National Park Guide:

Glacier National Park

National Park Guide:

Glacier National Park

Destinations  »  North America  »  USA

Destination: Glacier National Park, MT

Length of Stay: 3 nights (June 2018)

 

Lodging: Red Eagle Motel & RV Park ($40/night for RV site)

National Park Service Fee: 7 day pass - $35 per vehicle | Annual NPS pass $80

Glacier National Park (not to be confused with the Canadian Glacier National Park) is nestled up against the Canadian Border in Northern Montana, U.S.A. The region that became the national park was first inhabited centuries ago by the Blackfeet and Flathead Native Americans. Under pressure from the U.S. Government, the Blackfeet ceded part of the mountainous region to the feds in 1895. In 1910, the park was officially established and became more accessible to the public shortly after the Great Northern Railway was constructed. By 1932, the historic (and instagram famous) Going-to-the-sun Road was completed which allows automobiles greater access to the park interior.[1] Encompassing over 1 million acres, Glacier is often referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem" [2] because of its vast amount of untouched wilderness. This means that virtually all the flora and fauna species present today have been around since the Blackfeet first step foot here. In addition to having an intact ecosystem, the Continental Divide spans the park accounting for over 7000 ft of elevation variance throughout the region. As a result of this elevation change, Glacier is home to several different climate zones. The Western side of the park is part of the Pacific Watershed and has a lower elevation which produces a milder, wetter climate. To the East of the Divide, the high winds produce a drier climate more common to extreme temperature variations[3similar to what we experienced on our hike to Cracker Lake, but more on that later...

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Glacier At A Glance

Like most of the National Parks, it's difficult to fathom how large Glacier is until you attempt to plan a route around to all the sites to see. It can take a couple hours to drive from one side of the park to the other, especially if the main Going-to-the-Sun Road isn't fully open like when we were there in late June (due to snow). We were able to drive about 26 miles of the road before we were forced to turn around at Jackson Glacier Overlook. Here we learned about the active glaciers still in the park and the incredibly disheartening decline of the glacier population since the early 1900's. Read more below about what we learned. In our map, the green portion of the road is the open part we were able to see, the red portion was closed until later in the summer.

Map Legend

Sites to See

Missed Sites

Lodging

Open Portion

Closed Portion

Sites to See

Going to the Sun Road

St Mary Lake

Jackson Glacier

Lake Sherburne

East Glacier Park

Remember how we were saying about East Glacier's high winds making it more common to extreme temperature variations? Well we were fortunate enough to experience the four season change those winds brought us on the 12 mile hike to Cracker Lake. We had some sun at the beginning, but as we ascended it quickly turned to windy, then rainy, and eventually finishing off with some snow before the sun made its way back out. It started out looking like Lake Sherburne (second from the bottom right) before turning to thundersnow at Cracker Lake (top right). Needless to say, we found a lunch spot after it cleared up. We also got to meet a local park resident on our way back, check her out below!

This was definitely one of our favorite hikes because the glacier water from St Mary Falls flowing into the river is a beautiful blue. We even ran into more wildlife - I (Josh) unexpectedly saw a grizzly walking towards us on the hiking path about 150 meters from the bridge crossing St Mary Falls. We were shocked to see him out and about in the middle of the day on a busy hiking trail. However, we learned from Park Rangers that given the opportunity, wildlife will use the man made paths over the bush because they are easier to navigate. Luckily we didn't have to use our bear spray and he was scared away by our noise. Before we reached the parking lot we got to see another friendly deer (Peter) eating a quick afternoon snack.

Peter the deer!

This is right around where I saw a bear!

Remember how we were saying about East Glacier's high winds making it more common to extreme temperature variations? Well we were fortunate enough to experience the four season change those winds brought us on the 12 mile hike to Cracker Lake. We had some sun at the beginning, but as we ascended it quickly turned to windy, then rainy, and eventually finishing off with some snow before the sun made its way back out. It started out looking like Lake Sherburne (second from the bottom right) before turning to thundersnow at Cracker Lake (top right). Needless to say, we found a lunch spot after it cleared up. We also got to meet a local park resident on our way back, check her out below!

This was definitely one of our favorite hikes because the glacier water from St Mary Falls flowing into the river is a beautiful blue. We even ran into more wildlife - I (Josh) unexpectedly saw a grizzly walking towards us on the hiking path about 150 meters from the bridge crossing St Mary Falls. We were shocked to see him out and about in the middle of the day on a busy hiking trail. However, we learned from Park Rangers that given the opportunity, wildlife will use the man made paths over the bush because they are easier to navigate. Luckily we didn't have to use our bear spray and he was scared away by our noise. Before we reached the parking lot we got to see another friendly deer (Peter) eating a quick afternoon snack.

Peter the deer!

This is right around where I saw a bear!

What is a Glacier?

A glacier is defined by the U.S. Geological Service as "a body of snow and ice of sufficient size and matter to move under its own weight."[4] Glaciers naturally reshape or 'move' due to temperature and precipitation. Imagine the immense weight of acres of snow melting and freezing; this causes the rocks underneath to grind together very fine dust known as glacial silt. If you notice any teal water in the lakes around the park it is caused by the sunlight reflecting off this fine powder suspended capturing the green-blue lightwaves.

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Worldwide glacier recession is a well documented phenomenon. It is predicted that all glaciers within Glacier National Park will be gone between 2030 - 2080. I'm writing this in 2018, so that is as early as 12 years from now. It is predicted that just below 150 active glaciers were present when the park was established in 1910. By 2015 twenty-six active glaciers remained[4], it would be staggering loss to witness the disappearance of the literal icon of this park during our lifetimes! Currently, Jackson Glacier is known as the 7th largest of the twenty-five remaining glaciers in the park. It is estimated to be around 1km in length covering approximately 250 acres. Jackson is located on the Going-to-the-Sun road just west of St. Mary Lake. Both the Blackfoot and Jackson Glaciers used to be combined as one massive unit spanning over 1,800 acres. Unfortunately due to climate change, Jackson Glacier lost nearly a third of its total area between 1966 and 2005[5]. These two glaciers covered two mountains at one point in time and were simply known as Blackfoot Glacier before their separation. The U.S. Geological Service now monitors both of these glaciers using remote sensing and repetitive photography. Due to its observation point along a lookout on the Going-to-the-Sun road, Jackson is easy to keep an eye on. Take a look at the picture of an infographic board we found at the Jackson Glacier Overlook!

What We Missed

This hike is one of the most popular trails in the park that features the famous Grinnell Glacier. It is a 9.7 mile out and back heavily trafficked trail, however, as of June 2018 the trail is closed around the 3.5 mile marker.
Unfortunately this trail was also closed when we visited. It is known for having stunning views over the Going-to-the-Sun Road where it beings at Logan Pass. This trail is 28 miles so be prepared for a long haul if you plan to hike the entire trek!

Logan Pass is the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun road. However, it is only accessible during the peak part of summer making this a popular spot during vacation season. This is also a popular starting for starting hikes or backpacking trips.

This is a trail for experts, no doubt. However, this spot is one of the most unique peaks in the world because two Continental Divides meet at its summit. At the top of Triple Divide Peak, 1/3 of the water flows into the Pacific Ocean, 1/3 flows the Atlantic Ocean, and 1/3 flows into the Arctic Ocean. There is no other peak in the world where this happens!

This hike is one of the most popular trails in the park that features the famous Grinnell Glacier. It is a 9.7 mile out and back heavily trafficked trail, however, as of June 2018 the trail is closed around the 3.5 mile marker.
Unfortunately this trail was also closed when we visited. It is known for having stunning views over the Going-to-the-Sun Road where it beings at Logan Pass. This trail is 28 miles so be prepared for a long haul if you plan to hike the entire trek!

Logan Pass is the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun road. However, it is only accessible during the peak part of summer making this a popular spot during vacation season. This is also a popular starting for starting hikes or backpacking trips.

This is a trail for experts, no doubt. However, this spot is one of the most unique peaks in the world because two Continental Divides meet at its summit. At the top of Triple Divide Peak, 1/3 of the water flows into the Pacific Ocean, 1/3 flows the Atlantic Ocean, and 1/3 flows into the Arctic Ocean. There is no other peak in the world where this happens!

Lodging

Red Eagle Motel & RV Park was the least expensive camping option outside the park that offered full hookups. At only $40 a night, it was a pretty good bargain being just a few miles outside East Glacier.

See how this fits into the North American Road Trip:

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By |2019-05-15T05:12:29-04:00June 13th, 2018|Destinations, National Park|0 Comments

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