GETTIN' AFTER IT IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK: What you need to know before your visit
We’re calling it. Glacier National Park is the most beautiful National Park in the States.
Have we been to all the National Parks? No. But can another National Park beat the towering red and grey rocky peaks, the white sloping glaciers, and the turquoise waters? No freaking way.
And the hikes are appropriately described in Jamie's 2 word catchphrase that he would say all day long while in Glacier: "GodDAMN Montana".
A shot from our fav hike in Glacier—read below to find out which one
For us, we like to pat ourselves on the back and justify every decision we make while traveling as a way to not regret how we spent our time, but we firmly believe we spent our time in Glacier National Park perfectly.
There's a whole lotta hubbub about Many Glaciers Campground, and rightfully so: it's in arguably the most beautiful part of the park, it's a relatively short drive to other nice spots and hikes, and it gives you some clout among park goers and rangers alike. But that comes with a cost. During peak season, you have to book waaaaaaay in advance or show up at 5am to claim a first come first serve spot. But If you want to skip the fanfare, hit up Two Medicine Campground (Solange is to Beyonce as Two Medicine is to Many Glaciers).
If you're like me and don't mind going without a shower (or weirdly prefer it), you're into mountain/lakeview combos, and you enjoy some peace and quite after a long day, Two Medicine Campground is a good spot for you. It is a first come first serve campground, so in the peak season (and especially on weekends), get there early. Rangers will tell you to get there by 11am to claim a spot, but I wouldn't get there past 9am if you want to guarantee that you won’t have to spend your entire morning/afternoon driving around looking for a place to sleep.
So about that no shower thing. I didn't realize how dirty we were until I was looking through these pictures and saw actual dirt smeared all over Jamie's face. This was from our last day at Glacier and day 5 with no shower.
Morning hugs caught on camera in Two Medicine Campground
Mogli of Montana
6am coffee date before baby boo wakes up
The best part about Two Medicine Campground was that it wraps around shallow water that led into Two Medicine Lake. This was perfect for Z, because it was filled with his favorite toy (rocks), provided endless fun and entertainment, and was the perfect place for a bath at the end of the day (albeit fa-reeeeeezing).
Z's go-to spot at the campground
From Two Medicine Campground, a short little walk on the road or a 3 minute drive will get you to Scenic Point trailhead. This is a perfect hike for most, as it’s shorter (3.9 miles one way), and a 2,500 foot elevation gain. If that sounds intimidating, the beauty of the hike from start to finish will wash away your fears and leg pain. It’s the kind of hike that is stunning from start to finish, giving it all away close to the beginning instead of the prude trails that keep you below tree line for most of the hike. The Scenic Point Trail was a perfect introduction to the park and a great trail to enjoy with your little one.
Views for days, ass for weeks
Jamie doesn't hike, he struts
I think he likes to hike
His first of 3,000 turkey sandwiches he ate on this roadtrip
A trip to Glacier National Park is not complete without a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s a long drive, but probably one of the most beautiful in the country. There are lots of turn out points to take pictures and gawk at the beauty, so try to keep your eyes on the road so you don't hit bikers along the way. There are also some short hikes that you can pull over and do to stretch your legs.
We happened to go during a heat wave, so a jump in the water was necessary (still cold af though). If I could give you some motherly advice, be careful jumping in the glacial pools on a hike. You may be hot, but that’s a recipe for some hypothermia. But I digress.
We saw this pool of water while on the drive and had to jump in/use it as a way to bathe.
Let’s go back to how awesome Two Medicine Campground is. Along with all the great things I mentioned before, the trailhead for the best hike in the park, Dawson Pitamakan Loop Hiking Trail, is in the campground. The hike is a big one—an 18 mile loop—and it’s devine. We actually planned on doing a 12 mile hike up to Dawson Pass and back, which we thought was pushing it with a baby on back, but once we got to Dawson’s Pass, we wanted more.
The hike starts off along Two Medicine Lake, through fields of wild flowers and views of the mountains. You can also take a boat across the lake for a small fee to cut off some miles and some hiking time.
We got to Dawson's Pass after a consistant steep climb for about 4 miles. At the pass, we saw 360 degrees of pure beauty. There was someone up there from Calgary who had done the full loop before and he said that this was nothing compared to the rest of the hike (thanks Debby Downer). But, nevertheless, that intrigued us, so we ate our lunch, assessed our food and water supply,and decided to take the plunge and do the full 18 miles.
Dawson's Pass Views
Just after Dawson's Pass, it's desert-like before it morphed into green hillside looking over turquoise ponds. This hike always kept us on our toes and gave us something new around every corner.
I spy one man and a little baby
Those lakes deserve nothing less than a hands up and out picture
"Lay off my sandwich, Marmot"
The last part of the hike was brutal. You know the part at the end where you've seen all the views and you're just walking below tree line hoping the next turn is the end. We also saw fresh tracings of a bear at mile 16, which totally freaked us out and forced us to sing at the top of our lungs and make noise with the little energy we had left. But, nevertheless, we made it and felt very deserving of our nighttime beer.
Post hike ice bath
This is probably a good time to talk about our hiking carrier. We use the Deuter Kid Comfort 3, or should I say Parent Comfort 3 (haaaaaa- ok, enough with the Dad jokes). But for real, it makes the 45+ lbs of weight on your back not such a burden. I feel like every parent is all about bells and whistles when it comes to baby contraptions, and this has 'em. From the rain and sun shield, to the head rest for nap taking, to the storage space, to the mirror you have in front in order to look back at your baby to make sure they didn't disappear. We hiked a lot and I know other hiking carriers wouldn't have been as kind on our hips (I know from experience). My only complaint would be that the straps are hard to adjust, but it's nothing that some super parent strength can't handle. The Kid Comfort 3 has a higher price tag than most other hiking carriers, but if you're planning on hiking a decent amount with your little one, it's worth the extra money.
Badass pack, badass dad, badass baby
Naps like a champ
Mile 12 into a hike and happy as a mountain goat
The next day, we were sore (like really effing sore) but we wanted to see more of the park. We had heard the Highline Trail was an absolute must, so we went ahead and did it. Our plan was to do a 12 mile through hike from Logan Pass, where the shuttle from St. Mary's Visitor Center dropped us off, to The Loop where the shuttle would pick us up and bring us back to our car. We didn’t succeed because we left later than we wanted to (we were tired, alright), and a few miles into the hike, we realized we wouldn’t make it to The Loop shuttle pick-up by the time the last shuttle left—and stranded in a national park with grizzly bears doesn't sound like a good time. So we turned around after we ate lunch and saw some nice views.
The Highline Trail
Summer snow on the Highline Trail
Ain't no shame in a family selfie
I should mention that the Highline Trail could be renamed the High Traffic Trail and it would be fitting. It’s a really really busy hike. It wasn't my favorite because of the crowds, but it is a perfect one to see beautiful views, even from the beginning. I should also give you the heads up that it was more complicated logistically speaking because the trailhead is at Logan Pass, one of the busiest spots in the park, so there is very limited parking, We took a shuttle there to avoid the crowds, which worked well (and saved us some gas money).
The following day was the last day in Glacier. We decided to end the trip by doing a hike on the way out in the Many Glaciers area of the park. The two more popular hikes were closed due to snow and grizzly sightings (Iceburg Lake and Ptarmigan Falls) so we decided to do the hike to Cracker Lake. I had pretty low expectations for the hike, because we had already been overwhelmed with so much beauty that I felt like it was a hard time for a trail to impress me, but I was pretty blown away. It was a 6 mile in, 6 mile out hike, mostly through the woods where it wasn’t all that interesting or pretty, but once we got to the lake, my jaw dropped. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Arriving at Cracker Lake, jaw dropped
Somehow not getting frostbite
Another turkey sandwich with a view
Didn't really want to leave, especially knowing we'd spend the entire night driving to Banff in Canada, arriving in the middle of the night and setting up camp in 20 degree weather.
If you’re thinking of heading to Glacier, think no more— it is so worth the trip. There's plenty to do and see for all fitness levels and it will not disappoint. I should let you in on 3 pearls of wisdom that I learned while there so you prepare for your trip accordingly.
1. It doesn't get dark until after 10pm in the summer. If you're sleeping in a tent and have no way to fake nightfall, it may be very hard to get your baby to sleep at night. Z was going to bed at around 10 and taking long naps during the day (in the hiking carrier). It left little time for a relaxing beer with Jamie at the end of the day, but it did give us extra family bonding time.
Just to give you an idea, this was taken at 9:45pm
2. Beware of da bears. If you're hiking in Glacier, you're hiking in grizzly turf. Be bear aware, carry bear spray on you (and know how to use it), and make noise while hiking (you can use a bear bell if you're not into clapping and singing all the way up a mountain).
3. Possibly the most important piece of advice: where to eat pie. Everyone raves about Two Sisters Cafe, but unfortunately it was closed when we tried to go, so I can't join the rave. BUT, we did eat pie at the Park Cafe nearby and the strawberry rhubarb pie was the damn best piece of pie this side of the Mississippi. HIGHLY recommended.
And that, my friends, was our trip to Glacier and the reason why we think it's the most beautiful park in the States.
So what do you think? Do you agree that Glacier is the best National Park in the States? What are your favorite hikes or places to stay? If Glacier isn't your favorite park, what's yours? Comment below
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