Glacier National Park is in the northwestern part of Big Sky Country - the state of Montana. The park is home to nearly every large mammal native to the United States and even a few Canadian species call this one-million-acre-park home. The most amazing sights weren't the animals but a combination of all the things from the earth and sky and in between. The brilliant colors of more than 1,000 flowering plants, the spruce, fir and pine trees, the multi-colored lakes, streams, creeks, rivers and falls, the changing skies, the scattered snow banks and the glistening ice caps collectively make Glacier the most colorful park yet. July is the peak season to see the burst of color.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road (odd name for a road) traverses the entire width of the park and is one of the most scenic roadways in the world. The park offers a free transit service that runs from the east & west entrances and makes 12 stops throughout the park. The ranger at the visitor's center said with the crowds, parking was a problem and suggested we use the park's transit system to reach our destination, Logan Pass. The signs posted said the bus runs every 15 to 30 minutes...not always true. We had just missed the bus and we waited nearly 45 minutes for the next shuttle; once it came, it was standing room only and it took nearly an hour to get to the first transfer station at Avalanche Creek. Instead of continuing to our destination at Logan Pass via the shuttle, we opted to return to the Apgar Visitor's Center (west entrance) and drive our own vehicle. We lost about 2-1/2 hours dealing with their "Going-to-the-Sun" transit system. There were plenty of places to park all along the road for incredible photo opportunities and even when we arrived at Logan Pass, parking was not an issue. There is a vehicle size restriction (with good reason) on the Going-to-the-Sun Road east of Avalanche Creek - nothing over 21 feet long and 8 feet wide, including bumpers and mirrors. The road was built in the 1930's along the steep cliffs; it is very narrow and winding and just before Logan Pass, there is no center-line. We didn't have any problem but did wait a time or two on vehicles similar in size to pass around the sharp curves. Although our experience with the park's free shuttle service was a negative one, it may be a fit for others.
Lake McDonald is the largest body of water in the park and it is one of nearly 800 lakes in and around the park. It has a host of recreational activites from boating, swimming, tour boats and watercraft rentals; they do have very strict regulations regarding invasive mussels and plants...a permit is required as well as a thorough inspection of all vessels before and after using the lake. Lake McDonald also has amazing views from the beaches, the forested coastlines and the impressive rock-laden summits that rise more than 6,000 feet. There is a trail that runs nearly the entire 10-mile length of the lake and it connects to even more trails - of varying degrees of difficulty.
Once we arrived at Logan Pass, we were greeted by a host of Canadian ground squirrels - all whistling like little prairie dogs. We donned our gear and set out on the Hidden Lake Trail which was only about a mile and a half - one way. The beginning part of the trail consisted of a wide paved area that turned to wooden boardwalk steps with about a 300 foot elevation gain. The trail then turned to dirt with snow-covered areas and lots of running waters through and across the trail and another 240 foot in elevation before reaching the Hidden Lake Overlook. After you leave the steep steps of the boardwalk and cross the first small rise (about a mile up), you will have crossed the continiental divide. Along the trail you will be surrounded by amazing views of Mt Clemens, Mt Reynolds, Bearhat Mountain, Mt Oberlin, Sperry Glacier (in the distance) and the Garden Wall. There was a herd of bighorn sheep grazing along a nearby ridge, several mountain goats with kids, a marmot, lots of Canadian ground squirrels, and fishing in Hidden Lake was a grizzly bear. Because the grizzly bears had been seen fishing in the lake, the trail to the lake was closed to hikers. There were also eagles, ravens, and deer along the trails at Logan Pass - nothing short of spectacular. This is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier NP so expect to see lots of crowds as well. To make special mention of one of my favorite people, George HW Bush hiked Hidden Lake Trail all the way to the lake and went fishing back in the 80's.
The Highline Trail is also one of the premiere trails from Logan Pass. It's about 11 miles (one way) and takes about 7 hours to reach "The Loop" on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is fairly easy but if heights are not your strong point, avoid this one...it does hang on the side of the Garden Wall section of Mt Gould well above the jagged cliffs with only about two feet of path between you and the edge of the mountain. Also, after you hike about three to four miles, you will have seen everything so you can turn back and not have to wait for the shuttle to pick you up at "The Loop" and drop you off back at Logan Pass.
There are lots to do and lots to see and every mile in Glacier National Park is another mile of American beauty I hope to always remember.