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Trip Report Glacier NP -- excellent 1st time trip for family of 4

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I wasn’t aware of this forum at the time of the trip. We had such a good time I thought I would share our experience. Hopefully my notes/memory are still clear on the details. My family of four (wife, 9 y.o daughter and 6 y.o. son) took our 1st trip to a western NP by going to Glacier back in August 2008. Not knowing any better, we decided location was key and stayed in the official park lodges (2 nights each in 4 lodges). We made the decision to split our time at various places around this very large park (and we are glad we did).

We targeted 2-4 mile hikes rather than all day ones. We also sought out Ranger led hikes and Campground talks when appropriate. We generally like to eat well on vacations but that took a back seat for this trip. Breakfast and lunch were generally muffins and sandwiches from the camp stores.

The book “Best Easy Day Hikes for Glacier and Wateron Lakes NP” was a useful book/resource.

Day 1: Flew from Indy to Spokane via Denver. Drove 5 hrs to GNP. I normally would try to fly closer, but the tickets were $250 (Frontier) vs. $750 (to Kalispell). It was a nice drive and well worth $2000!

We drove around to the east side and checked into Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier just outside of the park. Typical NP lodge (good location, clean, adequate but minimal rooms).

Day 2: Two Medicine Area

In the car to Two Medicine. Stopped off at Running Eagle Falls for a quick 0.6 mile hike to loosen up and then onto the Apistoki Falls hike (2.4M). It was fairly strenuous for our first real hike. We didn’t take it all the way to the falls but to a local apex for a good view. We saw a black bear on the trail that certainly got our attention. Kids were more apt to stay between us though!

We drove up to St. Mary’s for the “Indiana Jones” Ranger hike around the old ranger station and beaver pond trail (3.4M). It was a mix of grassland and mountain views (on the edge of the park). Decent, but not as spectacular as some.

Dinner at the Whistle Stop in East Glacier. Some of the best food on the trip! We ate breakfast there the next day too. Took in the evening campfire program at Two Medicine. Good 1st day!

Day 3: Two Medicine

Very cold morning. Hiked Aster Falls (2.6M) in the morning and did the Twin Falls ranger led hike (and boat ride) in the afternoon (4.4M?). It was nice to have the boat shorten the trip. We had Ranger “Pat” who’s been at GNP many years (and lives in the area year round). He was excellent. He was very knowledgeable about the flowers and berries along the way. He showed the kids the huckleberries (good) and twin berries (bad). I had to make sure the kids didn’t eat all the huckleberries in the park from then on. This hike took us more into the park and we started to see some of the snow capped mountains and glaciers.

Drove north to Many Glacier Hotel. Excellent location and views. This was probably our favorite part of the park. Nothing special about the hotel. It either had charm or was old depending on your point of view. Dinner at the hotel was poor and slow.

Day 4: Many Glacier

Quite a day. It started off with the ranger led hike to Grinnell Lake (1.9M). We again shortened things by signing up for the boat trip(s) across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. Ranger Monica led the way to Grinnell Lake, Hidden Falls and a gorgeous view of the salamander glacier. On the way back we saw a moose chomping in Lake Josephine.

In the afternoon we hiked out to Redrock Falls (3-4M?). Near the beginning of the trail, there is a small lake known for moose sightings. We evidently just missed a mom and calf. On we went to Redrock Falls. The redrock was quite unique for this area. On the way back we stopped at the lake and again “just missed” the moose. We walked around a bit and my son saw a moose back at the opposite end of the small lake. We walked down such that we were across the width of the lake from it (rather than the longer length). We were trying to determine if it was the mom or calf when a thundering moose came down behind us and maybe 20 yard to our left. THAT was the mom. She splashed in the water to go check on junior. Exciting times!

Day 5: Logan’s Pass

We drove back down to St. Mary’s and took the shuttle to Logan’s Pass(3M) along Going to Sun road. We were trying to make the noon ranger hike and found waiting for the bus a little nerve wracking. The 1st was too full and the 2nd was slow in coming. They certainly weren’t concerned about anyone’s schedule. It was crowded at Logan’s Pass so maybe that was still the thing to do, but I’d rather be in control of the timing. We really enjoyed the hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. Snow on the trail (in August) and many goats and hoary marmots to see. This ranger was a dud, but that was the exception.

We took the shuttle back to St. Mary’s and then drove to Waterton, Canada. We picked up other Going to Sun hikes later in the trip. We stayed in the Prince of Wales Hotel. The views were stunning but this hotel was very expensive ($350/night) and also old/charming. There are many options down the hill in Waterton that should be considered instead.

Deer, deer, deer – they are everywhere in Waterton.

Day 6: Waterton

We hiked around Cameron Lake (flat, 2.2M) which was okay but nothing special. Crandall Lake (2-3M?) was more up/down and again not as breathtaking as the previous hikes. Bertha Falls (3.8M) was a nice hike with views looking down into Waterton Lake. We also drove out to Red Rock Canyon. The hike was weak but we did see a couple of black bears along the drive and we stopped to take a few pictures.

We had dinner in Waterton on both nights. Zum’s on the first (nothing special) and at the Bayshore Inn the 2nd night. The second night was very good and a nice outdoor setting as well.

I’m glad we got to see this part of the park, but given the cost and the distance it could be skipped in my opinion.

Day 7: Going to Sun Road

We took GtSR “backwards” to get to the Lake McDonald area. We stopped to do the St. Mary’s and Virginia Falls hikes (3.6M) along the way. We enjoyed those and the falls were spectacular.

The drive itself was amazing as well. It might have been worth doing another hike in this area but I believe the others were longer than we wanted to do.

We checked into the Lake McDonald Lodge were we had a “private” cabin. We enjoyed the campground talk on animals.

Day 8: Lake McDonald

We went with Ranger Teagan (a geologist) on the Avalanche Lake (4.6M) hike. This western part of the park was quite different than the other parts we had been to. We were walking through tall trees with misplaced boulders tossed about. The trail ended at Avalanche Lake which showed the typical glacier formed lake with snow run off. The hike was very informative as well. The only(?) fossil in the park was at the trail head.

We relaxed with a boat ride around Lake McDonald in the afternoon. We ate in “town” at Eddie’s restaurant. It was fine, but nothing special.

Day 9: Home (drive & fly)

The trip was wonderful. I’m so glad we did it. I wouldn’t change a whole lot from what we did. I preferred the “inside” of the park at Many Glacier and Logan’s Pass the best. Two Medicine was also a nice surprise. Staying at multiple lodges worked out well as it allowed us to see all parts of the park.

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