Our Backyard: Glacier National Park

Trek through grizzly terrain in Glacier National Park.

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1. Best Paddling trip

From the Bowman Lake campground, kayak across seven-mile-long, Evian-clear Bowman Lake and camp at the backcountry site at the lake’s northeast end. Stow boats on day two and follow the Bowman Lake Trail six miles past three waterfalls to camp under 6,255-foot Brown Pass.

2. Sunset View

Hike 8.7 miles one-way to 8,436-foot Swiftcurrent Mountain via the Highline Trail for a life-list sunset, advises Jared Frasier (below). Grab a perch as the Lewis Range glows orange and snowmelt on Heaven’s Peak glitters. Overnight at the Granite Park Chalet campground (three miles south, back the way you came).

3. Weekend Solitude

Head to the Two Medicine area, says Jennifer Grigg (below). It’s well away from the crowds along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Top trip: the 16-mile loop connecting Pitamakan and Dawson Passes. Camp at Oldman and No Name Lakes for the ideal long weekend.

4. Best Grizzly-Spotting

Fearless locals head for the 4.8-mile Iceberg Lake Trail: Former Missoula resident Jill Schroeder saw five bruins in a single hike to this lake, where ice chunks float beneath vertical cliffs well into summer. No griz? Chances of spotting bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and marmots are still high.



5. Best Blooms

Grigg heads to Cobalt Lake in the southeast corner of the park for “blankets of pink monkeyflower, red paintbrush, and beargrass.” Hike the 5.7-mile (one-way) trail to the lake in late July to catch the height of the flower show—and, if you’re lucky, a moose or two.

6. Best Berry Picking

The 6.9-mile Gunsight Pass Trail is choked with thimbleberries, raspberries, and “the biggest huckleberries I’ve ever seen in the park,” says Frasier. Hike at the end of August for peak bounty. Forage for fat berries all the way to an overnight at Gunsight Lake, where Jackson Glacier spills into view.

7. Favorite Glacier

Hike 10 miles (one-way) to see the Sperry Glacier before it’s gone (by 2030, say experts). Sperry, tucked on the northern flanks of Gunsight Mountain, sees a fraction of the traffic of popular Grinnell Glacier, says Frasier. Overnight in the Sperry backcountry campground.

8. Best Multiday Hike

The 52-mile loop connecting the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail with Granite Park (a favorite of Frasier’s) cruises through aspen groves and past little-known glaciers, winding under the park’s high northern summits and tagging a 6,908-foot pass.

9. Secret Peak

Scramble off-trail up 1.5 miles of scree and tundra to 8,180-foot Mt. Oberlin, just above Logan Pass. Peek over the edge: You’re directly above 492-foot Bird Woman Falls. A user trail starts from the higher access ramp behind the visitor center.


Missoula, Montana, reader Jennifer Grigg, 36, has made semiannual pilgrimages to Glacier for the past nine years. One advantage to being a local, she says: visiting in January, when crowds have disappeared and the cross-country skiing on Going-to-the-Sun road is stellar.


Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, native Jared Frasier, 23, tried to impress a girl by taking her to Avalanche Lake (four miles round-trip) in June. “We ran through the snow and scared a few bears off the trail,” he says. Was she wowed? The two got married last May and visit Glacier about five times a year.


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