Glacier National Park
From the Quintero’s in Cascade we made the roughly three hour drive northwest across the wide open plains of central Montana to the eastern reaches of Glacier National Park. Definitely lots of big sky country during the drive, brilliant cumulus clouds rushing across the plains as far as the eye could see. The Rockies came into view as we closed in on our destination of Saint Mary, striking jagged peaks reaching skyward out of the rolling plains. Lisa had booked us into a quaint little establishment called the Rising Sun Motor Inn just inside the eastern boundary of the national park, a collection of cabins below the cliffs of East Flattop Mountain.
Lilia slept almost the whole way from Great Falls to the national park, so upon arrival we took advantage of the remaining daylight and ventured to the Saint Mary’s Falls trailhead a few miles from our accommodation for a quick afternoon hike. Glacier is an amazingly majestic and breathtaking part of the world, the only other places I’ve visited that exhibit a similar kind of natural grandeur are the Rockies around Lake Louise and the Chamonix Valley in France. It was hard to concentrate on driving through the park with such natural splendor to take in. I did my best but the photos here just don’t do the place justice!
One of the most popular spots to take photos in Glacier is high up on the Continental Divide overlooking picturesque Hidden Lake. On our second day in the park we ventured out early after breakfast, stopping off at tranquil Sunrift Gorge for a few photos before the sun broke through the forest and took a short walk down to Baring Falls while we were in the area. Always a little nerve racking walking through the woods when there’s bear excrement on the forest floor, but we tried to make as much noise as possible and Lisa had a can of pepper spray at the ready should worse come to worst. Fortunately the only place we ran into a bear was alongside the road on the way up to Hidden Lake, but we were expecting to see one around every blind corner on the hiking trails in the park!
The Going To The Sun Road – the only road traversing Glacier National Park from east to west, crossing the Continental Divide along the way – had only opened two days before we arrived in the park due to too much snow blocking the plows. As we drove from Sunrift Gorge up the breathtaking valley above Saint Mary’s Lake we slowly made our way out of the lush forest, above the tree line and up into the snowpack. Jackson Glacier came into view as we wound our way around Siyeh Bend, by the time we made it to our destination at Logan Pass on the top of the Continental Divide we were completely surrounded by snow. We waited for Lilia to finish her morning nap before heading out across the snowpack to Hidden Lake Overlook, a short walk past Mount Oberlin and Clements Mountain, made a little tricky by the fact that the trail was buried under a few meters of snow! Lilia unfortunately had her last of four baby molars coming through while we were in Glacier so was a little out of sorts and very lethargic. I think the altitude may have been getting to her a little as well… She spent most of the day asleep in the pack under her sun shade, which is too bad because she missed out on some amazing vistas and breathtaking scenery.
The clouds came for our last day in the park, we had a spot of rain as well as we crossed the Continental Divide on our way to Avalanche Lake. The views from the western portion of the Going To The Sun road heading down from Logan Pass were amazing, unfortunately there weren’t too many places to stop as we wound down the precarious route.
For our last adventure in Glacier we chose the Avalanche Lake hike, a meandering four mile (6.4 kilometer)out-and-back route through the cypress forest with tranquil Avalanche Lake at the halfway point. Avalanche Lake sure was a sight to behold: a trio of waterfalls dropping down the towering cliffs surrounding the lake made for quite a memorable lunch spot. Lilia was almost back to her rambunctious self after a couple of days of pain from her molar pushing through, which was nice for us to see. A great hike this one, definitely don’t miss it if you find yourself on the western side of Glacier National Park!
After only a few days in Glacier we feel like we just scratched the surface. There’s so much more to explore: the glaciers around Many Glacier, Two Medicine and maybe even a look at some mountain sheep in the Canadian section of the park, Waterton Lakes National Park. I have a feeling we’ll back one of these days…