Glacier National Park

Wow!  Glacier National Park (GNP) knocked our socks off!  Gratefully we had a full week to enjoy the area and we really only scratched the surface. 

First we explored the surrounding area of West Glacier/Coram, beginning with a visit to the Mooshroom Yurt Retreat and Campground. Five years ago our friend Terri Eckel bought nine acres just a few miles outside of the entrance to the national park and has developed the property into a destination for adventurers and nature lovers.

Her yurts and primitive campsites draw people from around the world. It was fun to catch up and see the little piece of paradise she’s created.

One evening we supported the community effort, Gateway to Glacier, by attending their charity Pints for Paths brewfest. A paved bike path runs from Columbia Falls to West Glacier and connects the local communities to open spaces. We were happy to support the effort by tasting plenty of Montana craft brews.

Midway through our stay we were happy to welcome Steve’s parents, Judy and Larry, to Montana. Together the four of us explored GNP. It was fun to have them with us as we collectively were awed by this part of the world.

The one don’t-miss attraction is the Going to the Sun road. Built between 1921 to 1932, the roadway is a 52-mile engineering marvel, crossing the Continental Divide. Built strictly for sightseeing purposes, the road is the primary way to access the park’s trails and lakes. 

We took our time, stopping at overlooks, waterfalls, and short trails. Using an audio guide from Gypsy Guide, we enjoyed learning about the road, the park, and the ecosystems along the way. Even though we started fairly early and had the required timed-entry ticket, the crowds made it hard to find a parking space at the popular stops. Luckily we weren’t in a hurry and were there just to enjoy the spectacular views. 

Thanks to Judy and Larry, we were able to take a few short little hikes and not worry about Mia and Bob. Here are a few photos from our hike to Baring Falls, which included an encounter with a cute deer we named John. Can you find Steve in the bottom photo of this section?

Another popular day-trip is the drive to Polebridge, a small, remote town on the west side of GNP. The rough road along the North Fork of the Flathead River was an adventure in itself. Once we arrived to Polebridge we went straight to the Mercantile and bought their famous breads and pastries. We had huckleberry bearclaws, cinnamon rolls, and chocolate poppyseed danish. WOW! It was worth the drive just for the yummies.

In Polebridge there’s a short nature trail with interpretive signs that informed us about the family who settled the valley in 1814. It was nice to stretch our legs and work off a little of those pastries.

The saloon in Polebridge still serves drinks from the original settler’s cabin and just outside is a Chinese Elm that was planted in 1814. Talk about history!

We try to find a special place for lunch each day and the Fish Creek Picnic Area on the north shore of Lake McDonald was the perfect place. We enjoyed the cool of the shade and a breeze off the lake and met a nice Arizona family in the process!

One of Glacier’s premier hikes is the Highline Trail, an alpine path that provides out-of-this world views of Glacier’s peaks and valleys. The entire trail is 20+ miles long to the northern reaches of the park. Because we had limited time, we opted for a shorter version, about 5 miles round trip.

Even though we didn’t do the whole enchilada, we got a good feel for why this is considered a “must do.” As in the past, we started early in order to get a parking spot at Logan’s Pass and are grateful that Judy and Larry hung with the dogs while we explored. 

Another popular hike in Glacier is the Avalanche Lake Trail. Every time we passed the trailhead, the parking lot was full. So, once again we got up early and hit the trail by 6:00 a.m. The two mile, one-way trail was all ours, and we were rewarded with 15 minutes of complete solitude at the lake during sunrise. No one else was there!

Three waterfalls in distance, serene water, and complete quiet except for the birds made this one of the most special 15 minutes we’ve had in a long time. By the time we began our hike back to the trailhead there were crowds of people making their way to the lake. We considered ourselves lucky for what we experienced. 

We could have easily spent much more time in GNP, exploring the lakes and trails. Unfortunately our schedule is forcing us to move on to new adventures. Still, we took A LOT of pictures! Here’s a slide show that displays the majesty that is Glacier National Park.

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