Glacier National Park
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Glacier National Park is a stunningly beautiful ice-carved terrain of serrated ridges, jutting peaks, dramatic hanging valleys, 50 glaciers, more than 200 lakes, waterfalls and thick forests covering some 1.2-million acres. Deer are among the most commonly spotted wildlife but elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly and black bears roam its wild vastness and are often seen by visitors.
Goat Lick overlook, for example, is a natural salt lick on cliffs overlooking the southern border of the park. From a viewing platform just off US Highway 2 east of Essex you are sure to see mountain goats or other animals at any time of day enjoying the lick.
Wild flowers, too, are abundant and put on a lengthy show of color as they follow spring up the mountains all summer long.
The park is unique among US parks in its relationship with the Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. The two parks meet at the border shared by the two countries. Though administered by separate countries, the parks are cooperatively managed in recognition that wild plants and animals ignore political boundaries and claim the natural and cultural resources on both sides of the border. In 1932, the parks were designated the first International Peace Park in recognition of the bonds of peace and friendship between the two nations. The two parks jointly share the name The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Then, in 1995, The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was designated for inclusion as a World Heritage Site.
Glacier National Park is served by three Visitor Centers; Apgar, Logan Pass and St. Mary's. Ranger-guided-naturalist activities are available throughout the park from mid-June through September. Call 406-888-5441 for details. You might like to enquire about having lunch on a glacier! The park has more than 700 miles of trails ranging from day hikes to extended treks. Trailheads for popular day hikes can be found near the visitors' centers.
The famed 52-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road climbs 3,000 feet to provide spectacular views across the Continental Divide from June to October. It is closed the rest of the year due to heavy snows. Glacier Park Inc. operates a daily shuttle service along this road, from July 1 to Labor Day Weekend in September. The shuttle operates between Rising Sun Motor Inn and Lake McDonald Lodge, a useful service for those who have oversized rigs not allowed on the road, and others who would rather not drive the narrow mountain roads themselves.
Earlier this century, the Great Northern Railway built chalets to market Glacier National Park as the "Switzerland of America". Although many no longer exist, Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet are open to the public. Be warned that the former has no running water. The most popular route to Granite Park Chalet is a 7-mile hike along the Highline Trail from Logan Pass. Glacier Park Lodge, and Many Glacier Hotel also accommodate guests.
*See also the Go Northwest! guide to the Flathead Valley
Best selection of books on the Northwest.
Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, 4th: A Guide to the Parks' Greatest Hiking Adventures (Regional Hiking Series) by Erik Molvar. This guide features descriptions and easy-to-follow maps for 28 short hikes through spectacular scenery in this natural wonderland. Look inside for short strolls to full-day hikes. Hikes are ranked from easy to challenging and have GPS-compatible trail maps. Order now...
Moon Glacier National Park, 6th Edition (Moon Handbooks) by Becky Lomax. Get an insider's perspective on hiking the park's trails, unique trip strategies, a wildlife watching tour, a one day Glacier tour, biking up Going-to-the-Sun Road and wildlife viewing. Photographs and maps are included in this guide. Order now...
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