Glacier wasn’t originally on our list of stops, but when I learned it was only a says drive from Yellowstone and saw how beautiful the photos were, I knew I had to go. The one thing to know about Glacier is due to the amount of snow they have to clear every year, the park sometimes does not open till late June or even July. The weather varies, we got a heat wave with temperatures in the 80s in August, but the day after we left it was a high of 50 and snowed overnight. Glacier is smaller then Yellowstone, with only one main road called Going to the Sun Road. Going to the Sun Road is 50 miles and could be driven in around 2 hours without stopping at the scenic viewpoints. Unlike Yellowstone, to see most things in Glacier you need to hike. Due to all the glacial melting, the best way to actually see a glacier is an 8 mile difficult uphill hike to Grinnell Glacier (more on that below). If you are not a hiker, you may only need one day in Glacier. We think its worth it to get off the beaten path and do some of the great hikes!
St Marys Glacier KOA
In Glacier we stayed at St. Marys Glacier KOA on the East side. This is the more scenic side of the park and the campground featured fantastic views. There were no trees and little shade so you can see the mountains from every part of the campground. This was a splurge campground, at around $80 a night but it had great amenities like a pool, hot tub, and playground plus the cleanest showers on our entire trip. It was only a few miles to the East entrance of the park, and less than an hour to Grinnell Glacier which is actually located outside the main area of the park.
St Mary/Virginia Falls and Baring Falls
Its a 3.6 mile round trip hike from the parking lot to Virginia Falls and back. Along the hike you will pass by St Marys Falls. Once we got back to the parking lot, we decided to walk the other way to Baring Falls, this adds another 1.6 miles.
Grinnell Glacier Hike
This is the hike I was most excited about in Glacier. The experience begins at Many Glacier Hotel. Here you can either walk the path from the hotel to the base of the Grinnell Glacier hike (1.7 miles) or you can take two shuttle boats. The first shuttle boat goes across Swiftcurrent Lake, is followed by a .2 mile walk, and another shuttle boat will be waiting to cross Lake Josephine. Even with the shuttle boat option (make sure to reserve a time in advance), the hike is 7.6 miles roundtrip.
The hike it entirely an uphill climb. It requires some cliffside walking, and also a walk through a waterfall on the side of the cliff. This can be daunting as all you can focus on is the water spilling over the cliff. Just when you think it can’t get much steeper or scarier, the last 1/2 mile is stair climbing torture. It’s worth it for the views at the end! Just be prepared for a hard hike.
The shuttle boats on the way back only run an hour to an hour and a half, and can be filled with people using the shuttle boats for sightseeing (they may not get off so the boat can be full). When we got to the bottom, the next boat was still an hour off and we weren’t sure if we would get on. We elected to walk back, and although the path was flat and easy it can be a lot on top of such a long, difficult uphill hike. When we got back to the hotel, we ate at the dining room of Many Glacier. I wouldn’t say the food was spectacular but anything tastes great after you use so much energy!
Yes, we had one of these! After a busy day hiking Grinnell we took a day off to relax and recharge.
Trail of the Cedars/ Avalanche Lake
Trail of the Cedars is a beautiful nature walk that connects to the hike to Avalanche Lake. This is a 6.7 mile round trip hike. This parking lot fills up very fast so i would suggest an early start. We did see a bear closer then we wanted to on this hike, but it didn’t seem to mind the people. The lake is beautiful!
This was a 12 mile one way trail starting from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Get to Logan Pass early, as the visitor center fills up fast. We were only planning on going a few miles and turning around, but my fear of hikes and the ledges kept me from wanting to turn around and pass people on the outer cliffside. It was one of our favorite hikes for the first 8 miles, the last 4 miles are downhill but incredibly boring, especially when you are tired. After you finish, you will need to take the shuttle back to Logan Pass. We did have to wait through a few shuttles, as the shuttles are very busy.