Glacier National Park
8/04/2019 to 8/10/2019
A Beautiful National Park, Lots Of Hiking, Very Crowded This Time Of The Year
Sunday 8/04/2019 We arrived at The West Glacier RV Park and Cabins around 3 pm after driving 246 miles from Butte, MT. This is a newly opened RV park, only opening about a month ago. It’s a very nice park with a decent amount of a grass buffer between trailers. It would have been extremely nice if they hadn’t cut down every tree while building the park. They have planted some new trees but it will be many years before they create any shade. Once we were settled, we took a walk on the path that leads from the RV park to a small touristy area called West Glacier Village. There are a few gift shops, a small restaurant, a gas station, a raft rental shop and the Alberta, Canada visitor’s center is here. We just roamed around, went inside a couple of shops and took some photos and returned to the trailer for the night.
Monday 8/05/2019 I reserved a small car for driving through Glacier National Park on The Going to the Sun Road. This road has some very narrow, curvy and twisting roads and my pick-up truck is right at the maximum size and I didn’t want to chance it. They restrict any vehicles longer than 21 feet long including bumpers and no wider than 8 feet including mirrors. We needed to pick up the car at 9 am at a Dollar Rent-A-Car in a town about 30 minutes away. Once we picked up the car, we returned to the trailer, packed a lunch and went for a drive on The Going to the Sun Road. We drove the entire length from the Apgar Visitor’s Center at the west entrance to the St. Mary Visitor’s Center at the east entrance which is about 50 miles. We were unable to find a parking space at the Apgar Visitor’s Center so we couldn’t go inside but we did manage to find someone leaving at the St. Mary and we stopped there. We drove the 50 miles back to the RV park and were already becoming a little discouraged about Glacier. It really is a beautiful national park but we couldn’t find anywhere to park at any of the popular sites. It is completely packed with visitors and we were only able to park at a couple less popular sites to take a few photos. We couldn’t even find parking at the picnic areas so we had to eat in the car at a small pull-off. We decided that we would begin tomorrow’s hike very early in the morning in hopes of finding a place to park our car.
Tuesday 8/06/2019 We woke up this morning at 5:00 am and were out the door around 5:30. We had over a two-hour drive ahead of us on the complete length (50 miles) of The Going to the Sun Road plus additional miles to reach our hike’s starting point. Our destination was the parking lot of the Many Glacier Lodge where we would begin our hike to the Grinnell Glacier. To get to the lodge, you must exit Glacier near the St. Mary Visitor’s Center at the east entrance and continue driving until you re-enter the park at the Many Glacier Park Entrance. The road to the lodge was in need of resurfacing and was very rough. We arrived shortly after 7:30 am and were surprised by how full the parking area already was. We found one of the few remaining spaces, parked and walked to and through the Many Glacier Lodge, then snapped some photos of the beautiful area directly in back of the lodge. We found the starting point of the 5.9 mile one-way Grinnell Glacier Trail and started on our way. The first two miles of the trail are near the first lake and are fairly flat.
It’s a very nice walk through trees and greenery but once those first two miles are done, you begin the long uphill part of the journey. We did okay, stopping a few minutes here and there up the mountain to catch our breaths. The scenery was so beautiful we couldn’t stop taking pictures. Closer to reaching the glacier is a nice wooded area with a few benches and pit toilets. After this spot begins the brutal area (as one woman warned us ahead of time). It’s a short but very steep uphill climb over rocks until you arrive at the huge reward of the glacier and the lake it empties into. It was extremely beautiful but crowded with other hikers. We found a large flat rock and sat down to eat our lunch watching some people put their feet in the ice-cold water. One brave (or stupid) woman completely submersed herself underwater. We just put our hands in and it was painfully cold water. We relaxed for a while near the lake and then walked around a little, noticing that even more hikers had gathered there from a ranger-led hike.
We decided to begin the 5.9-mile hike back and as we walked we couldn’t believe that we had just hiked up this trail. We encountered a family of mountain goats on the trail about halfway back. We just stood off to the side of the trail and enjoyed watching them walk by. The hike back seemed never-ending especially when we got back to the first two-mile section. It was flatter so much easier walking, but we were so tired that it just felt like it was going on forever. Finally, we arrived back at the Many Glacier Lodge where we began and walked back to the car for our two-hour drive back to the trailer. We had been walking for eight hours and were more than ready for a shower, some food and sleep.
Here is a short video of the mountain goats and a bighorn sheep we saw on our hike
Wednesday 8/07/2019 We were tired from our long hike yesterday to The Grinnell Glacier so we didn't get up super early today. We decided to just drive along The Going to the Sun Road again and stop wherever we could find a parking spot. We were only able to find parking at some of the less popular sites but we did get some nice photos. We tried Logan Pass Visitor's Center again but no luck. This is where we turned around and headed back to the trailer for the rest of the day. We didn't drive the entire length of the road.
Thursday 8/08/2019 We woke up very early again today to once again try to find a parking space at Logan Pass Visitor’s Center. We’ve driven through on two other days and haven’t been able to park. So, today began at 5:30 am, we left the trailer at 6:00 am and arrived at Logan Pass at 7:00 am. We found it hard to believe but there were only a few spaces remaining at that time. Everyone told us that as long as you arrive before 8:00 am, you’ll be okay. I think they need to change that to 7:00 am. We planned on only walking about three miles in on the Highline Trail. This trail was highly recommended by a young hiker we spoke with the day before. He said the flowers were in bloom and even if we only walked a short distance, we would love it. We began the Highline Trail near the Logan Pass visitor’s center. The entire length of the trail is 11.8 miles. We wanted to hike the beginning to see the flowers and continue for a few miles on a narrow ridge very high up from the road below. It really was a beautiful hike, full of scenic views. It’s said to be one of the most scenic views in the United States. It was a strenuous hike with high elevations but not as difficult as the Grinnell Glacier hike we did two days ago. I think the glacier hike had steeper passages to climb. We hiked about four miles and then took a short break to decide if we wanted to continue or return to the visitor’s center. The return trip would be another four miles. We decided to keep going.
We walked four more miles to an old chalet built in 1914 that is still being used as a backpackers hotel. There are separate rooms but no electricity or running water. You can use a propane stove in their tiny dining space if you want to cook something. A young man was in the dining space selling snacks, water, and Gatorade. He stays there for days at a time, we asked him how he received supplies and he said that mules carry it up, including the large propane tanks. After having our lunch at the chalet we were ready to continue on to the end of the trail. By this point we had walked about eight miles and had four more to go. Several people informed us that this part would be all downhill and would lead us to a spot called The Loop which has a small parking lot and a shuttle stop. We decided to continue on this way instead of turning around and heading back to Logan Pass since that would be eight miles back.
We started walking back on this section of the trail and yes - it was all downhill - 2400 feet in elevation in 4.2 miles. It was worse than the hike to the chalet, we never thought the downhill pain was going to end. We finally reached The Loop and luckily a shuttle bus had just stopped to pick up riders and we were able to find a seat. The shuttle drove us back to Logan Pass and our rental car. It was a much longer drive than we imagined, it took us about 15 minutes to reach Logan Pass. Once we started driving it was another hour back to the RV park. We were thoroughly exhausted and ready for some food and a shower but first, we had to return the rental car which was another 30-minute drive away. Finally, an hour later we returned to the trailer for some rest.
Friday 8/09/2019 Once again we woke up very early and were on the road at 6:00 am. We’ve driven in and out of The Going to the Sun Road several times now and on every pass by the parking lot of The Avalanche Trail we’ve tried to find a spot. It was impossible. Today we arrived at 6:30 am and we were the second car there. This is another extremely popular trail. You begin near the roadway on The Trail of the Cedars which is a mile-long nature walk loop. This section is paved to be wheelchair accessible. From this Trail of the Cedars, you continue walking on a natural dirt pathway for two miles steadily going uphill until you reach Avalanche Lake. It’s called this because the mountain near the lake has had several small avalanches. The lake itself wasn’t spectacular and the photos weren’t very good because it was a very overcast day. In fact, every day we’ve been here the skies have been hazy. We miss the beautiful clear-blue skies we’ve had at most of the other parks we’ve visited. We sat on a bench on the shore of the lake and enjoyed the solitude but not for very long. A couple arrived not more than five minutes after us and then a few minutes later the crowd began arriving. We roamed around the shore of the lake for a while and then began our trek downhill back to the Trail of the Cedars. The hike on the path to Avalanche Lake was full of very different scenery than we’ve enjoyed on our other hikes. This path is full of large Cedar trees and well as other types. There’s a nice, fast-flowing stream, a small gorge with rushing water and it was just full of greenery. We even happened upon a doe and her fawns on our way up the trail who weren’t bothered by us whatsoever. The way down the trail was very different than our quiet walk up, we encountered streams of people making their way to the lake. I don’t think the lakeshore was very quiet anymore. Once we got back to the road where the truck was parked, we decided to walk around the area there a little. There’s an area behind the parking spaces where there’s a large gravel shore by the stream. There was a lone man fly-fishing who we watched for a few minutes. It was about noon when we got back in the truck and returned to the RV park. Today was a much cooler day than the last five days have been, a high of only 76 degrees. Then it began raining and rained harder and harder as the day went on and we just spent the time inside.
Saturday 8/10/2019 Today was a much needed day of rest. Our muscles were extremely sore and aching. We could barely walk down the single step inside our trailer without groaning. After breakfast, we washed a load of laundry and never left the trailer after that.
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