Trip Recap: Our Glacier National Park Vacation
Well this week is back to reality! Time to trade in breakfast in the fresh mountain air of Glacier National Park while watching a mountain goat 1500 feet above the campground for breakfast at the counter at home and the morning commute. Camping in the Many Glacier Campground in Glacier National Park is where we originally developed our love for the National Parks back in 2010. It was the first National Park vacation we had ever been on. Since then we have never been quite sure if that is why we liked the park so much or if Glacier was really that great.
Last week we had a chance to see how our perspective changed after visiting more than a dozen other parks. And Glacier did not disappoint. Today we’re sharing our Trip Itinerary to help you on your own Glacier National Park vacation.
Waterton Lakes National Park – Day 1
Arrive in Waterton Lakes National Park early evening. Set up camp at the Townsite Campground in Waterton Lakes. Pick up any last minutes supplies at the shops in town and purchase tickets for tomorrow’s boat ride on the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company’s International.
Waterton Lakes National Park – Day 2
Take the early departure boat cruise down to Goat Haunt, a port of re-entry into the United States. Be sure to have your passport and hiking plans ready when you meet the border control agent at the dock. Goat Haunt’s name is not because of ghost activity–‘haunt’ is an English word for ‘hangout.’ Collect stamps at the ranger station and ask about any mountain goat (and bear) activity in the area.
After leaving the ranger station, hike the steep trail to Goat Haunt Overlook for sunny views of the lake and a good spot for a snack. Head back down to the main trailhead and depart for Rainbow Falls, a good stop for lunch and a break. Keep an eye on the clock though. You’ll need to be back to the Waterton boat dock to catch the ferry back to the campground for the evening.
If there’s time before dark, hop in the car for a drive down Red Rock Parkway. This is one of the best spots to see wildlife in the parks, especially in the evening.
Waterton Lakes National Park – Day 3
Wake up early and pack up camp. It’s time to head back to the United States and into Glacier National Park. Before you depart, make a stop at the Prince of Wales Hotel which sits high on the Northern Shore of Upper Waterton Lake. The hotel was built in 1927 as a stop for tourists along The Great Northern Railway.
Leave the park along Chief Mountain Highway. Watch for range cattle and horses along the road as you head south towards Glacier National Park. Stop for a picture at the Waterton-Lakes International Peace Park sign as you cross the US/Canadian border again. Continue driving to the Many Glacier Campground, arriving early to secure one of the best campsites.
Spend the afternoon watching for grizzly bears and mountain goats hanging on the ledges. Stop in the Swiftcurrent Inn for a warm slice of huckleberry pie and ice cream just before crawling in your tent.
Glacier National Park – Day 4
Wake up early for a morning hike to Fischercap Lake and Redrock Falls. Keep eyes out for moose along the lake shores. After grabbing lunch at the campground, hop in the car heading south towards the St. Mary Entrance Station.
Depart on your drive along the Going to the Sun Road up to Logan Pass. If you travel Memorial Day to Labor Day you may also hop on the shuttle at the St. Mary’s Visitor’s Center to avoid the traffic and parking lots. Stop along the way for photos at the pullouts. Arrive at the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center for a sunset and stargazing program. *Note: There was no sunset for us this trip, as the Logan Pass area was under winter storm warning conditions while we were there. Always be sure to watch for quickly changing weather during your Glacier National Park vacation.
Glacier National Park – Day 5
A Glacier National Park vacation would not be the same without seeing some glaciers! Today you’ll wake up early for a trip to Grinnell Glacier, one of the most famous hikes in the park. Depart early from the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead along the Many Glacier Road. Go slow. This hike is meant to take the entire day. The stunning scenery along the way also deserves your full attention. Stop often to view the boats on Lake Josephine and the glacier-blue waters of Grinnell Lake. This is one of the most popular trails in the Many Glacier area with good reason.
Our figure 8 out and back route: Grinnell Glacier Trailhead > Swiftcurrent Lake Trail along the north side of the lake > North Shore Lake Josephine Trail > Grinnell Glacier Overlook Trail > Return down to the Lake Josephine south shore junction > Cross back on the south shore of Lake Josephine to the Swiftcurrent Lake Trail > Grinnell Glacier Trailhead
Glacier National Park – Day 6
The hiking doesn’t stop with the Grinnell Glacier. Today head back up to Logan Pass for another incredible day on the trail. You’ll want to arrange a shuttle for this hike as you’ll depart from the Pass back to the Many Glacier Campground on a thru-hike. During the summer months you can also take a shuttle from The Loop along the Going to the Sun Road.
Depart on the Highline Trail across from the visitor’s center. In the first tenth of a mile is where you’ll meet the hike’s namesake. Hikers are treated to a ledge only 4-6 feet wide with drop offs along the Garden Wall more than 100 feet down. The NPS has installed a hand cable, but if you’re skittish of heights it’s not likely to be of much help!
Continue on your route to Haystack Pass before finally reaching the Granite Peak Chalet for lunch. The views of this mountain getaway cannot be found anywhere else and are sure to be the best of your Glacier National Park vacation. At the Chalet, you can decide to turn back down to The Loop parking area (~10 miles) or continue on the Swiftcurrent Trail.
The Swiftcurrent Trail requires climbing up a set of sharp switchbacks to Swiftcurrent Pass before descending more than 2,400 feet in roughly 7 miles down to the Many Glacier Campground. The views are spectacular, but also not for those with a fear of heights. Lastly, it’s good to carry bear spray and plenty of water on this route as you are likely to find fewer hikers taking on the extra miles.
Our thru-hike route: Logan Pass Visitor’s Center Trailhead > Highline Trail to Haystack Pass > Haystack Pass to Granite Peak Chalet > Granite Peak Chalet to Swiftcurrent Pass > Swiftcurrent Trail to Redrock Falls > Redrock Falls to Many Glacier Campground
Glacier National Park – Day 7
With more than 40 miles of hiking in 7 days, it’s best to take the day off for some R & R. It’s also time to pack up camp and depart for home. There’s just enough time in the morning for pancakes and huckleberry syrup at breakfast. The last day of a Glacier National Park vacation is always the hardest. At least you’ll be anxious to check out the photos when you get home!