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Exploring Glacier National Park With Insider Tips From The Glacier Fund

Glacier National Park is a big place with many sights to see and things to do. Take these insider tips from the Glacier Fund with you when you head to the park.

Rivers of ice that once slowly wrenched their way down from rocky mountains, now are in retreat, revealing jagged bands of rock that form the Continental Divide.

These glaciers nourish the land below. Their melt waters fill streams and feed lakes that infuse alpine meadows with vibrant wildflowers and enrich thick forests in a landscape roamed by grizzlies and wolves.

Tucked far north in Montana, hard against the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is a rumpled and craggy masterpiece. Within the park’s 1 million acres rise rustling aspen glades, stands of an unusual evergreen—larch—that loses its needles in winter, even a temperate rainforest of Pacific red cedars, hemlocks and Pacific yew.

This is the kingdom of grizzlies and wolves, wolverines and lynx, species that for many exist only in books, magazines, and nature documentaries.

Stand atop Logan Pass and you can see, hear, even smell this wildness. Jagged peaks knife the sky, sculpted basins reflect past glaciation, fields of snow remain from winters past, and mountain goats loll.

The goats you encounter on the pass are so close and nonchalant they could be models strutting a runway. They seem to pose in the meadows framing the trail to Hidden Lake.

Exploring Glacier’s rugged, wild heart is challenging and demanding and definitely not for neophytes. But there are numerous front-country vistas and day hikes to entice the novice. On a day hike to a lake, you can reconnoitre a dense forest along a crashing creek filled by cataracts of ice-melt tumbling some 4,000 feet.

Or make your way across an alpine meadow flecked with dainty lupines, showy asters, and tall bear grass. You can paddle across one of the park’s 131 named lakes, or count goats back on Logan Pass.

Spend time in a true wonderland, Glacier National Park—where wispy waterfalls like Bird Woman Falls will draw your eyes as readily as the Jackson Glacier—and you won’t be disappointed. The native Blackfeet people called this area the “Shining Mountains” and the “Backbone of the World,” fitting descriptions for the globally-renowned landscape you’ll find in Glacier National Park.

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Mountain goats are ubiguitous in the park's higher elevations. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Here are some suggestions from the Glacier National Park Fund on where to go and what to do during your visit to the park:

Explore the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Ongoing construction work might slow your progress over the Continental Divide, but this 50-mile route gives you a highly personal connection to the park’s landscape. From it you can spy glaciers, head down the trail, or simply soak in the beauty of the mountains.

Searching for a memorable photograph? Snap one of Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake, one of the most photogenic shots in the country.

Visit the Many Glacier Valley. A lot of visitors hug the Going-to-the-Sun corridor and don’t reach Many Glacier, but it’s one of the most scenically spectacular areas of Glacier and is great for spotting wildlife. You can book a room at the Many Glacier Hotel, paddle a boat, or head into the backcountry from this area.

Take a hike. With more than 700 miles of trail, Glacier has a path for you, from short, ambling walks to longdistance treks. The Avalanche Lake Trail near Lake McDonald and the Hidden Lake Trail on Logan Pass are two easy leg-stretchers suitable for young and old.

Spend time on Logan Pass. The views are breathtaking in all directions, the wildlife (mountain goats, mainly) are in your face, and easy hikes lead you across colorful wildflower meadows.

Coming Wednesday: Learn what the Grand Teton National Park Foundation is up to. 

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We are enjoying good weather, except for a couple late afternoon thunderstorms. The Highline Trail is tomorrow. We have seen grizzlies and bighorn sheep from the road, visitor centers and lake areas. We are prepared for the hike with water, food, bear spray, raingear and will have a great time I am sure. I have only one concern, the duration of the hike is more than I have ever done and think my feet will burn. Oh wells, and what the heck, right? We will park at The Loop and shuttle to Logans Pass and walk down to our car. We expect 6 hours of walking and great views. Will check back and tell you how it goes. Ciao!

My husband and I were out in Glacier this past week. It was such an incredible trip! We got very lucky with the weather everyday except Tuesday when we were heading across GTTS Road from East to west and got stuck because of landslides! We had to turn around and go the southern route. Turns out the road was closed until Thursday night.

Just wanted to let you know that as of Friday (7/20/12) the Highline trail was still closed for snow. Glacier Peak is absolutely amazing. We hiked up to the chalet from the loop on GTTS Road.

I absolutely LOVE this area every time of year! To find some brochures in the area check this out:

Ben and Star-- Get ready!!!!! I promise you will love it rain or shine!! It's incredible!! I just wish we were going again this year! If you have the time go up to Banff and Jasper after your trip to Glacier-- it's also absolutly amazing!

Hey Steve, nope I am not the Randy Johnson who won "over 300 games in the major leagues." I am the Traveler's travel editor, but I bear a striking resemblance to the pitcher. Or at least I must—except in one telling way. Can't tell you how many times I introduce myself and people say, "I thought you were a lot taller!" At 5 foot 6, the explanation I offer is—"I look A LOT taller on the mound." Thanks for your insightful Glacier suggestions! You can call me "The Littler Unit."

I can't describe the excitement of my wife and I as we finally head to Glacier in two weeks for our first ever trip. We have both hiked/backpacked for almost 35 years, and have covered everything from the Blue Ridge and Smokies to the Tetons, Olympic, Yosemite, Ansel Adams, Mesa Verde, and Yellowstone. That said, we have been thwarted on two previous occasions over the years (for personal reasons) after making reservations to head to Glacier. In fact, I'm taking leave without pay to make this trip. I know it will be worth it.

Rain or shine, we plan on making the Highline-Swiftcurrent Pass Trail with two nights at Granite Park, Preston Park, Iceburg Lake, and the grand finale trip from Logan's Pass to Lake McDonald via Floral Park. In case of trail closures to due bears, we have some backup routes.

As for Many Glacier/Granite Park/Sperry/etc. vacancies, it's always good to check back frequently. It took us 6 weeks of daily checking back in the fall to finally get us two nights at Granite Park. The staff was great, and actually cheered when I finally called in one morning and snagged the second night (probably so he could be rid of me, lol). Another place to keep a lookout seems to be the Glacier Chat message board. They frequently notify people as openings come available.

Hope to see ya on the trail.

Great tips! This is wonderful place and tips you are sharing will definitely help people visiting Canada. Photos of glacier national park are excellent.

Great! That definitely improves the odds. Thanks, Kurt.

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