As part of our #YourLead road trip adventure, Alex and I made our way up to Montana to hang out in Glacier National Park for a long weekend between visits to stores.
Kam Goes to: Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park wasn’t on my radar until some friends of some friends went last year and came back with only amazing things to say about the park. I knew Alex and I would get to the park eventually, but after hearing more about their adventures and all the trails in the park we knew we had to get there earlier rather than later.
We started to do some basic research as we prepared for the trip and I knew it would be a park we would want to spend as much time as possible visiting.
We’ll never learn to stop visiting northern parks in early June because there will most likely be snow. We ran into snow when we visited Mt. Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park in June a few years ago, so news that the Going to the Sun Road was closed at Avalanche Creek due to snow wasn’t a surprise.
We fell in love with Glacier National Park.
The photos above are from the Johns Lake Loop trail, which has great views of McDonald Falls and is located where McDonald Creek meets Lake McDonald. The trail is very well traveled and is the busiest at the bridges. This trail reminded me of hiking in the Pacific Northwest: unbelievable greens, moss at every turn, and an overcast sky. This was a great first hike in Glacier NP for us.
National Park Tip: Hiking and nature trails are very popular throughout all the parks. To get away from the crowds, go a little further! You will find that there are a lot less visitors on the trail after the first mile from the parking lot. Prepare for a longer hike and enjoy the views!
We spent most of our time on the west side of the park, so staying in the West Glacier KOA (see my review of Kampgrounds of America here) was the perfect location for us. We stayed in a cabin for two nights and in a regular camping spot for two nights.
It’s very close to the park entrance and far enough off of the main road that you feel secluded from the traffic leading into the park.
We brought our Tribe Provisions hammock with us in hopes we would be able to finally use it. We spent one morning in camp to clean up a bit and relax. Alex caught me napping in the hammock and caught this photo. It was really comfortable and I like that it is wide enough that I could use the sides as a blanket to cover myself from the sun. If you’re in the market for an adventure hammock, the price of this one is fantastic.
We did end up taking a scenic drive to the east side of the park because the Going to the Sun Road was closed. I’m not even sure the van we were driving would be allowed on the Going to the Sun Road due to size limits! We measured the van and I think it is 4 inches too wide (from side mirror to side mirror) for the road.
We went hiking in the Many Glacier of the park. The trail to the Grinnell Glacier lookout was closed due to dangerous conditions. A ranger suggested we visit Grinnell Lake via Swiftcurrent Lake and Josephine Lake. You can pay to take a set of boats across the lakes if you are not interested in hiking the roughly 7.5 mile loop. You will still need to hike a bit, but not as much as walking from the trail head to the lake and back.
This hike does not have a lot of elevation gain, so it isn’t a lung-busting hike like many of the others in the park. Check with your doctor before heading out on an hike or participating in physical activity.
Another bonus for doing the full hike? You’ll also save money by not taking the boats!
The weather was perfect when we were in the park: Sunny but cool enough for layers to be necessary.
It was warm enough on Sunday to enjoy a rest day of kayaking on Lake McDonald. We rented kayaks in the Apgar Village, which is close to the boating area and small beach along the shore. We spent two hours on the water relaxing and enjoying the views. We ended up floating around an area of the lake where the shore is off-limits due to nesting and we spotted a bald eagle perched on top of a tree. We could see two nests nearby and hear eaglets chirping!
Glacier National Park is bear country, and there are plenty of signs throughout the park reminding visitors to carry bear spray and to lock up food or use bear lockers. We only encountered one bear while near the park as it ran across the road as we drove near Flathead Lake! Thank goodness the van had good brakes!
While in and around the park, we ate our usual tuna sandwiches and snacks from the store. When it came to dinner (and one fantastic breakfast), we ate at: Russell’s Fireside Dining Room at Lake McDonald Lodge, Carolyn’s Cafe (seriously, fantastic breakfast!), and Glacier Grill and Pizza.
Glacier National Park will be one of the parks we hit again in the future. There is so much of the park we weren’t able to see, and I would love to spend time in the backcountry.
Have you visited Glacier National Park? What should I see the next time I go?