Glacier National Park is a bit off the beaten track in Northern Montana. For us it involved a bit of driving to get there, but it was worth it.
We drove into Glacier National Park early one morning. We had driven until late the night before, and stayed in a motel just outside the park. Whenever we’re in a National Park, our eyes are always searching for wildlife. And at Glacier, on our first trip into the park, we were rewarded. We saw a grizzly bear walking along the side of the road. Now, it was quite a ways back, in a field, so we stopped our car, hopped out, and bear watched for a while. That was our introduction to Glacier National Park and the beginning of an experience that just kept getting better.
We started our time at the park on the east side of the park. That morning we were headed for our first hike—to Iceberg Lake. We decided to go on the ranger-lead hike leaving that morning. We were a little uncertain about how many grizzlies we’d see, so we opted for protection with a ranger, rather than be on our own. We were lucky to get a great ranger—Ranger Dave—who ended up staying with us the whole day, and even came back with our family.
The hike is uphill, but gradual (except at the very beginning), so the hiking wasn’t too bad. It’s about a 10 mile round trip hike. The views were beautiful.
You can’t experience the beauty of Glacier National Park unless you get out on one of these hikes. At one point, Sterling spotted a moose, and luckily it was far away from us down the mountain.
We reached Iceberg Lake, and dipped our toes in. It was freezing! Natalie actually fell in, and was so cold that we had to strip her clothes off and put her in one of Sterling’s extra shirts. At the urging of some guys in our group, Alicia and Emilee decided to swim out to part of an iceberg floating in the middle of the lake. They stripped off some of their clothes, and jumped in. Alicia became so cold that she couldn’t pull herself onto the iceberg! Emilee, who helped her up, to this day still talks about saving Alicia’s life at Iceberg Lake. I was relieved when they finally made it back to shore—shivering uncontrollably.
The next day our hiking destination was Grinnell Glacier. This is a longer hike, and we had hoped to take the boat across Swiftcurrent Lake to cut off some of the mileage. But when we tried to make reservations the day before, the boats were all full. So it just meant we got to go on a longer hike! We had thought about going with a ranger group again, and actually met up with one, but we decided that we wanted to move faster than the group.
This hike was more strenuous than the hike to Iceberg Lake, but also well worth the effort. The alpine meadows are beautiful, and the turquoise lakes are stunning. At one stop along the way, Natalie, who was probably six or seven at the time, commented on how beautiful it was.
The hike is about 15 miles round trip, if you start, like us, at the very beginning. As we got closer to the glacier, we encountered two grizzly cubs. We immediately started making lots of noise to scare them off, and also headed back down the trail a ways. We figured the mother bear had to be close by. After a while, the cubs left, but it took us a while to convince Alicia to continue on. She wanted to just head down or actually run down the mountain, but the rest of us convinced her to continue.
After exploring the glacier, and taking lots of pictures, we headed back. On the way down, we ran out of water—which was not a fun thing. We thought we’d been prepared with two water bottles each, but that wasn’t enough with the hot day.
After spending two days on the east side of Glacier, we spent the third day casually crossing to the west side via the Going to the Sun Road, making several stops along the way. We stopped at Logan Pass where we also did some hiking.
It was especially fun to see all the mountain goats. Alicia and Emilee were so wiped out from the hikes from the previous two days that they spent a bit of time in the car, but they came out for some of the sites as we made our journey to the other side of the park. We spent that night in the West Glacier area.
Glacier National Park is definitely one of our favorite National Parks. But as I mentioned, to really enjoy it, you have to get out of your car and hike, hike and hike.
If you’re interested, here is the information on where we stayed and some memorable eating places:
On the east side:
St. Mary KOA Campground—you may be thinking, “Okay, I’m not going to haul all of my camping stuff to Glacier National Park.” I’m with you on that. This KOA has cabins, which sleep up to six, so they were perfect for us. We did have to bring sleeping bags and pillows, which may not appeal to everyone. But it was one of the more economical places to stay, just a mile out of the park, and we really liked it. It even had a pool, which was nice.
Park Café—we ate here a couple of times. Their pie is great! Hence, why we went several times.
On the west side:
West Glacier KOA—again we rented a cabin here. We had fun cooking over a fire for dinner (strictly stick cooking because we had no other camping gear), and having s’mores for dessert.