Glacier National Park
In 1901, John Muir described Glacier as the “best care-killing scenery on the continent” and in 1908 George Bird Grinnell named it the “Crown of the Continent”.
Glacier is a hiker’s paradise; in short, we wanted to camp in the park for quick and easy access to trails. Unfortunately there are only two campgrounds in Glacier that accept reservations and both were fully reserved. So before leaving Yellowstone we booked a private campground within 10 miles of the entrance to West Glacier. The rates at most private campgrounds include the seventh night free if you stay a week so we opted for the full seven. What we didn’t expect was that we would get bored with the place before the week was up and the added travel time became tedious. On the plus side, we discovered huckleberry pie and ice cream within walking distance so all was not lost.
Bisecting the heart of Glacier is the Going-to-the-Sun Road and you will want to take multiple trips to drink in the absolutely stunning scenery of the mountain range, glacial valleys, prairies, cascading waterfalls, and ever-changing skies. The 50-mile-long road winds East-West through the park passed Lake McDonald on the East side and Lake Mary on the West Side. We quickly realized why vehicles over 21 feet long or over 8 feet wide are prohibited between Avalanche Creek and Sun Point, as we had to retract our rear view mirrors within the first couple of hair pin turns that hug the cliff side lest you cross over into the equally narrow lane hugging the mountains going in the opposite direction. There is no doubt that the driver will not be able to take in the whole show; it takes 100% attention to navigate this road! If you want to park your car and let someone else do the driving, Glacier has a free shuttle system.
We did a few hikes around Apgar which is at the beginning of the West side but found that the more challenging hikes are located near the top of the pass. Our best hike on a particularly windy day (as it turned out) was from the welcome center at the top of Logan Pass to Hidden Lake. The route starts out with large amounts of hikers headed in the same direction. At first we thought we might be overdressed with our long pants, light jackets, boots, and backpacks with ample supplies, but as we passed the shorts, t-shirts and sandal crowds that were having issues going through the snow we knew we made the right decision. After about an hour of the uphill climb in howling winds we even yearned for a winter hat! As with most hikes the best comes to those who persevere and the view over Hidden Lake proved spectacular (even if marred by smoke from the Washington fires). The trail from the outcropping above Hidden Lake to the far end of the lake was closed because of bear activity but that didn’t deter a group of mountain goats from serving as a welcoming committee. We also had our first bighorn sheep sighting at Logan Pass.
We slept comfortably will full hookups and at the end of the seventh day we were prepared to move on and check out the East side of Glacier where we focused ourselves on Two Medicine and Many Glacier, each listed in the Glacier Visitor Guide as the lesser visited parts of Glacier and described as off the beaten path. We’re in, we thought!
Arriving at Two Medicine campground that were numerous choices, first come first served. Luckily a couple from Denver talked us into waiting an hour for their site to open up as it had a million dollar view. We always try to pack a lunch and find the best place we can to enjoy it but for the next week that would be totally unnecessary. Our dining table window pointed towards the best view we’ve had in a campsite and we enjoyed it every minute we were in the trailer! From the campsite we hiked twelve miles to Cobalt Lake complete with waterfalls and exceptional views of the Rockies. Later in the week we took the tour boat across Two Medicine Lake (which cuts off about five miles of hiking) so that we would be able to go deeper into the park. We ended up hiking another twelve miles to upper Two Medicine Lake, Twin Falls and then onto No Name Lake (which will forever be known to us as Skinny Dipping Lake, hee hee!).
One of the advantages to camping in the park are the ranger led talks that take place each evening. We learned about wolves, beavers and bears and found ourselves entertained by Jack Gladstone, a Grammy nominated Blackfeet singer/songwriter. Ask us about the bear who stole the chinook.
From Two Medicine, we day tripped to Many Glacier and to Waterton Lakes in Canada, but we’ll save each of these for another post or you will get dizzy looking at all the pictures.
Next Up: Back on track