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USA: Glacier NP
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USA: MT - Glacier NP
July 2019

To Glacier NP Hike to Grinnell Lake, Many Glacier Going-to-the-Sun Road
Wild Goose Island St. Mary  Lake, Glacier NP, MT, USA

 


Beautiful lakes and mountains with hikes for all abilities and the iconic Going-to-the-Sun road.


 

To Glacier NP

Western Cafe Bozeman
Western Cafe, Bozeman.

We set off from Gardiner at the north entrance of Yellowstone at around 7 a.m. to start the long drive to Glacier. The previous morning we had spent seven hours with guide Lianna from Yellowstone Wolf Tracker seeing so many different animals including wolves, black bears and grizzlies. She also gave us some very good recommendations for place to eat in Gardiner and also Western Cafe in Bozeman, where she said we had to try the famous cinnamon rolls.

Western Cafe Bozeman
Breakfast at the Western Cafe.
The cinnamon roll French toast was swamped in egg rather than slightly soaked!

We both had the "Bobcat Special" - two cinnamon roll French toast, two eggs (over easy), bacon and hash browns. It was OK but the cinnamon roll French toast was a bit too sweet for our taste, would have been better to have just the cinnamon roll with coffee. They call their filter coffee "pour-over" - that's a new one one to us!

on the road

We continued north, passing through wide open agricultural land with many stretches of long straight road - and it got very windy. We arrived at St Mary, just outside the east end of the park, around 2 p.m.

breakfast at St Mary Lodge
That's more like it! Breakfast at St. Mary Lodge - Huckleberry pancakes with Huckleberry syrup.

We stayed at the St. Mary Lodge in the Great Bear Lodge. We had a great room on the top floor looking out to the mountains. It's in a very good location both for getting to the Many Glacier area and for access to the Going-to-the-Sun road.

Glacier NP1 is named for the numerous glaciers within its confines, though they are all quite small compared to say, the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. All of the glaciers are currently in retreat and many are projected to disappear entirely within ten years or so.2 But most people come here to hike a few of the many trails or simply to drive the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Glacier NP
Sunrise view of the mountains from our room.

 

Hike to Grinnell Lake, Many Glacier

Glacier NP
Many Glacier Road running alongside Lake Sherburne.

 

 

We made an early start for Many Glacier, leaving at 6:45, hoping to get on boats that would take us across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes so that we could hike to Grinnell Lake with a guide.

 

Glacier NP
From left to right: Garden Wall, Mt. Gould 2905m, Grinnell Point 2195m looking much bigger as it's so close, Swiftcurrent Mountain 2551m. Swiftwater Pass lies behind Grinnell Point to the left of Swiftcurrent Mountain.

Many Glacier Road, from Route 89 to the Many Glacier Hotel, is pot-holed and rough in places but easily passable with care. It took us no more than half an hour to get to the hotel and we had no trouble parking at that time.

Glacier NP

All the boats were fully booked so we put ourselves on the waiting list for the 9 a.m. (with guided hike) and 11 a.m. boats and went off in search of breakfast. Only option was Heidi's coffee shop where we got sausage, egg and cheese toasted muffins from the slowest moving server ever!

Glacier NP
Closer look at Mt. Gould. In front is Angel Wing 2257m and the hump-shaped patch of white behind is Gem Glacier.

Back at the dock we were really lucky to get on the 9 a.m. boat - weird that quite a few who'd obviously bought tickets didn't show up.

Glacier NP
On Swiftcurrent Lake.

It's a short boat ride across Swiftcurrent Lake then an easy walk across to the boat on Lake Josephine which is much bigger than Swiftcurrent.

Glacier NP
At the north boat dock on Lake Josephine.
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Crystal-clear water.
Glacier NP
South end of Lake Josephine.
Glacier NP
Salamander Glacier
Glacier NP
Giant Hogweed
Glacier NP
I think this is Twinberry Lonicera involucrata - a species of honeysuckle.
Glacier NP
Grinnell Falls below Salamander Glacier.
Glacier NP
Beautifully coloured pebbles in a stream.
Glacier NP
Horsehair lichen.

 

The walk from Lake Josephine to Grinnell Lake is also an easy one. Our guide was very good, lots of info on the flora and fauna of the area, the people associated with the development of the park, how it compares to other major parks in terms of visitor numbers etc.

 

Glacier NP

 

Lodgepole pine, spruce fir and aspen trees predominate on the east side of the continental divide which runs through the park. Beautiful Beargrass can be spotted on the walk and also the very nasty Giant Hogweed - steer well clear! The ethereal hanging lichens are fascinating, a combination of fungus and algae coexisting in a symbiotic relationship.3

Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Beautiful Beargrass.
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Grinnell Lake

Grinnell Lake is a beautiful spot, calm blue waters framed by mountains and very peaceful.

Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Grinnell Falls
Glacier NP
The ferry arriving to take us back across Lake Josephine.
Glacier NP
The Many Glacier Hotel on Swiftcurrent Lake.
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Lunch at the Many Glacier Hotel.
Glacier NP
South end of Lake Josephine - the red shore has to be due to some iron-based mineral.
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Beaver Lodge on Swiftcurrent Lake.
Glacier NP
Grinnell Point on the left; Mt. Wilbur 2838m, Iceberg Notch 2521m clearly visible at the south end of the Ptarmigan Wall on the right.
Glacier NP

 

After the trip we were in perfect time for lunch at the Many Glacier Hotel. We'd originally tried to stay here but were so glad we didn't - St. Mary is so much more convenient for getting to different places in the park, and we saw into one of the rooms on the ground floor - it looked like a cell, very small, dull decoration and sparsely furnished.

However, lunch was excellent and we were seated at a table by the window with a terrific view over the lake to the mountains. The Iceberg burger and my Surf and Turf - beef with a crab cake (I adore crab!) - were very good with excellent fries and a glass of Pinot Noir. Andrew's Huckleberry Cobbler with Huckleberry ice cream was outstanding - we both love the huckleberries. The after dinner drink "Slice of Pie Cider" that he had was not so great though: a "Wildrye Distilling Apple Pie, Wildrye Ramsdell's Parrot Dark Rum, Warm Apple Cider" tasted a bit odd and may in any case be better suited to the cooler months.

 

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Glacier NP
Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake, late afternoon.

 

The view of Wild Goose Island in the middle of St. Mary Lake is probably the most famous image of the park. It is close to the east end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road and we visited twice, once late afternoon and once early morning to see it in the different lights.

On our afternoon visit we went on a little further to Sun Point and Jackson Glacier Overlook before returning to the hotel, and spotted our seventh bear of the trip, this another young male Black Bear, oblivious to traffic, chewing on something in the middle of the road!

Glacier NP
Tiny Wild Goose Island.

Glacier NP

 

Glacier NP
View from Sun Point.
Glacier NP
Close-up of Jackson Glacier; like all the park's glaciers, it is not as big as it used to be.

 

 

Sun Point also overlooks St. Mary Lake but almost at its western end - more fine views.

Glacier NP
At Sun Point.

Jackson Glacier Overlook provides the best view of a glacier from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, though the glacier is still almost 10 km away.

 

Glacier NP
Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake, early morning.

 

The following morning we drove the full length of the Road from east to west, stopping first at Wild Goose Island Overlook for the early morning shot - by far the better time.

From there we went to Logan Pass where, even though we were very early, we were lucky to get a parking spot straight away, they were few and far between. We hiked the trail to Hidden Lake Overlook, along with a few others, though the trail wasn't crowded at all at that time. It's not too strenuous and the gorgeous view of Bearhat Mountain at the end is well worth it.

Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Bighorn Sheep near the start of the Hidden Lake trail.
Glacier NP
The boardwalk trail from Logan Pass winds up past Clements Mountain, 2670m.
Glacier NP
Hoary Marmot
Glacier NP
Reynolds Mountain 2781m.
Glacier NP
The meadows were covered with wild flowers.
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Glacier NP

Seems the beautiful coloured rocks can be found in many areas of the park.

Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Mountain Goat
Glacier NP
The peak on the left is Mount Brown, 2610m, and on the right Mount Stanton, 2362m.
Glacier NP

 

Glacier NP
Bearhat Mountain, 2647m, at Hidden Lake. The snow-covered peak in the distance on the left is Gunsight Mountain, 2822m.
Glacier NP

The return is downhill all the way so a lot quicker than coming up. There were an awful lot of people starting out on the trail and it was beginning to get very hot, many without hats which always amazes us.

Glacier NP

 

Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Indian Paintbrush
Glacier NP
The white flowers I believe are Sitka Valerian.4
Glacier NP
The purple flowers are Mimulus Lewisii - Lewis Monkeyflowers.4
Glacier NP
McDonald Creek between Mount Cannon, 2927m, on the left, and Heavens Peak, 2739m, on the right.

 

Back to the car and travelling further west, stopping at one or two view points on the way.

Glacier NP
One of the red buses that take tourists along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, entering the West Tunnel.

 

Glacier NP
Lake McDonald
Glacier NP
Heavens Peak seen through one of the two window ports of the West Tunnel.

 

We stopped for a quick lunch at the Lake McDonald Lodge and were planning on taking a walk to Rocky Point on the north shore but couldn't park at the campground and the road to the trailhead looked appalling so we just headed straight to Whitefish where we were staying overnight at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

We had a huge room, very well appointed, with two massive beds and a luxurious bathroom, though the mattresses were so soft we both had a very poor night's sleep. Dinner was very good though: excellent cocktails, and my lump crab, avocado and grapefruit starter was very good, followed by a superb filet mignon; Andrew roast red pepper and tomato soup followed by an equally good fillet of elk with a white parsnip chocolate sauce.

 

References

  1. Glacier National Park
  2. Glacier NP - Melting Glaciers
  3. Glacier National Park - Lichens
  4. Glacier National Park - Wildflowers