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! 

 

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.

Montana: by a Northern Californian

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-8-47-46-amIt is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).

“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan

“Sacramento, California!” – Me

“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan

“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me

Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”

I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.

By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor

The Rich and Famous Experience Montana

This past summer my mind was blown as I was introduced to Montana in a completely foreign way. Growing up a Montana local in the small town of Anaconda, I am no stranger to the multitude of activities Montana has to offer.

I had heard of this prestigious and almost fictional resort where people who want to enjoy the ‘Montana Experience’ can come and take part in a whole range of activities from going on a cattle drive to white water rafting. This place is called Paws Up Resort.

Paws Up Ranch, Greenough, Montana
Paws Up Ranch Entrance, Greenough, Montana

Paws Up resort is located in Greenough, Montana. This resort is not your typical getaway, five star service is delivered on 37,000 acres of Montana countryside. The famous Blackfoot River runs through the middle of the property and the resort captures all of what Montana has to offer.

Paws Up TroughThe ‘Tank & Trough’ at Paws Up Resort.

Along with cattle drives and the white water rafting activity mentioned above, the resort also offers guided ATV rides, horseback trail rides, repelling, fly fishing trips, covered wagon rides, sporting clays, paint ball, archery, mountain biking, and hot air balloon rides. Guests are also able to spend time on Seeley Lake at a private lake house with the ability to rent powerboats and personal watercrafts.

Trail ride

 

The location that guests lay their head is also not the typical hotel room or even luxury suit. There are many different log homes located throughout the property that include a hot tub on the deck and a complementary vehicle to travel around the property. Some log homes also have a tent included.

mountain house

 

A popular option for guests is camping alongside the Blackfoot river. Any outdoor enthusiast who has explored Montana’s beautiful backcountry can attest to the relief once the tents have been constructed and camp has been made. One of the most popular amenities at Paws Up is the option to camp glamorously, or Glamp. Paws Up coined and pioneered the glamorous camping experience.

Glamping threw everything I knew about backpacking and camping into a blender, added some ice, tequila,  fresh squeezed lime, Cointreau, Damiana, and blended that shit into the best margarita possible. A camp butler then served that margarita in a salted glass to a guest on a leather couch, sitting by a fireplace overlooking the Blackfoot River. This act of Glamping astounded me every time I walked into the camp pavilion.

pinnacle-dining-pavilionThis is one of five camp pavilions associated with the Glamping tents.

The tents are a whole different story. Each pavilion is home base for six different wall tents, a camp butler to assist guests, as well as a private chef for breakfast and dinner. Each insulated wall tent is complete with electricity, running water, a full sized bed, sometimes bunkbeds for the children, heated blankets, heating/cooling unit, tiled bathroom, walk-in glass shower and the occasional hot tub on the deck. One of the most known and favorited tents is the ‘Honeymoon Tent’ at Cliffside Camp. This tent is perched on a cliff and has a copper tub that overlooks the Blackfoot River.

Cliffside camp

Honeymoon tent 2

Honeymoon tent

Camp Bathroom

As you can see, this is not the normal camping experience that a majority of people are accustomed to. A bell staff is on call for all Glampers for rides to and from all activities. Fresh linens are supplied daily, a fully stocked fridge awaits at the pavilion and a campfire awaits marshmallows.

The Wealthy and the Famous

Throughout my employment at the resort I was a bellman for a short period then an activity guide for the remainder of the summer. Paws Up stays fairly full throughout the busy months- June, July, August, and attracts a large range of customers. As you could conclude from the lavish amenities, the price tag to put your family up at the resort in Montana is far from comparable to a night at the Days Inn. This resort caters to a clientele that is very well off financially. One large car company had a week long demo at the resort debuting their new electric sports car. Other big corporations hold massive company retreats inviting management to come and enjoy what MT has to offer.

 

Included with the wealthy, is the famous. Due to non-disclosure agreements and not being able to gain permission from publicists I cannot say exactly who I interacted with so aliases will be provided.

Many of the famous travel for pleasure just as everyone else does. Movie stars and even royalty enjoy the activities with their families and loved ones, and have a blast doing it. I had the pleasure of meeting a Princess from Saudi Arabia. Her group was a complete blast, I was the archery guide for her group one afternoon and the lake guide another day. During archery, everyone got their turn in learning how to use a compound bow. Everyone really starts to have a great time once they start hitting the targets with the arrows. The competition between family members ensued shortly after.

I also had the pleasure of meeting a guy that has starred in some great action movies. I’ll call him Tim, his publicist wouldn’t grant me permission to use his name. He was a great, down-to-earth guy who thankfully wasn’t as fierce as some of the roles he has played. Tim was there with his family and also had a great time with me on the archery course. His son really started to excel with the bow and Tim was a natural, hitting the vital area of the target multiple times.

 

In conclusion, I was glad to meet everyone I encountered throughout my employment, at Paws Up Resort. All the guests were enjoyable and a pleasure to guide and interact with, while the management and fellow employees made working there a very fun experience.

 

Author : Chris Stokke