Outdoors Magazine

A Crown Fit for a Continent

By Everywhereonce @BWandering

Glacier National Park Mountains Landscape

It is often called the “Crown of the Continent,” and for good reason too. With vaulting granite peaks soaring two miles high and ice carved valleys bejeweled by 762 lakes that sparkle like diamonds and sapphires in the mid-day sun, Glacier National Park is every bit a crown fit for a continent.

Glacier shares this stretch of the Rocky Mountains that runs from central Montana to southern Canada with neighboring Waterton Lake National Park just across the boarder in Alberta. Limited roadways, however, make travel between the two parks more difficult than their close proximity suggests. Only after our arrival did we discover that reaching Waterton from our location at Glacier’s western entrance required a nearly six hour round-trip drive (we’d have been much closer had we set up camp in the east; note for next time.)

Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Three Arches

The “Three Arches” of Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road

Even getting around Glacier can be challenging due to a near-perpetual winter season. Going to the Sun Road, the one and only thoroughfare crossing the park, is closed nine months out of the year because of weather. Logan Pass can accumulate as much as 80 feet of snow and take work crews until late June to clear. But once opened, the drive is spectacular.

In addition to sprawling mountain vistas, some of the park’s abundant wildlife occasionally makes a roadside appearance. On our climb up the western slope toward the continental divide, we had the good fortune of being repeatedly greeted by a family of mountain goats; the park’s official symbol.

Glacier National Park Mountain Goat Wildlife Landscape

But to really experience Glacier, you need to get out of your car and on to the park’s 740 miles of hiking trails. Here you’ll experience everything from a cliff hanging adventure on the Highline trail

Glacier National Park Highline Trail

The Garden Wall section of Glacier’s Highline Trail

. . . to a quite stroll through “spooky” woods on the Trail of the Cedars.

Glacier National Park Trail of the Cedars

Along the same 10 mile trek to Iceberg Lake we encountered both wildflowers

Glacier National Park Wildflowers, Mountains, Landscape

Mountain wildflowers along Glacier’s Iceberg Lake trail

. . . and snow, although we were told the lake’s namesake icebergs were much smaller than usual for our visit. In fact, all of the ice is smaller than usual these days. The park once boasted 150 named glaciers. Today that number has shrunk to just 25. By 2020 scientists expect they’ll disappear altogether, leaving Glacier National Park glacierless.

Glacier National Park Iceberg Lake

See them before it’s hot: Glacier’s disappearing glaciers

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