Glacier National Park, an Overview
I have wanted to make the trek to Glacier National Park for years now, so it was nice to see my desires realized. While I was there, Glacier was celebrating its 100 years as a National Park. 100 years ago there were more than 150 glaciers in the park; today, sadly only 25 remain—which was certainly a disappointment since the few that remain are difficult to reach, as much of the park is inaccessible by vehicle.
Glacier National Park is quite stunning, with beautiful ice-carved terrain of ragged ridges, protruding peaks and dramatic vistas—with over 200 lakes, waterfalls abound and thick forests covering more than 1.2-million acres. Deer are among the most commonly spotted wildlife but elk, moose, mountain goats, eagles, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly and black bears (I actually saw a grizzly right at the west entrance one day) roam its wild vastness.
The Great Northern Railway is to thank for the development and tourism to Glacier as they built chalets to market the Park as the “Switzerland of America”. Although many of the chalets no longer exist, Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet are still open to the public. The most popular route to Granite Park Chalet is a seven-mile hike along the Highline Trail from Logan Pass. Glacier Park Lodge and Many Glacier Hotel are also cool lodges to visit.
During the summer months, wildflowers are quite abundant and put on a show of color as they follow spring up the mountains all summer long. It’s interesting to see how the flowers bloom up the mountains as the season and warmer weather prevail.
The massive peaks of the Continental Divide in northwest Montana are the backbone of Glacier National Park and its sister park in Canada (Waterton). Glacier National Park is unique among US parks in its relationship with the Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. The two parks meet at the border shared by the two countries. In 1932, the parks were designated the first International Peace Park in recognition of the bonds of peace and friendship between the two nations. From their slopes, melting snow and alpine glaciers yield the headwaters of rivers that flow west to the Pacific Ocean, north to the Arctic Ocean, and southeast to the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico.
Things to see and do in Glacier National Park:
- Go to the Sun: Crossing the Continental Divide at the 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass, Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road is a spectacular drive.
- Witness the Divide: The rugged mountains that weave their way through Glacier and Waterton along the Continental Divide seem to have glaciers in every hollow melting into tiny streams, raging rivers and icy-cold mountain lakes.
- Hike It: There are more than 700 mi of trails that cater to hikers of all levels—from all-day hikes to short strolls.
- View the Wildlife: This is one of the few places in North America where all native carnivores, including grizzlies and wolves still survive. Bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes and black & grizzly bears can often be seen from roadways.
- Go Fishing: Over 200 lakes and streams to sport-fish species including: burbot (ling), northern pike, whitefish, grayling, Westslope cutthroat, rainbow, lake (Mackinaw), kokanee salmon, and brook trout.
In summer a plethora of flowers, grasses and budding trees covers the landscape high and low. Snow-white mountain goats, with their wispy white beards and curious stares, are seen in alpine areas, and sure-footed bighorn sheep graze the high meadows in the short summers. The largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states lives in-and-around the park.
Since I visited Glacier during the summer, I can only imagine the contrast of the winter and how wonderful it would be to go exploring with a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes.
I spent over a week in the Glacier National Park area; while I was there I camped out a few nights and also stayed in some of the finest lodges around. Glacier Mountain Lodge is absolutely spectacular and located just twenty minutes from the west entrance in Columbia Falls. The location of Glacier Mountain Lodge also makes it convenient to visit the Flathead Lake or Whitefish areas. Click Glacier Mountain Lodge Review to read more and see my video.
Also while in the area I stayed at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, which is also fabulous. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is more “resort” like and offers all the amenities you would expect from a fine lodging establishment…outstanding dining, spa, water sports and so much more.
To see see my pics of Glacier National Park, check out the Photo Gallery.