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.
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.