Magazine article Sunset

Glacier, Montana

Magazine article Sunset

Glacier, Montana

Article excerpt

FOR THE CLASSIC Glacier Park experience, drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road up to Logan Pass, park, then hike a mile into the Highline Trail. Here's what you'll see: mountain after mountain reaching north, into Canada, seemingly to the edge of the planet--Glacier's breathtaking trademark.

All national parks provide a way to celebrate the natural world. But Glacier does so in a particularly visceral, powerful way. More than 90 percent of the park is managed wilderness, meaning that within those 900,000 acres, you'll find no roads, no developed campgrounds, not even the slightest echo of Wi-Fi. Cliff-hugging Going-to-the-Sun Road--one of the greatest drives in the world--is the only highway that crosses the park. Want to experience the heart of Glacier? Lace up your hiking boots.

This sense of being on the very edge of the wild gives Glacier a special aura. There are comforts here, even luxuries--paradoxically, the historic lodges here are among the most elegant in the park system. But you're always aware that a few hundred yards from the Adirondack chair where you're sipping your gin and tonic, nature begins.

That natural world is dominated by mountains so jagged the region's Native Americans referred to them as "the backbone of the world." (Remnant glaciers still ride the mountains' flanks like epaulets on generals' shoulders, but in a warming world, they're shrinking fast. One estimate holds Glacier will have none left by 2030.) Between them shimmer hundreds of glacial lakes--long, skinny lakes like Swiftcurrent and McDonald, and chains of small "paternoster" lakes, so named because their round shapes resemble rosary beads.

The topography dazzles first, but then you begin to notice the park's other natural wonders: Wildflowers, like purple aster and yellow glacier lilies. Birds, like harlequin ducks in the lakes, golden eagles in the sky. Animals, like mountain goats, elk, and (ideally from a safe distance) grizzly bears, of which Glacier has an estimated 300. …

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