Grinnell Lake

Glacier National Park, GNP

There is a reason that Glacier National Park is referred to as the Crown of the Continent.  Kenny and I began to be amazed by these majestic peaks as soon as we started seeing their jagged edges from a distance.  We are from the Appalachian Mountains in Southeast Kentucky so we are no stranger to mountains.  We have also traveled through a lot of mountains including the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico, Beartooth Highway between Wyoming and Montana, along with many sections of the Appalachians.  The peaks in Glacier are just somehow different.

Glacier National Park sign
Wildflowers at Glacier National Park

hungry horse, montana

There is some scientific explanation for the way these giant peaks formed at the edge of the prairie.  I can’t explain it; however, it is as if you see the earth’s tectonic plates forcefully pushed out of the ground.  Anyway, we drove in Glacier National Park’s shadow for at least an hour before reaching our home base in Hungry Horse, Montana.  We arrived too late to go into the park. However, we did do some exploring after having a great dinner of elk and bison burgers at one of the many small cafes in the area. 

Hungry Horse Dam
Hungry Horse, MT

We decided to check out the Hungry Horse Dam which was very near to where we were staying.  The drive up to the dam and below it are impressive and the dam itself is unbelievable.  It is the tenth tallest dam in the United States (according to wikipedia anyway).  Kenny really marveled at the construction of it and I had a hard time driving across it.  I really didn’t expect to see a dam so huge in such a remote location.  I believe the forest surrounding the dam is the Flathead National Forest and it is awe inspiring as well.

going to the sun road, GNP

For the next three days, we explored as much of the Glacier National Park as we could.  The major road within the park is Going to the Sun Road. Travel is limited between the hours of six in the morning and three in the evening due to the high volume of people visiting the park at these times.  Although Kenny was online waiting for the reservations for this road to open, they sold out before he could get one.  That meant we could only enter the park (from the west entrance where we were located) before 6 am or after 3 pm.  Those guidelines are not as strict at the east entrance until after July 1. So the first day, we drove to the east entrance which was over an hour away. 

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park

grinnell glacier area, GNP

We had reservations to ride a boat across two of the back country lakes. This took some mileage off of a long hike that we intended to take.  Kenny had our trip planned out completely which helped when we got there because the park is so vast. If you haven’t done your research, you really might miss something!  He really had his heart set on the Grinnell Glacier hike…me, not so much.  This was the heart of grizzly country and Grinnell Glacier is one of the areas where they are frequently sighted. 

After getting on the boat, we were informed that the Grinnell Glacier hike was not all the way open due to snow danger.  If we took that hike we would only be able to go half way. We met some folks on the boat who were going to hike to Grinnell Lake. We joined them and enjoyed this first dip into the park immensely even though we didn’t do the actual glacier hike. 

The vegetation was lush with wildflowers and ferns everywhere.  This was the first time that I noticed the scent of Glacier National Park.  It is interesting to note as well that there are no poisonous snakes in the park, so we didn’t have to worry about watching where we stepped.  The lake itself was the most beautiful icy blue green with waterfalls cascading over the steep walls of rock surrounding it.  Even the air here felt incredibly pure.  If you want to feel a sense of oneness with God’s creation, this is the place to come.

Grinnell Lake

Ptarmigan Dining Room

We ate some good food on this trip but the big winner was the dinner we had after the Grinnell Lake hike at the Many Glacier Hotel.  After eating a lot of sandwiches and greasy food on the road we really wanted something different.  The Ptarmigan Dining Room is a little pretentious with the uniformed waiters and waitresses, water views, and beautiful art. However, they welcomed a few dirty hikers and gave us the best service and absolutely perfectly prepared dishes.  Kenny and I still agree that this was the best food of the two week trip.  If you get the chance to travel to Glacier, make it a point to splurge and eat there for dinner.

Ptarmigan Dining Room, Glacier National Park

views of Glacier National Park

We were able to get on the Going to the Sun Road as we returned to the west side of the park.  The drive almost immediately begins a steady incline and the views start coming.  The elevation is unbelievable and it is beyond my comprehension how this road was constructed at all, let alone in the 1930’s.  It is an engineering marvel.  You have to drive slow and the views are unlike anything I have ever seen.  We kept pulling over to look.  I honestly had a hard time even getting out of the car with the healthy fear of heights that I am bothered by.  Kenny kept insisting because he didn’t want me to miss anything, and I am glad that I got those grand views.  The sun was setting as we came down the other side and that made it even more incredible.  

Glacier National Park
Sunset at Going to the Sun Road
Going to the Sun Road

Logan Pass Area, GNP

We went to bed early that evening because our intent was to be in the park before 6 am the next morning.  We managed to get there earlier than that and were some of the first to get on the Going to the Sun Road. Heading to the top for a hike that Kenny had been trying to talk me into for months was the day’s agenda.  As I said before, I have a pretty intense fear of heights and Kenny wanted us to attempt the Highline Trail. This trail is carved into the side of the rocky peaks that the Going to the Sun Road drives through.  I wanted to give it a try for him but knew I was not going to make it very far. 

We managed to get a parking spot at the Logan Pass parking lot which is a feat in itself! The Highline Trail begins with a walk through a beautiful evergreen and wildflower meadow. It smelled so good that it lulled me into thinking I could do it.  We got on the elevated part of the trail and I could do nothing but look at the ground in front of me and keep my hand on the rope.  I was managing until we came to a section where the rope ended and the trail narrowed to get to another section.  I couldn’t go on, so we turned around and headed across the road to another trail.

Highline Trail
Highline Trail, Glacier National Park

Hidden Lake, GNP

The Hidden Lake trail was straight up hill but did not have the drop offs that the Highline Trail is known for.  This trail started out in a wildflower meadow with jaw dropping vistas. After going up for a while we started having to walk across four or five inches of snow.  There were also little streams from the melting snow running everywhere. 

At this point, we began to see some bighorn sheep in the distance.  When we were nearing the top, we met someone coming down who had just encountered a grizzly on the trail.  She said that it had gone down the hill toward the lake so we felt okay about going on. 

Next we came to a beautiful pool of water and the hike finally flattened out.  We could see more bighorn sheep sitting atop a cliff wall looking down on us.  There were boulders and evergreens everywhere.  After finally getting to the overlook of the lake, the view was fantastic.  We sat and enjoyed it for a while.  There were a couple of marmots scurrying around the meadow below us and we really thought they were neat little creatures.  We didn’t see the grizzly, but we had an amazing experience.

Hidden Lake Trail
Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park

Gunsight Saloon

After a very long nap, we headed down to Columbia Falls to get dinner at Gunsight Saloon which our trail friends had recommended.  We really liked the small town of Columbia Falls as soon as we entered. We could tell that it was the place to be due to having to park way down the street. 

When we walked into the saloon, the music met us.  There were lots of people milling around and enjoying the musicians who were clearly folk artists.  We loved the whole atmosphere and the food was great, too!  The best part was when one of the musicians asked if anyone was from Appalachia…of course we were the only ones raising our hands.  Anyway, he dedicated a song to us!  Another phenomenal experience in Montana.

Avalanche lake, GNP

Our final hike of the trip was to Avalanche Lake on the West side of the Glacier National Park.  Again, someone we met on the trail the day before recommended it.  Kenny and I were some of the first ones on the trail but we were soon passed up by several folks.  One of them was a young man from Massachusetts that we really enjoyed walking along with for a while.  He was taking this trip alone and seemed as nervous about the grizzlies as me which made me feel a little better.  Hiking is a great way to meet folks! 

Anyway, a long hike and a couple of hours later we arrived at Avalanche Lake.  It was absolutely magical with the early morning mist hanging over it.  We hung out there for a bit and had granola bars for breakfast, then we headed back down the beautiful gorge happily worn out.  

Avalanche Lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake Trail

Until next time

Lunch at the Huckleberry Cafe, antiquing, and another dinner and great music at Gunsight Saloon and our trip to Glacier was put to bed.  We headed out early the next morning to Yellowstone National Park. 

Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *