Glacier National Park

Sperry Lake Trail in GNP
along the Sperry Chalet trail

People like national parks… which is great! But that means they can be crazy crowded. With stupid Covid messing up international travel and indoor activities, the national parks are even more appealing as vacation destinations… which is great! It’s great that so many people are enjoying the national parks!

Of course, all this popularity means crowds in the campgrounds, crowds in the parking lots, crowds on the scenic drives, and crowds on the trails. So be prepared:

  1. Get into the park EARLY. Definitely before 8am.
  2. Pick a target or two to focus on each day, visit them, and get the heck out of the park.
  3. Carry your mask for squeezing into crowded overlooks or passing people on a narrow trail.
  4. Take a deep breath, try to relax, and don’t lose your mind when the cars ahead of you on the scenic drive are just crrraaawwwllliiinnnggggg along.

We loved Glacier! It’s incredibly beautiful and has a really fun variety of hikes. But to protect our sanity, we were careful to follow our rules above. Note that because of stupid Covid, the eastern half of the park was completely closed to tourists for the season–so we weren’t able to hike must-dos like Grinnell Glacier (next time!). The park shuttle isn’t running this season either, taking the point-to-point hikes off the table.

Remember that dogs are not allowed on the trails in Glacier National Park. 🙁 See our West Glacier post for dog-friendly hiking ideas.

Camping, eating, and drinking

We stayed in West Glacier and happily ate and drank there, with some side eating and drinking in Columbia Falls. Read about all that stuff in this post.

Hiking

Piegan Pass trail in GNP
along the Piegan Pass trail

There are so many fantastic hiking options in Glacier, even with half the park closed! Our scheduled allowed for two longer hikes and one shorter hike, so here’s what we chose:

Piegan Pass

Piegan Pass trail in GNP

The original plan was to hike the Highline Trail to Haystack Pass and back, for a total of about 7.5 miles. We got up early–or so we thought–but the parking lot was already packed at 8 when we arrived. People were tailgating! Our neighbors Mark and Pete (Pete is a girl dog) told us later that that’s a thing: get up super early, drive to Logan Pass, watch the sunrise and cook breakfast in the parking lot, then hike the Highline. Kind of neat, but way too many people for us, so we went to Plan B: hike to Piegan Pass.

Piegan Pass trail in GNP

Plan B was AWESOME. Piegan (pronounced “pee-gan”) is an out-and-back totaling just over 9 miles to the pass with sweeping views over the Many Glacier section of the park, which is currently closed because of stupid Covid. The views along the trail of mountains and valleys and glaciers and forests are just bonkers.

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake in GNP
Avalanche Lake trail in GNP

Avalanche Lake is another super popular hike. We lucked into a parking spot our first afternoon in town and dodged the crowds on the trail to the beautiful lake tucked into the mountains. The trail is an easy 4.6 miles and close to West Glacier in the Lake McDonald area of the park.

Sperry Chalet

Sperry Chalet trail in GNP
Sperry Lake trail in GNP

After hiking to Avalanche Lake our first afternoon in town, we knew we wanted a less-popular hike for our second outing, so we chose something long and steep. Success! Not many people at all were hiking to Sperry Chalet. It’s a tough 6.3-mile climb to the historic chalet–where you can spend the night! It was peaceful and lovely and we welcomed the solitude after the scene on the Avalanche Lake trail.

Driving

Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake

Like I said: meditate, emotionally prepare yourself, and drive the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road. Currently, with the closures related to stupid Covid, you can drive as far as Rising Sun and then you have to turn back. The views along the way, from the car window and from the overlooks, are stunning. The above photo is of Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake.

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