Oh gosh, where should I start with this article? The breathtaking mountain views? The crystal clear alpine lakes? The abundant wildlife? I don’t know. All I know is that this place left a huge mark in my heart and memories. And that I want to return one day. Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana is also called the Alps of America, but it’s much more than that! Although the park doesn’t involve the highest peaks of the Rockies, I got a good sense how big this mountain range actually is (much bigger than the alps). Arriving after a long drive from Yellowstone, we started off with a night under the stars in St. Mary near the East entrance of the park. Fortunately that night was much warmer than in Yellowstone, so our second camping experiment was a full success!
The weather supposed to be very stable and sunny during August and we weren’t disappointed. One of the park’s best known landmarks is the huge Many Glacier Hotel in a Swiss chalet style. It’s located right by the Swiftcurrent Lake, which couldn’t make a better scenery. It was simply spectacular!
The pristine ecosystem with its hundreds of lakes and numerous glaciers is what makes this area so special. However, climate change took its tribute, that today only a fraction of the glaciers is left compared to 100 years ago. Researches estimate that all of them might be gone within the next 30 years! That also means a loss of habitat for lots of plant and animal species… Sad isn’t it?
So as we hiked along Swiftcurrent Lake…
… it didn’t take long until our first encounter with wild animals. We spotted a female moose grazing in the lake. It was a little hidden behind a bunch of trees and it only showed us its back…
Lake Josephine follows closely where you’ll also find regular boat service.
Despite being quite accessible, the park still feels wild and unspoiled. If you like the outdoors, this is just paradise!
Our final destination of the day was turquoise Grinnell Lake embedded in a spectacular setting. Sigh!
Again, Many Glacier Hotel from a different perspective. Maybe we can stay there next time? 😉
One of America’s most scenic routes, the Going-to-the-sun-road, is a must-see of the National Park. You’ll have to take it anyway when you want to get to the West Entrance, but it’s worth taking your time and enjoy all the vistas every couple of miles.
Overlooking Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake: While we were there, the first sprague fires started to hit the National Park, causing hazy views and smoky air… Later in August and September parts of the park had to close because of the fire :/
Another stop worth taking is Logan Pass – the highest point of the Going-to-the-sun-road. Beside a big Visitor Center, there are lots of hiking trails that start from there. One of the most popular ones (because it’s rather easy yet beautiful) is the trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook. It’s only 1.5 miles one-way but it’s packed with beauty!
There’s so much to see from alpine flowers…
… to bighorn sheep chilling in the sun…
… and sometimes mountain goats will cross your way 🙂
Surprise – there really is a “hidden” lake at the lookout! Motivated hikers can take the extra 1.4 miles down, but as this part is going downhill (and you have to go all the way up again), we didn’t do it 😛
So in awe with these views 😍
At the end I have a restaurant tip for you: Whenever you end up in St. Mary, don’t miss Johnson’s! This cozy cabin has the best food in the area and we’re still raving about the soup and home-made huckleberry lemonade!
- Glacier National Park and neighbouring Waterton Park in Canada build the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park – the first of its kind. The area has been inhabited by Native Americans since thousands of years, particularly by the Blackfeet tribe.
- Parts of the National Park are open year-round with limited access during off-season. Summer (especially July and August) is high season and the only time where Going-to-the-sun Road is fully open. Current updates on road status, wildfires and activities can be found on the very informative official website.
- The closest “bigger” airport is Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell. Driving is the better option and Montana is a great state for road trips! There’s also a frequent shuttle service that serves Going-to-the-sun-road during high season. This is especially useful for some hikes that end at a different point than where they started.
- Like anywhere, high season is very busy and it’s advisable to book accommodation as early as possible. There are first come, first serve campsites across the park, which fill up quickly. Check the campsite map or stay outside the park e.g. in Whitefish, East Glacier or St. Mary alternatively. We were very happy with the campsite at Johnson’s and the Red Eagle Motel, both in St. Mary and very close to the park!
- Just like Yellowstone, Glacier N.P. is known to be grizzly habitat. That means: Don’t forget your bear spray and be cautious!
I’m absolutely in love with America’s National Parks! Which one are you planning to visit?