Glacier National Park Favorites

  • sharing Glacier with its natural inhabitants
    sharing Glacier with its natural...
    by richiecdisc
  • grizzly or no grizzly?
    grizzly or no grizzly?
    by richiecdisc
  • proper food storage in the backcountry is key
    proper food storage in the backcountry...
    by richiecdisc

Best Rated Favorites in Glacier National Park

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Glacier National Park is Located HERE

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Sep 13, 2006

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    Northwest corner of USA in northwest Montana
    1 more image

    Favorite thing: Glacier National Park is located in the northwest part of USA and also in the northwest part of the State of Montana, right up against the 'pink' border with Canada, which has its own much smaller Waterton Lakes National Park adjoining. From the contours, you can see that this is where the flat Prairies first meet the easterly ranges of the Rocky Mountains.

    The second map is a close up of the Waterton Lakes/Glacier National Park area, with the 'pink' roads showing where we drove on our 3-days in Waterton and 4-days in Glacier. We drove down from Alberta along the foothills of the Rockies entering the map at top centre with the top Yellow marker showing where we stayed in Waterton. From there it was a quick drive to the border but we took all day to reach our first accommodations at Glacier Park Lodge, the Red marker at the bottom of the map. The next day we backtracked to Many Glacier Hotel (the lower Yellow marker) and the day after that drove right across the centre of the Park and over the Continental Divide to reach Lake McDonald Lodge (Black marker). The final night in Glacier saw us returning to the eastern side where we stayed at the Rising Sun Motor Inn (White marker with dark centre) before returning to Calgary, Alberta via the prairie route up along the right side of the map. This sequence of accommodations was not of our choosing, it was what the National Park Reservation Service said was available when I booked a couple of months earlier!

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Prairie Meets Mountains

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 2, 2007

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    Views from Highway 49 near Kiowa, Montana

    Favorite thing: Since our first night's accommodations was located just outside the southeast corner of Glacier NP, we had to make a drive south along Highway 89 as far as the tiny village of Kiowa. The scenery along that stretch of road was quite interesting, consisting of rolling hills and valleys of the Prairies. Once we reached Kiowa, we turned off onto the Highway 49 shortcut to East Glacier Park, so we would not have to take the long way around through Browning. This little road, which is closed in winter, was really spectacular as it wound up steep hills and around turns without many guardrails (this photo showing the road running along the side of the hill was taken as we started up it and does not do it justice).

    Fondest memory: In the course of this drive between St. Mary and East Glacier Park, I later found out that we had actually passed over another continental divide - the Northern Divide (I thought that seemed like a long hill!). This high ground watershed separates the waters that flow north into the Atlantic Ocean via Hudson Bay from those that flow southeast into the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico. Not many miles west of Kiowa, this ridge runs into the the main East-West Continental divide running down the Rocky Mountains. There, a 2440-m (8000-ft) mountain called Triple Divide is a place where a rain drop might end up heading for either the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean (by either the northern or southeastern routes) depending on just what part of the mountain it hit!

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    hope to hear you first

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 10, 2009

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    take the responsiblity, take the reward

    Fondest memory: Bear spray is another can of worms. Many novices carry it and then proceed to ignore the most important suggestion from the National Park Service, and that is to make a lot of noise. I saw many people hiking without so much as a peep, often alone. More experienced hikers in the park differ on their opinion of bear spray but a common belief is it will provide one more course of action provided you know how to use it. Wind is a big factor with a spray and you need to realize that for it to be effective, that bear is going to be within swatting distance. You have to ask yourself if you in have the nerve to stare down a grizzly and spray it in the face at the last second as it charges within inches of you. If it will make you more relaxed, that's fine as long as you remember the cardinal rule of making noise.

    So, why would anyone want to subject themselves to this nerve wracking hiking scenario? Well, Glacier National Park is not only one of the most beautiful places on this planet but it's also home to a great host of wildlife like Bighorn Sheep as well as grizzlies. The fact is 99% of bears have absolutely no desire to meet up with a human. If it weren't for the tasty and often too easily obtained food we carry, they would give us the widest berth possible. We remain their only mortal enemy. Some people are lucky enough to see bears at safe close distances and it seems to be a profound experience for them. The perfect glacial valleys of Glacier are stunning and made even more so by a healthy ecosystem that includes wild animals wandering through them as they have for thousands of years. These are the rewards for those willing to take the risk but more importantly the responsibility of doing everything they can to insure it remains a wilderness, a place where grizzlies still thrive as they did once upon a time in the wild, wild west. If you're willing, I'll see you on the trails but I hope to hear you first.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    talk loudly and forget the big stick

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 1, 2009

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    sharing Glacier with its natural inhabitants

    Fondest memory: My first go was just prodding for information but as carefully as I danced around him for it, I received a condescending tone none the less in having to do your homework before coming in for a permit. I had time and my plan was to wait out the weather and try for an assortment of planned routes. The next day I was first in line and had an exact itinerary ready. I quickly went down the list and when both Granite Park and Fifty Mountain (two of the hardest to secure campsites in all of Glacier's back country) were available he gave a wry if perplexed smile at my luck.

    Later in the afternoon I returned with my wife to watch the required back country video detailing how to more or less live with the bears. I wondered to myself if I had been so lucky after all and what my wife was thinking I can only imagine as she watched the suggested prone position if one was unlucky enough to be attacked by a grizzly. Oh, and no pretenses are made. Grizzlies do in fact attack and kill hikers in Glacier. The park is considered their domain and if you are entering it, it is with the knowledge that you are doing so at your own risk.

    These risks can be minimized by following some simple rules and one of those is the making of noise. Most attacks occur when a bear is surprised so the idea is to make sure they know you are coming. Many opt for bells but they are not really effective due to the poor carry of their light ring. Talking loudly is much more effective and nothing beats plain shouting when it comes to scaring just about anything in your path away. I can personally attest to the latter and aside from the ubiquitous big horn sheep and mountain goats who both seem oblivious to man's presence, I didn't see any wildlife while hiking in the park. Now, this is not exactly what I would like but it sure beats getting mauled by a grizzly! (continued below in Fondest Memory)

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    the rest of the bear rules

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 10, 2009

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    proper food storage in the backcountry is key

    Fondest memory: The rest of the “bear rules” concern food and its storage. Well, food in this case pertains to anything that has a scent as a bear with it's incredibly sensitive sense of smell could misconstrue say a tube of toothpaste as something to eat. Sure we wouldn't think of it as a tasty snack but then again we don't spend eight months in hibernation either. Did I say a bear had a good sense of smell? Try six better than a blood hound's. So, needless to say leave the canned salmon and tuna at home and stick to fairly scentless stuff like dried food.

    I shouldn't have to say this but do not even think of eating or storing food in your tent. No, not one drop, not even a leftover piece of minty tooth floss. You'll need to hang your food at the conveniently located poles provided by the National Park service. You will also have to cook and consume your meals at the designated “kitchen” area. If this all sounds a bit heavy on rules, it is for good reason and believe me there's something kind of comforting about eating with your peers in a little circle when you are well, surrounded by grizzles.

    Ok, so you do everything you can to avoid a confrontation with a bear but just what do you do if you do find yourself face to face with one? Well, that depends on many variables and this has to be the most daunting but at the same time amusing part of the video you have to watch before heading into Glacier's back country.

    First you have to ascertain if you are dealing with a black bear or grizzly as the park is the lucky home to both types. To make things more complex, not all black bears are black and grizzlies vary in color considerably too. So, you're left with some other physical attributes of grizzlies like a more rounded flat face, huge humped shoulder, and far longer claws. (continued below in Fondest Memory)

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    maybe you're more calm in the face of danger

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 1, 2009

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    grizzly or no grizzly?

    Fondest memory: Now, maybe you're more calm in the face of danger but I wasn't so sure I would be so cool to be able to ascertain these qualities with a bear staring me down and time being an unknown factor. But let's say you can make this distinction.

    The common reasoning was always to fight a black bear if attacked and crouch and play dead if a grizzly. Of course, this is only if attacked. First things first, and that is to back away slowly. I met many experienced “bear hikers” while in Glacier and many of them said they wouldn't just play dead with a young grizzly and that you have to stand your ground to see if the bear might fear you more if they figure you will not give in. Just make sure the bear is not too young. Baby bears or young adolescents deserve special care as Mama surely is nearby and willing to rip you to shreds if she figures you are a threat to her cubs. Okay, now let's assume you sorted out what type of bear it is and even it's approximate age.

    Now, you have to figure out if the bear is acting aggressively or defensively. This is perhaps the most important thing in your reaction. It seems a defensive attack by a grizzly is best countered by playing dead, but always protecting your neck and head, trying to remain face down. If the bear is acting aggressively or even stalking you, it may be looking at you as a food source in which case you would have to fight back or essentially be eaten. Luckily, this is not particularly common though the thought alone is disconcerting. Factor in your chances of successfully fending off a full grown grizzly alone are pretty slim and you begin to question your choice of areas to hike in. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    walking in the footsteps of the grizzly

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 1, 2009

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    a young Bighorn Sheep comes towards us

    Favorite thing: As stunning as the landscape is in Glacier National Park, the wildlife steals the show for most visitors.

    Fondest memory: Making noise and hiking are not two things that go together naturally. I abhor those unable to keep their traps shut when enjoying what should be the solitude that is intrinsic to walking in the woods or traipsing along a mountain ridge. If there's one time when words are not necessary, this is it. But when walking in the footsteps of the grizzly one has to reconsider their vow of silence. In fact, the protocol calls for making as much noise as possible and though this is something I've become quite good at I'm not sure I'll ever get truly used to it.

    Glacier National Park in northern Montana presents such a challenge with the highest concentration of grizzlies in the lower 48. Sure, one can visit the park without subjecting oneself to such a state of affairs but driving from one scenic pullout to the next has never been my style. So, on arriving at the ruggedly beautiful slice of America's best in September I found myself at the back country station trying to pry information from a knowledgeable but not exactly forthcoming ranger. By the season's end, rangers can be a bit ornery but I imagine answering repeated questions about the weather posted outside the office must take it's toll. I had been sitting patiently by the wood stove as another potential back packer got shot down in his attempt to secure a coveted spot on a space limited popular route slicing through the heart of the park. Fifty Mountain campsite was full after he'd made a slight hesitation as to whether or not he wanted it. He was irate at the system and the ranger showed no mercy in alluding to the need to be more sure of your desired itinerary. (continued below in Fondest Memory)

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  • lauriejeanne's Profile Photo

    You never know...

    by lauriejeanne Written Apr 24, 2003

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    Quick, take the pic!

    Favorite thing: ...who'll come your way...

    So always drive carefully and keep your camera handy!

    Fondest memory: I'm a sucker for animals and I've always delighted at seeing them in the wild. I have only once before seen mountain goats up close and personal like this before! And by the time I picked up my camera, the moment was lost...

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Not All is Green and Lustrous

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    aretes on the Iceberg Lake trail

    Favorite thing: Since Glacier was in fact carved by glaciers, evidence of this past transformation lies in the stony and rutted faces of mountain cliffs in the high country. Park maps identify the Garden Wall and the Highline trail and 'aretes' to signify these naked sheets of stone where nothing grows and nothing lives but the mountain goats. The good news is that most of what lies at the foot of these often snow-laden walls is green and luscious and thriving in plant and animal life.

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    The Naked Crowns. . .

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    clearings left by avalanches, Gunsight Lake trail

    Favorite thing: Most of the high country in Glacier is denuded of plant life, mainly as a result of the legacy of glaciation, and otherwise from the continual effects of snowfall, snowmelt and avalanche activity. The peaks in this fabulous park tend to jut straight upward and have rounded forms and fluted slopes. In many areas of the park, markers will exhibit and explain the effects of avalanche and snowfall in the higher and middle elevations, and by summer you can see wide strips cleared on the lower mountainsides where avalanches have smoothly torn away the vegetation. Grizzlies bears often frequent these passages for carrion and budding plant life. The appearance of the mountain crests however is generally as rugged as the winter weather.

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Watch for Habitats as Well as Heads

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    St Mary River, Gunsight Lake trail

    Favorite thing: Whenever you come upon a bosky clearing, always note that bear and deer commonly traipse through the same glades you are using. Throughout the park, area creeks and mountain streams appear ideally suited to some of the largest animals in the park, including moose and grizzly. Though the two giants might with some predictability appear in preferred habitats throughout its confines, Glacier is crisscrossed with countless rivers and streams that provide sedges and water for all the mammals here, large and small. Never glance at a beautiful landscape or river valley without scanning the banks and the treeline for the sudden appearance or retreat of the local wildlife.

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Habitats Can Be Beautiful Too

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Pollock Mountain guards Logan Pass

    Favorite thing: The area around Logan Pass is generally different from every other place along Going to the Sun Road. The mountains tend to be bare here in the higher elevations, and snowbanks tend to mark the roadside even in the middle of July. Near Hidden Lake, rangers will tell you to watch for mountain goats (that's supposing that the parking lot of the visitor center is presently empty of all but human traffic). Above and behind Pollock Mountain across the road from the lot, rangers offer good bets for bighorn sheep. In all cases, the signs warn for grizzly bear activity, but common sense and sharp eye will generally arm you against sudden surprises.

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Trails Less Trammeled

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Lower Two Medicine Lake

    Favorite thing: The Two Medicine area in the southeast quarter is often overlooked by park visitors. The mountains in this region have features more pointed than rounded, and other strange landmarks exist here like nowhere else in Glacier (such as Pompelly Pillar). The forests are just as rugged as elsewhere, and many places lie in a low, marshy area, making the many trails of Two Medicine among the sultriest of the entire network.

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Rocks that Bleed Water

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    typical roadside cascade, Going to the Sun Road

    Favorite thing: Like Yellowstone and Yosemite where snowmelt is a regular seasonal, Glacier has an inordinate number of roadside cascades. Though the volume is seldom substantial, the runoffs can drain for hundreds of feet above or below the park road, and sometimes both.

    Fondest memory: The Weeping Wall not far west of the Logan Pass Visitor Center is a special occurrence of this type of feature, but don't cry if you miss the right season to enjoy it.

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    A tour of Going to the Sun -- just for starters

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Near Heaven's Peak on Going to the Sun Road

    Favorite thing: You can get a terrific perspective of what this park has to offer by traveling the Going to the Sun Road. From Lake McDonald to St Mary Lake (west to east) the road travels through thick forests, passes 1,000 foot cascades, beautifully carved mountains, banks of snow, 1,000 foot drop-offs, mountain streams, avalanche chutes, and among the most gorgeous lakes you'll see anywhere.

    Fondest memory: The lake settings, the waterfalls, and the cool green water of glacial lakes and streams are found everywhere in the park.

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