Growing up in Colorado, I didn’t think there was a national park that would ever be as good as Rocky Mountain National Park. That was until I went to Glacier National Park. The scenery, the wildlife, the hiking, the camping…..Let’s just say I would love to go back to Glacier to see more of the park.
One of my best friends and I started off our first annual girls trip going to Glacier in June of 2017. Unfortunately, in early June the Going to the Sun Road was still closed and I believe it ended up opening a couple weeks after we left. It wasn’t a huge deal, it just altered our route to each side of the park. We wanted to go late enough so it wasn’t too freezing cold but early enough so it wasn’t packed with people. Overall, I think June was a fine time to go but next time I would wait a couple more weeks.
Glacier National Park is over one million acres as compared to RMNP which is just under 266,000 acres. Glacier is massive so, of course, there was a ton of stuff that we wanted to do in our short amount of time there. Unfortunately, we had to pick and choose as we could not do everything we wanted in the weeks time we were there. These are the hikes/sites we completed during our visit in the park:
- Iceberg Lake (9.7 miles)
- Grinnell Glacier (7.6 miles)
- St Mary Falls (1.7 miles)
- Avalanche Lake (4.5 miles)
- Lake McDonald
- Apgar Village (Lake McDonald Views)
- Fish Creek Path (1.2 mile path along the west shore of the Lake McDonald)
One of the best websites I visited to learn more about the hiking in the park was: http://www.hikinginglacier.com/glacier-national-park-day-hikes.htm
This website list all of the hiking trails within the park, the region of the park in which it is located, the difficulty level, and the round trip mileage. It was nice to be able to know this information in order to prepare for it.
Our first 2 nights we camped at the Many Glacier Campground. Even for it still being a tad early-ish in the season, it was packed. Unfortunately, only so many of their campsites are pre-booked online. The rest are first come first serve. We thankfully found a campsite the morning we got there!
𝕀ℂ𝔼𝔹𝔼ℝ𝔾 𝕃𝔸𝕂𝔼: Iceberg Lake was our first hike and was the longest mileage at nearly 10 miles. We decided to do our longest hike on the first day versus at the end where we felt we might be fatigued. You start at the Iceberg Lake Trailhead (original, right?!) and this is in the Many Glacier region of the park. You can fine more about the trail description here: http://www.hikinginglacier.com/iceberg-lake.htm This hike offers some fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail gives you both hiking out in the open, along with hiking in some dense forest. Along the way, you will pass Ptarmigan Falls. The last mile or so of the hike was all snow and the frozen lake was the brightest blue color. It was very pretty.
𝔾ℝ𝕀ℕℕ𝔼𝕃𝕃 𝔾𝕃𝔸ℂ𝕀𝔼ℝ: Grinnell Glacier is also located in the Many Glacier region of the park. This was our second longest hike at 7.6 miles round trip. This trail has you starting a Swiftcurrent Lake which will lead you to Lake Josephine. From there, you hike around the lake to get to the Grinnell Glacier Trail. If you do not choose to hike all of this, there are shuttle boats available to get across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. This will take 5 miles off of your trip and the trail description at this website is from the perspective of taking the shuttles: http://www.hikinginglacier.com/grinnell-lake.htm
I am not sure if the shuttle boats only run during peak season. When we went, the boats were not running but we wanted to hike it anyways. On our way to Grinnell Lake, we found a very fresh pile of bear poop and sure enough, on our way back down we saw a grizzly cooling off in Lake Josephine. Bring your bear spray!
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After a few days in the Many Glacier area of the park, we went to the east side which is the St. Mary’s area. We only camped here for one night. It was nice to see more of the park; however, the camping was not as nice as in Many Glacier. We also ran into a big thunderstorm that first night in St. Mary’s. When we arrived to this area we took the opportunity to drive up Going to the Sun Road as far as we could before reaching the closed area (due to snow). There were a lot of beautiful areas to pull off to the side to take in the view
𝕊𝕋 𝕄𝔸ℝ𝕐 𝔽𝔸𝕃𝕃𝕊: If you are looking for a easy and short trail that has some nice features, then the hike to St. Mary Falls would suit you. This was a short 1.7 mile hike with easy trail conditions. This hike has a couple of forks in the trail and if you want to make your way to this destination you will keep right for both forks. The end has some nice views of waterfalls. The hike towards the falls was also full of some beautiful scenery as you are walking through forest and there are a lot of wildflowers around to add a pop of color.
After a short time in the St. Mary’s area of the park, we drove around the park (since Going to the Sun Road was closed through the park) to get to one of the main entrances which is the Lake McDonald area of the park. It appears that this is the most common entrance as there is a lot of lodging options and stores here. We stayed a little cabin in Apgar village that was right on the water of Lake McDonald. Our first day there, we decided to pitch our hammocks right on the lake for some relaxation and took in some beautiful views of the mountains over the lake
𝔸𝕍𝔸𝕃𝔸ℕℂℍ𝔼 𝕃𝔸𝕂𝔼: Avalanche lake is rated as a moderate hike and is 4.5 miles. I did think this hike was too bad. A majority of the time, you were on relatively flat trail. But every once in a while, you would hit a short spurt of trail that was directly uphill. The day we did this hike it was misty and cold. So once we got to the lake/falls, it was pretty overcast and very windy!
𝕃𝔸𝕂𝔼 𝕄𝕔𝔻𝕆ℕ𝔸𝕃𝔻: Along the west side of lake, there is a bike trail called Fish Creek Path. This is a nice flat trail that follows alongside the lake. Again, it offers nice views of the lake with the mountains in the background.