The Glories of Glacier National Park

Gorp.com

Glacier National Park. The name alone evokes images of nature at its most grandiose. And Montana's northwestern corridor does not disappoint. The glaciers that carved across this part of the Rockies some two million years ago created a landscape of wide U-shaped valleys blanketed with lush forests, massive cirques filled with glacial lakes, hanging valleys lined with steep cliff walls, and peaks exceeding 6,000 feet. Glacier is also the only place in the Lower 48 where wolves, mountain lions, and grizzlies have maintained continuous existence, in addition to the abundance of elk, moose, deer, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. Any active impulse can be indulged; hiking, backpacking, rafting, fishing, climbing, and horseback riding just scratch the surface.
Going-to-the-Sun Road, an engineering feat of the 1930s and today one of America's most celebrated stretches of asphalt, is the centerfold attraction—and with good reason. Weave through the most scenic stretches of the park, zip past waterfalls and around glacial horns, and cross the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Trail heads line the road, perfect for day hikes or multi-day treks. The ambitious can also bike the 52-mile route; the vivid scenery will make you forget about the six-percent-grade climb and 3,400-foot gain…well, almost. Fat-tire freaks can also brave the Snowshoe Trail in Waterton, pedaling through the waterfall-filled Bauerman Creek Valley before grinding past the beautiful meadows bordering Wishbone Trail.
Whitewater enthusiasts, meanwhile, can brave Jaws, Pinball, Pumphouse, and the other Class II-III rapids of the wild and scenic Flathead River near Whitefish. And, for those who like to keep their two feet on the ground, and moving along the trail, Carthew Pass trail will amaze. Start at the snow-encrusted headwall of Cameron Lake and ascend into an old-growth forest alongside sapphire lakes, waterfalls, deep cirques, and lush meadows. In short, the vast wealth of Glacier will satisfy even the most jaded of multi-sport enthusiasts. The secret? Rank your obsessions, find a reliable regional outfitter, and get a good guidebook.

Published: 15 Feb 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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