We were amazed with North Cascades, we were even amazed with the scenic views of the roads we were driving on up to the parks we wanted to visit. And Little Pend Oreille showed us that we can expect vast wildlife in the US. And still, we never expected so much – Glacier National Park hit us with its combined beauty!
We started the trip to Glacier national park around 7:00. We were planning to reach it between 11:00 – 12:00. We thought that on a Wednesday there shouldn’t be too many visitors and for the first time of our trip, we would find a place on the campground we planned to stay at. Of course we were very wrong Out of all the campgrounds, the one we wanted to stay at – Many Glacier – was full. Nevertheless, we planned to stay here for a longer time, so there was no fuss about having to spend an extra night in another campground.
We bought a bear-spray and went to stay in St. Mary’s campground for one night.
A day full of catches
If you read the previous articles by any chance, you might have figured us out – we got into this travelling trip to see spectacular nature and as much of wildlife as we can. That day was very successful for both goals.
We chose a 1.5 mile hike to look around on the first day and we couldn’t have even imagined what you can see there. The landscape was so amazing that we were struggling to find a place to park the car to make a picture. There were cars piling up behind every road curve.
Finally, we managed to get to the place where our hike was supposed to start. At this point the only negative thing was people – there were just too many of them. You were not feeling as if you would be in the wild. But I guess this is the thing with the best places – there are always tourists there to see them.
The hike was spectacular. We spotted marmots, mountain goats. On the way back we saw a bighorn sheep and the most amazing of them all was a moose that was swimming in a lake. We also met some hikers who were showing pictures of grizzly footprints.
The day of our hike
The second day in Glacier National Park started very early – we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning, pack our tent and be on our way to Many Glacier campground. It was the most popular campground in the park. At 5:30 we were at the gates of the campgrounds… We were only 5th in line! We got a spot and finally we were able to leave all the problems of the place we had to stay behind – hiking in Glacier was the only thought we had afterwards.
As the previous campers had time until 12:00, we decided not to wait and to make our first hiking in Glacier come true. Grinnell glacier hike was the one we chose. It had a very good rating on some hiking blogs and it was supposed to be a lot more challenging than the ones we’ve done in the Cascades or LPO.
Grinnell glacier hike – one of the most magnificent moments of my life
Before the hike we went to the information center to get some information on the length of the hike. Hiking in Glacier was supposed to be a bit more strenuous than we thought – the Grinnell glacier hike was longer and more challenging than we thought. We were also told that one of the parts of the hike was going to be closed down on the same day because of bear activity. So we had to choose another part and that extended the hike by almost 1.5 miles one way.
The start was quite unpleasant – loads of vegetation, thick bush, fields of berries growing around us – everything you are supposed to avoid to reduce the chances of spotting a bear. We were making loud noises all the way – in order to make the bear know of your presence you have to avoid scaring it, and to make noise so it hears you from a distance and can walk away another route. We were very noisy while hiking in Glacier.
But there was also a positive aspect to the beginning of the trail – for the first time in our lives we were able to watch a moose from a very close distance. It was a female drinking water while standing in a lake. After a minute it’s calf appeared from the bushes and started heading towards water as well. The picture was stunning but we had to get moving – we were in the bear country, surrounded by there food source. The bears were somewhere there, we knew that from the bear scat that was on the trail and from the info that one of the parts of it was being closed because of a grizzly bear with cubs being in the area.
Most likely the most beautiful picture we have seen on Earth
Finally, we left the thick forest and caught up with some of other hikers that used a boat to skip the closed part of the trail. It was 13 USD one way, so we were saving the money for other things. We started to gain elevation. After a bit we were already climbing a side of a mountain that led to a glacier. After we saw the first hikers we allowed ourselves to relax a bit. They say that you are a lot safer in small groups. We were finally able to look at the magnificent surroundings of mother nature. It was an amazing picture indeed: a mountain behind a mountain, a lake after a lake. Waterfalls appeared put of nowhere and above them you could see the glaciers that created those waterfalls. We were meeting more and more hikers. It was no surprise as it is one of those things that you just have to see during your lifetime.
Although we were getting more and more tired after every turn of the trail, we did not give up. The path became narrower, some dangerous cliffs appeared and there was also a waterfall that was falling on the trail and made it quite slippery. We still went forward. I guess if we would have known the length and difficulty of that hike before we started we would have had picked an easier one. We were kind of lucky that we got to know about the new parts of the hike behind the curves of the trail – when you are already in the middle of it you have to go to the end. We were still just noob hikers so it was very challenging for us.
On the trail we also spotted a bear scat, quite a new one, full of berries. But that time we did not care much of it – we were more concerned about hight an trying to keep our feet on the trail. Not falling down from a cliff was a priority at that time. But still, time after time I had my hand on the bear-spray which was attached to my belt, just to know that it’s still on me. We read a lot about hiking in Glacier and we knew that it is one of the few places that bears are very active at.
A first successful hiking in Glacier: the goal was finally reached
After a few hours of a really strenuous hike (at least for us it was), we finally made it to the end – in the middle of the mountains there was a bright blue colored lake in which you could still see the ice, slowly floating around. They were much bigger before 4-10 years and the pictures before the hike clearly show the result of global warming.
Another great catch of the first hiking in Glacier was a bighorn sheep guarding that glacier. It was a big, long-horned sheep, that was walking on the edge of the cliff, showing that he does not care at all about all the people trying to get a better picture of it. Only after it left the area I managed to put away my camera and we started to climb back down.
We came down quite fast; we were following some other hikers that were going down in front of us. We felt a bit safer as we thought if they scare a bear behind a corner – they will be the first ones to feel their teeth… As we were back on the low grounds we saw that the shorter part of the trail was closed for good. We did not want to go back on the berry-field trail, so we managed to get a place on the small boat that took us back to the beginning.
We returned to the campground exhausted. But we were very happy. Hiking in Glacier was an amazing experience. We made ourselves dinner on a fire ring (some macaroni and sausages) and had a few small cans of beer. After the meal we tidied up as there were 48 bears spotted in the campground itself during a 90 day period. We planned to stay there for 3 nights. So statistically, at least one bear will cross our campground during that period of time.
To this day, it was one of the most amazing days of my life… Hiking in Glacier is a MUST for every person who loves nature and wildlife.
A short info about bears and why we care so much about bear safety
Glacier and Yellowstone national parks are one of a few areas where grizzly populations are protected. Here they are trying to do everything they can to increase the populations of an animal that was close to extinction.
Bears are very sensitive to odours. Even if you leave a toothpaste tube in your car with a slightly open window, there is a great chance that you will attract a bear.
A bear that tried human food at least once is a bear that is sentenced to death. If it managed to get your food it will try to come and get it again. They are animals that can be startled very easily and they become aggressive if someone frightens them. Rangers have to terminate the bears that managed to get food in the campgrounds.
The bears have have cubs in Summer. If you managed to get into a situation where you are between a mother bear and its cubs – you’re dead. Just watch the Revenant movie.
In June of 2016 a grizzly killed a cyclist in Glacier national park. It was his own fault as they say he hit the bear with the bike. Although the bear seemed to be too close to the places he was not supposed to be. They wanted to terminate it but they did not manage to find it.
A father with his daughter were attacked on Grinnel glacier trail, that startled a grizzly with cubs by accident. They both managed to survive, but they suffered huge injuries.
On August 27 a park ranger was attacked while picking berries off trail. It happened during the time we were in Glacier national park.
These were the facts that we knew and had in our minds while hiking in Glacier. Your safety is your own responsibility. It’s their country and you are a guest in their forests. Respect the wildlife.