Best Ways to Explore Glacier National Park and Surrounds
On our first day in great state of Montana we visited the National Bison Range near St. Ignatius, Montana. We spotted a coyote, about a dozen pronghorn antelope, two black bear cubs, some mule deer and female elk, and approximately 30 bison. It was an awesome wildlife experience!
The next day we spent a few hours in downtown Whitefish, Montana, which had a surprising number of fantastic local art galleries full of local native American culture and beautiful landscape scenery. Later in the day we explored the Community Market in Columbia Falls, where we had some amazing homemade pies thanks to Prairie Girl Farms! We recommend staying at the Moss Mountain Inn bed and breakfast in Columbia Falls.
We hiked the Swiftcurrent Pass trail at Glacier National Park to Bullhead Lake where we witnessed 5 moose in Fishercap Lake, including a large male with huge antlers! Some locals told us that was a record! We also drove along St. Mary Lake to Logan Pass, then down to Two Medicine Lake, which was picturesque and had kayaks available for rent.
The Sprague and other forest fires, along with a personal leg injury from a goat, prevented us from completing all of our intended hikes and unfortunately shortened our trip. We're certain Glacier National Park, in the right conditions, is a beautiful place. If you ever have the opportunity, be sure to visit!
Recommended hiking trails:
Bowman Lake (North Fork area)
(Foot to head of lake is 7.1 miles one-way)
This trail begins at Bowman Lake Campground. There's an extended 26 mile trail, but since this is an out-and-back trail, you can hike as far as you want and then turn around and hike back.
(6 miles out-and-back, 550 ft. gain, 675 ft. loss)
Here you can spot mountain goats, mule deer, bighorn sheep, marmots, and even wolverines if you're lucky. The trailhead is behind the Logan Pass Visitors Center.
The Highline Trail, Garden Wall (portion towards Granite Park Chalet)
(15.2 miles out-and-back (7.6 to Chalet) or 11.6 to loop, 830 ft. gain, 3000 ft. loss (to loop))
The trailhead across the highway from the Logan Pass Visitors Center.
At roughly 2.5 miles from Logan Pass the slopes of the Garden Wall begin to shallow out. Soon you'll begin the only major climb of the day, a short section that takes hikers up to Haystack Pass.
At 3.6 miles, after climbing roughly 275 feet up one long switchback, hikers will reach Haystack Pass. At an elevation of 7024 feet, the pass forms the saddle between 7486-foot Haystack Butte and the Garden Wall, which at this point is technically the southeastern flank of Mt. Gould. With its outstanding panoramic views, Haystack Pass is also a popular spot for a snack or lunch break.
St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls (plus St. Mary Lake)
(3.6 miles out-and-back, 285 ft. gain)
The trailhead is on the Going-to-the-sun Road, 0.3 miles West of Baring Creek.
Swiftcurrent Pass to Bullhead Lake
(6.6 - 7 miles out-and-back, 770 feet elevation)
Trailhead is at the West end of Swiftcurrent Motor Inn coffee shop at the end of Many Glacier Road. Moose, bears, and elk are common sightings. Get out early, as close to dawn as you can to spot wildlife.
An easy nearby trail is the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail loop, by the Swiftcurrent Picnic Area or Many Glacier Hotel Boat Dock
(2.9 Miles, 25 feet gain)
Upper Two Medicine Lake
(4.4 miles out-and-back from upper boat dock, or 9.6 miles from North Shore trailhead, 300 ft. gain)