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!

7 Must See Montana Summer Destinations

Montana is one of the most beautiful states and most traveled to states for many reasons. If you are an outdoor type of person this is literally heaven to you! Here is my list of 7 great Montana summer destinations, let me know what you think should have made the list!

Flathead Lake – Flathead is the greatest lake in the state in my opinion, because of its amazing views, mountain scenery, and endless opportunities for camping fun! At nearly 200 square miles, Flathead is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi so there’s plenty of room to do all your water activities. If you don’t have a boat or Jet Ski there are watercraft rentals available to you! Flathead is the dream Montana destination if you love fishing and camping.

Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake

Gardiner/Yellowstone National Park – Yellowstone is an amazing place to go if you want to see wildlife, mountains, rivers, and plenty more. The Yellowstone River is one of the most majestic rivers to see so this is why it’s a must see. If you’re brave, book a whitewater rafting trip with Flying Pig Adventure Co. with affordable prices of $42 for an adult for an 8 mile trip!

Yellowstone River
Yellowstone River

Missoula – This town has everything to offer from night life to hiking. During the day check out Cara’s Park in downtown Missoula to see some Montana surfing! At night check out one of the many breweries in town or one of the bars like the Meagher Bar for great drinks! There are many hiking spots within a couple miles of town, with the most well-known hike being the “M” which is quite an easy hike that results in great views of the town.

Mount Sentinel
Mount Sentinel Missoula

Anaconda – If you’re looking to play some golf, make your way to Anaconda to the Old Works course. This course is the first Jack Nicklaus signature course in Montana, and the course lives up to his name and credibility. Old Works is located on the largest Federal EPA Superfund waste sites in the U.S., and is built over one of Anaconda’s first copper smelting sites. The course is kept in pristine condition and the mountain scenery surrounding the course makes for a great time on the links.

Old Works Golf Course
Old Works Golf Course

Glacier Park – Glacier National Park is one of the top parks in America for a reason. Great scenery, wildlife, tourist attractions, and great hiking. One of the most popular things in the park is Going-to-the-Sun Road that winds up the mountain and offers views of the mountain range for miles and miles. When you take this drive make sure to stop and hike the Highline Trail to get to even more beautiful Montana treasure.

Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road

Garnet Ghost Town – Garnet Ghost Town is an awesome little piece of Montana history located about 40 miles from Missoula and 20 miles from Drummond. Garnet was an old mining town in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The town burned down in 1912 and was restored in 1970. If you’re interested in learning about gold mining history and Montana history this is an amazing spot to travel to!

Garnet Ghost Town
Garnet Ghost Town

Smith River State Park – This is one of the most popular and most demanded park in western Montana, being so popular that you need to get a permit to float the river. If you can get a permit you will not regret it as it is one of the most beautiful floats you could do. To preserve the quality of the river, only non-motorized watercrafts are allowed on the river. Smith River is one of those remote places that you can just get lost and block out the real world for a few days so I would highly suggest making this trip!

Smith River
Smith River

 

Montana Adventures

Montana Adventures

By Andrew Moreland

The blog that brings you all my favorite adventures that I’ve experienced in Montana. Below, you will find all the information that I’ve used and what I’ve done throughout my time here. With all these adventures that I have experienced have made Montana one of my favorite places on earth.

Here is a list of my favorite adventures that I have experienced in Montana                                  (Scroll down to find more information about them)

Hiking & Backpacking

Rock Climbing (Indoor & Outdoor)

Whitewater Kayaking

Skiing & Snowboarding

Mountain Biking

Hot Springs 

Hiking and Backpacking

One of the best ways to experience this beautiful state is by hiking in the great outdoors. There are so many amazing places to explore including my all-time favorite, Glacier National Park. This national park is located in the north-western part of the state and it extends up into Canada. I’ve traveled to Glacier many of times and every journey has been more beautiful than the last.

Here is the website where you can find a ton of information if you’re interested in taking a trip up there any time soon.

Glacier National Park

 

Rock Climbing (Indoor)

Freestone Climbing gym is the best climbing gym in Missoula.  I love going there after my classes to free my mind with some climbing. It’s got awesome people and enough routes that will keep you coming back for more day after day.

Here is their website, go check them out if you like to climb!

Freestone Climbing Website

Rock Climbing (Outdoor)

Around Missoula there is a bunch of awesome areas to climb, go grab some buddies and start sending! Summer and fall days are the best to go out and explore these beautiful areas.

Here is the website with more information about the incredible outdoor rock climbing located close to Missoula!

Rock Climbing – Missoula, MT

Whitewater Kayaking

Montana has some of the best whitewater kayaking in the country. This is where I learned to kayak a few years ago and it will always hold a special place in my heart. One of my favorites, and usual after class run, is the Alberton Gorge section of the Clark Fork River. This is an amazing section of class III-IV rapids just 30 minutes west of Missoula. There is also the Blackfoot River that is just north of Missoula that offers great scenery and whitewater in the spring.

Here is where you can find more information on my favorite run as well as the current flows for this section.

Alberton Gorge – Clark Fork River

 

Skiing & Snowboarding

There is a reason so many people come to Montana for the mountains. THE SKIING IS UNREAL. From the local Snowbowl just 20 minutes north of Missoula to the massive Big Sky Resort a few hours away there is enough powder to go around. These are 2 of my favorite places to ski, yet there is so many more places out there that I’m excited to go explore.

Here is the website for Montana Snowbowl.

Montana Snowbowl

Here is the website for Big Sky.

Big Sky Resort

 

Mountain Biking

I just started mountain biking around Missoula last year, and I have no idea why I didn’t start a lot earlier! Not only is it a great leg workout but it is a blast to go out and explore the single tracks throughout the mountains. My favorite trials start from Sawmill Gulch just up the street from where I live in the Rattlesnake Recreational area.

Here is a great website with tons of information on trails just outside of Missoula!

Missoula Mountain Biking

 

Hot Springs

From cool summer nights to frigid winter days hot springs are a great choice for an adventure. There are awesome hot springs spread out all over Montana. My favorite one has to be the Boiling River hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. If you haven’t been there, it is a MUST if you live in, or are even passing through Montana.

Here is a website that has information about all the hot springs in Montana.

Montana Hot Springs

 

About the Author

I grew up loving the outdoors just outside of Portland, OR. While growing up my parents always took me and my two brothers out to go skiing and hiking along with many other adventures throughout my life, and because of this I began to have a deep appreciation for everything around me. This made it a very easy decision when I was comparing colleges all over the country. I have to say moving to Montana to attend the University here in Missoula, MT has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have only widened my appreciation for nature and all the things you can go do in this life. I can’t wait to go on more adventures in the future and I can only hope to see you out there!

Andrew Moreland

Montana’s Top 10 Natural Wonders

Did your favorite Montana natural wonder make the list?

10. Ch-paa-qn Peak west of Missoula, Montana

Ch-paa-qn Peak west of Missoula, Montana
Ch-paa-qn (pronounced “cha-pock-qwin”), is unique in that it is one of very few peaks in the state that possesses at least 4,000 feet of prominence.

9. Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park

Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park
The Gunsight Pass Trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in Glacier National Park, the diversity and variety of the landscapes, wildlife and vegetation are unbelievable.

8. Humbug Spires near Butte, Montana

Humbug Spires near Butte, Montana
The Humbug Spires are a grouping of over fifty granite spire formations that sit just a couple miles South and East of the hook in the continental divide, which makes its Westerly shift from the Boulder Mountains to the Anaconda Range just north the little town of Divide.

7. St. Mary Peak in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains

Saint Mary Peak is one of the most accessible 9,000+ ft peaks in the Bitterroot Mountains and offers spectacular views.
Saint Mary Peak is one of the most accessible 9,000+ ft peaks in the Bitterroot Mountains and offers spectacular views.

6. Belly River Valley along the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park

Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail is a tough trail, but it is worth it. Words cannot express the feeling you get after coming out of tunnel into the Belly River Valley.
Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail is a tough trail, but it is worth it. Words cannot express the feeling you get after coming out of tunnel into the Belly River Valley.

5. Flathead Lake in northwest Montana

Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River in the contiguous United States.
Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River in the contiguous United States.

4. Great Bear Wilderness near Glacier National Park

Great Bear Wilderness near Glacier National Park
The Great Bear Wilderness is on the west side of the Continental Divide, just south of Glacier National Park. In its 286,700 acres, it boasts some wonderful recreational opportunities for all ages.

3. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Southeast Montana

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
A landscape of sheer cliffs towering 1,000 feet above a ribbon of blue water. An area sought the world over for magnificent fishing and as a place where wild horses still run free. A landscape overlaid with 10,000 years of human history.

2. Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park

Tripple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park
This spire is the three-faceted jewel in the Crown, dividing Rocky Mountain waters among the Columbia’s plunge to the Pacific Ocean, the Misssouri-Mississippi’s slide to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Saskatchewan River’s amble to the Arctic Ocean.

1. The Chinese Wall in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness

Bob Marshall Wilderness
With no roads dissecting the area and no motor or mechanical vehicles allowed, the Bob Marshall Wilderness hails as one of the best preserved mountain ecosystems left in the world. This 1 million acre wilderness holds one of the most brilliant natural features of the Rockies- the Chinese Wall, a 1,000 ft deep limestone escarpment that continues on for miles.

Honorable Mention: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park (Ron Niebrugge)
While not included here because so little of it lies in Montana, Yellowstone National Park is spectacular. It sits on top of a dormant volcano and is home to more geysers and hot springs than any other place on earth. Approximately 50 percent of the world’s hydrothermal features are at Yellowstone National Park.