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

Essential Fall Guide '14: Find Your Place In The West At A Dude Ranch Near A National Park

There’s a sense of place in the West. It flows from endless stands of lodgepole pines, glades of aspen tinged gold by the season, horizons that spread the sky wider than you’ve ever noticed. Spend a little time here, and it seeps into you. It’s the distant bugle of a bull elk, a band of pronghorn darting across the open range, the chortling flock of sandhill cranes, southbound, high overhead. They all fill your senses with the West as it’s always been, as it always should be.

Concessions Contract Will Cost Grand Canyon National Park $100 Million, But Benefit Park In Long Run

A new concessions contract for businesses on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park will cost the park $100 million, an amount that could impact just about all operations in the park, Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said Wednesday. In the long run, however, the move stands to benefit both the park and its visitors, observers believe.

Trails I've Hiked: The Best Easy Hike In Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park offers a cornucopia of hikes, from casual strolls to serious expeditions, so choosing the best of any category of trails in this park is admittedly both a challenge—and just a bit subjective. That said, if you're looking for a short hike that offers magnificent views, and is easy enough to be completed by almost any visitor, one rises to the top of my list.

Glacier National Park Images