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Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

Moab, Utah
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Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

You won’t have seen us around these forums; the search function covered all we ever wondered as our queries had been asked and answered before. So thank you to all those who have reviewed, queried and replied in the past.

As a family of four with 14yo son and 12you daughter we are always looking for new ways to get to Moab, Utah. This time it was via Glacier National Park. Our travels started from home in Australia and over four days we flew 8,400 miles and drove another 1,100 to arrive in Many Glacier. The change of pace brought on by the weather was probably an unexpected blessing.

Our visit was two very distinct parts. Apart from the change of lodging and the move from east to west the weather went from cold, dreary 30’s to bright blue skies and high 50’s. Due to the season trail choices were limited but plentiful enough for our few days. Also the Going to the Sun Road was only partially open; just in time for us to Big Bend/Weeping Wall otherwise we may have been very disappointed.

We stayed two nights at the Many Glacier Hotel in a family room adjacent to the front office. Of course it was cramped and rustic but we expected that. Then we had another two nights in a cabin at the Lake McDonald Lodge. Again, very cramped but an ideal location next to the main lodge and facing the lake.

Many Glacier

In the days before our arrival in Glacier the weather had been looking great but that changed drastically on June 16. Low cloud, miserable drizzling rain and cold. We drove into Many Glacier with the peaks obscured and temperatures in the high 30’s to be greeted by the Bellmen at MGH in their Lederhosen. Somebody should buy them some long pants for days like this.

We’d eaten early so we could walk to Fishercap Lake & Redrock Falls in the hope of seeing some wildlife. In the late evening we saw a couple of very tame deer and a lone camera shy moose near Swiftcurrent Lake. The drizzling rain was keeping anything else hunkered down out of sight.

The next morning we were up bright and early but greeted at the hotel door by heavy miserable rain. This was taken as a cue to relax, read and sleep by some. But for others in the party the rain wouldn’t stop us from walking at least somewhere. The Apikuni Falls trail at one mile was short enough to tolerate getting wet. The 700 foot climb was well worth it for the views at the bottom of these falls; raining or not we were going to get wet.

More rain into the afternoon so we elected to take the boat cruise on Swiftcurrent Lake and Josephine Lake. A placid trip which would have been better value if we had combined it with a hike at the other end but as you may have gathered we a ‘fair weather hikers’.

The rain finally stopped during our second night so early in the morning, before leaving Many Glacier, we walked the Swifcurrent Lake Nature Trail. No wildlife about but lots of peace and tranquility and a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain sides created delightful vistas.

Coupled with dreary weather, the lack of television, cell phones and wifi made for a surreal ‘cocooned’ experience during our stay. So many people were reading books around the fire, playing board games and working on jigsaw puzzles. We felt like total heathens on one night when we pulled out the laptop to look at some of our photos.

Here’s a link to our favourite photos from the east side. Due to the weather there are as many photos of the hotel than of the outdoors. http://outtrim.id.au/USA2009/?p=545

Lake McDonald & Going to the Sun Road

From the east Going to the Sun Road was only open as far as the Jackson Glacier Overlook when we visited. The views as we drove west were clouded by fog and mist but were still both outstanding and enchanting. Jackson Glacier itself was obscured by cloud. On the way back to the entrance we stopped to walk to Baring Falls, a 12yo daughter balks at long hikes and we were saving her for another time. A nice stroll of less than a mile each way from Sun Point to these small falls.

Lunch at Rising Sun was unfortunately interrupted by a very tame Mule Deer who was stealing from the food from lunch boxes on the table. It would appear that no amount of warning or threatening will prevent people feeding animals to the point that they are this bold.

By the time we reached Two Medicine the sun finally started to break through the clouds. This gave us some hope for the remainder of our stay. A quick look at Two Medicine Lake was followed by walks to both Appistoki Falls and Running Eagle Falls. Running Eagle Falls was especially enchanting with the double outlet.

On arrival at the west entrance we were advised that Going to the Sun Road had been opened as far as Big Bend. Prior to this all advice had been that the closure was at Avalanche and we didn’t realize how disappointing that would have been. After checking into Lake McDonald Lodge we were straight off to see where Big Bend was. The superlatives that have been used to describe this road don’t measure up to the reality. Incredible construction, spectacular scenery, etc – we can’t add to that. There were very visitors on the road and parking at pullouts was easy. At the end of the open road there was a friendly gathering of maybe 20-30 people. A shy Marmot poked its nose over the edge of the cliff to see what was going on.

Before breakfast we had a hike up the side of the hill from Lake McDonald Lodge to Fish Lake. Chosen as the closest destination (3.1 miles) on the Sperry Trail; we had to save some legs for later in the day as well. The forest at higher elevation was extremely pretty with a lot of hanging moss in the trees and a couple of creeks to cross. Fish Lake was a tranquil scene with floating lilies and one lonely deer grazing.

Our main aim of the day was a hike to Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Gorge. We found this hike extremely rewarding. Magnificent views at the lake, not too hard a going, relatively few people. The number of people was increasing though and we passed many more on the way out than on the way in or around the lake.

One last look at the splendid Going to the Sun Road before we left then dinner at the Lodge and a drink by the lake.

This is a link to our favourite photos from the west side. http://outtrim.id.au/USA2009/?p=547

In Summary

As the title said Glacier is absolutely stunning and awe strikingly beautiful. It is also under rated. We only had to travel 300 miles south to find people who had never heard of Glacier despite a large picture of Many Glacier being displayed on the wall of the hotel breakfast room.

In our minds Glacier is one of the most outstanding parks we have visited. We have never seen so many easily accessible spectacular waterfalls in one place particularly with such great flows. That together with the awesome carved mountains, still with a nice covering of snow, ensured that this visit was superb.

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1. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

I'm glad that you loved Glacier!!!! It is hard not to....

I only wish that you could have seen more of the Park; if you were impressed without going over Logan Pass and with Avalanche Lake (my 16th favorite dayhike of the 19 I have done) as your highlight hike, you will be amazed if you come back and see some of the signature hikes and superb vistas (Hidden Lake, Grinnell Glaccier, Highline Trail, Iceberg Lake, Gunsight Lake, Siyeh Pass, etc.)..

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2. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

I hope one day you can return and travel the entire road and do some of the trails that travel deeper into the park. You are right, the whole park is stunning. So glad you enjoyed and also that you found the forums helpful.

Atlanta, Georgia
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3. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

Thanks for a great trip report. We will be there for the first time in August.

Uden, The...
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4. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

Lederhosen???? -lol-

Another fantastic tripreport and thanks for posting Noel. Give my love to Donna and the kids and I'm sure we'll see some pics on the 2011 calendar ;) Only 2 more month before the family is with us. Enjoy your trip.

Tet and A.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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5. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

<<As the title said Glacier is absolutely stunning and awe strikingly beautiful. It is also under rated. >>

So true, so true, so true. It is hard not to be affected once you've been there, but it competes with so many other also wonderful parks.

So fun to see your photos, it was the one of Avalanche Lake that made me go Wow, and want to go back up again this year.

(and I had to laugh at the, "we are always looking for new ways to get to Moab, Utah. This time it was via Glacier National Park.".... Not many people take that route for sure!)

Edited: 25 June 2010, 05:28
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6. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

Nice report!

Glacier is IMHO the most scenic park in the lower 48.

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7. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

I have just returned from Many Glacier Hotel and I agree with Noel-Donna's report. All the wonder of the park is accessible from the hotel. The hotel itself has certain charm and does take some getting use to. I found this added to my "taking-in" of the whole park experience. As a woman traveling alone I was comfortable and able to plan hikes with the company of other hikers. This was important since there were numerous bear/cub encounters.

Planning my next trip once I am finished posting.

Calgary, Canada
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for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
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8. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

Great photos! The "great flow" from the waterfalls which you commented on is due in part to the time of year that you visited - in early June the snow is in the process of melting and all of that melt water is pouring down off the mountains.

Glad to hear that you had a great trip! Thanks for posting a follow-up and the links to your photos.

- CG

9. Re: Absolutely Stunning: A first timer’s visit to Glacier

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