The next stop on our round trip in the US Northwest, was Glacier National Park in Montana. Coming up from Yellowstone, we drove through great landscapes, rolling fields with cattle, mountains as backdrop and blue sky above us.
For Glacier park, we stayed at Kalispell, MO, which is about 26 miles from the west entrance of Glacier National park. The roads to the entrance are large and speed limits upto 70 mph allow for speedy travel to get to the park.
Of course, our first day plan was to drive the “Going to the sun road” that runs from the west entrance over the Logan pass, to St Mary’s at the east entrance of the park. All in all about 58 miles. With all the stops and scenic views, plan at least 2 to 2,5 hours for the drive.
The first part of the road is actually fairly boring, as it leads for about 15 miles through the woods along lake McDonalds. Only after that distance it gets more interesting. The road then starts to run along one of the mountain slopes uphill with great vistas along the way. It would take way too long to describe each of the high-points here. Lets just say, that we stopped every few 100 yards to take pictures and enjoy the views. Since everybody else is doing the same, it makes for a slow progress – but that’s why we came here, not to rush through.
Once we reached Logan Pass, we came to the difficult task of finding a parking spot. There’re about 200 parking spots for at least double that number of cars anytime of day. So plan for long circling around the parking lot – and hope for luck that somebody leaves right in front of you.
We had luck on our way back towards the evening and found a parking spot. There’re a few short (and longer) hikes starting at Logan Pass. The most interesting is the one leading along the mountain wall above the valley we just came up with the car. Great vistas and rough terrain.
Once we reached St Mary at the East entrance of the park, we continued to the Man Glacier area, a drive of about 30 minutes from the park entrance. We planned to do a hike to one of the many lakes there. Since this is now more backcountry than near the “Going to the sun road”, bear spray is advised in this area. In fact, the hiking trail was closed shortly after the lake that we wanted to visit because some bears were roaming around.
The “Swiftcurrent Trail” was leading us after about 1,5 miles to Redrock Lake. A very scenic spot in between all the mountains. At the end of the lake is a nice little waterfall that invites for picture-taking as well as climbing over the rocks of the waterfalls. We spent quite some time there enjoying the scenery before we headed back to the parking lot. All in all, a hike of about 3 hours (including time at the falls) and 4 Miles.
Since it was already late afternoon at this point, we decided to head back towards Kalispell, a drive of good 100 miles from this area.
Obviously we took more pictures on the way back, since we now got the sun from the other side, creating all new scenery and shadows compared to the morning-hours.
For the last day in the area, we decided to take a drive to the northern area of the park. This area around Bowman Lake is significantly less traveled by tourists. One of the main reasons for that is, that the road leading there is mostly a dirt road. In summer good to manage, in winter I can imagine, it must be a nightmare to drive. It took us about 2 hours for 45 miles, with only a few spots on the way.
About halfway to Bowman Lake we came through a small town – Polebridge – that consisted of a few buildings. The attraction there is definitely the bakery where you can get fresh baked goods, with berries fresh from the woods in the area. I urge everybody to stop there, have a coffee and some of their scones or bear-claws. So much better than the things you get in supermarkets. Aside from that, the bakery and the area around is truly western-like.
We continued from Polebridge to Bowman Lake on a dirt road of decreasing quality. We slowly feared of our rental car which was not necessarily built for this kind of roads. After another 45 minute of driving, we finally made it. The area is very quiet, few people only there. We had planned to do a hike around the lake, but since we were advised, that bears are roaming around in the area, we didn’t want to stress our luck and canceled the hike.
This was our first time at Glacier National Park. It is located not on any main travel routes, so it is a bit more difficult to get there, but if you have time, it is definitely worth it. Driving there took good 8 hours (from Yosemite), but if you enjoy the scenery along the way through Montana, it clearly is worth it.
For more photos, please head over to my Flickr site, which (at about End Sep/16) will have all of the photos taken plus albums of the other parks we visited.