In 2010, I took my very first two week vacation. Before then, I had stuck to the standard one week vacation, or long weekends. I have to say that 2 weeks is exponentially better than 1 week – in one week, work can just pile up waiting for you. By that 2nd week, stuff moves on, people figure it out, and the world doesn’t end!
I signed up for a trip through the local chapter of the Sierra Club for a week of day-hikes in Glacier National Park. Others on the trip decided to take Amtrak, but I wanted to take a road trip and spend an extra week exploring the Rocky Mountains.
I set out from Chicago, across Minnesota and North Dakota, and had planned to camp at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. According to most people, “nobody goes there” so I didn’t anticipate a full campground! As a result, I only got to drive through the park and was really impressed with what I saw! This is North Dakota?!
With a full campground, I drove on into Montana and stopped in Glendive to find an inexpensive hotel that allowed dogs. Eastern Montana is ranching country, and I took the opportunity to explore some backroads rather than sticking to the interstate. I didn’t realize that a dotted road on my road atlas would actually be a dirt road, but it was an adventure!
I had brought my Miniature Pinscher, Duke, along for the trip, but couldn’t take him to Glacier, so I boarded him in Great Falls, MT and then headed on up to meet the gang in East Glacier. We would be staying at the Mountain Pine Motel for the week; a really cute, basic little place within walking distance of everything in East Glacier.
Our trip leaders had done this trip many times before and had lots of scenic hikes planned for the week, as well as a list of their favorite restaurants!
On the first day, we took the park boat across Two Medicine Lake to hike two trails on the other side – Upper Two Medicine Lake and No Name Lake. With clouds hanging over the mountains, it was already a dramatic landscape. And immediately, we spotted our first black bear on the shores of the lake!
Upper Two Medicine Lake was very beautiful, but choppy, windy and cold! After this, we hiked back to the junction and on to No Name Lake. Then back to the shores to wait for our boat ride back to Two Medicine Lodge.
That night, we would have dinner in town at Serrano’s – it opens at 5:00 and people start lining up at this place at 4:00. The food theme of the week was huckleberry pie, a local specialty!
On Day 2, we would drive across the park and hike the Trail of the Cedars and on to Avalanche Lake. The Trail of the Cedars was a short, boardwalk trail through what felt like a rainforest – lots of moss and cool cedar trees. Not at all what I expected to see in Montana! We then followed Avalanche Creek along up to Avalanche Lake. I loved the way the creek had eroded all kinds of pools into the rock surrounding the creek.
After lunch at Avalanche Lake and a hike back, we jumped on the famous “Going to the Sun” road. Such a cool old road with amazing scenery!
On Day 3, we had planned to hike to Iceberg Lake, but found the trail closed due to bear activity. Fine by me if we skip that one! We decided to take the Ice Lake trail instead, but didn’t make it all the way to Ice Lake. Hiking by a sign like this certainly gives you a heightened sense of awareness for the rest of the day!
This was another trail filled with scenic vistas, and lots of wildlife, including ptarmigans, and thankfully, no bears! We then headed over to Many Glacier Hotel for some hiking around the hotel and then dinner in the Ptarmigan Dining Room. After dinner, we were stuck in a “bear jam” on the way back to East Glacier – there was a mama grizzly along the road with her two cubs.
Day 4, we headed over to St Mary’s Lake and hiked from Sun Point to Virginia Falls.
It was a chilly, rainy day but St Mary’s Falls was worth the hike!
On Friday, Day 5, we took a short hike to Running Eagle Falls and then back to Two Medicine Lake for a hike to Aster Falls. Running Eagle Falls was a cool waterfall that flows through a hole in a rock wall. I guess at higher water levels it also runs over the top. The trail to the falls was nice and flat, following a river most of the way.
On the trail to Aster Falls, we saw a moose off in the distance in a marshy area. We had a final dinner in town at the Whistle Stop Cafe and early the next morning, I would be headed south to continue on the 2nd week of my trip.
It was a beautiful landscape to leave behind…
All in all, Glacier National Park did not disappoint – absolutely worth the trouble getting to this remote corner of Monday. Someday, I hope I can make it back to explore the Canadian side of the park.
For more pictures, click here!