“Glacier National Park is where everything bright and strong and never tamed comes together on high: wolves, white-tailed ptarmigan, storms that hit the Great Divide like tsunamis with golden eagles surfing the wind waves, twisted trees 200 years old but scarcely tall enough to hide a bighorn sheep, impatient wildflowers shoving through snow to unfurl their colors, alpenglow on ancient ice, and great silver-tipped bears.”
– National Geographic
My family and I just returned from Glacier National Park in Montana. It’s an incredible place, and I recommend you visit if you can. Not only is there a variety of wildlife to view, but the scenery is stunning everywhere you look.
You’ve probably heard of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which cuts across the park (and which appeared in the opening scene of The Shining), and that’s certainly the highlight of the park.
The Outside North Fork Road skirts the west boundary of the Glacier National Park, allowing access to the beautiful and much less crowded North Fork area of the park. There’s also an Inside North Fork Road, but the middle part of the road is closed, and what’s open is not in good condition.
Highways 89 and 49, outside the park on its east side, offer stunning views of the mountains in the park.
“[Y]ou will find yourself in the midst of what you are sure to say is the best care-killing scenery on the continent – beautiful lakes derived straight from glaciers, lofty mountains steeped in lovely nemophila-blue skies and clad with forests and glaciers, mossy ferny waterfalls in their hollows, nameless and numberless, and meadowy gardens abounding in the best of everything.”
– John Muir
Everyone has different ideas about what makes a good hike. I love beautiful scenery and wildlife sightings, all in no more than 5 or 6 miles round-trip. Most importantly, the words “strenuous,” “difficult” and “challenging” should appear nowhere in the trail description.
If your tastes are similar and you have time for only one hike, I suggest the Hidden Lake Overlook hike, which begins at the Logan Pass visitor center. Much of the trail is paved or boardwalk (though all uphill until the outlook and, naturally, all downhill on the way back).
We even saw a grizzly sow with her two cubs, at a nice safe distance across the lake.
Love an adrenaline rush? You might want to try the Highline Loop trail instead, also accessible from the Logan Pass visitor center. It’s often rated as the number one hike in Glacier National Park. Although we never planned to hike the whole trail, we did want to do the first mile.
After hiking through a beautiful meadow, you hit the part of the trail along a cliff ledge. There’s a cable you can hold on to while you walk this section and admire the dazzling views. However, the trail remains narrow and treacherous for some distance after the cable ends, so I turned around when the cable ended. You may be braver.
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street.”
– William Blake
If you or those you’re traveling with can’t hike far or you’re just looking for a quick way to see an area, try the Trick Falls (aka Running Eagle Falls) hike in Two Medicine, only about half a mile and Trail of the Cedars, about a mile and all on a boardwalk.
There are of course, many hikes we didn’t take. We also didn’t take any of the Glacier National Park boat cruises, though in Waterton Lakes National Park, we took the cruise to Goat Haunt. In addition to the amazing scenery, we saw bald eagles and black bears. We didn’t have time for hiking since we were there so briefly, but after the cruise, we drove the Red Rock Parkway and the Akamina Parkway.
On the way to Glacier, we stopped at the National Bison Range, just north of Missoula. Although it was hot out, we saw not only bison, but deer, pronghorn, big horn sheep and a black bear.
As you’ve probably guessed, I got a lot of use out of my binoculars on this trip.