Montana’s Glacier National Park was our first visit to an American national park on our Great North American Road Trip. We were intrigued about what to expect having come from Canada and having witnessed the glory of the Canadian Rockies. Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana, right on the Canadian/US border so we suspected it would be similar to much of what we’d already seen in Canada.
We were visiting at the end of May and had been forewarned that the Going to the Sun Road would be closed as would be many other aspects of the park. North America had experienced a long hard winter with a lot of snow, we’d seen it in Canada and again seen more evidence of the massive snow dumps in the United States.
The West Glacier entrance did little for me but increase my frustration that the Going to the Sun Road was closed. If you haven’t heard of this particular road it was completed in 1932 and spans 53 miles connecting the two sides of the national park. It’s said to be a spectacular drive like no other. It is notable for the amount of snow fall it receives (up to 80 feet!) making it one of the most difficult roads to snow plough in North America even with substantial equipment which can move four thousand tonnes of snow in an hour. It usually takes about ten weeks to clear the road and it tends to open in early June, however I’m glad we didn’t stick around because this year (2011) it wasn’t opened until the 13th of July making it the latest opening in history.
Leaving the west side we drove back out and headed around to the other entrance. Mid way we spotted a mountain goat at Walton Goat Lick Overview. Mountain goats are awesome, especially in their long white winter coats. If you want to spot one Glacier National Park offers an excellent opportunity at Walton Goat Lick; a natural salt lick created by exposed minerals on the side of the mountain. The lick can be found close to Essex on US Highway 2, if you cross a high bridge above a river you’ve just gone too far. Apparently there is a sign which directs you to a paved road with ample parking at the end but we went too far and pulled over just after the bridge. Best months are said to be June and July.
[slickr-flickr tag="Mountain Goat" size="medium" type="slideshow"]
We stayed the night at Devils Creek campground for free since it hadn’t officially been opened yet. The next morning we continued on to the east Glacier National Park entrance. We drove to the perfectly still and reflective Two Medicine Lake where I took my second swim in freezing cold water. I’m proud to say that ice was still floating on sections of the lake. I emerged from my swim just as a tourist shuttle pulled up and I briefly became the centre of attention until the beauty of the area again took over.
[slickr-flickr tag="Two Medicine Lake" size="m640" ]
We continued our drive into Glacier, it was a beautiful sunny day and we eventually stopped at a picturesque spot above Saint Mary Lake (1 or 2) for a bite to eat and to take some photographs. We walked down to the lakeshore, drank a beer, bathed in the sunshine and took in the beauty of our surroundings. Glacier National Park, it truly is spectacular.
[slickr-flickr tag="Saint Mary Lake" size="m640" ]
Heading out Renee’s sharp eye spotted some big horn sheep up on the mountain side. It was funny because a lady was already outside and looking in that general direction and after Renee had been photographing for a minute or so the lady suddenly exclaimed that there were goats up there. Well duh. We still have no idea what she had been looking at beforehand, although in justification the mountains in Glacier National Park are all very photographable in their own right.
[slickr-flickr tag="Big Horn Sheep" size="medium" type="slideshow"]
More photos from Glacier National Park
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