In celebration of the anniversary of Glacier National Park’s historical foundation on this date in 1910, we’re taking a mental break from reality with this stunning gallery and short backcountry report from Eddie Bauer contributor Elliott Woods. Of all the parks in the system, Glacier is a true gem with more than one million acres, two mountain ranges and 130 named lakes. It is also a direct Amtrak ride from our Seattle HQ, which makes it a convenient trip to a stunning location. After viewing this gallery, we’re ready to book our next trip. —LYA Editor
Words and Images by Elliott Woods
Glacier National Park, like its more famous cousin to the south, Yellowstone, is mostly traveled by road. In the case of Glacier, there’s really only one road—the legendary Going-to-the-Sun-Road, a triumph of engineering completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. If you’re just passing through, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a worthy destination all on its own, snaking up over three thousand feet from Lake McDonald on the park’s west side to Logan Pass, then dropping down again to the town of St. Mary, on the eastern prairie. Along the way, it’s plain to see why some two and a half million people—more than double the population of Montana—make the trek to Glacier every year. Skirting crystal clear lakes and offering jaw-dropping views of snow-shrouded peaks and lush valleys, the Going-to-the-Sun Road has few rivals in the world.
Of course, if you’re like me, a road is a means of getting somewhere—and the second the mountains come into view, I’m itching to hop out of the car. If you’re willing to put in even a modest hike, Glacier will reward you handsomely. My favorite hike is the Hidden Lake Trail, which takes you from Logan Pass to an overlook a thousand feet or so above a lake that sits in a cirque, framed by dark green fir trees and steep cliffs. I’ll be honest: I love the hike, but what I really love is catching the big cutthroat that live in the lake. They’re spooky, selective, and every bit as pretty as the place they call home. It’s all catch and release for cutthroat in Glacier, and out-of-staters will be relieved to know that you don’t need a fishing license to fish inside the park.
For a park as rugged Glacier—it seems like there’s hardly a square foot of flat ground among the park’s million-odd acres—the wildlife are surprisingly abundant. On one hike to Hidden Lake last summer, I saw bighorn sheep, mountain goats, a large male grizzly, and a fat old marmot. Perhaps not surprisingly, I also saw quite a few fellow humans. But once you get off the road and the main thoroughfare trails, you have the feeling of having the park to yourself. Don’t let the crammed parking lots fool you: for anyone willing to put in the work, true wilderness is astonishingly close at hand. In the winter, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to vehicle traffic, and it doesn’t open again to car traffic until late June or early July. So, if you’re planning a spring or early summer trip, bring your bike—then you’ll really have the place to yourself.
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