It dawned on me in the last year how many cool places I needed to visit that are relatively close to my home of Bismarck, ND. One of which being Glacier National Park in Montana. Although Montana is our neighboring state, the drive is still about ten hours, but I’ve repeatedly heard I need to visit.
I asked my friend Annie who had traveled with me to Montana before if she’d be up for the trek, she was so we planned a midweek August trip as this was the only time I could get away with being in the heart of my busy wedding season.
We got to the park late that first night and set up camp quickly before it got too dark. We stayed in the St Mary’s campground which is in East Glacier. The park is split into east and west with the famous Going to the Sun Road which goes throughout the whole park and stretches fifty miles.
Unfortunately Glacier National Park experienced fires right before we were suppose to go and they were still blazing while we were there. We contemplated not going as we were worried about the views being obstructed by the smoke. They even close the Going to the Sun Road in west Glacier. We decided to still go as our campground and east Glacier were still open.
The first day we hiked the Grinnell Lake Trail which takes you along Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine and ends at lower Grinnell Lake. We decided to save our main hike to Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier for the next day. After our hike to lower Grinnell Lake, we drove part of the Going to the Sun Road and hiked to St Mary’s Falls. We hiked a total of ten miles our first day, and fifteen miles the next day.
The next day we hiked the Grinnell Glacier Trail. This trail a total of about twelve miles and leads up to upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier. The trail was pretty difficult being all uphill with an altitude gain of 1600 feet. Once we reached the Glacier it was like we were on another planet. The wind up there was so strong and it was freezing, it felt like we teleported to the North Pole haha! Although I liked seeing the glacier, I enjoyed the hike far more and the birds eye view of Grinnell Lake below.
Once you get to the top of the mountain right before the glacier you can see all the way down through the mountains and have a view of all three lakes at once. It’s so high up, you truly feel on top of the world!
The wildfires did produce a lot of smoke and the views were definitely hazy and obstructed which was a bummer, but we were still so happy to be there and see them even partially! I can only imagine how beautiful it would be on a clear day because it was stunning even with all the smoke and haze.
After the Grinnell Glacier Hike, we drove the Going to the sun road to the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail adding another three miles to our day to make for fifteen miles. Judging by the photos online, I’m sure Hidden Lake is gorgeous but with the haze you literally couldn’t see anything which was a disappointment, but the fields of wildflowers on the trail to the lake made it all worth it for me. We saw a lot of mountain goats here as well! The Going to the Sun Road was another thing that we could tell was so beautiful but was so covered in haze and smoke you could barely see. I will definitely need to come back to see the road and some of these spots when it’s clearer!
This was another trip where I vastly underestimated how long it would get in the evenings. We foolishly thought it’s summer so it can’t drop that low and the mountains thought otherwise. The forecast before we went showed lows in the upper thirties, but it actually dropped down to low twenties and ice formed on our tent haha!
We only got two full days in Glacier, but the trip was totally worth it. We got to try huckleberry pie and ice cream, freeze our butts off in our tent, see a glacier, and hiked twenty-five miles in two days. Our bodies may have felt it, with Annie having horrible blisters and my feet being so swollen I couldn’t even get my shoes on, but it was a fabulous trip!
This is the second part of my National Park blog. I visited Glacier for the first time back in August of 2018, and this year got the pleasure of going again. The first time I visited the park they were experiencing some wildfires that shut down half of the park. There was a lot of things we couldn’t do or see there including a good section of Going To The Sun Road. We explored the east side of the park near St Mary’s the first time, and the second trip I got to explore the west side of the park near Apgar.
This trip the west side of the park was closed due to that part of the park being on the reservation and they had it shut down due to the coronavirus. I found it interesting that in my two visits exactly half the park was closed each time, allowing me to see both sides. The first time the road was only open from St Mary’s to Logan Pass, whereas the second time, the road was only open from Apgar to Logan Pass. So I finally got to see everything.
I always knew after the first time visiting the park, that I would want to go back. Not only because I didn’t get to see the whole park, but because it was so beautiful I knew I’d be back someday. I didn’t think it would be this soon, but when I got an invite from a friend to stay in her family’s cabin, I couldn’t resist. My friend Airika and a few other friends were going to be staying there over the weekend and into the beginning of the week. I could only make it by the beginning of the week due to photographing two wedding that weekend. Airika told me if I wanted to stay after they left, Id have the cabin to myself. I decided to bring my dog Nika, not only for company, but I’ve also been wanting to bring her on a hiking trip. So after one day with them, I had a solo trip with just me and my dog.
The first day we hiked to Avalanche Lake, swam in Lake McDonald, and got huckleberry shakes and pie. The second day we visited Lake McDonald again and drove the entire Going to the Sun Road stopping at all the sights and overlooks.
The third day, I hiked the Highline Ridge Trail by myself as unfortunately dogs are not allowed on the trails.
When we weren’t out and about, we spent lots of time at the cabin. The cabin was absolutely beautiful and tucked away in the mountains, but extremely close to the park which was so awesome. From drinking coffee on the deck in the morning, lounging in the tree hammock drinking rhubarb cider, to eating huckleberry pie in the bathtub, it was a very relaxing time. It was so fun to see Nika in that environment, she loved it so much! My other dog Nala is not very outdoorsy or adventurous, so it’s been a dream of mine to bring Nika on a trip like this and my afterwards my heart was full.