In northern Montana, there lies a majestic stretch of land that, I’m pretty sure, was inhabited by Zeus himself at one point in time. Glacier National Park embodies more than 1 million acres of land, over 130 lakes, and includes 2 mountain ranges. Animal life is abundant within the park and it isn’t uncommon to see grizzly bears, moose, and mountain goat. If you are lucky enough, you might also spot a wolverine or a Canadian lynx, as the park is one of the few places in the United States where these endangered species have been known to inhabit.
As I’m sure you could guess, Glacier National Park got its name from all of the glaciers that helped form the landscape and exist in the park today. Unfortunately, the glaciers have been vanishing rapidly. In 1850, there was an estimated 150 glaciers in the park. Today, there are only 25 active glaciers. If climate trends continue, it is estimated that there will be no more glaciers left by 2020!
A couple of weeks ago, we decided to visit Glacier. There are so many beautiful hikes that it’s really a good idea to try and plan ahead which hikes you want to do. We found this website helpful when exploring the different trails – http://www.hikinginglacier.com/. The site categorizes the hiking trails by location, trail features, and difficulty rating, so you can choose a trail that works for you.
If you are planning on camping in the park, there are first-come first-serve camping spots, or you can reserve a camping spot at one of three different reservation sites. And, of course, there is plenty of backcountry camping to be had. For additional camping information, this site is helpful – http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/camping.htm.
The first day of our trip we met up with family on my wife’s side and enjoyed renting a little motorboat on Lake McDonald (the park’s largest lake) and doing a short hike to on the Trail of The Cedars. The Trail of The Cedars is a beautiful 1.5 mile (roundtrip) hike that is very family friendly hike and it is even wheelchair accessible. The end of the hike brings you to a gorgeous little waterfall and then the trail splits off and you can continue another couple of miles or so on to Avalanche Lake.
After our hike, we took a scenic drive on the famous Going-to-the-Sun road. The road runs more than 50 miles through the park and crosses the continental divide. The views from the road, and especially from Logan Pass, were unreal!
On our second day we decided to hike to Grinnell Glacier, which was about 11 miles (roundtrip) and we were not disappointed. The hike started out pretty easy with fairly level trails as we trekked past a couple of lakes (Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine) and then picked up quite a bit (you can take shuttle boats across each of the two lakes and shave about 3.4 miles off your roundtrip hike). From the trail we got breathtaking views of Grinnell Falls and Grinnell Lake, which had an amazing turquoise color. After climbing 1,840 feet we finally reached Grinnell Glacier and the upper lake. The hours of climbing (and carrying a toddler the whole way) were definitely worth it! We ate lunch by the lake, relaxed, took a quick (and freezing) dip, and watched a couple of mountain goats play by the edge of the water.
The hike down was definitely easier than the hike up, and we also came close to a moose! Despite our constant lookout for bears, we didn’t come across any, but will hopefully run into some next time.