Glacier National Park Vacations
Most Glacier National Park vacations begin with the Going-To-The-Sun-Road.
This is a classic cliff-hanger, and one of the most spectacular
drives in the world. Be aware, however, that if you are in anything
wider than a van, you're in for a interesting ride, but none-the-less
a beautiful one (some vehicles are not allowed). The 50-mile
long road follows the shores of the parks largest lakes at either
end, and in-between it hangs from the cliffs and gives you a
good scare. Make it a point to stop at the scenic turnouts, and
especially at Logan Pass, the high point. The views are spectacular.
Hiking Vacations in Glacier
In Glacier National Park, hiking feels, at times, like you
are walking in a dream. The mountain scenery is some of the most
dramatic and colorful on Earth. There are over 1,000,000 acres
of forests, alpine meadows, and lakes. There are also over 70
species of mammals, and over 260 species of birds in the park.
Glacier is one of the largest intact ecosystems in the lower
48 states, and with 700 miles of maintained trails, it is also
a hikers paradise.
In 1932 Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park, in Canada,
were designated Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Glacier
and Waterton Lakes have both been designated as Biosphere Reserves
and together were recognized, in 1995, as a World Heritage Site.
Hiking trails cross the border, and there are usually no customs
officials (just a sign).
Hiking to Grinnell Glacier
My wife and I hiked the trail to Grinnell Glacier on our last
vacation in the Glacier National Park, and we recommend it to
anyone who loves hiking in the mountains. We stopped to watch
the colors change from deep green to blue in the lakes far below
us, and Bighorn Sheep stopped to watch us. The trail was well
maintained, and relatively busy. You really have to go deep into
the interior of the park to find solitude, but you won't regret
hiking any of the trails in this park.
The Glacier itself is still there, but plan your vacations
soon if you want to see it. All of the glaciers in the park are
getting smaller, and may be gone within 20 years. You can walk
out onto Grinnell glacier, and you'll probably have company when
you do. It is a hike of only a couple hours to get to it, and
it is well visited.
One of the things I love about Glacier National Park is the
abundance of wild berries. We ate them continually on our hike
to and from the glacier. It was late summer, probably the best
time for hiking vacations in the park, both because of the berries
being ripe, and due to the weather (the trails are finally clear
of snow). In the visitors centers you can buy books on the plants
in the park, or on edible wild plants in general. We were already
familiar with the berries of Montana, and ate at least nine types
Hiking With Grizzly Bears
Don't surprise the bears! Glacier National Park has grizzly
bears, which are far more dangerous than black bears. They'll
generally move out of your way if they hear you coming, so make
some noise as you hike. We saw a lot of people hiking with bear
bells, but the park people say they usually are not loud enough.
Calling out or clapping hands loudly at regular intervals may
work, and you may want to have a good loud conversation.
Again, don't surprise bears! People have been charged and
injured by bears fleeing from silent hikers who unwittingly surprised
bears along the trail. Even if other hikers haven't recently
seen bears along a trail section recently, don't assume there
are no bears present. You can't predict when and where bears
might be encountered along a trail.
Hiking in groups is safer, as is hiking in the middle of the
day. Ask the park staff about the trails you'll be hiking, and
they can tell you about any recent grizzly activity, and what
you should watch for. Probably the berry patches we were hiking
through on our way to Grinnell Glacier were some of the worst
places to be, but then they were along the trail, and thus unavoidable.
There are a couple bear attacks every year in Glacier National
Park, but considering the thousands of vacations taken there,
and the million hikers on the trails each year, attacks are relatively
rare. So what should you do if you run into a grizzly? Here are
some suggestions straight from the park web site:
Talk quietly or not at all; the time to make loud noise is
before you encounter a bear. Try to detour around the bear if
Do not run! Back away slowly, but stop if it seems to agitate
Assume a non threatening posture. Turn sideways, or bend at
the knees to appear smaller.
Use peripheral vision. Bears appear to interpret direct eye
contact as threatening.
Drop something (not food) to distract the bear. Keep your
pack on for protection in case of an attack.
If a bear attacks and you have pepper spray, use it!
If the bear makes contact, protect your chest and abdomen
by falling to the ground on your stomach, or assuming a fetal
position to reduce the severity of an attack. Cover the back
of your neck with your hands. Do not move until you are certain
the bear has left.
In rare cases bears may attack at night or after stalking
This kind of attack is very rare but can be very serious because
it often means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.
If you are attacked at night, or feel you have been stalked
and attacked as prey, try to escape. If you can't escape, or
if the bear follows, use pepper spray, or shout and try to intimidate
the bear with a branch or rock. Do whatever it takes to let the
bear know you are not easy prey.
Hiking and Camping Vacations: Permits
Plan ahead if you are going into the back country hiking and
camping. You'll need permits, and they are limited. For more
information on all activities in the park, visit the official
Park Web Site.
Weather in Glacier National Park
Vacations in Glacier require preparation, because the weather
changes quickly and often. The valleys can be over 90 degrees
Fahrenheit in summer, while in the areas above tree line, it
is frequently up to 20 degrees cooler. The east side of the park
gets strong winds at times. Overnight lows throughout the park
can be below freezing, and snow can fall anytime. Back in August
of 1992, twelve inches of snow fell on the northeastern corner
So even if you start out sightseeing in a T-shirt and shorts
you might need a parka by evening. Bottom line: you need to prepare
for a variety of weather conditions and pack accordingly. Dress
in layers, and be sure to bring rainwear. Glacier receives up
to three inches of rain per month in summer. You can find more
weather information on the Park Web Site.
Other Glacier National Park Vacations
You certainly aren't limited to hiking, backpacking or camping
vacations in Glacier. There are wonderful lodges both in the
park and in the towns, West Glacier, and East Glacier Park. There
are tours in classic the classic old red park busses through
the park. There is so much to see, even if you are not able to
get out of the car much. For more information Glacier national
Park Vacations, visit the Glacier Park Website.
Related Page: Montana Mountains