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.

Your Guide to Missoula, Montana

Mount Sentinel

Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Montana, Missoula is a hidden gem where urban lifestyle meets adventure. Completely surrounded by seven wilderness areas, this city is rich with culture and endless outdoor recreational activities. In no particular order, here are the 5 best things to do when visiting Missoula, MT.

 

#1 | FLOAT DOWN THE CLARK FORK RIVER

Clark Fork River Float
Clark Fork River

During the summer, floating down the Clark Fork River is one of the best ways to cool down and relax. Every day, hundreds of locals on tubes, paddleboards, and rafts pass through town enjoying the sunshine and clean air.

 

#2 | GRAB A DRINK AND PLAY SOME GAMES

Arcade at GILD Brewing
Arcade at GILD Brewing

GILD is a locally-owned brewpub that just so happens to have an awesome arcade in the basement. From pinball to board games, GILD has everything you need to start the night off right. Not to mention, they have some of the best-tasting beer and hard cider in town.

 

#3 | HIKE MOUNT SENTINEL

Mount Sentinel Trail
View on Mount Sentinel

Going for a hike on Mount Sentinel is a favorite for people visiting Missoula, and for good reason. As you gain elevation, you are able to see the entire city and the vast valley that lies below. In the distance, you can see the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Snowbowl Ski Area (shown above).

 

#4 | SHRED SOME POWDER AT SNOWBOWL

Montana Snowbowl
Montana Snowbowl

If you happen to visit Missoula in the winter, be sure to check out Snowbowl Ski Area. Conveniently located only 12 miles from Missoula, Snowbowl offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the West.

 

#5 | TRY YOUR LUCK AT FLY FISHING

Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Trout

It wouldn’t be a trip to Missoula without a fishing excursion in the mix. Missoula is world-renowned for its trout fishing streams, with a variety of different species to hook into. There is an impressive number of outfitters to choose from, so take your pick and get out there!

 

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! 

 

The Oregon I Bet You STILL Don’t Know

The Oregon I bet you STILL don’t know.

As you can see, when I say eastern Oregon I do not mean Bend as some travel bloggers do. I mean further east as in closer to Idaho than the coast. Not many people think of beautiful conifer forests, waterfalls, hot springs, fossil beds, historic sites, roaming elk herds, nor majestic mountain lakes when they think about true eastern Oregon. In fact, I would say not many people outside of the few who live here spend much time thinking about eastern Oregon if they think about it at all. This seems to be particularly true when people are making their travel plans, and that is perhaps the best part about it out here. If you dare to go against the grain (and do a little bit of roughin’ it) there are numerous trails with brilliant views, and historic structures of some form awaiting your discovery year-round with little to no crowds. Read on to learn more about the eastern Oregon I bet you STILL don’t know!

Did you know about the National Forests and other public lands in eastern Oregon with miles of all types of trails?

Hike, bike, backpack, ride a horse or ATV, maybe even Nordic ski! It’s all here depending on the time of year.

A pristine stream during a summer hike in the Steens Mountain Wilderness, Oregon
A wintry, Nordic ski trail that can be found in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon
It’s a short, uphill hike to this breathtaking mountain lake found in the Malheur National Forest, Oregon
On a trail of the Winom-Frazier OHV Complex in the Umatilla National Forest, Oregon – Photo courtesy of RiderPlanet USA.

If you prefer to have a more relaxing visit you can simply camp along a lake, river, or visit a hot spring.

Ritter Hot Springs, Oregon – Photo courtesy of  Zach Urness/ Statesman Journal.
Did you know that eastern Oregon also has one of the most renowned fossil beds in the USA?

They have discovered such unusual fossils like those of ancient, small mammals.

A marsh “rhino” tusk fossil which can be viewed at the Thomas Condon Palentology Center of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon – Photo courtesy of NPS
Did you know eastern Oregon had its own gold rush?

Asian immigrants were participants, and there are even a few active claims still. 

Kam Wah Chung exterior
This strange building holds some incredible wonders. If you are interested in old Chinese medicine and the influence immigrants had on the gold rush you should consider taking the time to visit the historic Kam Wah Chung in John Day, Oregon – Photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks.
Sumpter Valley Dredge
Gold mining was much more than sifting through pans by hand. To learn more visit the Sumpter Valley Dredge in Sumpter Valley, Oregon! – Photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks
Did you know eastern Oregon has fire look outs that are still in operation during the summer?

Their often rugged roads end in some of the best views perfect for romantic sunrises or sunsets and dark sky photography. You can probably stop by and have a chat with the look out too!

A starry night at Dixie look out of the Malheur National Forest, Oregon – Photo courtesy of Matt Franklin
Did you know. . .I purposely did not give you a lot of specific details?

What good is an adventure if you don’t get to put in the effort to discover it for yourself?! I myself have been disappointed by going to places travel bloggers have already given nearly every detail away about. Putting in the time and effort to find these and other hidden gems out here is one of the reasons I fell so in love with it that I now live out here.  I have a continual sense of excitement about the next beautiful creek or historic remnants I may find on my next outing.  I do not want to potentially ruin that sense of excitement for you. Come out and discover it further for yourself! I will give you a hint though: having a vehicle, particularly one for rough dirt roads, is a good idea.

I hope you enjoy whatever your next adventure is! I must admit I hope it is out here.

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.