We enjoyed a fantastic two-week trip to Montana during the first two weeks in July. The best part of the trip was our six days in Glacier National Park, July 8 - 13. Here's a summary of the GNP part of the trip:
July 6 -- flew SW into Spokane (got to love those Rapid Reward free flights!)
July 7 -- lovely drive from Spokane Valley to Kalispell by way of St. Ignatius Mission and beautiful Flathead Lake; bought supplies at Walmart and bear spray at Sportsman & Ski Haus (8 oz. can for $35)
July 8 -- At West Glacier, we stopped at both Waterton and Apgar visitor centers for information; we obtained a day hike trail map for GNP and talked with a ranger. We walked the Rocky Point trail which has some good views of the lake. We were glad to have the bear spray, and we kept up a chatter since the trail was not as populated as others. At one point, before going back to the trailhead, we walked part of the West McDonald Lake trail.
We checked into Lake McDonald Motor Inn for a two-night stay and had an early dinner at Jammer Joe's. The ranger had told us about a trail along McDonald Creek just north of the lake. We started the trail but after more than a mile, we retreated. The trail is also a horse trail; we spent so much time looking where we were putting our feet that we couldn't enjoy the scenery. We tried John's Lake trail also but found the same conditions, so we just spent the rest of the evening in and around Lake McDonald Lodge.
July 9 -- Since the Going to the Sun Road was still closed, the park service was running small shuttles from the Lake Avalanche parking lot to the Loop. We got there early and enjoyed the two miles of GTTSR beyond the Loop that were open to pedestrians. What a great opportunity!
After a picnic lunch, we joined the steady stream of hikers at Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. (So glad we got out early -- the line for the shuttles to the Loop was long!) The large number of hikers made this our safest-feeling hike. The lake was gorgeous with snow still nestled in the avalanche slides.
July 10 -- Since the Going to the Sun Road was still not open, we drove Highway 2 around to the eastern side of the park. The benefits were several: a stop at Goat Lick where we saw at least a dozen goats; a stop at the beautiful East Glacier Lodge; picnic lunch beside Two Medicine Lake; and the Running Eagle Falls Trail.
Arriving at the St. Mary visitor center, we consulted with the park ranger regarding the status of the GTTSR and the trail to Grinnell Glacier. At this point I abandoned my plans for that trail as well as the Hidden Lake trail -- just too much snow.
We took the park shuttle to Sun Point (as far as it was running). From there we enjoyed the nature trail, the trail to Baring Falls, and Sunrift Gorge. On the way to Swiftcurrent we stopped for dinner at Johnson's in St. Mary; the prices seemed high ($15 for a fried chicken dinner), so we had the burger and fries. After checking into Swiftcurrent for a 3-night stay, we took a walk which yielded encounters with a deer and a moose.
July 11 -- We drove the GTTSR as far as it was open -- stunning Jackson Glacier Overlook. The trails to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls yielded great rewards. After stopping for photos of Goose Island, we had a picnic lunch while waiting for the next St. Mary boat tour. It was a pleasure to see the lake from a different vantage point.
Driving up Hwy 89 to Babb and the Many Glacier entrance, we stopped at Two Sisters for an early dinner. The fried chicken was not up to our southern standards, but the mixed berry pie was great. Back at Swiftcurrent, we took the trail around the lake and the short trail to see Josephine Lake. Along the way, we ran into a hiker who reported that the trail to Grinnell Lake was closed due to bear activity. We stopped at Many Glacier Lodge to enjoy the lobby and grounds.
July 12 -- our day for Waterton Park. The drive there was beautiful, and we marveled at all the loose cattle on the highway. After walking around the town and stopping at the waterfall there, we drove to the Red Rock Canyon area where we enjoyed the short trail around the red rocks as well as a longer trail to Blakiston Falls. Leaving the Red Rock Canyon area, we saw a black bear.
At Prince of Wales Hotel, we feasted on shepherd's pie and fish and chips. The Bear Hump trail behind the visitor center in Waterton is very strenuous, but it helped us to walk off our big lunch. The view was worth the climb. After a short drive to Cameron Lake, we took the trail along one side of the lake, beautifully blue with chunks of ice still floating in it. Our final hike of the day was to lovely Akamina Lake. Leaving the Waterton area, we had our second bear siting -- a mama grizzly and two cubs -- glad we were in our car. Due to long summer days and this part of the mountain time zone, we still got back to Swiftcurrent before it was totally dark.
July 13 -- The Going to the Sun Road opened! We drove from the St. Mary entrance to the Weeping Wall wanting to be sure to see the parts of the road that were previously closed. Road repair/construction caused waits along the way, but that just provided opportunities to enjoy the views. After seeing the Weeping Wall and the Arches, we stopped at Logan's Pass -- so much snow! The parking lot was clear, but the sidewalks around the visitor center had walls of snow as did the GTTSR through the Big Drift area. Most people walked out behind the visitor center on the snow, but only those who came very prepared and determined set out for Hidden Lake which, according to the ranger, was still covered with snow.
Our trip to Glacier National Park was one of our favorites. We'll definitely have to return to walk the trails we missed and stay at a couple of the grand lodges.