Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Latest Glacier NP intel, in case you're planning a trip

  1. #1
    Member TwinMom+1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Andover MA
    Posts
    94

    Latest Glacier NP intel, in case you're planning a trip

    Just returned from Glacier Nat'l Park a few days ago and still have my head in the mountains with the glories of that place.
    In case anyone is planning a trip there, I'm passing along a few facts that could help.

    1). Guidebooks and locals agree that after Labor Day is the best time to visit - however the National Park Service (NPS) greatly curtails its trailhead shuttle service after Labor Day and reportedly stops it in the eastern half of the park (more later on that). This makes car spotting a challenge. Although it's illegal for taxi services to pick up riders unless they are official NPS concessionaires, which in this era of Uber and Lyft seems ridiculous, we found Mountain Chief Taxi, 406-450-3630, and I'd highly recommend them. They weren't cheap ($170 for 5 riders to go from Swiftcurrent Inn/trailhead to Logan Pass) but prompt, efficient and part of the Blackfoot Indian tribe along the eastern border - so the ride came along with history lesson on owner David and Rhonda Mountain Chief's ancestors.

    2) We did the classic Continental Divide Trail section from Logan Pass on the Highline Trail, with an overnight at the backcountry Granite Park Chalet, then a run up Swiftcurrent Mountain to its overlook staffed by local legend Buck, who lives/staffs the firetower there from June-Sept, then down Swiftcurrent Trail through the glacial cirque and out along 3 lakes. A definite bucket list item for any hiker. Despite global warming and wildfires which unfortunately were a dimension during our stay, the views are priceless with amazing levels of ice left on quite a few glaciers. Granite Park Chalet is a gem, a 104-year old 2-story log cabin in the wilderness with bunk bed rooms, pit toilet facilities, water source that's treated by NPS albeit a 0.25 mi rough walk to get it, and a shared group kitchen that has a propane stove for heating water/making your own meals. Like AMC huts, the crew there gives little presentations at night, and what was more interesting to this easterner was hearing the local Montana guests question whether maybe there was climate change afoot lately since every year brought another bad wildfire. Really now. Do you think so. - Also like AMC huts it's pricey but so worth it, at least for us.

    3) Also highly recommend Scenic Point, which was a 6.2 mi/2300' trek out of the Two Medicine area. We did it on the worst air quality day of our trip with wildfire smoke so thick at times you could barely see the ridge next to you - but still highly worth it.

    4) Enjoyed Waterton, Alberta, which was about 75 minutes north of Many Glacier on the Canadian side of what is officially titled Glacier-Waterton International Park with an easy border crossing. Unfortunately wildfires closed the entire Canadian side of the park an hour after we entered, so no Crypt Lake hike for us as longed for. At least we didn't have to get evacuated as residents did four days later, and while reportedly 30% of the Canadian side was destroyed by fires, the town of Waterton was spared including the historic Prince of Wales Hotel.

    5) Enjoyed the drive up to Polebridge on the western side with a BBQ joint not far outside the Apgar Village area, and the Polebridge Mercantile Western version of the country store about an hour away which had an amazing variety of baked goods, sandwiches and what nots, as well as an affordable though no-running-water cottages for rent Unfortunately all but one trail in the area was closed due to the fires, so they'll have to be a next time for us there.

    6) Brownie's Deli and Hostel in East Glacier is ground zero for CDT thru-hikers and the source of anything you'd like to know about hiking in the area - where I found the Mountain Chief Taxi info. Also great ice cream.

    7) As mentioned in earlier posts most Glacier trails are practically groomed compared to the Whites, like walking a gentler Crawford Path with switchbacks whenever there's elevation gain. You definitely go through them faster than around here. The "Hiker734" map of the park which is the best, https://www.hike734.com/ but we are definitely spoiled with AMC map sand the White Mountain Guide here. Elevation gain and mileage listings were puzzlingly inconsistent across various Glacier books and NPS maps.

    8) Since no hike is complete without a decent meal, here's our favorite restaurants: Glacier Grille in Coram (next to West Glacier) for good cheap pizza and salads; Summit Mountain Steakhouse near Marias Pass, pricey but wonderful steak and pork; Belton Grill, pricey but great bison meatloaf and options for the family vegetarian; Whistle Stop in East Glacier, busiest restaurant in town, OK BBQ sandwiches (seems like everyone else was getting ribs or BBQ chicken) but fabulous huckleberry pie. Read good things on a local forum about Serrano's in East Glacier but didn't get there.

    9) the NPS visitor center at St. Mary's had a nice topo map of the area, and a few exhibits on Native tribes' sentiment on the park. Didn't spend much time at the Logan Pass visitor center and while the Apgar center was tiny, it had a charging station located outside the building thus open 7x24.

  2. #2
    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Waterville Valley, NH
    Posts
    573
    Great summary! I was there a year ago and encountered snow at higher elevations. A magical area!!!
    GayOutdoors.org
    It's the journey, not the destination

  3. #3
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Sharon, MA
    Posts
    597
    Thanks for this info! My wife and I are planning to take our boys in either 2019 or 2020. I've already started to research. We were there for a life-altering 10-day backpack before kids (2004), and I really can't wait to show my kids the place.

    How did you find the process of reserving a back country site? We're planning to spend most of our time in the back country, so that is the part I'm most interested in. Such an amazing, amazing place.
    Sure. Why not.

  4. #4
    Member TwinMom+1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Andover MA
    Posts
    94

    re: Glacier NP and backcountry reservations

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    How did you find the process of reserving a back country site? We're planning to spend most of our time in the back country, so that is the part I'm most interested in. Such an amazing, amazing place.
    Brian - not sure I can help you as we did not camp in the backcountry - we hike with our autistic 23 year old twin sons and long story but haven't gotten acclimated to tents yet. That said the main Glacier NP web site seems pretty detailed: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/camping.htm and each region has a backcountry permit office. Bear spray is imperative out there, as you know from your research I'm sure. Also if you want to stay at one of the (lovely) hotels/motels on site, they book up a full year in advance, just fyi. Our main motel lent us bear spray but if you have to buy, it's was $42.

    We wanted to get there before the glaciers melt which by some reports is projected to happen between 2020 and 2030. Fortunately even if all the glaciers go away, the mountains will still be magical. Enjoy every minute and hope you get there soon.

  5. #5
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Sharon, MA
    Posts
    597
    Got it, thanks. I was amazed at how low tech the back country reservation process was when we went, and I'm hoping it's a bit more streamlined now. I suspect it has to be with the volume of visitors these days.

    Great Gulf in the Whites is the one spot that brings me right back to Glacier NP each time I see it from above. GNP taught me to appreciate the difference between a U-shaped valley and a V-shaped valley! I really can't wait to go back.

    One other question: how were the biting insects? We were there mid-July, and while the wildflowers were amazing, so too were the mosquitoes and flies.
    Sure. Why not.

  6. #6
    Senior Member griffin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    With Augie on Carrigan
    Posts
    552
    Ah, this brings back memories! Had a magical trip to Glacier about 5 years ago. Got to do a two-night stay at the Sperry Chalet, and almost started crying when I read about it burning. Thanks for the intel and the reminder of that trip, TwinMom!

    Brian, before we went I got a LOAD of great info from this message board: http://www.glacier.nationalparkschat...forum.php?f=18 (in fact I was referred by one of the posters here!) They talk a lot about the backcountry permitting process, and a poster named PeteE gave us lots of helpful suggestions for getting a good hike route after our initial requests in the lottery failed: how to plan, how to find out which sites still had availability in the "walk-up" period, which visitor centers to go to, etc.)
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

  7. #7
    Senior Member --M.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Upper Works, Tahawus, or Massachusetts.
    Posts
    1,210
    Hi there,

    What I thought I was going to read was some content on the condition of the park in the wake of this summer's fires: Does anyone have any first-hand commentary on this?

    Thank you!

    --Mike.

  8. #8
    Senior Member griffin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    With Augie on Carrigan
    Posts
    552
    I don't, but the forum I linked to does - they're finally getting some rain on the West side, which is putting a damper on the Sprague fire, and snow elsewhere which has helped with some of the other smaller fires. From what people were posting, the East side was getting some smoke, but people were still able to hike, etc.
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

  9. #9
    Member TwinMom+1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Andover MA
    Posts
    94
    Hi Mike - there were 3 fires in Glacier from Labor Day onward for a week while we visited. The Sprague area was the largest and the one that consumed the Sperry Chalet. It's slowly encroaching on the Lake McDonald area which was clearly visible from Granite Park Chalet. Hiking in it in the heat even over on the east side by Two Medicine really took a lot out of us, even my hardiest kiddo. Some days were better than others. One day it was so bad we couldn't see across the road from the motel in West Glacier so we went to the movies in Kalispell.
    The Adair and 1 other fire in the northwest were smaller in acreage and a little older, less threatening though not out yet. I read 30% of the Canadian side burned in the past few weeks with the Kenow fire that's now less than 3 miles from the Waterton town site.

    Still very glad to have been there but have a new appreciation for Western challenges.

  10. #10
    Member TwinMom+1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Andover MA
    Posts
    94
    No bugs in September! Best time of year apart from the present fires and shut down/limiting of services.

  11. #11
    Senior Member --M.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Upper Works, Tahawus, or Massachusetts.
    Posts
    1,210
    Thank you. I had heard that Montana was getting it bad this summer (and that the news wasn't getting coverage). I'm sorry for the losses and hopeful for recovery.

  12. #12
    Senior Member KV's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    South of the notches
    Posts
    141
    Quote Originally Posted by TwinMom+1 View Post
    As mentioned in earlier posts most Glacier trails are practically groomed compared to the Whites, like walking a gentler Crawford Path with switchbacks whenever there's elevation gain."
    That's what I wondered, so thanks for confirming. I've hiked in Joshua Tree and Tahoe so figured this was the case but good to get some confirmation.

    Thanks for the info. Scenic Point, Polebridge and Highline are all on my list - HAHA. I have to cull the list at some point. :O
    Life is a trip. Pack Accordingly.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •