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Glacier National Park – Montana’s Natural Wonder

Glacier National Park – located in Alberta, Canada and Montana, and established more than a century ago, covers more square-footage than Rhode Island and Washington DC together – is a most glamorous and adventurous park to stay for, what would need to be, an entire vacation! While established independently in May of 1910, it was also established as Waterton-Glacier National Peace Park 22 years later. A Peace Park, Glacier National cooperates with wildlife management, scientific research, some visitor services, holding the same status as a neighboring park, Waterton Lakes National Park. Park officials and conservation groups are working with the U.S. Forest Service, the Canadian government, the Blackfeet Tribe, and private companies to try to protect critical habitats. Within some 1600 square miles of land, there would definitely be some habitats worth saving. This is the place you will find silver-tipped bears and wildflowers living in a harmoniously orchestrated masterpiece of a getaway. The glaciers found here are reputed to be the headwaters of the continent, flowing gracefully into the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay, and Pacific Ocean. It has been established as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1974, being home to over 300 species of animal, and nearly 2,000 species of plants. To call the Park ‘breathtaking’ would serve it absolutely no justice.

Things To See

There is almost nothing that cannot be seen or done here – as far as the natural aspects go. Glacier is home to more than 700 lakes, almost 600 streams, 71 species of mammals, almost 300 documented species of birds. There is no room for want. The most noted activity is that of traveling Going-to-the-Sun Road. This road gives amazing opportunity to see wildlife and amazing scenery along the 50-mile path. Logan Pass is the highest point of (as the Park officials call it) The Sun Road, standing at 6,647 feet in altitude.

A direct result of glacial carving is Lake McDonald. The size of a small town, this is the largest lake in the Park. The 10-mile long lake sit at home in a self-named valley where visitors can participate in hiking and sightseeing.

While often considered a visitor favorite, Two Medicine is an area frequented and most noted for the scenery (which is said to be the best in the Park). This used to be more popular when visitors arrived more-so by train, which speaks to the reason for its popularity in the past. It is, however, a sight for sore eyes for anyone who decides to take a trek to Two Medicine.

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Time To Go

There is no bad time to go. Glacier welcomes guests to the Park every day of the year. Depending on the amenities and activities one may seek, this will dictate when one should go. For the months of May through early September, guests of the Park can expect to have full service at the facilities for visitors. Therefore, if the wanderlust in you needs a helping hand, you will most likely fine the help you need during these months. Many services are available through mid-to-late September, however, all concessions will be unavailable starting at the end of September. Many will not reopen until May/June of the following year. If you should choose to visit during off-peak seasons, visitor information is available year-round at the Headquarters during the week, and the Apgar Visitor Center on the weekends. Coming in various seasons will yield different experiences. Autumn visits will give you the most colorful experience with less of a crowd than summer would. Visiting in winter offers visitors the opportunity for cross-country skiing December through April (yes – Spring here offers cross-country skiing!). Coming in “Spring” will yield a unique experience in itself. It will be extremely quiet, as this is when the least amount of people come to visit.

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Where To Stay

While many of us like the uncanniness of nature and long to sleep amongst the wilderness, this is not an absolute must if you decide to ‘sleep in the park.’ You will find all sorts of accommodations from great, historic hotels, to camping outside (which is free in winter – go figure). There are food and accommodations services at Apgar, Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, and Rising Sun, while there is simply accommodation at Backcountry Chalets. Many Glacier will offer the most comforts, as it has a hotel with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in their dining room. You can also get foodstuffs from the Swiss Lounge and Heidi’s Snack Shop. For anyone who is not so good at camping, and may have forgotten some critical supplies, there are camp shops that can be found at Apgar, Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, Rising Sun, and Two Medicine.

For camping, there are 13 available drive-in campgrounds, and range in price from $10-$23. If you plan on using a generator, there are some campgrounds on which you cannot camp, such as Spraque Creek, fourteen of Many Glacier’s sites, and Cutbank Campground, just to name a few. Cutting and gathering firewood is permitted along the Inside North Fork Road from Dutch Creek to Kintla Lake, along the Bowman Lake Road.

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Best Hiking

For the adventurous hiker, the best hikes will be found at Glacier! Here there are 745 miles worth of trails to be hiked, including the some in Lake McDonald Valley and Two Medicine. The beauty in having 151 various trails is that there is a trail suited for everyone – whether you are looking for a trail that gains close to no altitude (such as the Grinnell Lake trail – which gains 40 feet), all the way to 2,650 feet (in Piegon Pass)! And these few trails are in Many Glacier Valley. There are many more (namely 149 more) that can be found throughout Glacier National.

With the climate that Glacier has, it is best to always check the status of a trail before planning on going for a hike. There is often snow (and sometimes snow storms) during times the rest of the country generally does not – and therefore, some trails may not be available.

All in all, there is no reason to not go.

by Angelique Harris

Angelique’s Etsy Store: JaenaLaShae.etsy.com

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