Glacier National Park has over 1 million acres and 700 miles of hiking trails for people of all types to explore. Glacier National Park is located in Northern Montana with the closest airport in Kalispell, Mt.
If you are planning to do some hiking in Glacier National Park there are many trails that are suitable for day hiking that will allow you to see the beauty of this national park. But if you are planning on backcountry camping you are going to need a permit. To apply for a permit visit Glacier National Park website and complete the necessary documentation. Planning a last minute trip is not advised, it will force you to plan around available backcountry campsites, which can lead to long days or undesired routes. When planning your route make sure to consider your transportation. Glacier National Park runs a free shuttle service on the Going to the Sun Road that is convenient for backpackers and day hikers that are trying to travel between the west entrance to the east entrance.
Although, I did not get the route that I requested, it was a trip of a lifetime. My route started at St. Mary’s Lake and ended at Two Medicine Lake totaling approximately 55 miles. For someone who is trying to plan a trip, my recommendation is to submit for a permit once you have decided on a time frame. To help plan your trip I also recommend purchasing the Glacier National Park maps by National Geographic from Amazon. The transportation to the park is never that easy, but my recommendation would be to fly into the Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, Mt and take a taxi service to West Glacier entrance for approximately $50. If you are planning to spend the first night at the West entrance, schedule an early flight to secure a campsite. Most of the campsites on the West entrance fill up by 1 pm. Once you are in Glacier National Park you’ll be able to use there a free shuttle service that will take you from west entrance at Lake McDonald to Logan Pass and to the east entrance at St Mary’s Lake. If you start your day early, you can catch the Express bus and get from the West side to the East side in approximately 1 hour. For the return trip there are several shuttle services that run from Two Medicine Lake to St. Mary Lake. The shuttle service we used was from the St Mary’s Lodge.
After getting off the shuttle we entered the St. Mary’s Ranger Station and finished our registration for backcountry permit. This ranger station has a small gift shop that sells bear spray, but does not sell butane fuel. If you require butane fuel you will need to walk approximately one mile to the gift shop St Mary’s Lodge.
To begin the trail from St. Mary Ranger Station to Red Eagle Lake we crossed the road and began walking alongside the lake. We quickly left the lake side and proceeded through a small valley where we were greeted by two horses which attacked one of our group members backpacks during a short break.
At Head Red Eagle Lake Campground the water is wonderful but extremely shallow for a long distance into the lake which made using our water filters a bit tricky. The next morning we woke up to all of the equipment extremely wet, adding several pounds to our pack weight. Because of the heavy dew on the plants, I highly recommend bringing rain pants. It will help keep your boots dry, which was one of the biggest issues during our trip.
With wet and heavy packs, our longest day of hiking was ahead from Head Red Eagle Lake Campground, over Triple Divide Pass to Atlantic Creek campground. Although it was extremely difficult it was the most amazing day of our trip. Most of the morning we hiked in heavy overcast until reaching Triple Divide Pass, at which point the visibility was zero and at times so thick we could not see the lead hiker. As we began to proceed down into valley, we walked out of the clouds, which opened an amazing view of multiple waterfalls and streams feeding into Medicine Grizzly Lake.
The next day was a short day, which was welcomed by the group after hiking our wet equipment over Triple Divide Pass. Our destination was Morning Star Lake which was approximately 3 miles ahead. When hiking from Atlantic Creek you hike around Morning Star lake with an amazing view and proceed through the woods to the campground. At which point we encountered a Park Ranger. This was the standard protocol meeting with questions like any bear sightings? Any trouble? And Can I see your permit? Morning Star Lake was truly amazing being surrounded by mountains and a snow melt stream that fed the lake right next to the campground.
The next morning knowing that we had a large elevation gain we started hiking early. We hiked up in elevation all morning finally reaching Pitamakan Lake at which point the elevation gain began to increase more dramatically until reaching the pass. After reaching the top of the pass, we dropped our packs and did a quick hike to the top of Cut Bank Pass for the amazing view. Although the pass is several miles from the trailhead there was heavy day hiker use coming from to Medicine Lake Campground. These hikers would adventure up the trail and around the pass looping back down pass No Name Lake and back to Two Medicine Lake.
After hiking down from Pitamakan Pass, we took a short spur trail to Old Man Lake Campground. But be warned the walk from the campsites to the lake was close to a 1/8 mile. Which after a long day of hiking, getting water becomes a little more challenging.
Our next two days on the trail consisted of hiking to No Name Lake which was an amazing trip to a lake where you are surrounded by cliff walls and at night you can hear rocks breaking off and falling. But be warned that this campsite has mosquitoes, but nothing like Northern Minnesota.
Our last day camping at Glacier National Park was at Two Medicine Lake which is your standard car camping campground. This helps you begin the ease back into civilization with a convenience store, but don’t get excited there are no showers. In the convenience store you will find it has all the food you would expect at your typical gas station. With pre-made sandwiches, frozen burritos, coffee, chips, beer and general Glacier National Park merchandise, so don’t forget your mother.
My recommendations for this trip:
Bear Spray: Acquire bear spray at the park, you can find it at all the park stores. Although we never saw a bear, but safety first.
Hang a bear bag: There are very nice hanging areas at every campground, use them.
Rain Pants: No matter what the weather forecast says, the morning dew will make you miserable all day.
Toilet Paper: Bring toilet paper, there are “Out Houses/Pit Toilets” at every campsite so don’t forget your paper.
Bring a warm sleeping bag; I brought the Z30 from Golite and was wished I had my Adventure 20. It can get cold at night.