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A girlfriend of mine and I go on an annual trip together every year. One year she asked if I had been to Glacier National Park in Montana. When I said no, she asked if I would be interested and sent me some photos. Now, I have to be honest. This was before I really started to fall in love with National Parks. I think it also might be the park that kicked off said fall. To make a long story short, Glacier National Park became the destination for that year’s trip and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Take a tour on a Red Jammer Bus!
As gorgeous as the photos were, they didn’t prepare me for the beauty I discovered in the park. Glacier is seriously what I call a “national park darkhorse”. It doesn’t get as much recognition as Yellowstone, Zion or the Smokey Mountains. However, it should. Since photos were what drew me to the park, I’m sharing the photos I took in hopes it draws you to Glacier National Park too!
Best Time to Visit
In my opinion, the best time to visit Glacier National Park is the first week of June which is the same week I recommend visiting Yellowstone National Park. Same reasons apply: mainly not crowded and wildlife sightings.
However, in full disclosure, just like I mention with Yellowstone, not everything is fully open in Glacier yet. This includes parts of Going to the Sun Road. You can drive some of the famous park road, but because they open the alpine sections as the snow melts and they get them restored, you can’t drive all the way through the park until usually mid-June.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the Bison cabin at the Historic Tamarack Lodge. Although located outside the park, it is only about 9 miles from the park entrance.
At an extremely affordable price (as opposed to pricier accommodations inside the park), we had a good-sized cabin all to ourselves. It had a full kitchen, gigantic bathroom with a separate wet area, TVs in the living room and bedroom as well as an outdoor deck, grill, and yard! It was totally worth the short drive!
We could even check out bear spray to take with us to the park. If you’ve ever tried to purchase bear spray, you know how much money this saved us!
What To See
Going To The Sun Road
Going To The Sun Road is the feature of Glacier National Park. Some say it is the equivalent to driving the Icefields Parkway in Canada. “The Sun Road” as it is called is 50 miles long and takes around 2 hours to drive it nonstop. However, you will want to stop. A lot.
If you don’t stop, you will miss beauties such as the Flathead River,
McDonald Creek and McDonald Falls (in the background),
and my favorite…multi-colored rocks in the aqua glacial waters!
Glacier is known for its multi-colored rocks and I was excited to see them! I found these in McDonald Creek which originates from Lake McDonald and parallels Going To The Sun Road.
Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park at 10 miles long and almost 500 feet deep.
This area consisted of gigantic glaciers thousands of years ago and now it is the happening place of West Glacier. There are lots of hiking trails, waterfalls, boating activities, etc and you can stay right on the lake in the Lake McDonald Lodge!
The Alternate Scenic View
If you are visiting during times when The Sun Road is partially closed, Lake McDonald is probably as far you will get (depending on the time of year). The alternative is US Highway 2 which runs east-west on the south side of the park from West Glacier to East Glacier Park Village.
If you are staying on the west side like we did and can’t get through, take US-2 in West Glacier east towards Essex.
Not too far east of Essex, you can watch mountain goats lick the salt at Goat Lick Overlook. They are normally only there during dawn and dusk though so plan accordingly. We caught them at dusk!
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Two Medicine was another interesting area of the park.
Sinopah Mountain is very prominent in the background of the beautiful Two Medicine Lake.
I had fun shopping at the Two Medicine General Store getting treats to enjoy in the car!
The Two Medicine area is popular for hiking, camping, and canoeing.
Although one of the most isolated sections of the park, Many Glacier might have been my favorite.
I just thought the drive to get to it was pretty. Then we came to views like this…
Hello Swiftcurrent Lake and Grinnell Point! The hotel you see is the Many Glacier Hotel. Keep reading below to find out why Many Glacier was the highlight of my time in Glacier National Park!
Wildlife is always my favorite part of visiting national parks. Glacier was really good to us too. In addition to the mountain goats, we saw…
Of course, squirrels, eating flowers
and bunny rabbits
and even a squirrel watching a bunny rabbit dart out of the brush!
There were the tiniest creatures like the ant and then we were treated to the “big dog” we had hoped to see all week.
But first, a bit of backstory.
Highlight of the Trip-the Great Encounter
We had actually tried to hike to Redrock Falls from the Swiftcurrent Pass Trailhead. Not too long after we started, we realized we weren’t going to have enough time to get back before dark and we had left the bear spray in the car. Considering the low population of visitors currently in the park, there wasn’t anyone starting the hike with us. Because of these we bailed on the hike and dejectedly went back to the car.
I had read that a good number of moose sightings occur in Many Glacier and said to my friend that maybe we would see a moose since we didn’t get to do our hike.
Well, that is exactly what happened. Driving back through Many Glacier, we came upon a crowd of people pulled over. I excitedly told my friend (who was driving) to pull over (and I might have been a bit bossy about it, but I was excited).
My friend, Kim, deciding it was a good time to hop in the car
She did pull over and several yards out we saw him. A bull moose!
And we were going to get a much better view because he was coming towards us.
Moose crossing behind our car
So much so that he wound up crossing the road and before he got too close, we got into the car and shut the doors.
Note: You should always stay at least 30 yards away from wildlife. While we weren’t 30 yards away from this moose, he approached us (calmly) and our only option was to quietly get the car, no sudden movements.
Mr. Moose was none too bothered by his admirers of maybe 20-30 people. He meandered on across the road
and carried on with his important business of that night’s dinner.
He even looked up and posed a couple of times. This was taken with a zoom lens as the moose was at least 30 yards if not farther away at this point.
And now you know why Many Glacier is my favorite! 😉
Well, That Was Interesting…
We did encounter a couple of interesting things during the trip.
The first was seeing clothes randomly tied in aspen trees on the side of the road. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the story on this (gasp) and can’t find it anywhere. If you happen to know why, please drop me a note below and jog my memory!
Excuse the cell phone pics. Sometimes the best camera is the one you have ready and that’s what happened in this case!
The second was driving by and seeing this colt separated from its mom. It couldn’t get back up that steep, little cliff and mom couldn’t get down to it and get them both back up.
As we were driving up, a lady in the car you see in the photo got out and helped the colt get back up. Mom was completely calm about this. It’s like she totally sensed the lady was there to help and not harm her colt.
Mom and baby were reunited and galloped off. I love happy endings!
Know Before You Go
- All waters in Glacier National Park are glacier fed hence their beautiful aqua “glacier blue” coloring.
- The highest point in Glacier you can access by car is Logan Pass at 6,646 feet. If you go during peak season, the parking lot fills up quickly. Go very early or consider taking the park shuttles.
- Going To The Sun Road isn’t fully open year round. Their general info page and road status page are both very helpful. They even help you plan ahead by providing a past opening and closing dates page (all the way back to 1933)!
- Glacier also has live webcams for all different areas of the park.
- If Going To The Sun Road isn’t completely open during your trip, use US Highway 2 to connect from West Glacier to East Glacier.
- Pack picnic lunches to have in the park every day. Just please remember to pick up after yourself and don’t leave any trash behind!
- There are no gas stations on Going To The Sun Road.
- If a crowd has gathered randomly on the side of the road, most likely there is wildlife present. Be cautious when driving by and if it’s safe, try to pull over and get in on the action.
- Stay at least 30 yards away from wildlife at all times.
- Best times to see all wildlife are at dawn and dusk.
- It is possible to do a day trip to Calgary and Banff from Glacier National Park. It will be a long day, but if you really want to see it and that’s the only time you have, go for it! We left at 4:30 or 5 am, drove to Banff, had tea at the Banff Springs Hotel, saw Lake Louise and explored a few other places in the area and then drove back to Glacier arriving around 1:30 am!
- Tips for driving across the US/Canadian Border from Glacier National Park: We went up on US Highway 89 on the east side of Glacier. However, because this border (Carway) is only open 7am-11pm, we had to come back through on US Highway 93 in Roosville which is west of Glacier and open 24 hours a day year-round. Be sure you know when you will be crossing the border and which ones are open for those times. *This will require your passport.*
And that’s a wrap on our week in this gorgeous national park.
I hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. I truly hope they inspire you to make a trip to see the beauty of Glacier National Park in person!
Have you been to Glacier? If so, what was the best thing about your trip?
‘Til next time…