Visit Glacier National Park soon

Montana’s crown jewel in the Rocky Mountains

No matter how you feel about global warming and climate change, this statement about Glacier National Park is fact: the glaciers are melting. Estimates are they’ll vanish in the next two decades.

So I encourage you to visit soon. When they’re gone, I don’t know how the rest of the park will change, such as habitat and wildlife, but the great mountains will still be there.

In Montana’s northwest corner, Glacier National Park reflects incredible beauty from its lakes, rivers and skies. Like visiting most national parks, Glacier requires careful planning, since the only highway crossing it – Going to the Sun Road – stays packed with snow until early summer and sometimes mid-July.

Glacier National Park Salamander Glacier
Salamander Glacier lies in the cliffs of the Continental Divide. Unfortunately, it’s melting fast.

Glacier National Park wildlife

We’ve visited Glacier three times. During our most recent trip this past September, we saw more wildlife than any other visit: bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats, bald eagles, coyote, marmots, ptarmigan grouse, loons, mergansers, mule deer, red fox and other critters. And of course bears, about 20 black bears but no grizzlies which had moved to higher elevations. Bears eat 40 to 60 pounds of berries a day – that’s a lot of roughage.

We kept our distance and carried bear mace for peace of mind. Many of my family’s sightings included adult sows and their young. And not surprisingly, we saw more at dusk and dawn. Few animals gave us a second glance as they concentrated on gorging themselves before the harsh winter months. But we always respect the “wild” in these animals and try to never breach their boundaries.

Boat Trip Lake Josephine
From our boat trip across Lake Josephine near Many Glacier Lodge.
Glacier National Park Wildlife Ptarmigan
A ptarmigan grouse foraging along the Logan Pass hiking trail.

Montana’s hiking jewel

Even though fires prevented us from hiking Glacier National Park’s west side, we still trekked until our feet were sore. One of the best routes was along St. Mary Lake, with connecting trails to Baring, St. Mary and Virginia falls. That’s also close to the Logan Pass Visitor Center, where the three-mile round trip hike up to the pass provides fantastic views of surrounding peaks and Hidden Lake. We have hiked this trail four times and seen mountain goats during three of those treks.

In the Many Glacier area, we’ve hiked to Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Falls, which are longer hikes with modest elevation gains. Few icebergs remain in the late summer weeks, but it’s still a gorgeous route. For a shorter hike in this region, try Redrock Lake and Redrock Falls.

Flathead River trout fly fishing
AJ of Glacier Guides treated my family to great trout fly-fishing on the Flathead River.

Trout fishing anyone?

Our daughter and son-in-law fly fish and brought along their gear. They really had a blast, especially with Glacier Guides and AJ, their fishing mentor for a day. They caught rainbow, cutthroat and hybrid trout on the Flathead River.

They also fished lakes and streams inside Glacier, one of the few national parks where anglers don’t need a license. Be sure to review regulations. And some of the hotel staff are good sources for advice about bait, hotspots and other tips.

Glacier National Park Two Medicine Lake
Glacier National Park’s Two Medicine Lake produces great early morning reflections.

Plan early for Glacier National Park

Accommodations around the park fill up quickly; inside the park, they book a year in advance. We chose Glacier Guides Lodge in West Glacier for the first half of our trip. We loved it. Rustic feel and well maintained. Super nice staff and a great variety of outdoor guide and recreation services. And a 40-second drive to Glacier Highland Restaurant where we ate three nights in a row. Try the chicken potpie, bison burger, soups and Montana craft beers.

For the second half of our vacation, we stayed inside the park at the newly renovated Many Glacier Hotel, a large historic lodge built in one of the most scenic locations in America. Good food, loved the dinner mountain trout and all the local huckleberry creations. And you’ve got hiking, photography, wildlife viewing, kayaking and boating just steps outside of the lobby.

As in past trips, we flew to Bozeman and drove from there. Mainly because we like the town, its shopping, restaurants, breweries and cowboy chi. We’ve also flown to Bozeman to begin trips to Yellowstone National Park.

Montana’s “Big Sky Country” offers a lot. Go soon. And if you can, go often.