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Trip Report - Glacier National Park Aug 4-9, 2012


Aug 15th, 2012, 05:45 PM
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Trip Report - Glacier National Park Aug 4-9, 2012

I took my daughter on this trip. Being married with an almost 6 year old she wanted less days and I wanted more. We settled on four plus travel.

I had reserved lodging at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (2 nights) in Many Glacier and Rising Sun Motor Inn (2 nights) on Going to the Sun Road along Saint Mary Lake. Neither luxurious. Both adequate and very convenient.

After checking out the various flight options I decided on Calgary. It’s a four hour drive to the Many Glacier lodging and only an hour more than from Kalispell and Great Falls. The number of good flights was the clincher.

Day 0.
I thought we’d arrive not much later than 5PM and originally planned on doing either of the Apikuni or Redrock Falls hikes. However, just as we passed the Many Glacier Hotel turnoff there was a grizzly on the hill above the road. Pretty far up but still a grizzly. So much for plans.

Day 1.
Sunrise photos at Swiftcurrent Lake.

I had made reservations for the boat shuttle across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The Grinnell Glacier ranger-led hike looked like a good starting idea. The ranger immediately told us that she was not permitted to go past the snack stop due to snow cover on the trail. Instead we’d return from there and go to Grinnell Lake (we also went to Hidden Falls).

In a way I’m glad we didn’t go any further as my aching joints were feeling the many steps. I don’t mind a relatively long (for me) hike but those steps. . . .

On the boat ride back we saw a grizzly along the shore of Lake Josephine. We also saw hiker coming towards it from both sides. The ranger on the boat was frantically waving her arms.

Spectacular scenery.

After returning we decided to do the Redrock Falls hike. I knew to veer over to Fishercap Lake on the way. This lake provided the biggest wildlife bang for the effort of any location we visited.

We spent a while watching a male moose eating in the water. When he decided to leave the water he caused some drama as he was headed right towards us. We continued on to the Falls. A very nice multi-tiered waterfall.

On the way back a deer jogged by and then my daughter was facing a grizzly who was in the woods no more than 15 yards from her. She got a quick photo while I had my hand on the bear spray. We quickly left.

We stopped at Fishercap Lake and this time saw a female moose in the water near the shore.

Day 2.
More sunrise photos at Swiftcurrent Lake.

We decided to do the Iceberg Lake hike. The ranger-led hike left at 8:30 and we left an hour later. Eventually we caught up with them. More spectacular scenery.

This hike was much longer than Grinnell Glacier but much easier. Not very steep and few stairs.

A few people jumped into the freezing cold lake. Not me.

About two-thirds of the way back we saw a grizzly walking parallel to us about 10 yards above our trail. We stopped, took some photos and waited for it to move on. However, he came down onto our trail and walked in front of us for a few yards, stopping in a very small stream crossing the trail.

He turned towards us to pose and decided a mid-afternoon cooling-down bath was a good idea. He spent about a half hour relaxing in the water as we did our duty photographing it.

By the time he decided to get up and move on the line of hikers behind us must have been over a hundred yards long. I’m sure those further back than the front saw nothing more than the backs of those in front of them. Something to remember for a long time.

Before leaving for Rising Sun we decided to take one more hike to Fishercap Lake and this time saw a large male moose and some deer all up close.

Day 3.
Sunrise photos at Wild Goose Island.

We went to Logan Pass early to make sure we had a parking space and started with the Hidden Lake hike. I found this one of the more strenuous hikes due to the number of stairs. It was fun walking on snow wearing shorts in sunny, mid-80s weather. Again, more spectacular scenery.

We saw several big horn sheep but they were quite a way off.

After returning we went right across the road to the Highline trail and immediately got diverted by a family of mountain goats. They seemed to know where we were going so they moved ahead into good posing positions just above the trail.

We decided that we would only do about a mile of this hike. The goal was to hike past the end of the cable and see wildlife and scenery. The trail along the cable really isn’t scary at all. It’s quite wide. Again, more spectacular scenery.

After returning to the visitors center we snacked and drove over to the St Mary Falls trailhead. The hike to St Mary Falls and on to Virginia Falls was just the right length. The waterfalls were a lot better than I expected. After going to Yellowstone and Yosemite I didn’t expect much but I really liked them. Small enough to get up close and large enough to be impressive. Each had their own character.

Day 4.
More sunrise photos at Wild Goose Island. Then I drove along Going-to-the-Sun Road until the cars were backed up at the road construction.

We drove over to Logan pass to look for some big horn sheep or mountain goats but the lot was full so we went a short distance to Lunch Creek. This is a very nice cascading waterfall that’s definitely worth the stop.

Our choice was to go to Two Medicine for a few hours and add almost two hours to our driving or start heading back towards Calgary and detour over to Waterton Lakes in Alberta.

Not long after entering Waterton we took some photos of the Prince of Wales Hotel and stopped at a picnic area for a snack lunch.

Cameron Falls in the town was another interesting stop.

I had heard much about the Bears Hump trail so we decided to do it. This relatively short hike is very steep and full of high stairs all the way up. Just what I needed.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to the top it had clouded over and the view wasn’t what it would have been on a clear day.

I’m thinking about going back to Glacier. However, how do you beat four days of clear blue skies, warm temperatures, more wildlife than I’ve ever seen and that spectacular scenery. I have a tough decision to make.

Photos of the trip are at:
Myer is offline  
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Aug 15th, 2012, 06:07 PM
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Great report. You saw some amazing wildlife. And your photos are really beautiful.

Glacier is definitely a place to go back to!
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Aug 15th, 2012, 06:13 PM
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Love Galcier NP! Great pics. Thanx for sharing this.
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Aug 15th, 2012, 07:02 PM
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Wow, a lot of wildlife super close. Closer than what I'd want to be, but amazing after it is all over with, I would imagine.
I just go back myself from Seattle/areas. My wife and I are planning on Glacier next year. Have our reservations already. Now, I have to decide on what I am doing. I will for sure be buying bear spray first thing after seeing your pics.
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Aug 16th, 2012, 11:53 AM
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Aug 16th, 2012, 01:04 PM
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Spectacular photos! One of my favorite places on the planet!
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Aug 19th, 2012, 12:02 PM
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I am debating about which hikes to do next summer.

I had thought I would do Iceberg Lake and Highline Trail on one of the Ranger-led hikes. From everything I've read, HT seems to easily be the #1 Trail

Was also considering Hidden Lakes and not doing Highline.
This trail also has to be one of the most popular.

It is my understanding that Iceberg is closed a lot, due to bear activity.

I have also consider doing every boat/lake tour(not McDonald), as most of these have a short walk/hike too.

This will be with my wife and probably a little less hiking than I would like to do. I imagine that we would also do the High Tea/Red Bus Tour to Waterton.
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Aug 19th, 2012, 12:07 PM
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Looking at your photos again, I particularly like your moose pics. Hope I see at least half as much wildlife as you did. I saw mountain goats on my trip to Olympic a couple of weeks ago, but not anywhere near as close as you did.
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Aug 19th, 2012, 01:16 PM
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Highline trail opened late June this year. It's about a 15 mile round trip from Logan Pass to Granite Chalet with an elevation gain of only about 800 feet. Should you wish to "save" about 3 miles, when you reach the Chalet follow the loop trail to Going to the Sun Road. Saves mileage but has a 2200 elevation drop which is hard on knees and toes. If you choose this trail, be sure to have plenty of water as there is little shade from the Chalet to the Sun Road. Once on the road, take the free shuttle back to logan Pass, they run approx. every half hour. Parking is VERY limited at the pass so I suggest you arrive there before 10:00am to find a parking spot.
Hidden Lake overlook is a short 1 1/2 mile hike with boardwalk a lot of the way up. It's another mile and a half down to the lake. Easy to find the trail, just follow the crowd.

Iceberg Lake usually opens arond the first of July and is posted often for bear. NOT closed often but definetly POSTED for bear often which means bears have been seen on the trail or close to the trail.
All alpine trails are weather dependent so before leaving home you may want to check web sites to get an idea if trais are open. Last year the Sun Road didn't open till mid July, this year, due to the mild winter we had ,it was open second week in June.
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Aug 19th, 2012, 05:43 PM
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I have reservations for July 25-29 at many Glacier.

Had reservations last year and lost $1500 on cabin I had rented on VRBO. Was not able to get my flight or any flight. 49 airplanes were damaged in Denver by hail. So, I just go my money back on the flight. Live and learn. I never though about insurance on a cabin rental.

I think you live in that area. Do you have any "must suggestions" I have seriously thought about trying to even spend a night at Granite, then continue on the next day to Many Glacier instead of going back to Logan Pass(involves more logistics and catching a shuttle back to get car). Not for sure if my wife would be up for that much, but she might be.
Then again, we might just stick with the easier stuff. Just trying to figure out if I want to for sure include Highline or not. It will take pretty much a full day if we do.
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Aug 19th, 2012, 06:34 PM
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What some people find easy others may not.

We couldn't do the whole Grinnell Glacier hike as there was a snowfield just after the waterfall you walk under. We were on a ranger-led hike and she wasn't allowed to go past the snack area.

We could see some people going past the waterfall but were afraid to go past the snowfield. It looked dangerous.

What I found difficult (probably age and knees, etc) was Hidden Lake Overlook (due to the number of actual stairs) and Ginnell Glacier hike (also due to the number of sort of stairs). Tough on the knees though I don't really have a knee issue.

I don't think it helped that we went on the Grinnell Glacier hike on our first full day there. The elevation isn't that high but still a lot higher than where we live.

For Grinnell Glacier we took the two boats at Many Glacier. Since we shortened that hike we added Grinnell Lake. On the boat on the way back we saw a grizzly on the shore (see photos) and two sets of hikes coming towards it from either side. The ranger was trying to wave to them but I'm sure they couldn't see her.

Iceberg Lake wasn't close due to anything. We went right down to the lake. It's a much longer hike than Grinnell Glacier but much, much easier. The only relatively steep part is the first few hundred yards. I can go all day but it's those steep ups or stairs that aren't fun.

Actually, what I found most strenuous was Bears Hump in Waterton Lakes. Many, many high stairs on a relatively short hike. I'll take Iceberg Lake any day.

As far as Highline is concerned. My goal isn't necessarily to complete long hikes. I want scenery, wildlife and waterfalls (none on Highline).

After seeing the mountain goats right at the start of the hike, walking the area of the cable and a mile or so of scenery we saw no reason to continue.

We came back to the visitors center, had a snack and drove over to the St may Falls trailhead. I was quite surprise with this waterfall and Virginia. After being to Yellowstone and Yosemite I didn't think they would be impressive. I really liked their shape.

In Yosemite, other than Vernal Falls I didn't really like the very large waterfalls as you can't see most up close and from far they just look like strings.

About doing Highline. You can decide how much you want to do. Even if you don't want to do it I would do the start hoping to see the mountain goats and the cable. Then do what you want.

About wildlife. I felt Fishercap Lake that's located about 10-15 minutes from the start of the Swiftcurrent Pass (Redrock Falls) trail was great.

After the Grinnell Glacier hike we went to Redrock Falls. On the way we veered over to Fishercap Lake and saw a male moose in the water. On the way back we went there again and saw a male moose in the water and some deer in the woods right beside the lake.

The next day after the Iceberg Lake hike we went back to Fishecap before leaving for Rising Sun and saw a deer by the shore and a male moose.

I'm trying to figure out why I didn't really like what I saw of Waterton Lakes. Last year we were in Banff and I almost had the same feeling.

I think that having a tourist town made it a little more in civilization. Walking up and down the street going into stores, etc.

I think I prefer a motel to sleep in and a restaurant to eat in and that's it.
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Aug 19th, 2012, 06:40 PM
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Forgot to add.

I'm thinking of next year and considering either Banff & Jasper or Glacier again.

We spent four days there. We were in Many Glacier and Rising sun (the area along GTTS Rd east of Logan Pass.

I drove west early in the morning and went until the cars were backed up at the construction area. That was not past 8AM.

So I haven't been to the west side or Two Medicine.

Since I wouldn't hesitate to use Calgary for either there's a temptation to go for ten days and go to both Glacier and Banff/Jasper.

It appears a friend of mine will come but I don't think he can swing that many days.

Maybe do one myself (Glacier since there are enough ranger-led hikes or very popular trails so I won't be alone) and then pick him up at Calgary on the way to Banff.
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Aug 19th, 2012, 07:07 PM
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When you shop for airfare plus car rental fees, price flying to Spokane and either renting the car there or taking the Empire Builder to Whitefish. The Empire Builder pulls into Whitefish at about 7:30AM MT every day. It leaves Spokane at 1:30AM PT.
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Aug 20th, 2012, 04:16 AM
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I spoke to some people who had also flown to Calgary and they said they saved a lot booking the car outside the airport and taking a taxi.

I booked the car a long time before the trip and it was half the price of booking it closer to travel. Either that's what happens when you book early or the prices have gone thru the roof.
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Aug 20th, 2012, 06:58 AM
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I always book nearly a year out, when I can. And yes, the price is about half.
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Aug 20th, 2012, 08:25 AM
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After dealing with a car rental company that insisted they reprice a whole rental because I wanted to make a slight change, I now use a different strategy.

When I think there's a potential for a trip I book many cars all around the dates that I might need and for various lengths.

For Glacier I even book from three different airports.

If that's the way they're going to play the game, I'll do what I have to do to counteract it.

= = = =
About using Calgary for Glacier.

I don't know what the roads are like from Kallispel or Great Falls but the drive from Calgary was excellent. Good smooth road and no twisty hills, etc.

I did have one issue though. At Lethbridge I somehow ended off Rte 2 (goes all the way from the airport to the border).

I kept driving while my daughter used the GPS to try and find our way back onto the correct road. Eventually I got pulled over by a police officer who said I was speeding and made several illegal turns.

He said 20Km/hr. That's 12 miles per hour.

I though I made one illegal turn but that was because we decided not to make a left turn after we got into a barriered left turn. I went around it to the right and that's when he pulled us over.

After he saw maps on the front seat and we told him we needed some help he pointed the right way and sent us off. No ticket.
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Aug 20th, 2012, 09:39 AM
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Glacier never disappoints. Nice report
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Aug 20th, 2012, 09:40 AM
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I'll probably fly into Kalispell, even though it will cost me more and I don't have any flyer rewards I could use there. It just seems a whole lot closer.

Even with GPS, I always somehow manage to get turned around. Sometimes it's the GPS fault though. I have to blame someone or something.
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Aug 20th, 2012, 10:00 AM
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Depending upon where you're going it may not be that much closer.

We went to Many Glacier. From Kalispell or Great Falls it's a 3 hour drive. From Calgary it was a bit under 4 hrs. And like I wrote, the roads are really good.

Also, there's a hotel in the airport right beside the car rental.

We hasd an early morning flight so we returned the car the evening before. Then in the morning we just walked across the street into the terminal. Had we gone one level up there's an indoor tunnel.

Very convenient.
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Aug 20th, 2012, 10:02 AM
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I'll look at it again. I just thought driving the GTSR, from the start might be good. Not totally sure about anything yet. Just glad I have my reservations.
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