is the Avalanche Creek hike. The park provides a ranger led hike each day, but get to the parking Apgar visitor center really early if you want to take the park transportation to the ranger led hike, otherwise, you will miss out like I did. Next time I’ll be more prepared. The ranger led hikes are great especially if you’re alone, this is bear country, so wise to hike with others. I was able to do the Trail of the Cedars hike which is a great easy hike, a portion of it is on raised boardwalk, so great for beginners!
At 6,646 feet, Logan Pass is the highest point reachable by car in the park and is located on the Continental Divide. The parking lot often fills up early, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of the park transportation as you don’t want to miss out on seeing this area. There is a visitor center located here and many rangers around leading talks, hikes and answering questions.
Hidden Lake Trail: One of the most popular hikes in the park is the Hidden Lake Trail. This easy 3 mile hike starts at the Logan Pass visitor center and takes you to an overlook where you can gaze down to the beautiful Hidden Lake. Although this trail is fairly easy, be prepared, due to the high elevation, a portion of the trail can be snow covered. These pictures above are from my trip in 2018 which was in mid-July. It was pretty crazy to be hiking thru the snow in 70 degree weather. The views on this trail are amazing as is the wildlife. As always, watch out for bears especially as you get closer to the Hidden Lake overlook. Enjoy the numerous Mountain Goats you will see along the way relaxing and walking along the trail. It’s really great to see them somewhat up close, but remember, they are wild animals so keep a distance.
St. Mary Lake
On the eastern side of the park is St. Mary Lake. Being that the parking areas on this side of the park are much less busy than Logan Pass I took my own car and I’m so glad I did. As I was driving down the road, I looked to the side of the road and out popped the cutest little bear. I stopped the car and the bear made his way across the road right in front of my car. Definitely happy that I saw the bear this way instead of on hike!
I probably could have taken 1000s of pictures of this lake, it was absolutely breathtaking!
Ranger Led Hike to St. Mary Falls: At the Rising Sun boat docks, I boarded one of Glacier Park Boat Company’s boats to head out into St. Mary Lake. This absolutely beautiful boat ride led us across the lake where we met a park ranger to hike out to St. Mary Falls. The ranger talked about the history of the forest and we saw first hand how much fire can impact the forest and how the forest starts to grow back. It was both devastating to see the damage from a forest fire but hopeful to see the ecosystem coming back to life. The falls were beautiful and quite relaxing.
Located on the southeastern section of the park, the Two Medicine area is not located along the Going to the Sun Road so alot of visitors miss out on this beautiful area.
Ranger led hike to Twin Falls: Like St. Mary Lake, a highlight of this area is a boat ride and ranger led hike. Board the oldest wooden boat in Glacier Park Boat Company’s fleet for a ride out on Two Medicine Lake. Upon docking on the west side of the lake, take a hike with a ranger to Twin Falls. These falls were the most impressive I’ve seen in Glacier National Park. You can even hike up to towards the top of the falls. Another breathtaking and relaxing spot.
With so much to see and do, it’s worth taking a week or more vacation to Glacier National Park. Some tips to remember when booking your trip: book your lodging or camp sites early, the ones in the park fill up rather quick, keep in mind that the Going to the Sun Road isn’t always open by the start of summer, so a trip in July or August might be better than June, and always remember to have bear spray with you when hiking, it’s worth the $50 just in case you end up encountering a bear! Need help planning your trip, let a travel agent like me with first hand experience in the park, help you plan. http://www.beyondthemilestravel.com