Glacier National Park in Montana will certainly captivate you with its sights, sounds, and smells. It truly is a paradise for any outdoor enthusiast. Sparkling blue lakes and lush meadows will mesmerize you. Flowing waterfalls and colorful rocks will have you completely immersed in nature. The allure of Glacier National Park.
Glacier consists of approximately 1600 square miles and was created in the year 1910. Exploding with beauty and loaded with history, I hope to show you the magic of Montana and Glacier National Park.
Montana is such an amazing place and full of outdoor adventure. growing up in the neighboring state of North Dakota, I didn’t make the trip to Montana much. I am changing that now and have set out to explore some of the most beautiful and impressive mountains and landscapes throughout the state and more.
World’s First International Peace Park
This jagged edge mountain region in northwestern Montana is one of the first international parks in the world. With goals to commemorate friendship, a common boundary, and numerous resources; the United States and Canada joined together to create Waterton-Glacier International Peach Park.
The Rocky Mountains of Montana’s Glacier is the nation’s tenth national park and was designated as an International Peace Park World Heritage Site in 1995. Its diversity characteristics are so vast, that every change of season it comes alive. The park’s lowest elevation is at 3,150 feet at the Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River. The summit at Mount Cleveland is at the highest elevation reaching 10, 479 feet.
The Blackfeet Indian Tribe of Montana
During the early days, the Blackfeet people are living on these landscapes long before early settlers arrived. The northern plains are also home the herds of American Bison or buffalo. Of which this northern plains territory are hunting grounds for the Blackfeet during those historical times.
It’s important to commemorate the historical times of the Blackfeet. The areas American Indians believe that spiritual beings live in every feature of the land. Animals embody spirits as well of which they believe can teach strength and wisdom to humans. (As stated by a Blackfeet elder).
More Unique Highlights of Glacier National Park
Adventures such as hiking in Glacier can be an exhilarating experience. This mountain park consists of more than 730 miles of hiking trails. There is a variety of trails that consist of short and long with different levels of difficulty.
Keep in mind, the short trails can be just as amazing as the longer difficult ones. One, for example, the Sun Point Nature Trail is sometimes underrated. This is a fairly easy with an interesting path consisting of slightly narrow ups and downs and rummaging through shrubs. As you emerge out of the trail you come upon a higher view point that overlooks the beautiful Saint Mary Lake.
Glacier’s Wildlife and Plant Life
While enjoying lake views and exploring through the land and trails, you may likely encounter wild animals as well as trees and plant life. You must always keep an eye out for an encounter. Situational awareness is extremely important to have while visiting this park. Here are some of the species you may see:
- 276 species of birds
- 71 species of mammals
- 24 species of fish
- 20 major species of trees
It is critical that when visiting Montana and its parks to please be responsible with respect to bears. One way is by keeping all food and garbage stored out of reach of bears at all times. Glacier’s bears mostly consist of grizzly and Black bears; which may be black, blond, brown or cinnamon. Grizzlies can also be either very dark or very light as well. There are differences between these species of bears that include the following features and characteristics:
Grizzly Bears have large shoulder bump and shorter rounded ears. The face is a dished profile. The front claws are 2 – 4 inches and light in color. Black Bears have no shoulder bump and their ears are taller. The face is straighter. Front claws consist of about 1.5 inches and are dark in color.
The Historical Glaciers of the Montana Rockies
Other special features of the park include wildlife and plant life. But another characteristic that is extraordinarily important are glaciers, for what the park is named after. There are at least 35 named glaciers in the park, and 25 are active today. At one time, the region making up Glacier National Park contained 150 glaciers during the Ice Age.
The glaciers are not the only brilliant sights to see here in this national park. This particular mountain range, the Rocky Mountains, stretches through the state of Montana. There is an amazing 150 mountain peaks over 8,000 feet in Glacier that make up three mountain regions. These include Clark, Lewis, and Livingstone mountain ranges.
The Diverse Landscapes of Montana
You will find a vast array of truly unique landscapes throughout the state of Montana. The flat plains on the eastern side of the state can be dry and almost appear like a desert. Heading west leading up to the mountain ranges display vast forest and greenery. You will also see meadows and valleys full of lush foliage and flowers in the summer season. Of course, in the winter time, you’ll have plenty of snow and cold conditions all over the state.
The Big Sky Country of Montana
The northern plains and the magical Montana Mountains are an extremely precious commodity. I encourage everyone to help make sure it stays that way. Being a responsible visitor is a great way to do that. This includes respecting the land and animals, practice leave no trace (dispose of trash properly), stay your distance from animals, and follow the guide of the Rangers. The goal is to keep Big Sky Country and The Treasure State just exactly what it is; a precious treasure to us all.
This precious Treasure State contains numerous scenic areas located throughout the entire area. Some of the iconic spots to stop and enjoy in the park include the infamous Going-to-the-Sun Road. This curvy, narrow, mostly paved road takes you into twists and turns through mountain tunnels. It is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The renowned road is on the National register of Historic Places as of June 1983.
If you do plan to visit the park in the future and explore on this popular road, you will need a vehicle reservation. For the current 2022 year, both Going to the Sun Road and the North Fork required vehicle reservations from May 27 – September 11, 2022. Tickets can be reserved in advance here .
How far can you go on Going to the Sun Road?
This historic road is actually known as an engineering work of genius in design and function within high altitude mountains. It is said to be the most difficult road to clear the snow during cold seasons. The distance of this windy road is approximately 50 miles from the West Glacier entrance to the entrance at St. Mary. It is a two way road where one way goes east, and the other goes west. Our road trip on Going to the Sun road began from the St. Mary entrance from the east side of the park.
Get up close to giant glaciers, cascading waterfalls along Going to the Sun road
Starting from the east side at St. Mary entrance is the opposite of what most visitors do. It’s unique with several spots and pull outs along this amazing highway in the clouds. This area includes smooth paved walkways that lead you to a couple of iron Teepees. Beautiful life size teepees are iron art sculptures created by artist Duane After Buffalo. The overlook is located approximately two miles south of St. Mary on Hwy 89.
Wild Goose Island Lookout Glacier National Park
One of the favorite stops that offer striking views of St. Mary Lake is Wild Goose Island Overlook. This little island rises about 14 feet from the surface of the water. And enjoy this movie trivia the opening scene of the 1980 ‘The Shining’ movie here at St. Mary Lake.
Sun Point Nature Trail and Lookout
This captivating view is sponsored by: BackCountry Fuel Box: Feed Your Wild! Get exclusive discounts on food for the backcountry.
This beautiful short hiking trail along St. Mary Lake offers incredible views from nearly every stretch along the path. It is nice to enjoy an area in Glacier National Park with only few people exploring it.
Sunrift Gorge near St. Mary in Glacier
Our journey begins at Sunrift Gorge which offers an impressive view of a water carved gorge. Then the trail takes you down to beautiful St. Mary Falls. From this point you proceed onto Sun Point Nature Trail which offers stunning views of Saint Mary Lake as you stroll along its outer perimeters.
Lunch Creek Cascading Waterfalls
Other points of interest along Going to the Sun Road include Lunch Creek its cascading waterfalls with views of Pollock Mountain in the backdrop. Weeping Wall can get you wet in the spring but calms to a trickle flow in late summer. You’ll also come across some vibrant wildflowers scattered throughout different areas of the park.
Logan Pass and Continental Divide in Glacier
One of the busiest spots along this historic road is at Logan Pass. This is where the Continental Divide is and the highest point at 6,646 feet. Here, you can hike down to the popular Hidden Lake. It is suggested to arrive at this spot very early or later to find parking and be able to explore this area. Apparently, 8 a.m. is not early enough as no parking spaces could be found at this time. People were driving in circles hoping to get a spot.
FitLife Tip: Arriving before 7 a.m. is probably a better time frame to attempt to find open parking spots.
The area in this particular spot is one that is set in quiet, serene, and nature moments to enjoy calm. However, it is where we saw our first grizzly bear. We stopped to enjoy the colorful rocks and the crystal clear waters of the creek. Suddenly, there is a noise of commotion in the bushes in the distance, and out comes the grizzly. The bear continues searching for berries and plants and thankfully he ignored us in the distance.
Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park
This gorgeous peaceful timeout calming moments is sponsored by: The Wanderclub: Collect memories, not things.
The crystal clear water is so crisp and clean to see all the various colors of the rocks. There is a picnic area to enjoy lunch then take in a walk down to the shoreline and enjoy the peaceful quiet vibe of the lake. McDonald Creek overlook can be quite impressive with its powerful water flow. During the spring season, you might see the rapid current carrying trees and boulders.
Final Thoughts on Glacier
The beauty, nature, and grandeur of this park can leave you without words. These and several other beautiful stops and pull outs along this notorious roadway are just a small part of the special experiences to enjoy in Glacier National Park. The Crown of the Continent as what the Native Americans call it is comprised of fascinating landscapes filled with prehistoric glaciers and amazing terrain.
Glacier National Park Lodging Options
Montana’s Glacier National Park Lodges: Plan to reserve your stay at least 12 to 16 months in advance.
Where to stay in Glacier National Park Hotels and Lodging:
Nearby towns and lodging: