Glacier National Park

Bear grass on Logan Pass, photo copyright Tony Bynum, Tony Bynum Photography

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Sweeping, grandiose landscapes are a staple of many of the West's iconic national parks, and among those Glacier easily stands out when you look from horizon to horizon atop Logan Pass.

While Glacier's name evokes images of rivers of ice, spend time in this park in northern Montana and you'll find jagged rock bands that help define the Continental Divide, aspen glades, stands of an unusual evergreen -- larch -- that loses its needles in winter, temperate rainforest, and even gorges carved by snowmelt. Avalanche Creek cuts one such gorge, throttling snowmelt spilled from the glaciers that pour their icy waters into Avalanche Lake down two miles to McDonald Creek.

While they say Glacier's namesake glaciers are on the wane and could be gone by 2030, maybe sooner, even without its rivers of ice this park tucked up along the Montana-Canada border is a rugged masterpiece that begs exploration. This rugged, out-of-the-way slice of Rocky Mountain West is part of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, and standing atop Logan Pass you can understand why. In all directions are jagged peaks, glacially sculpted basins, fields of snow, and mountain goats.

True, its backcountry is roamed by grizzlies and wolves, challenging and demanding in its ruggedness, and definitely not the place for neophytes. Yet there are plenty of front-country vistas and day hikes to entice the novice. You can walk through a dense forest along a crashing creek, make your way across an alpine meadow flecked with lupines, asters and bear grass, paddle across one of the park's 131 named lakes, or count mountain goats back on Logan Pass.

Spend any time in this breathtaking park and you won't be disappointed, whether you're hiking off into the backcountry, spending a night in one of its historic high-country lodges, or simply enjoying a boat ride across Lake McDonald.

Traveler's Choice For: Backpacking, hiking, paddling, wildlife viewing

Park History: Glacier National Park

Known as the Backbone of the World to the Blackfeet Nation, the rugged landscape of Glacier attracted the attention of the Great Northern Railway in the early 1890s. Though the railroad was simply seeking a route to the West Coast, its president saw in the rugged, alp-like landscape the potential for tourism.

Lodging in Glacier

Glacier has a wealth of lodging choices inside its borders, from old log cabins you'll find at Apgar Village to the laid-back Lake McDonald Lodge and stately Many Glacier Hotel.

Camping in Glacier

With 13 front-country campgrounds, Glacier National Park offers more than 1,000 campsites for you to choose from -- or compete for, depending on the season.

Hiking in Glacier

Often described as a hiker's paradise, Glacier has more than 700 miles of trails, ranging from challenging backcountry treks to wheelchair accessible, self-guiding walks.

Wildlife in Glacier

An argument can be made that no national park in the conterminous 48 states has as robust a wildlife menangerie as does Glacier National Park.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Glacier National Park is a remote place filled with pristine forests and rugged mountains. Visitors to Glacier will find that cell phone connectivity and reception is very limited.

Traveler's Checklist for Glacier

The native Blackfeet people called this area the "Shining Mountains" and the "Backbone of the World," fitting descriptions for the dramatic landscape you'll find in Glacier National Park. These tips from the Traveler will help you make the most of your visit.

Glacier's Geology

Glacier, like so many of the Western parks, is an open-air showcase of geology. Scan the horizon and you can see the effects of long-ago glaciers, glaciers still at work, and landscapes in various stages of healing in the wake of the scraping and freeze-thaw cycling of glaciers.

Resources For Visiting Glacier

This is where you can find websites, helpful phone numbers, friends groups and cooperating associations, and, sometimes, books related to the park.

Glacier National Park News

Explore National Parks Through Maps Out Of History

Maps unlock the world in front of us...even if we're not standing right in front of the landscape contained on the map we're gazing at. They allow us to wander through the landscape, cross mountains, ford rivers and streams, and envision campsites in the backcountry. And, in the case of a new eBook, they allow us to look into the past of some national park settings.

A Traveler Special Report: "Oil Trains" Pose A Significant Threat To National Parks

For more than a century, freight trains have rumbled up and over Marias Pass, skirting the south boundary of Glacier National Park, casting rolling shadows on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River below. Until recently the major threat was a grain car derailment, which on occasion left bears woozy from eating fermented grain. Today a derailment involving a 100-car train hauling highly combustible Bakken crude oil risks an environmental catastrophe unprecedented in National Park Service history.

Anatomy Of An Oil Train Derailment: Collision And Explosions

Bryan Wilson knew immediately that there was no chance of stopping his 106-long oil train, which was traveling at about 43 miles per hour, when he saw the grain car lying across his tracks.

Glacier National Park Images