4 Must See Sights in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks this country has to offer. One trip to this amazing terrain and you will realize just how small you truly are on this planet. Glacier is home to over one million acres of glacier cut peaks, crystal clear mountain lakes, and an abundance of wildlife. Growing up in Montana Glacier quickly became an annual summer destination. Here are my 4 favorite can’t miss sights of Glacier National Park.

Going to the Sun Road

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Going to the sun road is the feature attraction of the whole park. Completed in 1932 going to the sun road is the only road that crosses the park and goes over the continental divide via Logan pass. Stretching over 50 miles from Lake McDonald on the west side of the park to Saint Mary lake, the road features steep drop offs, gorgeous waterfalls, and jagged snow capped peaks. For the best experience on this narrow winding road, drive a smaller vehicle with great visibility or take the vintage red bus tour. 

 

Hidden Lake

http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/repeatphoto/hiddenlake_b.htm

 

After taking the scenic drive up going to the sun to Logan Pass if you are anything like me you are ready for a hike. Lucky for you one of the most beautiful mountain lakes Glacier has to offer is only a five mile round trip hike from the Logan Pass visitor center. This is a well traveled path so expect some crowds. About half way through hiking you will reach a overlook to give you a awe inspiring view of Hidden Lake itself plus numerous mountain peaks including Bearhat Mountain. This hike also includes alpine meadows, nearly year round snow, and plenty of mountain goats. 

 

Avalanche Lake

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If you are looking for a great view near the Lake McDonald area Avalanche Lake has everything you are looking for: massive peaks, insane waterfalls, and the clearest water you will see. If you are nearing the end of your trip and have not found that one picture you are going to show all your friends and family this is it. Only a 4 mile round trip hike, this is a trail for the whole family. After reaching the mouth of Avalanche Lake and getting to take in the picturesque view you can either continue on the trail to the far side or dive into the ice cold glacial water for a swim.

 

Saint Mary Falls

https://www.hikinginglacier.com/glacier_photos/hidden_lake_saint_mary_falls/saint-mary-falls.jpg

Starting near Saint Mary Lake on the going to the sun road is a little over 3 mile round trip hike with multiple breathtaking waterfalls. At under a mile into the hike you come upon the first and best known waterfall on the trail, Saint Mary Falls. Saint Mary Falls consists of cold glacial runoff dropping 35 feet down just off the trail. Continue farther on the trail and you come to the next gorgeous waterfall, Virginia Falls. Virginia falls is larger and steeper then Saint Mary falls. The water drops 50 feet right before showering you with a nice cool mist. If getting up close and personal with waterfalls is your thing then this is a must see trail.

Quick Trips to Take if you Live in Missoula, Montana

A Weekend on the Coeur d’Alene River

After a two and a half-hour car ride from Missoula, we arrived at the Little North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River for a weekend of secluded camping!

 

 

We spent our time learning how to fly fish, (catch and release, of course), swimming in the water, laying in the sun, and exploring the beautiful remoteness of North Idaho…

 

… and we met this little guy!

 

 

 

A Day Trip to Glacier National Park

We woke up early in the morning and drove 4 hours to Going-to-the-Sun Road, making frequent stops along the way. Here’s a look at what we saw!

An Afternoon at the Hot Springs

One afternoon, we drove an hour and a half toward Jerry Johnson Hot Springs to warm up on an overcast day.

It’s an easy, short hike along the river until you reach the pools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’re there, you can explore a variety of pools ranging in temperature, depth, and size. 

Bears are Scary

Yeah that’s right. Bears are terrifying. That’s the blog.

I am so sick and tired of this Winnie the Poo sounding, “Man, I hope we see a bear on this hike” having bullshit I hear every time I go into the woods with my friends. Sure, seeing a little black bear in the distance while you’re in your car on “Going to the Sun Road” gets the dopamines flowing. But when you’re actually in the woods without the protection of a massive metal cage on wheels while driving a road traveled by millions of visitors every year, spotting a bear is a whole different story. Bears are big and dangerous, wild animals that should be left alone to tend to their own business.

Let me just start with a brief history of notorious bear and human relationships.

  1. Short Faced Bear

Back in the olden days of 1.8 million years ago until only 11,000 years ago, an absolute beast of an an animal existed, deemed the Short Faced Bear. This freak of nature weighed a solid 2,500 lbs., had a height of about 12 feet standing up, and if you can recall early history, LIVED WHILE HUMANS DID. As people much smarter than me can speculate using geographic means, there was a bering land bridge that stretched from Russia’s North-Eastern point to Alaska’s Western coast, in which people who lived in Asia would use to travel in order to inhabit North America.

What they couldn’t count on was this ginormous tank, murder beast that literally could not be stopped by any means. Scientists say this bear was so deadly, that it prevented human migration entirely across the bridge for a period of time. Nobody was stopping to admire nature when they approached this thing; they either died trying to get past it or cut their losses and turned back to Russia. Just imagine, you freeze your nuts off in Asia for years while fighting Woolly Mammoths and Saber Tooth Tigers, so you decide to march 620 miles to possibly find something better, just to be met with a big hairy killing machine that prevents you from crossing.

No thanks. I’ll fight Manny from Ice Age any day of the week over the Short Faced Bear.

2. Hugh Glass

Alright the story of Hugh Glass is pretty insane. This guy was a frontiersman and fur trader who operated around Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota in the early 1800s. He had built himself quite the resume of badass activities, from being a pirate to living with the Pawnee Native American tribe. He was an expert navigator and survivalist who had taken on many dangerous missions across the Western United States, until his legendary encounter with a Grizzly in South Dakota. Upon running into a bear and two cubs, Glass prepared to be charged and was able to get one successful shot off from his musket as the bear began to maul the shit out of him. I mean, have you seen The Revenant? This bear comes back for seconds, then thirds “Oh don’t mind if I do”, just annihilating Glass before ultimately dying of the gunshot wound. This griz tears the guys scalp off, absolutely shreds the entire rest of his body and leaves his legs utterly useless.

But guess what. Glass isn’t dying like this, he’s a former pirate of the Black Pearl for Godssakes. And this is what the movie doesn’t show, Glass could not use his legs at all so he -crawled- the entire 500 mile trip to his fort destination. He survived the ordeal and became a legend in his own right. Take a guess who would not be able to navigate, survive the elements, and crawl 500 miles to the next help station while bleeding relentlessly? Me. Or probably any normal human that lives in the 21st century, because that is WAY too hard. There’s no chance I’d survive that initial mauling even. Bears aren’t snuggly or graceful animals. They have giant knife hands along with pointy teeth and beady little dark killer eyes. Hugh Glass would certainly attest to that.

3. Timothy Treadwell

What if we were nice to the bears and wanted to treat them like one of our own? Maybe we try and bridge human society and bear society together? Sounds like a nice idea. Having a bear friend would be awesome, I bet he would know some pretty legit fishing spots at least. I know the University of Montana football team could certainly use a grizzly bear as a linebacker; he’d probably even become All League.

Timothy Treadwell thought similarly. The titled “Grizzly Man” thought he could cohabitate with bears in Alaska and they would learn to accept him as family. To the amusement of many, he was able to successfully do this for 13 consecutive summers. Each bear had a name and different personality, and they would all reside in the same area. He was never armed, and did not even carry as much as pepper spray. Unfortunately, this fairytale story came to a tragic halt in October of 2003 when he was mauled to death by a fully grown Alaskan Brown Bear.

Looks like we aren’t meant to live with bears after all.

To wrap it up:

No, I don’t want to see a bear in the wild, bro. We aren’t meant to mess with them. Sure it would be cool at a distance, if I’m in a bear resistant, protective unit. Bears will not wander over, lick you, and beg for some pets like a dog. Bears will literally rip your face off and walk away as if nothing happened. There is no other thing on the planet where it is recommended to carry a gun and pepper spray in-case you come into contact, and many people still want to have that BeAuTifuL and nATurAL encounter. That’s like saying you’d love to run into a serial killer on a jog because it would be so cool to see one, but hopefully it won’t attack.

No thanks. I’m totally good without meeting any bears in my travels.

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! 

 

Ten Interesting Things to Explore in Montana

Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road

1. Visit Garnet Ghost Town – Drummond, Montana

Garnet has been named one of “America’s Coolest Ghost Towns” by Travel + Leisure. Garnet is home to a preserved gold rush town. In Garnet, experience the ways of the past, and experience your inner frontier. Experience the real Wild West! Garnet is near Missoula, Montana.

Garnet Ghost Town
Photo Credit: Laura Kelly Information and License

2. Explore the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas – Arlee, Montana

Designed to be a spiritual pilgrimage destination for people of many faiths, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a sight that is sure to bring peace and mindfulness.

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
Photo Credit: Flea8888 Information and License

3. Experience the Montana Vortex and House of Mystery – Columbia Falls, Montana

The Montana Vortex and House of Mystery is a place that makes one reorient their understanding of physics and nature. The experience is sure to be mind-blowing! The location is an internationally known sacred site. Native Americans often visit.

Montana Vortex and House of Mystery
Photo Credit: sporst Information and License

4. Travel Glacier National Park and the World-Renowned Going to the Sun Road

Visit the Crown of the Continent and experience nature at its best! Glacier National Park (United States) is one-half of the world’s first international peace park with Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada) being the other-half to form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Glacier National Park is designated a Biosphere Reserve by the Man and the Biosphere Programme of the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Plus, Glacier National Park and its sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada, are recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). One can see breathtaking views in Glacier National Park and on the Going-to-the-Sun Road!

Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road
Photo Credit: Mountain walrus Information and License

5. Encounter Yellowstone National Park and the Largest Supervolcano on the North American Continent!

Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the United States of America and widely considered the first national park in the world! The supervolcano located at Yellowstone National Park is one of the few supervolcanoes around the globe. The cornerstone of the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of the Park in Gardiner, Montana, was laid by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Yellowstone National Park Waterfall
Photo Credit: Scott Catron Information and License

6. Discover the Spectacular Great Falls of the Missouri River, known by the Lewis and Clark Expedition to Be a Grand Sight

Visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana, near the falls to learn more about Lewis and Clark and the falls. Seeing the Great Falls of the Missouri River will connect individuals to history!

Great Falls of the Missouri River
Photo Credit: Tim1965 Information and License

7. Encounter the Ringing Rocks of Montana

The Ringing Rocks of Montana are a natural phenomenon. The rocks will allow you to hear nature! The Ringing Rocks are near Butte, Montana.

Montana Ringing Rocks
Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management Information and License

8. Voyage to Pompeys Pillar, and See William Clark’s, of Lewis and Clark, Signature

Pompeys Pillar, near Billings, Montana, bears the only remaining evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Visit Pompeys Pillar and experience the Lewis and Clark Expedition!

Pompeys Pillar in Montana
Photo Credit: Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Information and License

9. Take a Scenic Cruise to Wild Horse Island on the Crystal-Clear Flathead Lake

The world-recognized Flathead Lake is home to the Wild Horse Island. Take a relaxing cruise around Flathead Lake and run with the “Wild Horses!”

Flathead Lake
Photo Credit: Paul Frederickson Information and License

10. Visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument contains a United States National Cemetery, Custer National Cemetery. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument includes self-guided tours that have audio.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Photo Credit: Durwood Brandon Information and License

 

Nicolas R. Ream, the author, is studying Marketing, Management, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and Pre-Law at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. Nicolas works at Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc., a high-performance luxury custom home builder in Columbia Falls, Montana.

Nicolas Ream
Nicolas R. Ream

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References and Sources: See hyperlinks, also personal experience and knowledge.

This blog post has been created in the BMKT 440: Marketing Analytics class with Professor Mario Schulzke.