Montana: The beautiful Glacier National Park

Enjoying the spectacular scenery of Glacier National Park. A mountainous wonderland created by the power of glaciers.

From Butte we headed north up towards Glacier National Park which lies close to the border with Canada. Following the US 93 north from Missoula we pass by some of the most wonderful scenery – still evident despite the weather. It is a very English thing to do to complain about the weather – with the weather we get in the Mother country this is more than justified – as is the complaint about this day. The US 93 circles west of the rather impressive Flathead Lake (the largest natural lake in the Western United States, with 160 miles of shoreline,) through the Flathead Indian reservation. This pristine lake is made all the more spectacular by the backdrop of snow tipped mountains and rolling foothills.

Our layover for the couple of days we are spending in the Glacier area is the Kampground of America site in West Glacier (you’ll notice we stop at a lot of KOAs!) It is an unusually pretty site which is reasonably full as this in Memorial Day weekend. We later find out that the numbers have been bumped up by a large group of people from a church, who seem somewhat embarrassed to talk about their beliefs so we guess they are on the radical side of the religious spectrum! Indeed they pray for forgiveness after hearing another campers’ Billy Joel music! Anyway, apart from hogging the play area with their hoards of offspring they keep largely to themselves. Jack and Emily managed to avoid being dragged off into a religious cult and instead hooked up with a 9 year old boy called Ryan, whose mum, Cindy, turned out to be the source of the Billy Joel tunes. 

We headed out to the National Park to find out what was open and what was closed. This far north and as this altitude things are just starting to thaw out but the main road through the park, known as the “Going-to-the-Sun” road, was still closed due to snow. From the Rangers at the Visitor Centre in Apgar Village we found that if we drive up to where the Going-to-the-Sun road is closed, at a place called Avalanche, there is a nice walk up to Avalanche Lake. So off we set. The weather started to break almost as we hit the road and wound our way around Lake MacDonald, which is extremely calm and acted like a mirror, reflecting the adjacent mountains in its balmy waters. Time to breakout the cameras.

  

By the time we reached Avalanche, after stopping briefly along the way to take pictures, the sun is out and it is nicer day than had been forecast. Fueled by the sun’s unexpected appearance we headed off up the trail 2 miles to Avalanche Lake. The trail initially followed a fast flowing river, swollen by the snow melt, before climbing high into the forest. The climb to the Lake is quite steep, going up some 1000 plus feet in 2 miles, and is made all the more difficult by the boggy ground underfoot. Well, boggy is a bit of an under statement – swampy might be more accurate. The trail in many place was the easiest route for the water created by melting snow to flow down the mountainside – so the trail often resembled a stream rather than a path. Nearer the top of the trail the snow had not completely melted so we had to scramble our way across. But the view at the top is worth the effort. Avalanche Lake is in a bowl valley, cut by the vigorous action of glaciers. The sides of this bowl rise steeply thousands of feet upwards from the lake side. From this vantage point we can also see Mountain Goats balancing precariously on the sides of the cliffs high above us. After a few minutes to catch our breath we headed back down, our gravity assisted return seeming much easier. A hike like this on such a glorious day really boosts the feelgood batteries and by the time we reached the base we are fully charged – only one thing left to do, find an ice cream shop.

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