If it’s glaciers you want to see, go to Alaska :). Contrary to the park’s name, there are not that many glaciers left. There used to be 125 glaciers at one point, but they are melting away. There are only 25 left now and they say that in 30 years the remaining glaciers will disappear. What you will find in Glacier NP is lush mountains, rich wildlife and lots of lakes with turquoise water.
We had 3.5 days in the park. We arrived on 4th of July in the afternoon. Hoping to avoid the crowds, we started with the most popular spot in the park – Logan pass – the top of the Going-to-the-Sun road. Even with over 75F (20C) temperatures, there was still 6 ft of snow over there, but the hike to Hidden Lake (3 mi round trip) was open. Hiking through somewhat slushy snow was not easy, especially going uphill, but we made to the lake which was still covered in ice without any accidents. Hiking through snow in shorts and a t-shirt was quite an experience – well worth it!
On the way down to Lake McDonald, we passed through the park’s natural car wash, also known as the Weeping Wall – basically driving under a waterfall.
At almost 10 pm, we drove to Lake McDonald to watch the sunset.
On the way to the hotel that night we saw lots of fireworks. Guess they are not afraid of fires over there.
The next day, we started with the park’s second most popular hike Cedar Trail (.5 mi) and the hike to Lake Avalanche (2 mi round trip). Some of the highlights of the hike – Avalanche gorge, mossy forest, and a nice alpine lake at the end of the trail.
Next we hiked to St. Mary falls (2 mi round trip) – nothing to write home about. In the afternoon, we moved south to Two Medicine area, where we took a boat tour on the lake and enjoyed the scenery.
At sunset, we drove on an unpaved road to Bowman Lake, that’s where my first serious encounter with the Montana mosquitoes took place. The sunset was amazing, the landscape straight out of a postcard, but the bugs were relentless. Living in California, I sometimes forget about the existence of mosquitoes – big mistake!
The third day was dedicated to Many Glacier area. We took 2 boats on two different lakes to the trailhead to Lake Grinnell (~2 mi round trip). That was an easy flat trail with a swinging bridge and another pretty lake at the end. The wind wasn’t too bad on Swiftcurrent Lake, which allowed us to rent a kayak and explore the lake from the water level.
We got back early enough to have dinner in Hungry Horse at Elkhorn Grill. The bison burger and BBQ chicken was delish, the only complaint we had was the water, which tasted like pickle juice 🙂
Finally, on the last day, we ventured into Canada to see Waterton Lakes National Park, which is an extension of Glacier park across the border. On the way there, we passed through Glacier park early in the morning and caught some low clouds forming at the top of Logan pass.
In Waterton, next to the beautiful Prince Wales lodge, we took the steep Bear Hump trail (2 mi round trip) to the scenic overlook above Waterton village and lake.
On the way to Cameron Lake, we met a mama bear and her 3 very cute cubs. They passed right next to the car! This was the third encounter with bears on this trip, luckily all from the car.
We also saw plenty of mountain goats and deer. Waterton park was my second serious encounter with mosquitoes. I couldn’t even get out of the car without getting at least one bug bite.
Last stop was the Red Rock Canyon, where we dipped out toes in frigid cold water.
1. Bring bug spray
2. Bring bug spray
3. Stay on the east side of the park to explore Going-to-the-Sun and Two Medicine areas. If going to the Canadian side and Many Glacier areas, move to the west side for less driving.