Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hike to great mountain vistas at Glacier NP

Hidden Lake from Hidden Lake Overlook Trail
Among the best ways to see Glacier National Park’s major sights is via a day hike. Though the park has several remote areas, just five short trails allow visitors to enjoy the park’s major highlights –mountain vistas, wildlife sightings, moraine lakes, glaciers, and waterfalls.

Mountain vistas
Great views of the rugged Rockies, eroded over the eons by glaciers, abound in the park. One awe-inspiring scene is the towering red peaks over Upper Two Medicine Lake. Take the boat shuttle across the lake to the Upper Two Medicine Lake Trail for a 4.4-mile round trip hike with a 300-foot gain in elevation.

Wildlife sightings
Mountain goats and sheep, moose, black bear and grizzlies all call Glacier home. The 3-mile round trip (550-foot gain) Hidden Lake Overlook Trail offers unobstructed views of the lake and excellent opportunities to spot the elusive mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots and even wolverines. Your best shot at a sighting is hiking at dusk or dawn; bring binoculars.

Moraine lakes
Melting glaciers feed several lakes across the park, including Avalanche Lake. Start on the Trail of the Cedars then turn off onto the Avalanche Lake Trail. The 4.7-miles round trip (505-foot gain) trail heads to Avalanche Lake, where 200-plus-foot waterfalls from Sperry Glacier fill the valley with its turquoise waters.

Glacier fields
Twenty-six glaciers dot the national park, with Grinnell Glacier the most accessible of them. Take the boat shuttle across Lake Josephine and hike 7.8 miles round trip on the Grinnell Glacier Trail (1,600-foot gain) to Upper Grinnell Lake, which is meltwater from the glacier.

With melting glaciers and high mountains, waterfalls can be found aplenty in the national park. You can see one of the park’s most photographed waterfall on the St. Mary Falls Trail, a 2.4-miles round trip (260 foot change in elevation) whose trailhead is off the Going to the Sun Road at the St. Mary/Virginia Falls parking area. Continue another 0.6 miles (1.2-miles round trip) to see tall and narrow Virginia Falls.

Learn about other great national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.