Happy almost weekend! Not only is it almost the weekend, but it’s almost Thanksgiving Break. One whole week of doing exactly what I please. Sounds pretty good, huh? So many good reasons to be a teacher
Instead of regaling you with tales about all the nothing I’m going to be doing next week, I thought I’d share a little bit more about one of the best trips I’ve taken to one of the most beautiful places on earth. In my first national parks post a few weeks ago, I talked briefly about Glacier National Park. I wanted to share more in-depth information about our trip, and why I think you should go book your plane ticket right now!
John and I were lucky enough to visit Glacier this past July. It’s a trip we’ve been planning for two years. Originally, this trip was supposed to take place in the summer of 2011. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. Glacier National Park gets an average of 140 inches of snowfall a year, and snow has even been known to fall in August. Due to the extreme winter they experienced in 2011, there was still an impressive amount of snow in parts of the backcountry as we prepared to leave in July. Two weeks before we were suppose to leave, we decided that it would be better to postpone the trip a year. This actually ended up being for the best because, as we resumed planning for 2012, my mom and step-dad jumped on board! We love traveling with all of my parents so this was a great bonus.
After a quick stop over in South Dakota to take in Mt. Rushmore and hike the state’s highest peak, we arrived in Glacier and I was blown away by the beautiful scenery from the beginning. I am no stranger to mountains, but there was something about the mixture of tall peaks and pristine glacier-made lakes that was awe-inspiring.
For the first two nights of our trip, we stayed in Kalispell, MT which is a medium-sized town about 30 minutes from the west entrance to the park. Glacier is very isolated so, outside of the lodges inside the park, the lodging options are very limited. One of the reasons we began planning this trip so early was because we heard several times out quickly accommodations fill up. Make those reservations early!
The four of us had two full days to explore together before John and I left Mom and Joel to begin our backpacking trek. There are so many wonderful day hikes to take in that we had a hard time narrowing it down! We decided on three relatively short hikes that are among the most popular in the park for our first day, and we should have had more than enough time to complete all three of them. We didn’t quite get it done, and that leads me to the only negative aspect of our visit. The road that gets everyone from Point A to Point B inside Glacier is called the Going To The Sun Road. First of all, this road is amazing. The views looking out (and over the side!!) are spectacular. The problem is, because of extreme weather, the only time they have to repair the road is the same time when thousands of visitors are inside the park. Also, in addition to park shuttles, they still allow private vehicles on the road, so traffic makes it difficult to get around.
The road issue caused us a bit of a late start, and it was mid-morning before we took off on our first hike of the day. Our first destination was Saint Mary Falls. This is a beautiful hike, and there are several waterfalls to enjoy. At the Falls, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of them. I had a moment when I almost didn’t believe it was real. This feeling would occur several times during the course of the trip.
The second hike was the Hidden Lake Trail , and this is quite possibly the most popular short day hike in the park. It’s just a three-mile hike that ends with a panoramic view of Hidden Lake, and, once you get to that viewing area, it’s easy to see why so many visitors to Glacier take in this trail. We even trekked through snow for part of it! One of the best features of this hike were the visits from these guys.
They were everywhere on this trail, and you can tell that they are accustomed to humans because several of them would get very close.
Our third and final hike of the first day was the Avalanche Falls Trail, and it was abbreviated for our group. By the time we started, dusk was setting in and hiking at nightfall is especially dangerous in places where bears and mountain lions are prevalent.
This greeted us at the beginning of the trail so we were all a little on edge. We continued down the path for a mile or so before we decided the risk wasn’t worth it (safety first!), and turned around. My mom and Joel went back and did it while John and I were backpacking, and they said it’s something we have to do on our next trip!
The views we saw and the pictures we were able to get on the day hikes we did are just a small teaser compared to the incomparable beauty that greeted us on our backpacking trip. Next week, I’ll have a recap all about that portion of our trip. It was truly spectacular!
Have you ever been to Glacier? Where’s your favorite place to hike?