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Glacier National Park Trip Report -- August 12-18, 2018

Glacier National Park Trip Report -- August 12-18, 2018

Old Sep 15th, 2020, 05:12 PM
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Wow, Myer, those bear pictures are amazing! But they also underline why I think I'm going to purchase bear spray the next time I visit Glacier.

And thanks for posting the other photos as well. They provide an appropriate cautionary lesson. I certainly felt concern about the spot where the waterfall drops onto the trail, and I took it very carefully (obviously, having appropriate footwear is extremely important for places like this). I have seen other photos of this stretch where no water was flowing there, so I don't know how often that is the case. But there is no question that many of these trails present risks and dangers -- that's certainly true of those portions of the Highline Trail where it is only about three feet wide. And then there's the Angel's Landing Trail in Zion National Park. It's in a league by itself, as shown by the following video:


These circumstances demonstrate the importance of researching particular trails in advance so you know what you're getting yourself in for; checking with the park rangers about trail conditions before setting out, because these can be changeable; and recognizing the importance of taking conditioning hikes in the run-up to your trip, if you plan to tackle trails that are longer and more demanding.
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Old Sep 15th, 2020, 06:12 PM
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I don't go to that area without bear spray. I once came close to pulling it out of my belt.

Actually, the Highline Trail isn't too bad. There's a cable anchored to the wall and you can hold it. The Grinnell Glacier trail is slippery and dangerous. I'm sure there's water flowing down until maybe Sept or later.

I found out about something called Triple Falls. It's located about a mile from the main visitors' center. It's off limits due to the fact there is no trail and they don't want people walking there. Well, of course we went there. There are actually three different, rather small waterfalls. We took photos and I began to hear someone calling. It was an older male ranger (who works in the visitors center) and a female compliance ranger.

The male got to us first. All he said was "tell her you didn't see the sign". When she got to us she was not happy with us. She asked if I saw the sign. She took us back to the Hidden Lake trail and we went there.

Of the two trips I spent a little more than half a day on the west side. I would totally skip that side if I went back again.

Many Glacier is the place to be and as well as along the main road on the east side.

In Many Glacier the short hike to Fishercap Lake is a great place to see wildlife. The lake is very shallow so late in the afternoon there's a good chance of seeing deer and moose walking in the lake having dinner. I would start and end every day there.

Apikuni Falls is a great hike. Not long at all but STEEP. We saw a black bear on the way back to the car.

One night two rangers were putting on a presentation at the east side visitors center. They had telescopes. We saw the International Space Station fly overhead without using the telescope.

On the way back from St Mary Falls a black bear crossed the trail right in front of us. Just like we weren't there.

Like I wrote above. One of my favorite places along with New York and Paris. All for different reasons.

​​​​​​​
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Old Sep 16th, 2020, 01:58 PM
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Wonderful trip report! It brought back fond memories of my 2012 trip to GNP. I did similar trails that you had done. In addition to that, I was lucky to have the Highline Trail, Iceberg Lake trail with a side track to Ptarmigan Tunnel covered on that trip.

Goose Island - early morning

Saint Mary falls

Hidden Lake

Two Medicine lake

Running Eagle falls

View from Ptarmigan tunnel

Ptarmigan Tunnel

Trail to Ptarmigan tunnel

Iceberg Lake

Grinnell Glacier

Grinnell Glacier Rock wall

Grinnell Glacier trail

Lake Josephine boat ride to Grinnell Glacier trail

Iconic view from St Mary Lodge

GNP is amazing!
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Old Sep 16th, 2020, 07:31 PM
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Double Falls, a/k/a Triple Falls

Thanks for posting again, Myer. I've also heard good things about the trail to Apikuni Falls, which was closed owing to bear activity when we were there. But I particularly wanted to respond to your comments about what you called "Triple Falls". It does go by that name, but is also known as "Double Falls"; I guess the number of cascades must be in the eye of the beholder.

Anyway, it seems to be one of the more striking, but little-known, sights to see in GNP. I first became aware of it because a photo of it was used for the cover of my Moon Guide to GNP (May 2017 edition). See the link below:

Amazon Amazon

"Wow!" was my reaction. But the image seemed to indicate it was in some extremely remote location. Yet when I checked the photography credits, they said, "Logan Pass." This, of course, is the epicenter of tourism at Glacier. I think I just sort of assumed, "Well, we'll be in Logan Pass,and presumably there will be a sign and a trail." But although we ultimately visited Logan Pass twice, there were no signs to remind me of it, and thus it slipped my mind to ask (which, as your experience indicates, may or may not have done us any good).

Anyway, in addition to what you've posted above, another visitor posted a description of how to find it on TripAdvisor some years back, and I'll post the link for that below.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopi...k_Montana.html

From looking at a map of the area on the AllTrails website, the stream that produces these falls is known as Reynolds Creek, which has its headwaters in a gentle valley off to your left when you're on the Hidden Lake trail, just as you approach the rise and the copse of small fir trees that you pass through just before the Hidden Lake overlook. (I suspect the real "headwaters" of this stream are all those rivulets that flow down from Mount Clements and that you cross along the Hidden Lake Trail.) The AllTrails map shows a steep series of contour lines which I assume may be the canyon that you mention. As you indicate, it appears that the Park Service doesn't want to highlight it because the area of the "Hanging Gardens" is fairly fragile (hence the boardwalks built across it for much of the way to the Hidden Falls overlook).

Well, I envy you having seen it. I'll post a link to a search I did on Flickr which turned up a remarkable collection of beautiful photos taken there (well - several of the later ones are actually of Running Eagle Falls, which is another kind of double waterfall). And there's a stunning, full-page image of it in an article on Montana that appears in the current issue (October 2020) of "Conde Nast Traveler" magazine (which happens to be the first photo turned up by my search below).

https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=...onal%20Park%22
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Old Sep 16th, 2020, 07:39 PM
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Thanks for posting these, Chertor! Having seen your photo of Hidden Lake, I now understand what all the fuss is about -- the peak behind it was too obscured by smoke when we were there. And your images of the Ptarmigan Tunnel trail confirm my desire to do it someday.

What time of the summer were you there? You certainly show a lot more ice on Upper Grinnell Lake than was available for me to see.

P.S. I was just praising your pictures of the Dolomites on the "Photos from Italy" thread the other day!
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Old Sep 17th, 2020, 07:39 AM
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Spoiler
 
Triple Falls is/are quite small and three distinct falls with three different water sources. See photos. When facing the falls one stream comes from the left. one straight at you and one from the right.
After being "escorted" back to the Hidden Lake Overlook trail I knew what to look for from the Hidden Lake trail. That's the third photo.




This photo is taken almost behind the middle fall. That's the one on the right in the photo


Last edited by Myer; Sep 17th, 2020 at 07:41 AM.
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Old Sep 17th, 2020, 07:43 AM
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I messed up the above post.
That's Triple Falls.
I don't know if the Double Falls in the link is Triple Falls.
Triple Falls is right beside and down below the Hidden Lake Overlook trail.
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Old Sep 17th, 2020, 10:17 AM
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Cherthor,

Great photo of Iceberg Lake!!!

The more I see of Glacier the higher up it goes on my revisit list.

Below is Wild Goose Island. Why the name? Well there's an old story about two tribes. One on either side of the lake. Of course there was a couple, one from each tribe, that would meet on the island. One day they decided that instead of each going back home they would start the rest of their lives together. So they flew off as wild geese. Etc, etc.


Wild Goose Island at sunrise
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Old Sep 17th, 2020, 10:28 AM
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We stayed at the Rising Sun Motor Inn along GTTS road. I was driving out of the parking lot on my way to photograph sunrise at Wild Goose Island.
Habit made me look left before pulling out. What I saw made me put the car in park and jump out for a couple of photos.

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Old Sep 17th, 2020, 05:18 PM
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Triple Falls a/k/a Double Falls (and even occasionally, the “Reynolds Creek Cascades”

Thanks for the photos, Myer!

And Myer is right: “Triple Falls” is the more common name, although both the Moon Guide and the Conde Nast Traveler article used Double Falls, as did a famous landscape photographer named Galen Rowell who seems to get the credit for first raising the profile of this place. But I ran another Flickr search using “Triple Falls” “Glacier National Park” and that picked up some 78 photos, all of which are clearly of this subject, whereas my previous search using “Double Falls” “Glacier National Park” produced only 19, and as many as half of those were of other places. I also asked a ranger at the park about it today, and he called it “Triple Falls.”

https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=...onal%20Park%22

Sean Bagshaw, who created the stunning image linked below for the Conde Nast Traveller article, explains the discrepancies in nomenclature this way: “During the summer melt off water flows in from all sides creating four of five separate falls, but in the fall just the two main falls remain.”


And yes, the description in the TripAdvisor link in my previous post does relate to this waterfall, although I think the poster’s estimate of the distances from the Logan Pass parking lot may be somewhat overstated.

The ranger confirmed that the falls are off-limits because of concern about protecting the plants in the tundra (obviously, if the hordes of visitors who come to Logan Pass were to head down there en masse, it would be a big issue). He said the only time it is allowed to go down to the falls is in the spring, “when you can walk over snow” to get there, but this comes with a catch: if there’s enough snow for you to walk all the way over to the falls, there will also be enough snow to cover up the falls themselves once you get there, so you still won’t be able to see anything. Some of the photos in the group above, such as the one I’ve linked below by Joseph Rossbach, and in the chat board I link to further below, do indeed show snow banks still encroaching upon the falls.


Snow may be a problem even later than the spring. If you look at the image of Logan Pass on Google Earth, which seems to have been taken in the late spring or early summer (since Going-to-the-Sun Road is open in the photo), there are still large patches of snow collected in the valley of Reynolds Creek, and it seems likely that one of them is covering up the falls.

Flickr also some stunning photos taken from the base of the falls that are worth highlighting, like this one and the one that follows it in the collection above:


I also found some old entries on a Glacier National Park Chat Board from 2009 which suggest that back then, the falls may have been accessible to the public more frequently. There are also some photos in here that, while not as polished as those on Flickr, do provide a sense of how deep the canyon is and where it is located along the creek:

A question about Mt. Reynolds - Glacier National Park Chat
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Old Sep 17th, 2020, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffergray View Post
Thanks for posting these, Chertor! Having seen your photo of Hidden Lake, I now understand what all the fuss is about -- the peak behind it was too obscured by smoke when we were there. And your images of the Ptarmigan Tunnel trail confirm my desire to do it someday.

What time of the summer were you there? You certainly show a lot more ice on Upper Grinnell Lake than was available for me to see.

P.S. I was just praising your pictures of the Dolomites on the "Photos from Italy" thread the other day!
Jeffergray,
I enjoy reading your report as it brings back all the fond memories of my visit to GNP in early Sep 2012. It is exactly 8 years since my last visit.
If you like GNP, you will enjoy Dolomites. It is just stunning beautiful at the Italian Alps. We hiked a lot when we were there, and we were blessed with pretty good weather.
Happy travels!
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Old Sep 17th, 2020, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Myer View Post
Cherthor,

Great photo of Iceberg Lake!!!

The more I see of Glacier the higher up it goes on my revisit list.

Below is Wild Goose Island. Why the name? Well there's an old story about two tribes. One on either side of the lake. Of course there was a couple, one from each tribe, that would meet on the island. One day they decided that instead of each going back home they would start the rest of their lives together. So they flew off as wild geese. Etc, etc.


Wild Goose Island at sunrise
Stunning picture!
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Old Sep 18th, 2020, 07:31 AM
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Cherthor,
Thanks. Slightly better photography conditions without a wildfire.

I was hiking in Banff & Jasper with my adult daughter in 2014. We were a bit concerned about a wildfire that burned a couple of months before our trip.

When we got there we did find some burned out forest but the skies were clear. The only problem was that the closest thing we saw to a bear was a prairie dog.

A few animals but not really very much. Bummer.

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Old Sep 19th, 2020, 09:51 AM
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More Guidance about When to Go to Glacier

At the end of my account of our trip, I wrote the following:

“I might suggest visiting Glacier in the first half of July or even in late June, or possibly in early September if you don’t have childrens’ school schedules that make that impossible. But by all means check that advice with rangers at the park, because you also have to keep in mind the date when Going-to-the-Sun Road becomes completely passable. “

On further reflection – and because I’m trying to figure out when I should next go back to Glacier – I decided I should take my own advice and speak to one of the rangers at Glacier about the vexing question of when it’s best to go. As I indicated, I always find the rangers at National Parks to be very helpful, and these are some key things I learned from our conversation.

• June 21st is the average opening date of Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR). The ranger told me that in his 8 seasons at Glacier, GTSR has only opened after July 1st in 2 seasons.

The NPS at Glacier maintains a webpage with information about the conditions on GTSR (click here: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gtsrinfo.htm), and it includes a very instructive list of opening and closing dates up through 2016. You should be able to find out more recent ones through an on-line search, or by calling the park.

The closing dates are commonly well into October (the target date seems to be around October 17th - 20th), but have occasionally been as early as mid-September. The ranger told me that the end of September is when things start to get risky for snow, although as DaveS’s photos above indicate, it can come as early as mid-September.

However, you can’t take the opening date of GTSR as necessarily meaning that all trails are hike-able then. For example, the ranger told me that:

• The Highline Trail usually opens around July 4th.

• The Ptarmigan Tunnel typically isn’t unlocked until the third week of July.

The current photo of the Logan Pass area on Google Earth provides some additional insight into conditions in the earlier part of Glacier’s summer tourist season. The photo shows GTSR as open, and the parking lot at Logan Pass is filled to capacity – which suggests it was probably taken sometime between mid-June and early July – but there’s still so much snow on the ground around Logan Pass that the trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook ultimately disappears beneath it. Similarly, Upper Grinnell Lake is almost totally covered by ice, although the lower elevations (e.g., around Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake) are all snow-free.

The Park’s website also has an informative Trail Status page (https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvis...tusreports.htm). Significantly, it indicates that September is the month when bears are most active (which makes sense, not only because they’ve had more time to pick clean the food sources at higher elevations, but because hibernation time is approaching fast).

The Park’s “Current Conditions” page (https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm) even includes a webcam showing what the parking lot conditions are like in Logan Pass (https://www.nps.gov/media/webcam/vie...8AC3D953C2AECF). As of this writing, at mid-day on September 19th, it’s pretty much socked in by fog, but it’s still nearly full.

As all of the above indicates, the various park’s various webpages are an excellent source of information.

The number I’ve called at the park to get information (where I usually have been able to get through without a call-back) is (406) 888-7800.
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Old Sep 19th, 2020, 05:43 PM
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Additional Planning Resources: Videos on YouTube

In the course of putting together this Trip Report, I ran across a number of videos on YouTube that I think could be very helpful to anyone planning their first trip to Glacier, in particular. I'm sure there are others that would be helpful as well, but these will give you a sense of what's available. And they're all eminently watchable.

For starters, there’s an excellent video on “Glacier National Park: What to Know Before You Go” (over 103,000 views), and with some excellent ideas about what trails to hike, and in what order of priority, at the end:
. It’s prepared by a guy named Steve Salis as part of a series of videos covering many of the national parks out west entitled, “The West is Big!” Indeed it is. This series also includes a number of other videos on Glacier – which Salis notes is his favorite national park, and one that he returns to every year – with many of them focusing in detail on a few trails, such as this one on the Grinnell Glacier, Highline, and Bullhead Lake trails:
.

In the “planning your trip” genre, here’s another good one (“Glacier National Park: Plan your Trip!”) by a young couple named Shane and Laura:
.. They also have a shorter video on “Ten Do’s and Don’ts”:
(with nearly 45,000 views), as well as a video devoted to the Grinnell Glacier Hike, which will show you what the views look like when there isn’t a forest fire going on across the Continental Divide:
.

Finally, there’s another young couple named Adam and Kathryn (“The Adventures of A + K”) who are very committed hikers (and eaters: one often goes with the other) whose video on the Highline Trail (
- nearly 32,000 views, and they only posted it about a month ago) will definitely ensure that you understand what you’re getting yourself in for (or will serve as a fine substitute if you never have the chance to take this hike yourself). A + K also have a number of videos from Europe, with a particularly good one from a day spent in the Dolomites where they managed three separate hikes totaling 16 miles in a single day!
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Old Sep 19th, 2020, 07:24 PM
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Some Additional Materials about the Howe Ridge Fire

Before I wrap this up, I wanted to post some additional materials about the Howe Ridge fire that I ran across while working on this report.

The first is a video, shown on CBS News’s morning program, showing the efforts of two campers to escape the fire as it blew up late on the afternoon of Sunday, August 12th. Warning: this is intense, harrowing footage, but it gives an unforgettable sense of what it is like to be inside a forest fire, and of the speed with which a fire can transform from a minor issue to a very serious threat. We have of course seen even more remarkable examples of this occurring in Oregon and California over the past 7-10 days.


I’ll also add a link to the NPS photos of the fire I previously posted that connects you directly to Flickr and makes them easier to review; an image showing the area burned by the fire as of August 15th, only four days into it (ultimately, I believe, the burned area was about three times larger than this); and a link to Wikipedia’s article about the fire, which underlines how persistent and long-lasting a forest fire like this can be.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsmgKb9Zq


Area burned by the Howe Ridge fire as of 8/15 (I think the two campers in the video were trying to escape by the road along the northwest side of Lake McDonald that runs from Kelly's Camp to the Lake McDonald Ranger station)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howe_Ridge_Fire

That's it.
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