Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Grand Gallivant: Glacier NP, an Overview

I can’t remember how old I was when I first found out about Glacier National Park— it’s always just been hovering in the back of my head as an impression of craggy blue mountains streaked with snow, a place I absolutely must visit someday. Through the years I learned it was in Montana, that it wasn’t on the way to anything else, and that I still absolutely must visit someday. This week, my dream finally came true!

The scenery we saw every day driving into the park

For wanting to visit for so long, I knew practically nothing about the park. I didn’t know about the Going-to-the-Sun Road, completed in 1932, that winds in scenic curves through the heart of the park, nor did I know that we were arriving too early in the season for said road to be open. I didn’t know that Many Glacier was the most iconic part of the park, but a solid two and a half hour drive from where we decided to camp on the west side of the park. In short, I learned that there is so much of Glacier I still have yet to see, and Zach and I must return someday— in July or August this time.

That said, the past four days have been a whirlwind of ridiculously breathtaking views, huge vistas, dizzying mountains, and gorgeous glacial lakes. Our pictures certainly don’t do the park justice.

We camped in the national forest three miles outside the Camas Creek entrance of the park, at the Big Creek Campground. It was pricier than our last spot ($14 a night), but still much cheaper than staying in the park, and it had water, nice pit toilets, and a wonderful view of the North Fork Flathead River, which ran right by our campsite. The moon was waxing to full in the past few days, and shone so brightly that we didn’t need headlamps at night. (On a side note, we are beginning to think of northern Montana as the place of perpetual light, since it never really gets dark— the sun sets late and the moon is bright enough to read by, casting huge shadows. We can barely see the stars because of the moon!) After our bison encounter at Yellowstone, we were nervous about animals in the campsite, but the only creatures that bothered us were two white-tailed deer that had obviously been fed too much and hunted too little.

View from our campsite

See the moon?

We spent three of the four days on the west side of the park, in the Lake McDonald Valley. The namesake lake is ten miles long, an impressive stretch of blue ringed by mountains (all the rivers and lakes in the park have an uncommon sea-green tint to them— it’s magical). The Going-to-the-Sun Road was open along the length of the shore, beginning at Agpar Village (souvenir shops, boat rentals, overpriced food) and ending at Avalanche Creek (a popular day hike), with McDonald Lodge between the two points. The lodge, made of huge timbers and decorated with Native American symbols and a whole bunch of taxidermy, overlooked the lake and was a nice place to rest in between hikes.

The weather the first few days was downright muggy, with a fierce high-elevation sun that beat down on us. The weather broke two days ago with a blasting wind that ushered in cooler temps, making our hikes much more pleasant.

I have a lot to tell about the hikes we took, but I feel like this post is already long enough. Stay tuned for parts two and three!



  1. September is the best month to visit the Park. July and August are way too crowded!