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

Hiker Uses Bear Spray, Firearm Against Bear At Glacier National Park

The Mount Brown Lookout Trail at Glacier National Park is a tough, demanding path, climbing more than 4,200 feet from Lake McDonald Lodge in just about five miles. And, as is most of Glacier, it rambles through bear country, a fact one hiker discovered when a bear charged him and he responded first with a blast from his canister of bear spray, and then with a shot from his handgun that rangers believe hit the bear.

Water Damage Temporarily Closes St. Mary Visitor Center At Glacier National Park

A possible furnace malfunction at the St. Mary Visitor Center in Glacier National Park led to water damage when the center's sprinkler system was activated, forcing the temporary closure of the facility.

Parks And Local Economies—Observations From Glacier National Park

A recent article in the Traveler highlighted a report that describes the economic impact of NPS areas on "local communities, states and the nation." While some will quibble about the methodology used or the accuracy of the numbers, there's no question that parks are an important factor in the economy of local communities. I was reminded just how much that's the case during a recent visit to Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park Images