My colleague today told me, “I have decided that I will travel the world vicariously with you from now on. So, what’s your new adventure?”. Now I have an obligation to write about my recent trip.
We just returned from a hiking trip to Glacier National Park, Montana. This I would say gives a very close competition to Yellowstone National Park in the category of “Our most favorite National Park in Mainland USA”. If you Photoshop the mountains of Colorado with a few hundreds of lakes from Minnesota, change the color of lakes to Turquoise and add some saturation, you get GNP! Oh, also add all the wildlife from Yellowstone and more!!
We flew in to Billings airport and drove 6.5 hours to reach St.Mary side of GNP because it was cheaper that way. The closest economic airport on the east side is Great Falls,MT which is again a 2 hour drive to GNP. Our campsite for Day 1 was at McDonald lake which is on the west side of GNP. A very clear and peaceful lake with beautiful views. We had to drive from St. Mary to Apgar to reach Mc Donald Lake through the famous Going-to-the-Sun (GTTS) road. It was a beautiful drive on a small winding road with huge mountains everywhere and deep valleys.
The next day we took a ranger led hike to Grinnel Glacier. This hike had everything from waterfalls and wildlife to miles and miles of views! You are, for most part, walking on the edge of the cliff which overlooks Grinnel lake – the most turquoise lake I have ever seen. And after a strenuous hike the destination was breathtaking – the glacier, the floating ice bergs, the mountains around and a small waterfall. It was totally worth the 11 miles we walked for it.
After the long hike, we stopped at St. Mary for a nice late lunch at Park Cafe. They have the most amazing homemade pies ever! I tried Huckleberry, Peach & Strawberry, Strawberry & Rhubarb and the Razzleberry Pie. Razzleberry being our favorite, we kept going back for more yummy strength for our next hike.
Next day we decided to hike the Iceberg Trail. This was a long but easy hike with huckleberries, thimble berries and service berries along the way to pick and eat 🙂 AND a bear encounter!!! Our hike was delayed by 20 minutes as a grizzly was walking on the trail and did not move for a while. I was in two minds whether to head back to capture a few pictures. I decided to photograph. With my new telephoto I zoomed in to the bear and literally jumped back as the bear took a tiny step forward. The moral of the story is if you are in the close vicinity of a wild creature and you have a weak heart, DO NOT use zoom lens! We saw many big horn sheep and moose.
The destination was so amazing. Very peaceful and the color of the water was beautiful and the bergs floating on water added to the charm.
I would suggest photographers to start early and get there before 10am in summer so you can see the whole lake and glacier in complete sunlight. The sun goes behind the mountains after noon and most of it is in shadows.
With two too long hikes we could only manage to do the short hike to St.Mary falls. We also drove to see Bowman lake and Two Medicine Lakes. We wish we had a day or two more to explore this magical place.
Ideal time to visit – Late July – August
Number of Days – 3 full days at the least.
Hiking Tip – Start very early (at least by 8.30 am) and carry Bear spray.
Photography Tip – You can take great reflection pictures at Bowman Lake and Lake McDonald. Carry zoom lens on your long hikes for wildlife photography.