Courtesy Glacier Park, Inc.
Courtesy Montana Office of Tourism
Courtesy Montana Office of Tourism
Compared to most areas in the North American West, Glacier has lots of water. There are 131 named lakes in the Park, approximately 200 lakes are over five acres. Lake McDonald is the largest (10 miles long) and deepest (464 feet) body of water in the park. Glacier's water can be considered the headwaters of the entire continent. From Triple Divide Peak, a droplet can theoretically split 3 ways and eventually make it to the Pacific, Atlantic and Hudson Bay watersheds.
BEST HIKING TRAILS
Trail of the Cedars. Shaded by western red cedars, dotted by red argillite rock and ferns, this ½-mile hike is accompanied by the rushing sounds of Avalanche Creek’s tumbling waters.
Iceberg Lake Trail. This 9½-mile round trip hike follows along Ptarmigan Wall, beargrass-spiked meadows, and Iceberg Creek before it reach the turquoise-blue 6,100-foot lake.
Grinnell Glacier Trail. From Many Glacier Hotel, board the boats across Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes and hike 8 miles into spectacular high-altitude alpine country to Grinnell Glacier, the park’s most accessible glacier. 406/257-2426 or glacierparkboats.com.
The Garden Wall. Hike 12.6 miles from the Logan Pass Visitor Center (accessible by shuttle) along the rocky spine of the Garden Wall to Granite Park Chalet at 7,000 feet, surrounded by wildflowers, a crown of peaks, mountain goats, then descend down to the Loop, where you can catch a shuttle back to Logan Pass.
Two Medicine Lake. Cruise 45 minutes along Two Medicine Lake, shadowed by 9,513-foot Rising Wolf Mountain, then hike 1.8-miles roundtrip hike to the Twin Falls spur trail. The ambitious can add on the 4.4-mile round trip to Upper Two Medicine Lake. 406/892-2525 or glacierparkinc.com.
For trail maps, see the Glacier National Park Service website; nps.gov/glac.
Red Jammer buses. Spend your days in Glacier carefree and carless, being transported in the historic 1930s-era red “jammer” buses (so nicknamed because early stick-shift drivers would jam the bus gears going up hills). Each 25-foot-long bus is painted bright red, with a black canvas roof that rolls back to offer its 17 passengers fresh air and a clear view of the mountain scenery. The buses run almost all over this huge park, but where they don’t go you can add the occasional boat, canoe, horseback, or hiking tour.
Drive along U.S. 2. Head southwest from East Glacier Park along U.S. 2 and you’ll pass small ranches and get glimpses of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Don’t miss the wildlife pullout called Goat Lick. In the late-afternoon light, scan the far cliffs above the Flathead River. Take binoculars and you are sure to spot wildlife.
Going-to-the-Sun Road. This ultimate mountain drive is 52 miles of wonderment and hits all of Glacier’s highlights. The road begins at West Glacier, hairpins at the notorious Loop, passes Lake McDonald, and culminates dramatically at Logan Pass and the Continental Divide.
Bird Woman Falls. Water tumbles from a 492-foot hanging valley to a larger U-shaped valley below. At the nearby Weeping Wall, water drips onto the road from striated rock cliffs, created during the road’s construction. Both attractions are accessible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Amtrak Empire Builder. The very best way to arrive is to roll in on this scenic overnight train, which serves park gateways East Glacier, West Glacier, and Essex, Montana. amtrak.com.
Two Medicine Lake. If the water’s calm, you can rent a rowboat or canoe to paddle under the looming presence of Sinopah Mountain. Or you can take a narrated cruise on the handsome ’30s-era launch that bears the mountain’s name.
Lake McDonald. Stretching northeast for some 10 miles from near the west entrance to the park, Lake McDonald has a beauty that seems easy, almost lazy, with dense forest sloping down to the glass-smooth water. Lake McDonald is the Western starting point for the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
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