There’s more than just a touch of magic in Glacier National Park. Between the park’s namesake glaciers, its vertigo-inducing topography, cerulean blue lakes, wildlife, and wonderfully designed trails, Glacier left its mark on us. Its our new favorite - if we had to choose one park to go back to right now, it would be Glacier - and that’s not easy for us to say when its competing in our hearts with Arches, Yellowstone, Joshua Tree and all the others. But that’s just how magical it really is.
Part of that magic is the urgency inherent in seeing the glaciers before they’re gone. When the park was created, there were more than 100 glaciers thrashing about (albeit at a glacial pace), cutting down valleys, and providing year-round water to the region’s rivers. Today, there are just 25 glaciers remaining in the park, and those are all predicted to be gone in 5 short years. Thousands of years of ice and snow accumulation gone, melted away down the drain of a warming world. This place is the poster-child for climate change. On the bright side, we’re glad to have had the chance to come now, because many of the best hikes have glaciers as their destinations.
The hiking here is truly spectacular. Even the hikes that don’t end at glaciers are interesting and well designed. Trails with thousands of feet of elevation gain rarely have more than a few swtichbacks, yet they always have thrilling views of glacial-cut valleys, lakes of hard-to-believe turqouise blue and photo-worthy wildflowers (at least in summer).
Our favorite was the 11 mile out and back to Grinnel Glacier. With a steady incline up to Grinnel Lake and the glacier, you get great views of Lower Grinnel Lake and the towering peaks above, but you cant see the main lake or glacier until you crest over the rim of the cirque. This only adds to the reward: an incredible view of the impossibly turqoise lake, lined on the far side by
We also enjoyed ourselves thoroughly on the hikes to Iceberg Lake, where so little sun shines that icebergs often float year round, Triple Divide Peak, the only place in the lower 48 where water can fall on the peak and flow to three oceans, and the Highline, the quintessential Glacier NP hike. Last but far from least, check out Gunsight Pass. Along with our friend William, we backpacked from the Jackson overlook to Lake Macdonald via Gunsight and Lake Ellen Wilson. Its only about 6 miles to the beautiful Gunsight Lake, and from here you can do the steep side spur to get up close views of Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers. Gunsight Pass itself is also really appealing, with just wild colors and rock strata - it looks like someone scooped out successive layers of red rock with a giant ice scream scoop!
Glacier! This place really captured our imaginations and there’s no doubt we’ll be returning soon, hopefully in time to see a few more of its glaciers before they’re gone.