The rest of our scenic hikes – Glacier NP, MT

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Two Medicine Lake
Big Horn Sheep

Howdy folks, welcome to my trail!

Although we’ve spent three weeks at Glacier National Park, we hiked only a few of its 734 miles of trails.  This place offers many outdoor activities, but exploring on foot remains our preferred method.

This is my 4th post about the park, and I hope folks remain interested in seeing the incredible views, wildlife and wildflowers there.

If you missed those previous posts, click here for enchanting waterfalls, here for picturesque lakes and here for receding glaciers.

Logan Pass

Showing off my bear spray

Highland Trail (at Logan’s Pass)

One of the top hikes at GNP is the moderately-difficult Highland Trail.  If you can do only one hike, this might be the one.  It’s rather long at 7.6 miles one way, but there’s a nice turnaround spot at Haystack Butte or anywhere else along the way if you’re just looking for a short trek that displays the best that the park has to offer.

The trail follows the Continental Divide below the sawtoothed Garden Wall and gains 1,300′ (and losses 3,700′ if you go all the way to the Loop at Granite Park Chalet).  The first 7.6 miles from Logan’s Pass to the chalet filled our eyes and camera cards with the incredible beauty of this place.  We trekked past streams, creeks, avalanche chutes, alpine meadows, wildflowers galore and several Bighorn Sheep.

The final 4 miles on the Loop Trail from the chalet is a steep downhill knee-rattling hike through burned forests to the Loop Shuttle Stop.  But what a hike it was!

Highline Trail

The start of the trail near Logan’s Pass

Livingstone Pass

The sun slowly creeping up on the Livingston Range

Highline Trail

Looking down at Going-to-the Sun Road on the west side of the park

Alpine Meadows

Oh the flowers, the flowers!

Highline Trail

Granite park Chalet

Historic Granite Park Chalet ahead

Garden Wall

This spur trail leads to the Garden Wall overlooking Grinnell and Salamander Glaciers.  It’s another strenuous trail off the Highline Trail, and we didn’t add it to this long journey

Heavens Peak

Heavens Peak was visible on our descent

2016-07-31-MT-1420674.jpg

Loop trail

The hillsides on the steep descent were brimming with scarlet red Indian Paintbrush

For this hike, we parked at Logan’s Pass at 7AM, hiked the trail 11.6 miles one way over the Highline and Loop trails, then caught the shuttle at the Loop Shuttle Stop to get back to the visitor center at Logan’s Pass.  It was a long and fantastic hike.

Big Horn Sheep

This guy was not shy at all, and for once I was the one running away when he got too close!

Scenic Point (Two Medicine Lake area)

On paper, this one scared us a bit.  A 2,300′ elevation gain over 3.9 miles to the top?  Honey, hand me the Advil!  In reality the incline was constant over the whole ascent, with none of the knee-killing super-steep ascents I had feared.

Foal

Morning stroll for the foals as we drove to our hike

Ferocious local horses on Highway 49

Lots of horsepower along Hwy 49

This trail gradually leaves the woods behind and just as we crested a ridge some barren patches of dead trees came into view.  The chalk-white trees were a result of Whitebark Pine Blister Rust, a fungal disease that was accidentally introduced from Europe around 1900. According to a park brochure, nearly half of the original Whitebark Pine population here is already dead.  It’s estimated that more than 75% of the remaining trees are infected with the disease as well, and they will die within the next 20 years.  Very sad, and major scientific work is being done to squash the epidemic.

Ghost Pine Trees

Ghostly Pine Trees

Ghost Pine Trees

Dancers on a hill

Two Medicine Lake is out of the main area of the park, and much quieter – we encountered only a few people on the way back down.

Two Medicine Lake

Two Medicine Lake

Apgar Lookout (west side of the park)

The day we tackled this 7.1-mile out and back trail, rain was forecast to arrive at 11AM.  To get ahead of it we began early and picked up the trailhead at the southwest corner of the park.  It climbed to a two-story wood frame lookout tower at the summit that was built in 1929.

Although no longer in use, the fire tower is considered an historical structure, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  For the most part this trail is exposed, as the area was ravaged by the 2003 Reynolds fire that gutted 13% of the park’s total area.

Apgar Lookout

At the summit, we had a so-so view of Lake McDonald and some of the distant peaks of Glacier NP.  We enjoyed our perch for only a short time, as we could feel the weather change and hear thunder in the distance.  Even though it rained on us a bit on the way back to the car, we got a great workout hustling down the mountain.

A couple of feathered friends gave us “the eye” as we made our way along:

Apgar Lookout

New growth – things are looking good after the Reynolds Fire of 2003

Danny On Trail

This trail is actually outside of Glacier NP and on the nearby Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort.  What makes it interesting is that it offers options to ride the ski lift down after a 4-mile hike up to the summit, or up first to hike back down.  We had originally intended to hike up and down, but an appointment for Betsy forced us to pick one – and of course we chose to hike up and ride the lift back down.

Danny on Trail

I finally succumbed and got hiking poles, thanks to my knee injury

Danny on Trail

Another mile to the summit, then an easy cruise back down on the lift

Danny On Trail

Whitefish Lake and Mountain Resort seen from the ski lift

After all the crazy roads Betsy has been on, we finally got a big rock hit on a nice stretch of Montana highway.  It cracked about 6″, and we called a repair guy to come out and try to stop it from progressing.

The crack is near the bottom of the windshield, so it’s not in our field of view as we drive.  If we make it in and out of Canada with no further damage, we’ll reassess and determine whether to replace the windshield.

Betsy windshield

Betsy’s windshield repair – hoping for the best!

Socialize and Patronize

John and Sharon of On the Road of Retirement had arrived in the area, so a meet-up was in order.  We had lots of catching up to do, since we last saw them when we met in Florida in January of 2014.  It appears our paths will be criss-crossing this coming winter, and we’re looking forward to more get-togethers with them.

John and Sharon

After 2 1/2 years we meet again with John and Sharon for beer and good munchies

We had a blast shopping at the local stands and markets around Hungry Horse and Columbia Falls, getting all the goodies we’ll need for the next part of our journey:

While on the west side we camped at Mountain Meadows RV Park (Steve’s review here).

Although both sides of Glacier NP offered tons of outdoor fun, we preferred hanging out on the east side, where we enjoyed less crowding and more choices of hiking trails.

And yes, we took a break from all of those scenic hikes:

Mountain Meadows RV Park

Mountain Meadows RV Park was quite to our liking

Our three weeks of exploration at Glacier NP was memorable.  It’s definitely near the top of our list of favorite National Parks!

 

Next Up:  Crossing borders again



20 thoughts on “The rest of our scenic hikes – Glacier NP, MT

  1. Brings back great memories! The ~12 mile highline trail you wrote about is still the longest hike we’ve done. Our favorite hike at Glacier was to Grinnell Glacier (via the two boats). Can’t wait to go back for another visit! -Mike & Kat / LifeRebooted

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  2. Dang, we missed you guys! We have been out at Bowman Lake Campground for a few days with no cell or wifi service. It would have been nice to meet up with you guys!

    Headed to Yellowstone today.

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  3. Really enjoyed your post and photos. You guys have hiked to places we can no longer make it to and I loved seeing your accounts. That ram was outstanding! I have never seen such horns. We will check out Meadows RV Resort next time we see Glacier from the west side. Thanks for the reco. Happy Trails you two.

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  4. These guides are awesome. They’re making it hard to hold off on heading to GNP RIGHT NOW!! Related question: Do you know – is there a “shoulder season” for the park? ie – is there a period of time we could plan to go there for a couple weeks and still have decent weather but avoid the tourist hordes? I know there’s a long part of the year that major parts of the park are closed. I just haven’t done the research to find if there’s a perfect time right before or after that when we can sneak in…. Thanks!

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    • What we’ve heard at other parks, and it probably applies here, is that the best window of opportunity would be after Labor Day and up to the first of October. Since many roads and areas there are closed through the spring and well into the summer, there’s really no option for a good visit in the spring. And after October 1st you’ll find that things in and around the park start shutting down. You should call a visitor center in the park and ask about exact dates to get accurate information. They are extremely helpful people. Good luck!
      ~Steve

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  5. Those are the best bighorn sheep photos I’ve seen. Really wonderful. Such HUGE horns. That second guy looks serious like he’s saying Get Off My Trail. Beautiful wildflowers and how neat that you can hike 12 miles and then take the shuttle back. 15 miles is about my limit in a day or my feet start seriously complaining. Really hate hearing about the blister rust. It seems something “imported” is killing every type of tree in this country. Here it’s the hemlocks. Nice effect with the B/W. I have to remember to try that some. The shot of you at Two Medicine Lake is wonderful. Not sure why you haven’t always had hiking poles. I don’t use mine all the time but they help with the downs and your knees for sure. Glad you have them. We don’t see to be able to meet up with you guys or John and Sharon. Nice to see you 4 together. Love your Mountain Meadows site. Looks like my kind of place.

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  6. Beautiful review of Glacier MonLiza. We sure hope to revisit it one day. Awesome photo of the ram…up close and personal. And the eagle is a true beauty!

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  7. We only had a day to drive through… I’m jealous! There’s so much we missed… When we took Going to the Sun Road up through Logan Pass, we could barely see the front of our truck! It was so foggy and cold! And that was in late June! Great photos and stories!

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  8. You’ve created the perfect guide book for our future adventures in Glacier. 🙂 The Highland Trail looks especially gorgeous—those wildflowers are gorgeous! Glad to see you’ve gotten some hiking poles—we finally got some a couple of years ago, and find they really help save our knees on steep hikes (especially coming down). But we’ve discovered we only like hiking with one pole—not dragging along two poles also makes it easier when we stop to take photos.

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  9. Thanks so much for taking us back:) This is such a spectacular place to hike. So glad to see you found lots of wildlife. Your photos are beautiful:)

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  10. Stunning countryside, beautiful photos, and fun tales…. your GNP posts have been a joy. I laughed as I envisioned you skedaddling away from that Ram, “Come here little tourist so I can show you why I’m called a Ram” 😆

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  11. How could we not enjoy your continued posts about GNP? Your pictures are amazing! And your story lines always interesting….makes us want more! Lol

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