Glacier, Montana

Ever since I caught wind of the National Parks Glacier has been highest on my to-do list. Pictures and stories of the northern Rocky’s rugged peaks, turquoise lakes, and glacial-carved valleys set extremely high expectations. It borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and in 1932 they joined forces to make up the world’s first International Peace Park! Both parks are designated as Biosphere Reserves, World Heritage Sites and Dark Sky Parks so it’s really as good as it gets! My lovely girlfriend Ellie and I drove from Seattle but broke up the drive with a stay in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho five hours away. This was my first time seeing the wonders of eastern Washington and all I can remember is how hot it was. We found relief from the heat at a lovely bed and breakfast within the Coeur d’Alene National Forest.

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That night we took a sunset walk around Tubb’s Hill overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene. Seemed like a lively community here in the Idaho Panhandle!

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The following day we made our way through Montana! It took about 4hr 30min to get to West Glacier passing all kinds of beauty. I especially liked driving around the Clark Fork River and just past Flathead Lake where the Rockies first came into view. Once in Glacier National Park we stopped at the Apgar Vistor Center for some moose stickers, beer and information. We also walked down to the western shore of Lake McDonald for our first big view into Glacier! The Garden Wall below is a good example of a saw-toothed ‘arete’ where two glaciers carve each side of a ridge.

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We’d spend the night at the Fish Creek Campground. From here a nice trail leads you along the north shore of the largest lake in the park to Rocky Point. Here we enjoyed a moment to think about the adventures ahead.

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We then made some dinner and went back to the Apgar Village in preparation for a classic Lake McDonald sunset. We were glad we came early as the weather would end up changing for the worse. The waves were actually a welcomed sight having really only seen reflection shots from here.

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About an hour before sunset rain began to fall on the mountains so we called it a night but not before getting some huckleberry ice cream!

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Determined to see some color we woke up around 5am and went back to Apgar. The sunrise was spectacular and we shared the beach with only four others! From left to right: Stanton Mountain, Mount Vaught, Mount Grinnell, Mount Cannon, Mount Brown, Little Matterhorn and Edwards Mountain!

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Happy as can be we went back to camp whipped up some eggs and sausage before heading east along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This road is a spectacular feat of engineering and provides insane views around every turn. The best views from the road are found near Logan Pass at 6646ft. With names like Heavens Peak you know it’s good.

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Looking towards Mount Oberlin and the hanging Bird Woman Falls was something special.

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The U-shaped valleys are evidence of massive glacial action here in the Lewis Range.

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The only view of a glacier from the road is found at the Jackson Glacier Overlook.

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Fullisade Mountain is also a wonderful sight from this spot.

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Our next stop was at the Wild Goose Island overlook along Saint Mary Lake. This is a popular sunrise spot so we thought we’d scope it out before our stay here the following day.

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The view from the overlook is great but the faint trail down the lakeside is where the money shot was!

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This might go down as the best view I’ve ever had not from a mountain top! Saying we were blown away is an understatement. The water was so clear and the reflection was ridiculously perfect! This was a great morning!

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The drive from Saint Mary Lake to Many Glacier provided more epic scenery. The reflection off Lake Sherburn was just as good as Saint Mary.

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Many Glacier may be the most popular area in the park and for good reason. It’s absolutely beautiful, a hiker’s paradise and there’s lodging for all. Reservations for camping fill up months in advance and we were only given one option at the time so we had to take it. After we set up our camp we took a walk around Swiftcurrent Lake. In the first mile we ran into a moose cooling off in the water.

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We smiled as we thought about our dog Moose and their goofy similarities. Always looming high above was a craggy horn. Horns are mountain tops that were scraped vertically by glaciers on three or more sides.

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We ended the loop at the Many Glacier Hotel and without a doubt it has the best view from a lodge ever. You don’t need to leave the porch for a full view into the heart of Glacier National Park in its most epic fashion.

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After resting and recharging our devices in the lodge we explored Swiftcurrent Falls which was pretty sweet.

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It was only 3pm but we had a marathon of hiking planned for the next two days so we took the remainder of the evening to relax. We tossed the baseball around and did our best to tolerate our campsite. It was the worst spot for a campsite out of the 34 National Parks I’ve been to. It was ten feet from one bathroom and twenty feet from another. Next to us was also a large trash can that had to be slammed shut and a leaking water spigot. There was also two other campsites crowding our space, it was just absurd. They want to pack as many people in there as possible which I can’t blame them for.

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We planned to get up before sunrise again but couldn’t fall asleep with all the commotion around us. We laid there wide eyed until Ellie found an eyelash on my cheek. I blew it off her finger and wished for everyone to shut up. No more than ten minutes later it began to pour and with it thunder and lightning. It was a gnarly storm but my new non-freestanding Zpacks Tent held up great and we ended up having a wonderful sleep! At 5:15am Saturday morning we woke up, packed our things and made our way to the lodge parking lot.

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We’d be hiking the popular Grinnell Glacier Trail so we wanted an early start. Before the hike we cooked up breakfast above the lodge and watched the fog roll in.

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At 6:30am we set off into the foggy unknown!

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We started walking south along the east shore of Swiftcurrent Lake then crossed over to the west side of Lake Josephine. It felt like we were in a dream until sun burned all the fog away around 8am.

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We hadn’t seen another person and Mount Gould finally showed herself!

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As we got higher the view became all-time! Wildflowers covered the ground, Mount Gould and the Garden Wall showed there fine granite layers and Grinnell Lake was looking like some ice blue raspberry lemonade Kool-aid. The waterfall completed the fairy tale scene.

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This deer must have been the first one on the trail as he was already coming down.

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The layers of rock here are so interesting. The red rock almost reminded me of Georgia clay.

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The final stretch had a little bit of everything!

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Right before rounding the corner to Upper Grinnell Lake we saw a baby mountain goat and nanny out having a morning snack.

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Cute little king of the hill!

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Walking up to the lake you just knew it was going to be good.

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At the Upper Grinnell Lake was only one other group so we enjoyed some rare solitude in this majestic setting.

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The water was super teal and calm providing an unbelievable reflection!

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It was cool to see what’s left of the Grinnell Glacier.

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Just in case the scene wasn’t good enough there was yet another epic waterfall.

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We took a lot of photos, licked an iceberg and had lunch behind a large boulder that gave us some shade. Here’s Grant geared by the Gwinnett Gladiators at Grinnell Glacier in Glacier!

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We were damn happy and did not mind the long descent.

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As we left the upper basin we witnessed a marmot doing a sploot while enjoying a sweet view.

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Over the course of this trip we saw hundreds of chipmunks, squirrels and marmots. Here’s a chipmunk taking in the view of Grinnell Lake.

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On the way up we saw maybe five people and on the way down we saw well over 100. Getting an early start is always the best option but its critical here if you’re looking for some peace.

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We would take the less traveled south side of Lake Josephine which provided some shade but also was overgrown and a bit buggy.

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There were still great vistas from here and we ran into a sweet white tailed jackrabbit.

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The view from the lodge was now clear and it was stunning!

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It felt great to soak the feet in the cool water before heading back to Saint Mary Lake where we’d be camping that night. We booked everything months in advance but still had slim options so planning is very important here.

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This campground was very nice and even had coin operated showers which we took advantage of. After cleaning off we relaxed at the campsite until we heard some rumbling in the bushes…

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A black bear cub was behind the campsite across from us and was heading towards the bathroom until a group of campers scared it off. We didn’t want to meet momma so we took off and grabbed a bite in East Glacier. For sunset we went back to our spot along Saint Mary Lake. These mountains are magnificent! A few fish were jumping out of the water to catch a glimpse too!

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We were up before 5:30am yet again to catch the sunrise from our favorite spot in Montana!

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The full moon added to an unforgettable morning! It slowly hovered over Little Chief Mountain as it saw the first light of the day.

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Gunsight Mountain and Fullisade Mountain look good in pink!

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Of course the overlook is great too but you won’t be alone.

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From here our original plan was to hike the Highline Trail and camp in our same awful spot at Many Glacier. We did not want to stay there again and we wanted to see sunrise from Two Medicine Lake so we altered our plans and drove straight to Two Medicine after sunrise in an attempt to capture a first come first serve campsite. We heard it filled up by noon Friday and by 9am Saturday. Luckily we found a great spot around 8am that had plenty of space and was quiet. We quickly set up our tent and set off along the west shore of Two Medicine Lake on the Dawson Pass Trail.

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This was a great change of pace from the other areas in the park. It felt like much more of a true wilderness experience. The mountains were jaw dropping and resembled Many Glacier’s but without the lodge and hoards of people. We were tired so Ellie went on to round the lake and I choose to further torture myself with an extra 8 miles and 3,000ft up to Dawson Pass. Fireweed was out in bunches and so were those beautiful craggy horns like Flinsch Peak.

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About a mile past the junction I begin to round a bend in the trail at the same time as a big horn sheep and we startled each other. He proceeded to take a few steps back as he stared deeply into my eyes then charged right at me. I jumped off the trail between two trees and he ran on down the trail past me. That got the heart pounding a bit… Continuing on the views got bigger and bigger. There were some Dr. Seuss wildflowers setting the scene for Rising Wolf Mountain.

Closer to the pass I saw a group of people that looked to be taking a break. As I got closer I noticed they were stopped by a herd of big horn sheep.

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There were tons of them and even more were shooting out of this crack in the rock. The young ones must have just woken up as they were sprinting back and forth on the snow as if they had the zoomies like my dog gets.

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They were fascinating and a bit creepy looking. They were blocking the trail so I stopped with the crowd for a photo opp until I got inpatient and shooed them away.

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Always in sight was Rising Wolf Mountain which I plan to come back for! And the layers so cool.

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After rising above the tree line I would soon make it to Dawson Pass!

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Looking back towards Two Medicine Lake was beautiful but witnessing a totally new valley with towering peaks was what all the effort was for! Unfortunately last year most of the trees to north were burned in a terrible fire that closed many areas of the park like this one. Grateful for the rain we got as wildfires would soon threaten Glacier again.

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I choose to continue up towards Flinsch Peak as I saw a nice outcrop with a marmot atop that looked like a great spot to rest.

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There’s nothing better than that mountain top feeling!

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Mount Saint Nicholas is an especially bad dude!

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Going up to Flinsch Peak would be fun but it was 1pm and I wanted to get back to Ellie.

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As I reentered big horn sheep territory I quickly ran into a couple families minding their own business.

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Then I ran into a band of guys who did not want to leave the trail. I would try and shoo them away but they would just stare me down get up on their hind legs and then ram each other. That could not be a good sign…

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I waited for a good ten minutes until they finally started walking towards me. I noticed there were spectators.

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I got off the trail and thankfully they just walked by. My heart could go back to it’s normal beat.

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Below the tree line it was a bit buggy but absolutely enchanting. I made another figure eight going around the south shore of Two Medicine Lake.

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There is a really cool suspension bridge that crosses over Paradise Creek. Only one person can cross at a time as it’s very bouncy and has nothing to hold on to. Per usual a wicked peak towered above.

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It was great to make it back to the eastern shoreline but I still had a mile to get back to the campsite. Luckily after a short walk Ellie happened to pull up! I jumped in the car and we went back to the shore to take out a kayak from Glacier Park Boat Company. Before we went out I grabbed a bite from the Two Medicine camp store. I got the $5 elk sausage wrapped in a croissant and it was the greatest thing I’ve eaten in a national park hands down! I washed that down with some huckleberry ice cream then grabbed some beer and hit the water!

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Life was good!

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Everything about Two Medicine makes it much easier to enjoy as a camper. You didn’t need reservation to take a boat out you just picked your ship and paid as you go! It was certainly nice to give the arms a workout after hiking 35 miles in two days. The rest of the night was picture perfect. We were very happy with our impromptu decision especially after a gorgeous sunset.

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I walked around the campground before bed to hit the 20 mile mark on my gps tracker and saw a moose taking a midnight bath in the marsh. We slept great that night and woke up before sunrise for the 4th day in a row! Another perfect start to the day watching the sun slowly brighten up Sinopah Mountain!

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The full moon was again a wonderful bonus to this dreamland.

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There was no question that Two Medicine Lake was our favorite area in the park and an absolute perfect way to end our trip. There are a lot of mountains we’d like to climb here but for now we were content and ready to get home to our Moose. The drive back to Seattle went by quickly. I did not want to leave Montana as we passed through the beautiful Lewis and Clack National Forest and Lolo National Forest.

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I can’t suggest a trip to Glacier National Park, the Crown of the Continent, more! It’s just one of those places everyone should experience. Now go make some fine Montana memories!

 

2 Comments

Add yours →

  1. You make me want to go for sure 💚

    Like

  2. regularguyadventures September 17, 2018 — 6:20 pm

    Fantastic Pictures!

    Like

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