Your Guide to Glacier National Park

I had the opportunity to work in Glacier National Park for the 2018 and 2019 summers and I’ve got to say, it is one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States. The park has gained significant attention over the past 10- 15 years. The yearly visitor count has almost doubled in that time, from averaging around 1.5 million visitors to 3 million+ the past 4 summers. The now heavily trafficked park can be stressful to navigate at times, as it’s realistically designed to host under a million guests each summer. My hope is this post may give future visitors a better idea of how to approach their trip to Glacier.

 

GO ON A HIKE

During the summer, the roads through Glacier can look as though it’s rush hour in New York, making driving a frustrating task. The best way to avoid the stress of driving? Get out and hike! Glacier offers over 700 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy family-friendly loops to epic multi-day backpacking trips that cover up to 30 miles. 

Planning out which trails you would like to hit in advance is a good idea. Some trails, basically any trail near Logan’s Pass, can have full parking lots by 7 A.M in peak season. Unless you’re willing to get up and after it early, it’s a good idea to have a few back up plans. Utilizing the shuttle services (pandemic pending) in the park is a great way to get around and avoid fighting other visitors over a parking spot.

Here’s a shortlist of my favorite hikes…

  • Highline Trail
  • Sperry Chalet to Lincoln Peak
  • Upper Two Medicine Lake trail
  • Stanton Lake

POLEBRIDGE

If you’re looking for a relaxing day, look no further than Polebridge. Polebridge is a small community located along the Northfork of the Flathead river located 22 miles south of the Canadian border. Tucked in the westernmost boundary of the park, Polebridge is in a more unknown part of the park, as it’s a 35-mile drive from West Glacier entrance that is primarily a dirt road. The “town” doesn’t accommodate much for lodging so it is a day trip for most. In fact, Polebridge doesn’t have many buildings at all as it holds two restaurants and one mercantile (be sure to get a huckleberry bear claw). Other than the food, there are a few small hiking loops, access to the Northfork, and fantastic views of the mountains that make up the Canadian-US border. 

After spending time at the Mercantile and a meal at Northern Lights Saloon. Be sure to make the 6 mile drive up to Bowman Lake. The drive is quite bumpy, so make sure you have a vehicle cable of some potholes and loose gravel. The lake is the perfect spot to set up some chairs and lounge while taking the occasional dip in the beautiful lake.

Northern Lights Saloon
The Merc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOING TO THE SUN ROAD

Completed in 1932, Going-to-the-Sun-Road has been one of the top attractions to Glacier National Park. Although I mentioned the stress of driving in Glacier, you still can’t miss out on Going-to-the-sun-Road. The 50-mile long mountain pass goes over the Continental Divide and spans the width of the park. It features breathtaking views around every turn with plenty of pull-offs that guests can use to stop and take photos or go on hikes. The highest part of the road, Logan’s Pass, sits over a mile high at 6,646 feet and can accumulate up to 80 feet of snow in the winter. 

If you’re planning to make the trip before July and want to drive the road, be sure to check the road conditions on the National Park Service website. The snow on the road can take teams of snowplows over a month to clear out because of the mass quantities it receives in the winter. It is typically cleared by the second half of June, but some years it takes until early July.

The drive up to Logan’s Pass

 

 

RAFTING

There is no better way to see the park than from rafting down the glowing blue waters of the  Middle of the Flathead River. These forks make up the western and southern boundaries of Glacier and can be used for world-class fly fishing, scenic floats, and up to class III and IV whitewater rafting. The town of West Glacier itself has four different raft companies that collectively take down thousands of visitors a day. 

It’s the perfect way to beat the summer heat as the Flathead River typically remains under a cool 60 degrees. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, guests have the option to choose from numerous different float, some companies even offer up to 6-day trips where you are flown up into the nearby Great Bear Wilderness and float your way back into West Glacier. The multi-day trips aren’t for the faint of heart, but in my opinion, is the number one activity the park has to offer.

ALL FORWARD
Class II rapids Class V fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GO ON A HIKE!!!!

In my two summers of working in Glacier, I heard too many people complain about the busy roads throughout the park. There are 147 trails in the park, you’re guaranteed to find areas that have few to no other people. Get out and enjoy the fresh air! Be sure to bring bear spray, as the animals are WILD and should not be approached. 

I hope this helps a few that may have had questions about the park or were on the fence about going! 

 

Top 5 Hikes In Western Washington

Wallace Falls: Gold Bar, Washington

This beginner to moderate level hike is located in Gold Bar, Washington. It begins on the river banks and slowly acclimates to the top of the falls. This hike has a lower stopping point, a mid-point, and the upper falls final stop. The trail is about 4.5 miles round trip.

Rattlesnake Ledge: North Bend, Washington

This intense hike is located in North Bend, Washington. At about 4 miles round trip, this hike will really test your stair climbing as you gain 1,160ft by the time you reach the top. The view is well worth the hard work!

Dog Mountain: White Salmon, Washington

This trail is right on the border of Washington and Oregon, at the base of the Columbia River Gorge. It is 6 miles round trip, with a 2,800 ft elevation gain to the top. Once you reach the peak, the view is unforgettable! Make sure to go around the springtime to see all the flowers blooming on the mountain.

Blanca Lake: Index, Washington

Blanca Lake is a glacier-fed lake hidden within the mountains. The hike is about 13 miles round trip and classified as difficult. Unless you want to hike in the snow, the best time to tackle this trail is in the summer, but you’ll need to get an early start to avoid the heat for the 3,900 ft elevation gain!

Mount Si: Mount Si, Washington

This trail is located in Mount Si, Washington, and it is another elevated hike. At about 8 miles round trip and a 3,200 ft elevation gain, this is considered a moderately difficult hike. Once at the top, you get to look out and view the Cascade Range.

Camping Without the Crowds

By: Breanna Harmer

Choosing the correct time of year is crucial.

Think a little outside of peak season when camping.

I’m personally a fan of mid-May and September.

Two Medicine, Glacier National Park in September

Consider backpacking. Yes, it is a bit more work but it is also 100% worth it.

Waking up to a backcountry sunrise is an unbeatable feeling.

I would highly recommend the Grand Tetons in August, especially if you’re a fan of wildflowers. It is still chilly so pack your warm gear!

Get your backcountry permit early! It is surprising how quickly these go and there are limited sites. If you’re unlucky and don’t get a permit you might be forced to find a different hike or abandon your backcountry plans altogether.

Check out apps like AllTrails

We went backpacking in the Mission Mountain Wilderness on the 4th of July and it was one of the best ideas we’ve had. There weren’t many people, the weather was perfect, and we were away from the National Park chaos.

Holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day are major camping holidays. Opt-out of the beer and think whiskey and backpacking. Look for trails that are more under the radar. There might be some like-minded people like you on the trail but far less then if you were to try to claim your stake on Seeley Lake or Flathead.

Be flexible! If a site seems too busy, don’t be afraid to look for a different one. Some of my favorite camping sites have been found after leaving a less exciting one behind.

Checking a map for a water source is a good way of finding a good site. Chances are that if it’s near a river or lake that it’ll come with a view as well.

Avoid geotagging on social media. If you like a site because there weren’t many people there, don’t expose it.

This might be controversial but I really do believe every little bit helps in preserving the things we love. It’s one thing to tell a few friends but if you have 1,000 followers on Instagram, you could possibly be telling around 1,000 people about this newfound gem. Mum’s the word

Don’t worry, he wasn’t caught. Just an expert fence climber!

I also think part of the joy of camping comes from discovering new spots on your own. It has become too easy to look everything up, it’ll mean more to you if you find it yourself.

Glacier National Park: Visiting in Fall

Written by: Ellie Hanousek

Just 3 hours away from Missoula, Montana sits one of the most pristine and beautiful national parks in the west: Glacier National Park. Planning a weekend trip to GNP in the fall season can be a challenge with the park’s fast-changing mountain weather and wildfire conditions.

Although these can be tricky problems to work around, a visit to GNP during these unpopular times provides an experience unlike any other with minimal traffic, trails to yourself, access to abundant wildlife, and beautiful fall colors. Next time you are planning a trip to Glacier, consider a September or early October visit – you will not be disappointed! If you happen to find yourself in GNP during fall season, here are a few of the must-visit destinations:

Morning Coffee @ Many Glacier Lodge

Kick off the early morning after a night of camping at Many Glacier Lake Lodge. Grab a coffee at the lakeside coffeeshop run by world travelers and sit beside a roaring fire overlooking the lake.

Grinnell Glacier Hike

One of the most rewarding hikes on the east side of the park is Grinnell Glacier. This 7.5 mile out-and-back hike stretches along side bright blue glacial lakes and rocky cliffsides marked burnt orange mountain ash trees and alpine meadows. The trail climbs to a perched valley where you will find Upper Grinnell Lake, where the smallest remaining glacier sits in the park: Gem Glacier. The backdrop of Upper Grinnell Lake is called ‘the Garden Wall’ and is part of the continental divide.

Iceberg Lake

Located in prime bear habitat, it is common to see grizzly bears on the distant hillsides of this 10-mile hike. This moderately difficult hike to the lake includes small crossings over footbridges through alpine meadows. A family of moose inhabit the area surrounding IceBurg Lake and can be seen resting in the shade. If you are brave enough, go for a swim in the glacial waters!

Drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road @ Sunset

During peak season, The Going-To-The-Sun road leading to Logan Pass on both the West and East sides of the park is often the most crowded and trafficked road in the park. However, during fall evenings, the road is completely empty – meaning you can pull over, take photos, and view wildlife on your own time! Bring your binoculars to spot birds of prey, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and bear along the way.

Huckleberry Milkshakes @ Two Sisters Café

Treat yourself after a long weekend of hiking and sightseeing with a Montana famous huckleberry milkshake from Two Sisters Café in Babb, MT. This quirky and colorful restaurant makes a perfect pit stop on the way out of the park!

5 Things You Learn From a Near Death Experience

Spring break of my junior year of college was there before I knew it. Other college kids are off to Mexico to drink themselves into a vegetative state, and there I was, just trying to get away for a couple days to catch some fish and enjoy the outdoors with one of my best friends that I hadn’t seen for months.

Monday, April 4, 2016.  I took off to spend my spring break deep in the hills of Montana. As I headed over McDonald pass in between Helena and Missoula, I was confronted with a complete and utter blizzard with 4 inches of snow on the road and 40 mph crosswinds. After taking it nice and slow, I finally drop down into Helena where it cleared up a bit.

We met up at Walmart to grab a few last minute supplies, and we were off.

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We stopped at the very last sign of civilization to grab some dinner and watch the Men’s NCAA basketball championship, where Villanova dropped a buzzer beater over North Carolina for the win, after they went back and forth multiple times within the last seconds of the game.

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Next Stop: camp

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We got out there pretty late, after all we had to stay to watch the end of the game.

By this time the roads were beyond terrible, having snowed in the mountains earlier that day, melted, and by this time it was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock.

First things first: we got camp set up and tried to salvage any hope we initially had of staying dry, then headed out to get some firewood.

Before I could even fathom what was going on, my  tire is off the side of the road.

We remained half on, half off the road for about 10 feet, and just before the truck came to a slow stop, I felt gravity start to take its toll.

The truck rolled.

And rolled again..

And again…

Somehow, miraculously, we landed wheels down in a creek bed.

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In my disoriented state, I looked to my right and the only thing visible was the roof of my truck. Which was caved so far in it had pinned down my center console, and was crushed right on top of where my life long friend was sitting.

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As you can probably imagine, I had only thoughts of absolute terror running through my head… What just happened? What had I just done?

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Long story short, there had been 2 accidents in the exact same spot in the previous 2 year. In the first instance, the driver had been ejected from the car, pinned against the tree that my truck hit, and lost both legs… The second instance, they didn’t make it….

The officer that helped us out told me ” I honestly have no idea how you two are alive, I have never seen anybody survive something like this. You boys had someone watching over you”.

With every traumatizing event in someones life, you realize things.

Here are my 5 takeaways:

1. Tell your parents you love them every chance you get.

2.  There is a bright side in every situation- hell, we are both alive.

3. You’re going to need help every once in a while.

4. As cliché as it seems- tomorrow is never guaranteed. Seize the day.

5. Never stop moving forward. After an instance like this, it’s natural to want to hit the pause button on life. Don’t, keep moving forward.

 

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Shelton Todd