Glacier at a Glance–5 Can’t-Miss-‘Em spots

Glacier at a Glance, the Crown of the Continent pt. 1
February 15, 2016
Viking Ultra Light 16B
March 19, 2016

Now that you’ve decided that Glacier National Park is going to be your next vacation destination, what exactly are you going to do there?  We’ve compiled a list of some of the Can’t-Miss-‘Em spots to see while you’re visiting Glacier National Park in Montana.

 

Going To The Sun Road::

Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park

-One of Glacier National Park’s most famous attractions! Receiving it’s name in 1933, the Going-To-The-Sun Road is based (in theory) off an age old Blackfeet legend.  It is believed that the deity, Sour Spirit, came down from his place on the sun to teach Blackfeet braves to hunt; when his task was completed and he was headed back to the sun, Sour Spirit had is image “reproduced on the top of the mountain for inspiration to the Blackfeet”, hence Going-To-The-Sun. Portions of this amazing miniature-road-trip route are open all year long, but trust us, once the snow starts falling you won’t be sad about that fact! If you want to experience Going To The Sun, plan your trip from late June or early July, typically the road is fully open by that point in the year.  However, if you make your trek to Glacier past early October you may have missed your opportunity to experience the road in its full glory.  Remember, this is a mountain pass after all, expect tight curves, mountain-hugging-stretches, and a few moments where your passenger will be able to see just how high you actually are while looking over the road edge.  Stretching approximately 50 miles from East to West, this jaunt through Glacier will take roughly 2 hours to complete….depending on how many times you stop along the way to take in the awe-inspiring views!

Chief Mountain::

Chief Mountain, Glacier National Park

-Standing proud high above the breaks between the mountains and plains, Ninaistako (Chief Mountain),  is one of the few mountains that is named on early maps, and after seeing its intimidating stature in person, it isn’t hard to understand why. Straddling the boundary between Glacier National Park and a Blackfoot Reservation to the east, this 9,000+ foot mountain stands guard over the plains and can be seen up to 100 miles away.  With upper layers that are over 600 million years old, it is hard to not stand in awe when you come face to face with this sacred Blackfoot symbol, which is considered the “oldest spirit of any of the mountains and creation stories of the Blackfoot People are linked to it”.     A haven for mountaineers, the eastern face rises over 1,500 vertical feet and the easiest section is rated a class 4 (only attempt if you are an experience climber!) and the first known ascent was in 1892 by two explorers and a member of the Blackfoot tribe.   If climbing isn’t your thing, it is at least worth the drive to take in its beauty.

“White Man’s Dog raised his eyes to the west and followed the Backbone of the World from north to south until he could pick out Chief Mountain. It stood apart from the other mountains, not as tall as some but strong, its square face a landmark to all who passed.” — Fools Crow by James Welch

Lake McDonald::

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

-With over 200 lakes in the park, Lake McDonald is the largest, stretching to 10 miles long, and the deepest, extending to over 450 feet deep! The central hub on the west side of Glacier, the valley that it sits in was carved out of massive, you guessed it, glaciers moving through the area thousands of years ago.  This lake is a perfect example of the glacial carving that made this corner of Montana as spectacular as it is.  High peaks, carved out by the massive movement of ice, surround the lake providing the best real-world example of glacial movement.  You will find Lake McDonald lodge, built in 1913, tucked into the shores of the lake that offers lodging (if you are skipping the camper) as well as Ranger-led programs.  There are 4 campgrounds surrounding Lake McDonald:

  • Apgar-The Largest campground in Glacier National Park, is host to gift shops, visitor centers, resturaunts, horseback rides, boat rentals, shuttles, etc.  Providing space for both tents and pop-up campers or travel trailers, you have access to flush restrooms and running water.  However, this site is first come-first served, so start your quest early!
  • Avalanche– Situated between old growth cedar and hemlock, this campground stays cooler during the summer months.  Accomodating pop-up campers and travel trailers, you will find a more rustic experience. Two popular day hikes have their trailheads at the campground (Avalanche Lake and Trail of the Cedars which is handicap accessible) as well as the Avalance Amphitheater which hosts Ranger talks almost every night.  This campground is first-come, first served as well.
  • Fish Creek– Located about 2.5 miles from the Apgar campground, this is the second largest within the park.  Being surrounded by trees allows not only shade, but privacy as well.  Another great location to bring your pop-ups or travel trailers, this campground offers filtered views of the lake. For those who like to experience the outdoors but not smell like the outdoors, this is your campground with potable water, flush toilets, sinks with running water and SHOWERS!! This is one of the two campgrounds in the park that takes reservations so book away.
  • Sprague Creek– The smalles tof the campgrounds, Sprague Creek calls the northeast shore of Lake McDonald home, less than 10 miles from the West entrance of the park.  This campsite isn’t trailer friendly, but a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of towables into your own little piece of heaven! Some sites allow you unobstructed views of Lake McDonald and the access to the Going-to-the-Sun Road make it a great spot for those on the move.  This site is first-come, first-served and house only 25-sites.

Grinnell Glacier::

Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park

-Named after George Bird Grinnell, an early American conservationist and explorer, was one of the leading advocates for the creation of Glacier National Park.  Located in the Lewis Range of the Many Glacier region of the park, Grinnell Glacier is one of the most photographed glaciers in the park, dating back to the 19th century.  In 1993, the glacier measured just over 200 acres, and in the decades since has lost almost 40% of its acreage.  To get the best views of this declining glacier, hop onto the Grinnell Glacier Trail! about 7.5 miles round trip, with a total elevation gain of 1840 feet, this strenuous hike pays off once you reach the top….unobstructed views of one of the most iconic parts of Glacier National Park.

 

Bird Woman Falls::

Bird Woman Falls, Glacier National Park

  • Situated immediately west of the continental divide and along the Going-to-the-Sun Road;  Flowing down the front of Mount Oberlin, this 600-foot waterfall is fed by remnant glacier melt, can be seen for up to two miles away.  Fed from the snowfields and glaciers above, the falls tend to flow greatest in late Spring and early Summer.  If you’re planning your trip for Autumn, you may have missed these beautiful falls!

 

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