Some people think that Glacier National Park should instead be called, "Glaciated National Park," because, what with climate change, it's difficult to see actual glaciers anymore. But the park is still beautiful and known for abundant wildlife. While there, we also visited Canada's adjacent national park Waterton Lakes.
The primary attraction in Glacier National Park is the drive over the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which crosses the Continental Divide at 2,025 meters. I had chosen our vacation dates close to the summer solstice for maximum daylight, but it became apparent that our planned schedule would not allow us to ascend the greatest heights along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Each year, the National Park Service must expend considerable effort to remove all the snow from such high elevations. The Park Service's web site indicated that, based on this year's recorded snowfall, the soonest the Going-to-the-Sun Road could be fully cleared would be June 21. I considered changing our plans to the following week, so there would be some possibility that we could drive the entire road, but there were no reservations available at Yellowstone for that week. Furthermore, after the week I had reserved, there were no reservations available at Yellowstone through the month of September. So, we would have to see as much of the Going-to-the-Sun Road as we could, and do a lot more driving around the longer way.
There couldn't possibly have been a greater contrast with the crowds of Yellowstone. If our plan had been to visit a national park with no people, it couldn't have been better than to visit Glacier before the Going-to-the-Sun Road was fully open. It could almost have been described as desolate by comparison. The downside to this was that there weren't so many services open. But on the whole, this was an upside.
Scenes from Glacier National Park that were not part of any particular attraction:
I had made a reservation at the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park. I can't remember exactly why I chose this location, as it was far down out of the way in the southeast corner of the park, but once we saw it, we were very excited. This year is the lodge's 100th birthday. It's a beautiful old wooden mountain lodge, and everything you would expect from such a thing. Our accommodations were much nicer than what we had in Yellowstone, for considerably less money each night.
The ancient hotel has no elevators. Instead, one of a team a jauntily-clad, "fresh, overeager" (as Eric described them) bellboys will carry your bags, two at a time, up to the third floor for you. At the bell stand, they have a white board for daily "Bell-evator" phrases. One of the phrases was, "Land of the free, home of the elevator." Another was, "'I'm living like there is no elevator because there isn't one.' --Don Draper."
East Glacier Park is an adorable tiny old west town. The town and the lodge were built right here because they were right on the railroad. You could easily come to East Glacier Park on Amtrak, walk to the Glacier Park Lodge, and then walk across the tracks again to rent a car from Avis to drive into the park. It couldn't be more convenient.
Although Yellowstone's geology was amazingly fascinating, Glacier was more enjoyable. This may well have had everything to do with showing up before all of the crowds arrived. When we were in Glacier, it was freezing, the weather was frequently crummy, and so much was closed, but, being in a beautiful setting away from 80 million other people just put a spring in my step and joy to our vacation. The last-minute ability to go to the top of the Logan Pass just put the icing on the cake. Go before the crowds show up!
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, in Great Falls, Montana, where we stopped on our way to see some fascinating history.
St. Mary Lake, on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Waterton Lakes National Park, on the Canadian side, where we did some truly spectacular hiking.
Many Glacier area, where we faced some unpleasant weather and missed our boat ride.
The Logan Pass, where we got to drive after all!
Distance driven: 1,614 km, 2,377 km total for trip so far
Caches found: 7, 33 total for trip so far
On to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.