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Do you know what National Park has the mountain goat as its official symbol? Here are some clues:
- The park has over one million acres within its boundaries.
- The park lies on an international border
- There are approximately 25 active glaciers in the park as of 2010.
Do you know the answer? If you guessed Glacier National Park, you are correct! Glacier National Park is vast, with two mountain ranges, glaciers, over 130 named lakes, thousands of plant species and hundreds of animal species. It lays in the northern state of Montana on the U.S. and Canadian border and it a well-known park in the U.S. Are you ready to plan your visit? Here is some important information for your visit and also some things you won’t want to miss.
Glacier National Park Operating Hours and Season Information
Although the sight of a white blanket of snow that covers the pine trees and mountain may be the perfect idea of a vacation, it may not suit everyone. Due to the park’s extreme northern location, severe winter weather can cause road closures as well as part of the Glacier National Park. Winter offers some great cross-country skiing opportunities, as well as snow shoeing and other winter sports. The summer months are the best time to visit to truly experience the hiking opportunities, as well as the lakes, programs and other outdoor experiences. Spring snow storms are quite common so early to late summer is the best time to see this beautiful place and experience all the scenic drives and things it has to offer.
Portions of this famous drive are open all year, but to see the entire drive it must be done in the warmer months. There are no gas stations on the drive or anywhere in the park, so plan your fuel usage wisely. This drive presents an excellent opportunity to see mountain goats which are the parks official symbol and Bighorn sheep in the Logan Pass area. This drive is a must-see in the park, as some of the best views and wildlife can be seen on it. During the months of July and August, there is a free shuttle that can take you from either St. Mary or Apgar visitor centers to Logan pass. The shuttle stops at major trailheads along the way too. The Red Bus or Sun tours are another way to experience the scenic drive if you’re not comfortable driving the winding, narrow road, or just want to see the sights without having to drive. The road was constructed to blend into the mountainside, which indeed it does. There are waterfalls to see and Logan’s Pass is dramatic and a visitor favorite. Visitors report that the scenery is beyond description and features the best views of the park.
Grinnell Glacier Trail
The best time to hike this gorgeous trial is in July, as sometimes in June it is still closed. The trail is fairly easy and families with children could complete it. Pack a lunch and hike to the glacier for views you won’t believe! Visitors can hike to the overlook area or further to the glacier itself. Lake Josephine is on the way and offers a beautiful view as well as a beach to play at or a spot to rest and take it in the sights. Visitors report that the trail to the glacier gets more difficult, but the section of trail leading to the lake is easy. Watch for waterfalls and walk over the boardwalks over the marches and even a swinging bridge. People have seen bears, goats and moose before on the trail.
Iceberg Lake Trail
This hike is another visitor favorite. It is a long hike, approximately 10 miles, but visitors report that it is not strenuous. It is heavily used in the warmer months so be prepared for lots of people that want to see the same scenic views that you want to! Look for the small waterfall that is about halfway up and watch for the lake as it appears, surround on three sides by towering rock for even more dramatic views. Look for “icebergs” that are still floating in the cold waters of the lake which is something uncommon yet fascinating! People have seen deer, moose, black bears and grizzly bears in the valley and off in the distance, so be on the lookout for wildlife. The hike is said to be incredible and is one of the top hikes in the Glacier National Park.
For those with a fear of heights the Highline Trail is not for you. This is another famous trail in Glacier National Park and it provides those astounding views the entire way. About a quarter of a mile in, the famous ledge will appear that give some hikers nightmares. This ledge is just that, a ledge cut into the sheer mountain side as you walk along at terrifying heights and with no guardrails. It only lasts a short time, but it is one of the most talked about hikes in the park. Hikers can reach elevations of over 7,000 feet, the mountain tops will become your guides as they lead you through views of the passes and valleys below, making you feel like you conquered the world. The trail is lengthy, over 10 miles and there are ledges, steep elevation gains and views beyond any traveler’s comprehension.
Logan Pass stands as the highest elevation that visitors can reach by their vehicle in the park. This is one of the most popular places and the parking lots are usually full in the summer months. Take the free shuttle that is offered instead, or arrive early to claim your parking space. At the pass, both Reynolds Mountain and Clements Mountain frame fields of wildflowers and wildlife can be seen rambling about in the warmth of the summer. There is also a visitor center here full of interesting exhibits and facts about the wildlife. You can reach the Highline Trail and the Hidden Lake Trial from here too for some excellent hiking opportunities nearby. For the perfect photos, arrive early in the morning when the light hits the mountains and there are greater chances of seeing wildlife before all the people arrive.
Rugged Mountains, Spectacular Views
Glacier National Park protects the best of the rugged and wild Montanan areas. There are over 700 miles of trails, as well as meadows to see, forests, mountains and lakes galore. The snow seems to never melt on the frosty peaks of the mountain tops, yet the fields full of flowers say that it is summertime. This is a beautiful, wild park and worth every second of your time this summer.