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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    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!

    Northwest corner of USA in northwest Montana Glacier NP Map showing our route & accommodations
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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Prairie Meets Mountains

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 2, 2007

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    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!

    Views from Highway 49 near Kiowa, Montana
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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    hope to hear you first

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 10, 2009

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    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.

    take the responsiblity, take the reward
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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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    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)

    sharing Glacier with its natural inhabitants
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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    the rest of the bear rules

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 10, 2009

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    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)

    proper food storage in the backcountry is key
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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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    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)

    grizzly or no grizzly?
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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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    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)

    a young Bighorn Sheep comes towards us
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  • lauriejeanne's Profile Photo

    You never know...

    by lauriejeanne Written Apr 24, 2003

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    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...

    Quick, take the pic!
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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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    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.

    Near Heaven's Peak on Going to the Sun Road
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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Logan Pass is a good place to leave the car

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Favorite thing: At the top of the road, you can hike out into the snowfields even in the middle of July. There are wonderful vistas here and remarkable views of the surrounding mountains. The book store inside the visitor center and the helpful rangers will get you started in making the most of your time.

    Watch for bighorn sheep behind Pollock Mountain and the mountain goats which frequent this place.

    Fondest memory: This is mountain goat territory. Be patient. Their white hides blend in well with the snow-covered landscape and will sometimes frustrate photography.

    Logan Pass, covered with snow in mid-July
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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Spend some time skimming along the creek

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Favorite thing: McDonald Creek is among the most beautiful glacial creeks in the park. It runs next to Going to the Sun Road on the western side before emptying into Lake McDonald. You can see both features from close to the top of the road, another one of the wonderful vistas offered by the park.

    McDonald Creek
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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    For those with children or heart problems

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Favorite thing: Many of the charming scenes in Glacier are not far from the park road. On the east side, the short hikes to St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls are probably easy enough for the whole family to enjoy, including the young and elderly. There is not much climbing, and the farthest falls are barely a mile from the parking lane.

    Fondest memory: St Mary Falls pours its glacial-green waters through a chasm. Virginia Falls (about a mile farther up-trail) dumps its water high over a stony ledge. You'll be near a creek most of the time, so your ears will not detect danger from bears. If you're with a family, keep young children close by and never let them run ahead. Groups of 4 or more will generally have no problem.

    Virginia Falls, near St Mary Lake
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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Amateur Geology for First-Timers and Old-Hatters

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Favorite thing: Most of the visitor centers (especially that at St Mary's) will give you an idea of different kinds of sedimentary rocks that are found here (I won't attempt to describe them officially). Just note that certain peaks are so composed of colorful sedimentation that their names often reflect those colors. Take Red Eagle Mountain -- does anyone who knows this peak not take it for a red locomotive? Other strata show green and purple and red and brown. You'll notice these different layers throughout the park.

    As always however, the water is ice-green wherever you turn.

    Fondest memory: The ice-green glacial water spruces up any setting, but when surrounded by towering peaks and sprawling forests, how can you stop to notice any one element alone?

    Deadman Falls (off Jackson Glacier overlook)
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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Flora - But I'm No Expert

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Favorite thing: Glacier has a wide variety of plant and flower life that might help you to predict what creatures enjoy a certain area. Certainly the grizzlies and bighorn munch on a great number of things, but what they leave is of interest to the botanist and amateur gardener alike.

    beargrass
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    Seasonal Changes in Park and Wildlife

    by mrclay2000 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Favorite thing: Snowshoe hares, ptarmigans and many other creatures have different coats for summer and winter. The snowshoe hare is fairly abundant in the park and is easily identified by his year-round white socks. The ptarmigan is a robust bird that is a favorite with the coyote and weasel. Watch for hens with little broods of day-old chicks crossing your trail.

    ptarmigan, summer -- Kootenai Lakes trail
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