With precipitous peaks, crystal clear waters, and deep boreal forests, Glacier National Park has rightly earned the title “Crown of the Continent”. From its rich history, and its endless recreation, to its astonishingly gorgeous landscapes, it is the pride and joy of the citizens of the Flathead Valley.
The area that is now Glacier National Park was originally home to three separate Native American Tribes. The Blackfeet tribe lived on the East side of the divide, while the Salish and Kootenai peoples shared the West side. It wasn’t until European trappers came looking for beaver pelts and other valued animal hides that this section of Montana was discovered by the outside world. When the Great Northern Railway was completed in 1891, it was more evident than ever that Montana had something special in the land that in 1910 would become The United States’ 10th national park.
Going-to-the-Sun Road cuts across the park and takes a good 2 hours to travel when no stops are included. However, with short trails, picnic areas, lake views, and visitor centers, I guarantee you won’t want to drive it without stopping to check out at least a few scenic places. With 53 miles that take you into the heart of the stunning Rocky Mountains, it really is a trip you won’t forget.
You can see a lot of Glacier Park’s beauty from your car window, but there are some vistas only your feet can take you to. Within the 1,500 square miles of designated park, there are over 700 miles of maintained trails for the hiking enthusiasts; from short strolls for a family outing to daring terrain for the avid backpacker. Some of the favorite day hikes in the park take you to Avalanche Lake on the West side, Hidden Lake at the top of Logan Pass, and St. Mary and Virginia Falls on the East side. For those looking for more of a challenge, don’t forget to check out the trails to Grinnell Glacier, Rainbow Peak, and Swiftcurrent Pass.
One of the park’s most treasured aspects is its incredible abundance of wild animals. With mountain goats, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, black bears, moose, and mountain lions this list is truly just the start. Why stop with the mammals? Bring your birder’s life list and pack your fishing pole because there is no shortage of fish or fowl.
The Rocky Mountain Divide separates the waters that run into the Pacific from those that flow into the Atlantic. However, one unique place located atop Triple Divide Peak separates three different water systems; those that become the Gulf of Mexico, the Columbia River Drainage, and the Hudson Bay. This is called a “triple divide” and Glacier is one of only 3 places in the world that it occurs. The other two triple divides are in Canada (Jasper National Park) and Siberia. You can reach this summit by foot, although with 30.7 miles of difficult terrain it is recommended for the experienced hiker.
With a large variety of quality campgrounds, rustic chalets, and lovely lodges, visiting Glacier National Park is a refreshing change of scenery. Hiking, biking, and boating options are endless. If you’re searching for adventure or simply desire a restful vacation in nature, Glacier National Park is sure to have something you’ll love. Bring your camera; you’ll find a new point of focus.
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