I have a deep love for mountains. The hike, the view from the top, the magnificence. It is really difficult to put into words, but I often tell people that I love God, my family, and then mountains! When we moved away from Utah, I grieved, not exactly because of the friends I’d miss (although I did!), but because of the mountains I couldn’t see in Texas!
When we started planning a trip around the country for the year, I have to admit that I saw it as an opportunity to visit “my mountains.” As many as I could.
I decided to kick it off with Glacier National Park. I don’t remember hearing about this national gem until a treasured friend of mine shared her pictures with me from her trips. I was sold and couldn’t wait to visit.
Since we were still in a camping frame of mind, I thought it would be neat to reserve a Yurt for the week, at a campsite just a couple miles away from the Park’s entrance. To our surprise, we all loved the Yurt! (it’s basically a one-room cabin in a circular shape. We all had beds, and we were able to see the stars from the top!)
As my friend Brynn was the expert, we just took her advice verbatim and hit all the hikes she recommended. As they were the more “touristy” hikes, they were perfect for our whole family, never too strenuous and full of amazement.
So, if you ever decide to visit Glacier – which I’d recommend to everyone anywhere, here are the best hikes and advice to get you started. All of this was “Greek to me” until I actually arrived and started associating these names with beautiful places. Our family actually did most of these hikes in the late afternoon/evening, and so we were able to avoid the tourist congestion, even in the summer. We felt like we had these places all to ourselves!
Lake MacDonald – Go to West Glacier Park. You can stay at the Village Inn in Apgar Village (or McDonald Lodge) on Lake MacDonald. My friend has spent hours just staring at the mountains there, and her boys have thrown 1000’s of rocks. Our own kids added hundreds to the mix. They tried to get them to the other side. They swam in the current over and over. One day we even rented Paddle Boards and spent two hours “walking on water” over the crystal clear blue lake.
Avalanche Lake – We started on the “Trail of Cedars” to get to Avalanche Gorge. This bridge view is incredible, but if you hike up just a bit more, you’ll get to hear and feel the power of the waterfall and get some beautiful photos. Our kids also climbed down to the river to drink from it with their lifestraw and skip some rocks. Then we headed off for our 2 mile climb up to Avalanche Lake. No need for “bear bells” for us – we had Isaac with us! His volume and noise kept all “predators” away! Arriving at the lake, was a sweet gift – so serene and majestic! Don made us some tea, and we all sketched in our Moleskine’s. On our way back, one of the kids decided to start running, and we all followed suit, running the entire way back – definitely one of our most memorable times as a family!
Logan Pass – On my birthday, we drove up to Logan Pass and hiked up the stairs to the top of the lookout and see Hidden Lake. It was definitely chilly on top, so we shared all the warm accessories we had with us! Isaac and Jadyn saw a mommy and baby mountain goat and watched it for half an hour. We met a photographer at the lookout who kindly took some professional-looking photos – not too bad after 15 years of marriage! The views from this hike were utterly amazing! 360 panoramas of mountain peaks, snow, and even wildflowers. Unforgettable!
St. Mary’s Falls – This was another fun evening hike, up past Logan Falls, definitely more towards the East entrance of Glacier. Our friend Brynn had told us that we could jump off a bridge during this hike, so we were prepared with a change of clothing. But none of us knew exactly how chilly and how powerful the falls around the bridge would be! We hiked down to St. Mary’s Falls with a couple Italians, enjoying scenic and political conversation. When we arrived at the falls, we were stunned – the beauty, the rush. Don decided to jump off a rock close to the bridge, after he’d examined the water currents. After his success, both boys followed, chilling to the bones in freezing waters! But they were all so proud! Then we moved forward, hiking another mile or so to Virginia Falls, another gorgeous waterfall!! We camped out at the base, again, drinking our tea and sketching the view. Then we hiked up a bit more to really feel the falls and the water spray. We tried running back to the car after this hike as well, but Isaac took a spill, so we took it easy, still singing loudly and yelling out our “woop-woop” bear calls.
If you have time for a short day trip from Glacier:
Kootenai Falls – This is one of the best waterfalls ever, between Troy and Libby Montana. We spent a day there. Our friend Brynn said, “Bring swimsuits. The trail forks. Go right to get to the waterfall. Hang out and climb rocks and swim. Then go back to the fork and go left. It takes you to the swinging bridge where you can cross the river and then hike down to the water. Amazing!!!” We did this just as she said, and had a most memorable day! For a moment, we thought she was nuts saying that we could swim at the base, but it was pretty safe in that one spot – just cold. We enjoyed a picnic lunch together and sketched these falls as well.
I remember feeling very sad, driving the “Going to the Sun Road” for the last time. I knew I was going to miss Glacier National Park. If our trip ended after Glacier, I would have considered it worth a whole year of adventure. It was that memorable! But I realized that it was mostly memorable because of the people who were with me. Their silhouettes on the water, the sounds of their steps as they ran or their cries as they woop’d and laughed, their “Look, Mom, at that rock!” I learned that as scenic and beautiful as a place can be, it is a million times more memorable because of the people who share the experience with me.