Category Archives: Hiking Tips

Helpful tips for hiking in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park, Waterton Lakes National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Hiking Tip: Choosing the Proper Hiking Boots for Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park, and Grand Teton Park

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Choosing the Proper Hiking Boots
While hiking in Glacier Park, hiking in Yellowstone Park, or hiking in Grand Teton National Park, wearing the right boots can make or break your hiking experience.  After over 40 years of hiking these parks, and averaging over 1,400 miles of trails each summer for the past 7 years, we have a pretty good idea what type of hiking boots you might need.  Now as far as brands, we are going to stay out of that discussion. We have our preferences, and others have theirs.

A Reasonably Firm Sole
For a general purpose, all around hiking boot, we strongly recommend that you stay away from the really soft soles that have no firmness to them.  Lately we have noticed that the trend is for manufacturers to simply take their running shoes and extending the top for ankle support, and are calling this a hiking boot. These “hiking” boots feel incredibly comfortable in the store, and they are amazingly light weight. You’ll probably say out loud that these boots are the most comfortable boots you’ve ever worn, and you’ll probably fall in love with them… That is until you actually begin hiking with them. The problem lies in the fact that they provide no support as you are hiking over rough terrain, and this really can create a problem for your feet during your Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes or Grand Teton Hikes.

When hiking over rough terrain, you do not want the sole to bend and flex with every contour of the ground surface. This creates incredible fatigue and discomfort, and you’re feet will begin to really tire out and ache. Instead, you want the sole of your boot to be at least reasonably firm (stiff) to keep your feet from flexing and bending with every contour of the ground surface. This keeps your feet comfortable and keeps them from fatiguing so quickly and getting sore.

Another reason you want a fairly firm sole on your hiking boot is the fact that as you climb up a steep hill, the sole of your boot will remain fairly flat, instead of bending like a running shoe would. This really keeps not only your feet but your calf muscles from working over-time and fatiguing. A firm boot reduces the amount of muscle-work your feet and legs are required to do by allowing the boots to do much of the work for you.

Ankle Support
This trend right now by many hiking boot manufacturers of simply extending their cross-training hiking shoes into a boot, also leaves these boots with inadequate ankle support.  So besides having a sole that is not stiff enough, the ankle support on these “boots” are also quite insufficient in many cases.  The last thing a hiker needs is a sprained ankle.

Water Proof
We’ve heard over and over by hikers that Gore Tex boots are “too hot” and their feet sweat too much in them. Well, we’ve tried just about everything, including non-water proof hiking boots, and we always come back to Gore Tex lined boots. We really don’t notice the difference in the “temperature” of our boots, and the fact that our feet will stay relatively dry in about 80 percent of the situations we come across while hiking makes any “temperature” difference well worth putting up with.

There’s nothing more annoying than wet feet while trying to enjoy your Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes and Grand Teton Hikes. And as you know, there is always that one little part of the trail that has slushy wet snow on it, or there is a tiny little shallow stream you have to cross, or there are large mud puddles in the middle of the trail after a rain storm, or you have to cross a snow field, or the vegetation is soaking wet with morning dew…. all of these situations will leave your feet soaked to the bone. Gore Tex, or its equivalent, 99 percent of the time will keep your feet dry during these brief instances. Of the tens of thousands of miles we’ve hiked, we rarely got wet feet during typical hiking situations because we chose to wear water proof hiking boots.

Now of course if you’re in a stream too long, or you’re in a massive rain storm, or you hike long enough in wet slushy snow, your boots and feet will eventually get wet. What we’re talking about is the brief encounters with water along the trail… That’s when a water proof boot really pays off.

Now when we say Gore Tex, we mean any of the proven materials that are breathable and water proof. Gore Tex is the original “miracle material” that changed the world, but there are several other materials on the market that also perform quite nicely.

Change the Insole
The first thing you should do after you purchase your new hiking boots is throw away the manufacturer’s insoles, and shop for a more cushioned insole that fits the contour of your feet. Most outdoor stores carry a variety of insoles, so take your time and find the one that works for you….. and don’t get an insole with a lot of arch support if you don’t have a high arch. This will make your feet extremely uncomfortable. Remember, not everyone has an arch!

The Less Seams the Better
We prefer our boots to be made of leather with the least amount of seams possible. We have found these “seamless” boots to last far longer and remain water proof longer than boots that are put together with a bunch of different pieces with stitching every where you look. We’ve also found leather to hold up better than fabrics while hiking off trail in really rough terrain and scree slopes with a lot of loose rocks.

We hope this article proves to be useful to you. Your hiking boots can make or break your hike, and by choosing the proper hiking boot, your hiking experience will be much more enjoyable. So as you embark on your hikes in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park, remember that comfortable, dry feet makes for a happy hiker!

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Is It a Grizzly Bear or a Black Bear? Hiking in Glacier Park, Hiking in Yellowstone Park, Hiking in Grand Teton National Park

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Is It a Grizzly Bear or a Black Bear?
While enjoying your Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes and Grand Teton Hikes, understanding the difference in appearance between a grizzly bear and a black bear is very important.  Both types of bears can be dangerous, but statistically it seems that grizzly bears tend to present more of a potential problem more frequently on a hiking trail than a black bear.  With this being said however, even though there are more recorded “attacks” by grizzly bears, it has been determined that if a black bear indeed decides to attack, the likelihood of the hiker not surviving this attack is greater than if it were a grizzly bear.  Therefore, having great respect for both species of bears is critical while hiking in Glacier Park, hiking in Yellowstone Park, and hiking in Grand Teton National Park.

Color is Never An Indication!
A fair amount of Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park visitors think that a brown or tan colored bear is always a grizzly bear, and a black colored bear is always a black bear.  This is absolutely not the case.  Black bears can be blonde, tan, brown, cinnamon, fudge, black, or a combination of these colors. Grizzly bears can also be blonde, tan, brown, cinnamon, fudge, black, or a combination of these colors. Grizzlies generally are tannish-brown in color with silvery tips at the end of each hair that glisten in the sun, but this is just a generalization… we’ve seen reddish colored grizzlies, black grizzlies, blonde grizzlies brown grizzlies, cinnamon grizzlies, and combinations of all these different colors.  The bottom line is this:  The color of a bear means NOTHING when trying to determine if it’s a grizzly bear or a black bear.

What About Size?
Grizzly bears are generally larger than black bears.  However, many large adult male black bear are larger than two-year-old grizzlies (known as sub-adults) who just got “thrown out of the nest” by their mother.  So obviously, the age of the bear has a lot to do with the size of the bear.  And if you’re out hiking on a trail, and you’ve never seen a bear in the wild, every bear, no matter how small or young, will look gigantic to you.

For example, we were hiking along the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail in Glacier National Park a few summers ago, and a gentleman came running down the trail screaming that a monstrous 1,000 pound grizzly bear was coming, and we should run for our lives.  As this terrified hiker ran past us, we paused and looked up the trail.  Not seeing anything, we had our bear spray ready to go and simply kept hiking.  A few hundred yards further up the trail, we saw this “1,000 pound grizzly”, eating berries about 20 yards off the trail.  This bear was actually a two year old black bear that was tan in color, and weighed only 80 pounds at the very most.  Again, if you’ve never seen a bear in the wild, your first bear will look HUGE, so “size” will not help you determine if it’s a black bear or a grizzly bear.

The Hump
The large hump on a grizzly bear’s shoulders is a very good defining characteristic.  Back in the day, grizzly bears used to live on the prairie, and their primary way of obtaining food was by digging.  This large hump on its shoulder is actually a huge muscle that helps the grizzly dig.

Black bear do not have this large hump above their shoulders.  However, they do indeed have shoulders!  Occasionally we’ll hear hikers mention the hump on a black bear that we’re all watching along the trail, thinking it’s a grizzly bear.  What they were seeing was the black bear’s shoulders.  The “hump” on a grizzly is far more prominent and obvious than a black bear’s shoulders.  So when you see a bear that has a large hump above his/her shoulders that is very pronounced, it’s a grizzly bear.

Black bear tend to have “dog-like” ears, that are longer and more pointed than a grizzly bear.  Grizzly bears have short, round ears, and are smaller in proportion to the rest of the grizzly bear’s head.  The ears of a black bear are larger in proportion to the rest of the black bear’s head.  So if you see small round ears on a bear, you’re probably looking at a grizzly bear.

Facial Profile
Grizzly bears have a dish-shaped forehead, which creates a prominent forehead profile that angles sharply downward to the base of the nose.  The nose will then project nearly 90 degrees (horizontal) from the downward slope of the forehead.  A black bear’s facial profile is more of a straight line all the way from the top of its head to the tip of it’s nose.  There is no prominent forehead distinction with a black bear.  So if you see a bear with a prominent forehead that sweeps steeply down to the base of the nose, it’s more than likely a grizzly bear.

Claw Length
Grizzly bears have extremely long claws that are usually light in color, sometimes even white.  Again, grizzlies were originally prairie animals, and they used these long claws along with their extremely strong shoulder muscles (the hump) to dig for food.  Grizzly bears still do a lot of digging for food, and frequently use these digging “tools” while digging for food.  The length of a grizzly bear’s claws will vary, but can be anywhere from 3 to 5 inches in length, sometimes even longer.  If you can see the grizzly bear’s paws, you will definitely see the claws protruding from them.

Black bear on the other hand have rather short claws, and are quite dark in color.  They are so short that you can usually barely see them protrude from the black bears’ paws.  The length of a black bear’s claws are anywhere from 1 to at the most 3 inches, and are not nearly as visible as a grizzly bear’s claws.

But when looking at a bear’s claws, think about what a park ranger once told us…. If you’re close enough to a bear to notice its claws, you’re way to close!!!

Once you’ve determined that the bear you’re looking at along the trail during one or more of your Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes, or Grand Teton Hikes, then what?  Well, that information will be covered in detail in a future article.  But the three most important things you can do to avoid a problem with a bear while hiking in Glacier Park, hiking in Yellowstone Park, or hiking in Grand Teton Park, are as follows:

The larger your hiking party, the less likelihood of a problem.  At least hike with one other person, but preferably two.  By the way, there has never been a day-time grizzly bear attack in the national parks on a party of four or more people.

Nearly all bear attacks on hiking trails occur because the hiker or hikers surprised the bear.  By talking loud along the trail, this tells the bear you are in the area.  This dramatically decreases the chances of surprising the bear, and consequently dramatically reduces the chances of an encounter.  By the way, “bear bells” have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to NOT work, and they actually can create curiosity, which is not a good thing.  So leave the bear bells at home.  The HUMAN VOICE as been proven to be the most effective way of letting a bear know that you are in the area, so as not to surprise it.

By talking loud along the trail, you will not only dramatically decrease the chance of a bear attack, but you will also dramatically decrease the chances of even seeing a bear.  This is because when a bear knows in advance that a human is coming, the bear will usually get out of the way to avoid being seen…. so you may never even know there was a bear in the area.

Personally, when we are enjoying the many Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes and Grand Teton Hikes, our goal is to actually NOT see a bear on the trail by talking loud the entire way.  And by the way, it usually works… but because we hike over 1,300 miles each year in grizzly country, we definitely see our share of bears in the back country… but most of the time they know we’re coming and are not surprised by our presence because we talk loud.

Every hiker in your party needs to carry their own bear spray, and every hiker in your party needs to know how to use it.  A future article will show you exactly how to properly use your bear spray in the event that a serious problem develops with a bear along the trail.

To wrap up this article, when you are enjoying Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes, or Grand Teton Hikes, or anywhere there are grizzly bears around, it is important for you to be able to identify whether the bear is a grizzly bear or a black bear.  The hump, sharply dished forehead, long claws and small, round ears are the main characteristics of a grizzly bear.  The above information should help you make this determination in the field.  What to do next will be covered in a future article, but the three most important things to do while hiking in grizzly country to AVOID a problem is to never hike alone, always talk loud, and always carry bear spray and know how to use it.

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Hiking Tip for Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park Hikers: Bring a Water Filter

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Hiking Tip For Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park Hikers: Bring a Water Filter
Here’s a quick story….
We were sitting on our truck’s tailgate at the Jenny Lake parking lot in Grand Teton National Park several years ago, and were watching 4 backpackers getting ready for an overnight backpacking trip. These hikers were in their mid-twenties, and it looked like they knew what they were doing… that is until we watched them each place a gallon plastic milk jug full of water into their packs! They were hoping no one was watching… but we saw the whole thing, and our jaws dropped to the ground. Each of those plastic milk jugs weighed about 8 pounds! So these four hikers were carrying 32 pounds of water!!!!

Water Is Critical…. But Heavy!
While enjoying Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton Park hikes, one the most important things all hikers need to do is to stay hydrated, and the only way to do this is to drink water, and plenty of it. Dehydration can be a serious and sometimes life-threatening situation, and it needs to be taken extremely seriously. However, the classic age-old problem with water is that it’s heavy. In fact, water is really, really heavy! One liter of water (which is the average size of a typical Nalgene bottle), weighs about 2.2 pounds, and that’s not counting the weight of the water bottle.

And during long hikes, your body might require up to 4 or 5 liters of water, or even more if it’s a super hot day. That means you’d have to carry over 11 pounds of water, which is of course ridiculous… that is unless you have your own Yak. That amount of extra weight is not only extremely tiring, but it would completely ruin the enjoyment of your day hike. And of course the water situation becomes even more of an issue during overnight backpacking trips.

“Don’t Drink the Water!”
We’ve also watched many visitors actually drink straight out of a stream or lake while hiking in Glacier Park, hiking in Yellowstone Park and hiking in Grand Teton Park. This is absolutely a “No-No” because there are parasites, viruses and bacteria that can make hikers extremely sick. One of the most common culprits is the protozoa parasite known as Giardia. No matter how crystal clear the stream or lake appears to be, there is a good chance that Giardia is in this water, and if you drink it, you could become extremely sick with horrible stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting and more, and these symptoms can linger for months. Even though it’s usually not life-threatening, you might wish it was because you’ll be so miserable. Other dangerous particles that can be found in natural bodies of water in addition to Giardia include Salmonella and Cryptosporidia, just to name a few.

Studies indicate that Giardia has been found in much of the water in even the most remote and pristine places on earth, including Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park.  So “drinking the water” is NOT an option while hiking in these national parks. But if you can’t carry all the water you need, and if you can’t drink water from a stream or lake, what’s a hiker to do?

Water Purification vs. Bringing Your Own Yak
If you don’t have your own Yak to carry water for you, you really need to consider water purification to help you better enjoy your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton Park hikes. There are several ways of purifying your drinking water, such as chemical treatment with iodine, chlorine tablets (or the several other chemical treatments available today), or boiling your water before you drink it. We feel these techniques take an annoying amount of time in our opinion, and you are not filtering the water, so you will see debri floating in it. And if you boil your water, drinking hot or warm water is not very pleasant or refreshing. Also, many of the chemical treatments make the water taste strange.

After nearly 50 years of hiking in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, and averaging over 1,300 miles of hiking trails each year, we have found that one of the most practical ways to safely drink water during your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton Park hikes, where you can enjoy great tasting, cold water without having to carry, is by using a water filter.

Water Filters
Water Filtration is super-quick and easy, and it allows you to take advantage of all of the water that is available along the trail, instead of having to carry your own water. There are dozens of really good companies that sell fantastic water filters. Right now, our favorite filter is the Hiker Pro by Katadyn. This light weight micro-filter removes particles as small as 0.3 microns in size, which includes Giardia, Salmonella and Cryptosporidia. This micro-filter also uses carbon filtration to help absorb chemicals and pesticides, which improves the taste of the water. Mechanically, the Katadyn Hiker Pro is very sound, light weight and is extremely well built and reliable.

We have been using this type of micro-filter for many years, and have had extremely good luck with it. However, there are several other excellent products on the market. We’re not here to endorse a particular company’s products, and we’re not paid to do so. We’re just telling you what we’ve done very well with throughout the years.

Make sure you read all about the proper maintenance of these filters.  In the event of a “mechanical failure” in the field (which by the way is extremely rare) we recommend that you carry a carbon straw to get you home. You can also carry chemical tablets just in case, but if you take care of your filter properly it’s highly unusual to have a problem with these filters in the field.

Additional Tip: Know Where The Water Is
Of course the only way your water filter will help you is if there is water along the trail. We strongly recommend that before you begin your hike that you get a good idea where there are permanent water sources along  the trail, such as a streams, springs, ponds or lakes. Again, make sure you do this BEFORE you head out on any Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes or Grand Teton Park hikes. The best way to do this is ask a ranger at a visitor center where these water sources are located. If you’re on a long hike, and there is a fairly long distance between water sources, you may have to carry a liter or two of water in a Nalgene bottle between these water sources. So the bottom line is this: know where the water sources are located along the trail, and adjust accordingly.

In summary, if you enjoy hiking, you really, really need to consider carrying a portable water filter with you during your hikes in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.  It allows you to remain hydrated without having to carry water, which will dramatically reduce the weight of your day pack.

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Is It A Grizzly Or A Black Bear? How To Tell The Difference

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Is It A Grizzly Or A Black Bear?  How To Tell The Difference

A fair number of visitors in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park think that every blonde or tan colored bear is a grizzly, where in reality many of those bears are indeed black bears. YOU CAN’T GO BY COLOR! Black bears can be black, blonde, cinnamon, chocolate, fudge, tan, brown or combinations of several colors at the same time. Grizzlies can also be found in these same variation of colors.  Therefore, you cannot go by color when determining if a bear is a grizzly bear or a black bear.

The best way to determine if it’s a black bear or a grizzly is the bear’s physical features other than color. Black bears have a long, flat line from the top of their heads to the tip of their noses, whereas grizzlies have a large forehead and a prominent “dish” between their foreheads and their noses. Also, black bears have larger, “dog-like” pointed ears whereas grizzlies have relatively small, rounded ears.

One of the most prominent features of a grizzly bear is its large hump at the top of the shoulders, whereas a black bear’s shoulders are not nearly as “humped”.   If the bear you are looking at has a large shoulder hump, you are more than likely looking at a grizzly bear.

And the last big difference between black bears and grizzly bears are their length of claws. Grizzlies have extremely long, white or tan colored claws, up to 4 inches in length that can be seen from a distance, whereas black bear claws are only 1.5 inches in length, and are nearly impossible to see, even up close. (However, if you’re close enough to see any bear’s claws, your too close!!!)

We often get asked the question, “Why does it matter if it’s a black bear or a grizzly, shouldn’t you react the same way?” Well, it really does matter, especially if there is an attack.  Grizzly bears are DEFENSIVE animals, and will usually only attack if it feels it’s being threatened or its cubs are being threatened. Then when a grizzly does attack, it usually stops when the bear feels you are no longer a threat. That is why the NPS recommends that during an imminent attack, it is best to curl up in the fetal position and stay completely still.  We’ll talk more about what to do during a grizzly bear attack in an upcoming blog.

Black bears on the other hand are OFFENSIVE animals. This means that 99% of the time, when they confront a human they will run. In otherwords, when they feel threatened, they run from the threat.  A black bear attack is extremely rare.  HOWEVER, if a black bear does attack, this is actually an offensive act by the bear, and it is going to treat you as prey.  Therefore, if a hiker is ever attacked by a black bear, even though this is extremely rare, the hiker must fight for his or her life instead of “playing dead” because the bear is intending to kill you.  Now of course there are times when you definitely should not “play dead” during a grizzly attack as well, such as when a grizzly is actually stalking you as prey or when a grizzly comes into your camp at night, and we’ll talk about this on a future blog.

So remember, while hiking in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, which are home to both grizzly bears and black bears, you really should know how to tell the difference between them.  Grizzly bears and black bears definitely act and react in different ways, and knowing what you’re up against can prove to be very valuable.

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Hiking in Grizzly Country: Best Ways To Avoid Bear Encounters

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Hiking in Grizzly Country:  Best Ways To Avoid Bear Encounters
Shannon and I hike well over 1,000 miles each year in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, and we have experienced our share of grizzly bear encounters along these incredible trails.  Thank goodness every encounter has had a happy ending for both the grizzly(s) and ourselves, but we have always felt that the best “happy ending” is not having an encounter to begin with.

Through the past 40+ years, we have noticed that MOST of our encounters with grizzly bears along Glacier Park trails, Yellowstone Park trails and Grand Teton National Park trails occurred when we put our guard down, whether we were not paying attention because we were tired, or overly confident that a particular stretch along the trail wouldn’t have a grizzly on it.  Nearly every single time we are doing the right activities while hiking in Glacier Park, hiking in Yellowstone Park and hiking in Grand Teton Park, we do not experience a grizzly bear encounter.

Fight or Flight Instinct
Most grizzly encounters occur when a hiker surprises a grizzly bear(s) on the trail, thus triggering the bear’s “fight or flight” instinct.  If the “fight” instinct is switched on, then the hiker is in really big trouble.  If the bear’s “flight” instinct kicks in, then the hiker dodged a bullet.  So the goal of every hiker in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park is to NOT SURPRISE THE BEAR by letting the bear know well in advance that the hiker is in the area.  This way, the bear can avoid the hiker and not be surprised.

And of course the other potentially dangerous situation is when a sow grizzly thinks you are threatening her cub(s).  This can also be avoided by making sure you do not surprise them and to give them plenty of warning that you are in the area.  If a sow grizzly knows you are coming down the trail long before she sees you, she will more than likely move her cubs off the trail and avoid an encounter with you.

The “Boom Box” Lady
Several years ago we were enjoying one of the numerous Glacier Park hikes in the Two Medicine Area, and we began hearing music… even though we were about 8 miles up the trail.  The music got louder and louder, and closer and closer…. and we finally could hear that it was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”.  Finally, the source of the music came over the hill and our jaws about dropped to the ground: Before us was a woman hiking with her teenage daughter, and sticking out of her day pack was a huge “boom box” playing a cassette.

We said hello to the hikers and politely asked about the blaring music.  The mother told us that she always carried this boom box and always played Lynyrd Skynyrd as loud as possible to scare off the grizzly bears when she was hiking in Glacier National Park.  We politely said “well, whatever it takes!” and continued on our hike.  After she was completely out of sight and after the blaring music faded off into the distance, I turned to Shannon and asked, “But what if grizzly bears don’t like Lynyrd Skynyrd and it makes them mad?  Or what if grizzly bears actually like Lynyrd Skynyrd and they approach her to get a better listen?”  We both laughed and continued on with our hike.  Obviously there are better ways of avoiding encounters with grizzly bears, and at the same time not annoying every hiker within a 10 mile radius….

Bear Bells
Anyone who has ever enjoyed Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton hikes, has also passed by hikers jingling like a Christmas sleigh because of the bear bells hanging from their day packs and other places on their body.  These “bear bells” are probably not quite as annoying as a large boom box blaring Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, but they are a close second.

The National Park Service has determined (as well as several other independent field studies) that bear bells are not only ineffective in avoiding grizzly bear encounters along the trail, but may actually act as an “attractant”.  This is because the sound of a bell is a foreign noise that can make a grizzly curious as to what is emitting this strange sound.  This curiosity can then potentially turn into an encounter.  So to all the bear bell fans out there, you are better off NOT wearing them while hiking in Glacier National Park, hiking in Yellowstone National Park or hiking in Grand Teton National Park.

Human Voice
Research as shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the best “grizzly deterrent” while hiking in grizzly country is the HUMAN VOICE.  This powerful tool to avoid grizzly bear encounters is incredibly effective, and is endorsed by the National Park Service.  And through the many years and the tens of thousands of miles we’ve hiked in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park, we can honestly say that we’ve never had a grizzly encounter when we were talking loud along the trail.

And that’s the key…. TALK LOUD.  Don’t be shy because you want the bear to hear you well in advance so you can avoid surprising the bear.  This also gives the bear plenty of time to avoid you.  So as you are hiking, talk with your hiking partner(s) with an elevated volume.  You don’t have to yell  at the top of your lungs… just talk louder than normal.

Now when the wind is blowing, or you are near a loud river or stream, you may have to ramp up the volume much more so you can be heard over the sound of the river or wind.  Also, talk extra loud when rounding a blind corner along the hiking trail.

In some places along certain trails, especially on several of the backcountry Glacier Park hikes, we also clap occasionally to make our presence known as well as talk loud.  We’ve had very good luck with this technique, especially when we know a bear is in the area.

Hiking In Numbers
Statistics show that the more people you’re hiking with on the trail, the less likely you’ll have an encounter with a grizzly bear.  This also tells you that you should NEVER HIKE ALONE in grizzly country.  Now we’ve done all of our hiking with just the two of us (Shannon and I), and we’ve done just fine.  The National Park Service recommends at least three people while hiking in grizzly country, and that’s good advice too.  But we feel that if you can only round up one other person to hike with you, then talk loud and go ahead and enjoy your hike.

Bear Spray
No matter what, in all circumstances, whenever you are in grizzly country every hiker should ALWAYS CARRY BEAR SPRAY.  There really are no exceptions to this rule in our opinion.  Grizzly bears are completely unpredictable and don’t always act as we want them to.  This article will not go into what to do if you indeed have an encounter with a grizzly, but we do want to simply say that you need to not only carry bear spray (on your hip, not in your pack), but also know exactly how and when to use it.  And EVERY HIKER needs to carry bear spray, not just one or two hikers in the group.  (We’ll talk about how to handle an encounter in a future article.)

The Bottom Line
The bottom line while hiking in grizzly country is to avoid surprising a grizzly bear(s) along the trail.  Your goal is to not even see a grizzly bear while enjoying Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes, and Grand Teton hikes by making your presence known far in advance by talking loud and occasionally clapping, and have at least one other hiking partner with you.  This way you’ll let the bear know you’re in the area, and he or she can move off the trail to avoid you.

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Hiking Tip for Glacier Park, Grand Teton Park and Yellowstone Park: NEVER HIKE OR CLIMB ALONE

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Here’s a really important hiking tip for Glacier National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park: NEVER HIKE OR CLIMB ALONE! This is one of the fundamental rules of spending time not only in the mountains, but also the prairie, desert, or anywhere in the great outdoors.  Because there are so many things that can go wrong while spending time in these places, it is essential that you have a hiking partner with you to help avoid several potential disasters.

Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park offer incredible hiking and climbing opportunities, and if you follow this basic advice, you will have a far more pleasant and safer hiking and/or climbing experience.  We hike over 1,400 miles a year in these magnificent parks, and we occasionally see the lone hiker or mountain climber deep in the backcountry, and we of course don’t say a word, but we are definitely thinking that their decision to hike or climb alone is not a good one.

Yes, we understand that some people really need to literally “get away from it all”, which includes getting away from humans and human interaction, and some folks do not truly feel free unless they are literally “alone with the wilderness”.  We understand that desire… we truly do.  However, there can be consequences that may not be what that lone hiker or climber bargained for.  Below are several reasons why we feel it is essential to always have a hiking or climbing partner….

If you are hiking or climbing alone in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, or Grand Teton National Park, and you become ill for whatever reason, if you don’t have someone with you, you could be in big trouble.  We’ve come across hikers who have had conditions ranging from a heart attack, flu, dehydration, heat stroke, pulmonary edema, appendicitis, to passing a kidney stone.  If you experience any acute illness in the backcounty and there is no one to help you OR NO ONE TO GO GET HELP, you could be in really big trouble.  The illness may not kill you, but hypothermia just might if you become incapacitated and cannot stay warm during a storm or after the sun goes down.

Another obvious reason why you should never hike or climb alone is in the event you get injured.  Even a simple ankle sprain could become a dangerous situation if you don’t have someone to go get help.  More serious injuries such as a broken bone (or bones), internal injuries or brain injuries as a result of a fall, make it even more critical that someone is there to help you and to get help fast.

If you are alone, injured and can’t walk, you are in really big trouble. This is when a hiking partner can save your life by helping you at the site and by getting help.  Don’t let a sprained ankle, concussion or broken bone end up costing you your life.

If you’re alone, you’re on your own.  This may seem really obvious, but it must not be so obvious to some outdoor enthusiasts because we have come across lone hikers and lone climbers in some of the most remote areas in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Statistically, the more people you have with you while hiking or climbing, the less likely a grizzly will mess with you.  If fact, just having 3 hikers together dramatically decreases the chance of a problem with a grizzly bear.  Hiking or climbing alone is statistically the most dangerous situation when it comes to grizzly bears because you pose such a little threat to them.   In those rare instances where a grizzly is actually considering you to be his/her next meal, being alone creates a greater likelihood that that particular bear will see this as an easy opportunity.

And by the way, we’ve met grizzlies on top of some of the highest peaks in Glacier National Park, so you NEVER know where you are going to come across one of these amazing animals.  And when you do, you do not want to be alone because that will dramatically increase the chances of a real problem.

We’ve had lone hikers and climbers tell us through the years that if they get into trouble, that’s their problem, and they are prepared to face the consequences… it was worth the risk to them to enjoy the great outdoors without having any one else around.  Well that’s fine and dandy until one thinks about this:  When that particular hiker doesn’t come back when he/she was supposed to (that is assuming this person told someone when he/she was expecting to return….which is also a golden rule), then there are more people involved in their “consequences” than just themselves.

When a hiker or climber doesn’t return when expected, then many men and women of a search and rescue team are called in, as well as potentially many other people volunteering to help.  These people are now putting themselves at risk to find this lone hiker or climber.  If the weather goes bad, or the search is in some really treacherous terrain, then these search and rescue team members are actually putting their lives on the line to find and rescue this lone hiker and climber.

Now of course if this lone hiker or climber doesn’t tell anyone where he or she is going and when he or she is to be expected back, that exponentially increases the nightmare of finding that person because now the search and rescue team are literally trying to find a needle in a really, really big haystack.

When things go bad, every hiker or climber needs to have someone by their side to help them and to go get help if necessary. Otherwise, a bad situation just became a whole lot worse. What could have been a simple and quick rescue may turn into a disastrous and/or fatal situation.

We love the mountains and love hiking and climbing in them as much as anyone, but we also respect the mountains and know that anything can happen at any time.  We want you to enjoy them as well, but we also want you to be safe.  So we hope that everyone who reads this article takes our advice seriously and will always hike or climb with at least one other person.  The mountains of Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are going to be here for you to enjoy for your entire life… and the longer you’re alive and well on this planet, the more time you will have to explore them.  Please be safe by hiking and climbing with a partner, and get out there and Enjoy Your Parks!

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Hiking Tips For Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park: Choosing the Right Socks, Liners, Insoles and Hiking Boots

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Hiking Tip For Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes and Grand Teton Hikes: Choosing the Right Socks, Liners, Insoles and Boots

Of all the equipment and clothing you use for your Glacier Park Hikes, Yellowstone Park Hikes and Grand Teton Hikes, some of the most important pieces of equipment are what you are placing your feet in… because after all, your feet are what is pounding against the ground every step of the way!

Wearing the correct socks, liners, insoles and boots not only provides the maximum comfort and shock absorption for your feet, but it also helps reduce the wear-and-tear on your knees, hips and back.  And if you are someone who does a lot of hiking, the proper foot gear will help keep your feet, legs, hips and back healthy for many years into the future, so you can continue to enjoy hiking long into your later years.

With over 40 years experience hiking in Glacier Park, hiking in Yellowstone Park and hiking in Grand Teton National Park, and hiking over 1,300 miles each year in these parks, we’ve figured out what works best for us, and below are the details…  And by the way, we are not getting paid to promote anyone’s products.  We are simply sharing with you what works best for us…

The correct sock is essential.  Much of the shock absorption for your feet are performed by your socks.  Shock absorption is vitally important because it reduces the pounding that your feet, knees, hips and back have to endure during your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton hikes.  This reduction in pounding results in not only much more comfortable feet, even during the last mile of your hike, but also keeps your joints more apt to stay healthy and functional for the long term.

After many years of trying many different types and materials of hiking socks and many different thicknesses, we have found what works best for us… for now…. and that is a “heavy trekking sock” by SmartWool.  This heavy sock dramatically reduces the “pounding” of our feet, and it’s remarkable how much better our feet feel after a 26 mile day of hiking or climbing.  The material used by SmartWool is also the best we have found for our needs.  Their blend of 77% Merino wool, 22% nylon and 1% spandex makes our feet stay incredibly comfortable.  And the nice thing about Merino wool is our feet stay warm and comfortable even when the socks are wet from either sweat, rain or snow.  And if you want to dry them out, the hot sun dries them out quite quickly.

Now some of you are asking “Don’t your feet get hot?”  And our answer is this:  no matter what we wear, on a hot day our feet are going to be hot…whether it’s a thin sock or thicker sock.  So we focus on what we can control, and that is shock absorption.

And after you’ve hiked several hundred miles in these socks, we recommend that you retire them and purchase some new socks because the sock absorptive quality of these socks tend to diminish as the mileage increases.

Sock liners are also a vital part of your foot gear, because it’s what is directly touching your skin.  Liners not only help “wick” moisture away from your skin as you sweat, but it also dramatically reduces the chances of developing blisters.

The sock liners we have found that work best for us during our Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton hikes (and climbs), is the sock liners by SmartWool.  Made with the same material as their trekking sock, with their same combination of Merino wool, nylon and spandex, these liners do a good job wicking away the moisture from our skin.  They also seem to reduce the occurrence of blisters, even during the first week of the hiking and climbing season when our skin is the most vulnerable.

Your boot insoles are vitally important because this is what your feet are directly standing on during your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton hikes.  And finding the best insole for your feet can make your hikes so much more pleasurable by reducing the amount of “pounding” your feet, knees, hips and back experiences during a typical hike.

Now here’s the first thing you need to do when you purchase your hiking boots:  Remove the liners and THROW THEM AWAY!  99% of all liners found in even the best boots available are usually extremely thin, non-supportive and useless.  After you’ve thrown these liners away, you then need to go to a reputable outdoor gear store that is knowledgeable about boots and hiking, and have them help you carefully choose the right insoles for your boots.

Please keep in mind that some of you need arch support and some of you have flat feet.  We have found that a lot of boot sales people love to put everyone in an “arch  support” insole, which is really not the right thing to do.  My feet (Dave) are flat, and I need an insole that is flat, whereas Shannon’s feet have a medium arch, and she therefore needs an insole that supports her particular arch type.

The main thing that we look for in an insole besides the arch support (or flatness), is the heal cushion. A sufficient amount of HEAL CUSHION dramatically increases the shock absorption of your foot gear, and therefore dramatically minimizes the pounding that your feet, knees, hips and back have to endure during your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton hikes.  We have found that a fairly heavy heal cushion really makes our feet and body feel so much better during a long 26 mile day hike… even during the last few miles.  There are so many different types of insoles and so many different contours of feet that you are going to have to literally “experiment” with several different brands and designs until you find “the one”.  This might cost a little bit of money, but once you find YOUR insole, you’ll be in heaven along the hiking trail.  So it’s worth the time, money and effort.  We are currently using the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles for Men and the Sof Sole Arch Performance Insole for Women, but we have used several other brands with equally comparable performance.

And by the way, after a long season of hiking…. over 300 miles or so, we recommend that you replace your insoles with new ones.  The shock absorptive quality of any insole diminishes as the mileage placed on these insoles increases.

Obviously, choosing the right hiking boot is a vital component of your foot gear, and there are many good companies and many great boot designs available.  Below are some things that we have found that may help you find the right boot for your feet during your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton Park hikes…

What helps determine the right boot is what kind of hiking you will be doing.  Are you hiking on a smooth trail or walking over rocks?  Are you hiking with a 10 pound day pack or a 45 pound overnight pack?  Are you taking short day hikes or “marathon” day hikes or overnight backpacking trips?  All of these factors determine what boot you need.  As far as what we will talk about in this article is for what we need our boots for:  Day hikes from 12 to 26 miles in length (round trip) with about a 10 to 15 pound pack, and 5 to 6 day overnight backpacking trips (50+ miles) with a 35 to 40 pound pack…

Don’t Go Too Light
We have noticed a trend in hiking boots lately, and it can get you into trouble.  Several well-known boot companies are converting their cross-training running shoes into hiking boots by simply making them taller, therefore covering the ankle as a regular hiking boot would, and they are calling them hiking boots.  The trap is this:  THEY FEEL EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE in the store.  Of course they do… they are basically a tennis shoe!!!  We’ve heard so many people say “These are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn!”… but that was in the store.  When they begin hiking in them and begin to hike over a rocky surface or start climbing up hill, they change their tune.  These “boots” have an extremely soft sole with absolutely no sole support, so when they step on the edge of a large rock, the sole flexes to conform to the rock, and that is not a good thing.

You want the sole of your boot to be fairly stiff (but not too stiff) so it keeps it’s shape no matter what surface you’re hiking on.  Also, if you’re hiking on a steep incline, a soft, flexible sole really makes your calf muscles tire out very quickly as opposed to a boot that keeps its shape.  A stiffer sole helps take the work load off your feet, ankles and calves. So the bottom line is that if you purchase a boot that is too “light” and too “flexible”, you will regret it if you are doing any serious hiking with a day pack on your back.

Choose the Correct Size
There’s only one thing worse than boots that are too big, and that is buying boots that are too small.  Boots that are too small cram your toes and by the end of the day your feet will be miserably uncomfortable.  But if you buy them too big, your feet will “swim” in the boot, causing you to have inadequate support and also will increase the chances of blisters.  Make sure you have a sales expert help you in determining the proper size of boot.  And make sure you wear the EXACT HIKING SOCKS AND LINERS that you will be using in the field while trying on your boots!  This will dictate the size of boot you will need.  And before you make the final purchase, try to choose your insole and have the sales person place them in your boot to see how everything works together.   If you can’t do this last step, at least where the exact socks and liners while trying on boots.

Walk On An Incline In The Store
Make sure you walk on an incline… both up and down… which some weight on your back similar to your daypack weight, and make sure the boots are still fitting properly.  If you feel a sharpness on your heel (or a “cutting” feeling as you are walking up hill, try a different boot because that boot will more than likely give you horrible heel blisters in the field.  And as you are walking down hill, make sure your toes do not touch the end of your boot.

What We Are Wearing
Presently, we are wearing hiking boots by Vasque.  Shannon has worn the Breeze design for several years, and this year she is wearing the Vasque Gore Tex Breeze 2 with great results.  I (Dave) have been wearing the Vasque Gore Tex Wasatch boot for several years with great success.  Now since we put on over 1,300 hiking and climbing miles each year, our boots only last one season (if that), but for the average hiker, he/she should get several years out of them.  Most of the internet reviews are positive, some are not… but as I said earlier, we are simply telling you what we are successfully wearing.  There are a lot of good companies out there for you to choose from.

Yes, Gore Tex!
We highly recommend that if you are going to be embarking on any Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone hikes or Grand Teton hikes, that you consider a water-proof boot.  We prefer Gore Tex, but there are several excellent materials that are equal in performance to Gore Tex that will also work just fine.  Now of course there is no such thing as a truly “water proof” boot, and if you stand in a creek for any length of time, you’re going to get wet.  But what a Gore Tex lined boot does is it keeps alot of the brief, incidental water encounters away from your socks and feet, such as a brief shallow creek crossing, mud puddles, wet snow, a brief rain shower, and morning dew.  90% of these encounters will leave your feet dry IF you are wearing Gore Tex (or equivalent) lined boots.  Without it, you will absolutely have wet socks and feet guaranteed for the rest of the day!

And yes we hear on occasion, “But my feet get too hot in Gore Tex boots!”  Well, we’ve worn both, and we really don’t notice much difference, other than we usually have dry boots, socks and feet at the end of the hike when we wear Gore Tex lined boots.  Maybe we’re being wimps, but we HATE wet feet, socks and boots when we are hiking.

Work Your Hiking Boots In
This doesn’t need to be mentioned, but I’ll do it anyway… NEVER wear brand new boots on a big hiking trip, whether it be a long day hike or an overnight backpacking trip.  Take some short hikes with your typical day pack weight on your back, and make sure you go up hills and down hills to see if any “hot spots” develop.  “Hot spots” will inevitably turn into blisters, and the most common place for a blister to form is on the heal while hiking up hill.  If your boots are in anyway “cutting” into your heal as you hike uphill, you may have to try a different boot brand and/or design, which is really unfortunate since most retail stores do not allow you to return your boots after you’ve worn them.

Hopefully the above information will shed some light as to what you may need for proper foot gear for your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton hikes.  Your foot wear is a vital component to not only an enjoyable hiking experience, but also keeping your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back healthy and strong for many, many years to come.

For Glacier National Park Hikes, Click Here.
For Yellowstone National Park Hikes, Click Here.
For Grand Teton National Park Hikes, Click Here.

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Glacier National Park Hiking Tips: Preparing For Your Multi-Day Glacier Park Hiking Adventure

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Preparing For Your Multi-Day
Glacier National Park Hiking Adventure
Through the years, while hiking in Glacier National Park, we’ve seen a lot.  And having hiking every trail in Glacier Park, and some dozens of times, we’ve seen a lot of situations in the back country with overnight backpackers.  What we mainly see are Glacier National Park visitors thoroughly enjoying their Glacier Park hiking adventure in the remote back country.  These hikers are having the time of their lives and are stunned at the incredible beauty that Glacier Park has to offer.

However, we’ve also seen hikers that “bit off more than they could chew” so-to-speak, and chose a Glacier National Park multi-day hiking trip that was far longer and harder than their physical condition would allow.  This is when a potential nightmare begins….

“The First Mile Smile”
Initially every overnight backpacker in Glacier National Park is eager and has plenty of energy.  We call this the “First Mile Smile”.  No matter what physical condition they are in, when they are standing at the trailhead with their overnight backpacks on, everyone is laughing and smiling and eager to begin their Glacier National Park multi-day hike.

As time goes on, and as the trail miles begin to add up, that’s when the true physical condition of the hiker begins to be revealed.  If a particular hiker thought he or she was in better shape than was actually the case, the only hope is that the hiker did not choose to go on a “marathon multi-day hike”.  Otherwise that hiker is in for a really miserable time during the second half of his or her backpacking trip in Glacier National Park.

Get In Shape
The way to avoid this nightmare is to get yourself in adequate physical condition before you begin your multi-day hike.  Now that sounds like an obvious thing to do, but it’s actually trickier than you might think.

What a lot of Glacier National Park multi-day hiking adventurers do is all winter long they run on the local gym’s treadmill or stair stepper, and get in absolutely incredible cardiovascular shape.  What they don’t do is build the proper muscle strength in their legs, back, shoulders and arms to be able to climb 2,400 vertical feet in 3 miles to get over a pass, and then hike down 1,400 vertical feet to get to the next Glacier Park backcountry campground… And then do something similar the next day, or the next 2 or 3 days… all with a backpack on their back.

And many hikers think weight lifting during the winter months in addition to their cardiovascular training will do the trick.  Well, in most cases it unfortunately does not.  Why do we say this?  Because we’ve tried to do this and it just doesn’t cut it.  It has been our experience that the only truly effective way to physically prepare ourselves for an extended multi-day Glacier National Park hiking trip is to actually hike on some local hiking trails with our overnight packs on, with the same amount of weight that we’ll be carrying during our overnight trip into the backcountry of Glacier National Park.  And of course the steeper the trail, the better.   By actually hiking with an overnight pack on our backs on our local trails, this builds the CORRECT muscles in a way that no other gym machine can accomplish.

Get Your Feet “Trail Ready”
By taking hikes along local trails, this also gets our feet “trail ready”, because they will get used to the “pounding” and the weight on them.  At the same time, our boots and feet are getting to know each other.  And by the way, “hot spots” on a hiker’s feet usually do not show up until they are hiking up a steep grade, where all that weight begins to put pressure on a hiker’s heal.  Without this weight and this incline, the hot spot might not reveal itself.  And we all know what happens with a “hot spot”.   The impending blister that is developing can spell disaster when you’re only halfway through your hiking trip.  We’ve literally seen hikers barely able to walk because their blisters were so bad.

So if a hot spot shows up during your training, do what it takes to get rid of it, whether it’s a different sock or liner, or even different boots. You CANNOT afford to get a blister during your multi-day hike… it will more than likely completely ruin your trip.

The Living Room Test: “That’s Not So Bad”
Often times hikers preparing for their Glacier National Park hiking adventure will load up their pack in their living room prior to leaving for Glacier Park, and walk around the living room, and maybe bounce up and down a few times and say “That’s not so bad” regarding the weight of their pack.  The potential problem arises AFTER you’re tired and worn down.  That is when 1 pound seems to turn into 10 pounds.  The bottom line here is that you need to pack as light as possible, yet still bring the important essentials.  The lighter the better… this can make or break your Glacier Park hiking adventure.

“Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew”
If you don’t take anything from this article than this next Glacier Park hiking tip, then your time spent reading this blog was worth it.  When hikers are looking at the incredible back country trails of Glacier National Park on a map,  it’s easy to get a bit over zealous and plan a hike that is too long.

On the map, those mountain passes are really easy to hike over.  You don’t even get tired.  But in real life, the passes of Glacier National Park can be extremely tiring and can wipe out a hiker’s strength in no time.  It is not uncommon to gain 2,500 vertical feet and lose 1,500 vertical feet in a single day, if not more.  Furthermore, some of the hikes require this type of vertical elevation gain and loss three or four days in a row!  Again, the hike is really easy while looking at a map versus actually doing it.

Therefore, don’t go overboard.  A classic example is on the Stoney Indian Pass Trail.  Often times hikers will look at this hike on the map and notice that instead of ending at Goat Haunt, they could see a lot more country if they instead headed to Fifty Mountain and then hiked south along the Northern Highline Trail to Logan Pass.  This adds over 25 miles to their hike, and they have to first hike out of the Waterton Valley by climbing over 3,480 vertical feet in 3 miles, and that’s just the beginning.

Probably 7 out of 10 times, if you could talk to these Stoney Indian Pass hikers who chose to extend their hike, they would tell you that “Everything was going great until we began heading for Fifty Mountain.”  If they would have simply ended their multi-day hike at Goat Haunt, they would have had nothing but wonderfully positive memories of their Glacier Park hiking adventure.  But instead they ended up so tired and worn out that the experience turned into a negative one.

We’ve seen these unsuspecting hikers coming from Fifty Mountain after they first hiked the Stoney Indian Pass Trail, and they were so exhausted we thought they were going to drop to the ground at any moment.  They were literally taking a step every 20 seconds, and were staring at the ground.  Let’s just say that they were not having a good time.

So the bottom line here is please remember that you don’t get tired looking at a map.  So make sure you are choosing the right Glacier Park hiking trip that best suites you.  And if you’ve been “cooped up” all winter and could only go to the gym, then don’t choose a “marathon hike” because you will more than likely have a negative experience.

Final Thoughts
The bottom line is that Glacier National Park offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the world, and if you prepare yourself physically, and make sure your boots fit properly, and your backpack isn’t too heavy, and you don’t pick a hike that’s too long, then you will have the time of your life and you’ll keep your “First Mile Smile” the entire hike.

For a list of our Favorite Multi-Day Glacier Park Hikes, click here.

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Hiking In Glacier Park: When Is The Best Time?

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Hiking In Glacier Park:  When Is The Best Time?
Glacier National Park is without question a “hiker’s paradise”, but visitors need to remember that just because the weather may be nice in late spring and early summer, that doesn’t necessarily mean the trails are ready for hiking in Glacier Park.  When is the best time for hiking in Glacier National Park?  Below is our answer to this frequently asked question…

Definitely Not May or June!
Glacier National Park gets a ton of snow each year, and it takes a long time for it to melt.  Of course the amount of snow that Glacier Park receives varies year to year, but we’d have to say that 90% of the time, nearly all of the popular Glacier Park Hikes are still snow covered, and most are still closed.  The Highline Trail, Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Grinnell Glacier Trail, Siyeh Pass Trail, Piegan Pass Trail and the Pitamakan Dawson Loop are all closed in June due to snow hazards.

A General Rule of Thumb is This:
Any trail along the Continental Divide, or any trail that involves a pass, will more than likely be closed due to snow the entire month of June, into the first part of July, and probably into the second or third week of July. And keep in mind, the Going To The Sun Road usually does not open until the third week of June, which gives you an idea of just how much snow Glacier Park receives each winter and spring.

July Is A Great Month For Most Day Hikes in Glacier Park
We love the month of July for hiking in Glacier National Park because the sky is crystal clear because there are usually no fires burning yet in the neighboring areas or neighboring states.  Also, there is still a lot of snow in the high country which makes for incredibly gorgeous scenery.

But keep in mind that the Glacier Park Hikes that involve the Continental Divide such as the Highline Trail, Swiftcurrent Pass Trail and Pitamakan-Dawson Loop, and the Glacier Park Hikes that involve passes, will more than likely be closed until possibly the third week of July.  Again, this all depends on the amount of snow Glacier Park received the previous winter and spring.  We’ve waited until the second week of August for the Highline Trail to open on certain heavy snow years.

Lingering Snow Hazards
And keep in mind that just because sometimes it may seem like there is not a lot of snow, there are traditional “snow hazards” that always take longer to melt off, such as the annoying Ahern Drift along the Northern Highline Trail. But all in all, you can get a lot of fantastic day hiking in Glacier National Park during the month of July.

River and Stream Fording
There are several trails that require a river or multiple stream fords, such as the Nyack-Coal Creek Loop, Harrison Lake Trail, etc.  When the water is high due to snow melting, these fords can be extremely dangerous if not impossible.  July is a really tough month for stream and river fording in Glacier National Park.  Always ask a ranger at a backcountry office, ranger station or visitor center the stream and river conditions before attemping any of these fords… and often times these rivers and streams are not ready until mid-August!

August Marks the Beginning of the Backcountry Multi-Day Hikes in Glacier Park
Much of the backcountry of Glacier National Park, such as the Boulder Pass Area, Brown Pass Area, Hole In The Wall, Gunsight Pass Area, Stoney Indian Pass Area and Northern Highline Trail that includes the Fifty Mountain Area.  These areas seem to take the longest to open up simply because these areas receive a tremendous amount of snow earlier in the year.  And the NPS does not open the backcountry campsites until they are somewhat dried out, which takes time as well.

So if you’re planning a multi-day backpacking adventure in Glacier National Park, consider planning it no earlier than the early part of August, and even better mid August.  Now we know several of you who are reading this won’t believe us, but in time you will find out for yourself.

What About September Hiking In Glacier Park?
September is another great month for hiking in Glacier National Park, especially early September. One thing that you will have to deal with is the occasional snow storms, especially the third and fourth weeks of September.  Also the nights begin to get really, really cold, so to all you multi-day backpackers, be prepared for cold nights and snow storms, especially beyond mid-September.

 How About October?
October is a gorgeous month in Glacier National Park because the aspen turn bright gold, and the forest undergrowth turns amazing fall colors as well.  Later in the month the larch (tamarack) trees turn bright yellow.

But of course the downside of hiking in Glacier Park in October is that snow storms are frequent, and the night-time temperature can get really, really cold.  Also, the days are getting quite short, which makes it difficult to do any long day hikes over 22 miles or so because you’ll be in the dark getting back. And anyone planning on multi-day backpacking in October really needs to pay attention to the weather reports, and always be prepared for cold weather and snow storms.

Another downside to hiking in Glacier Park during the month of October is that the lodges are pretty much closed up by then, so there are very few visitor services available.

Glacier National Park is a “hiker’s paradise”, and knowing the best time to plan your Glacier Park hikes is really important.   We’ve talked to many a visitor who came to Glacier Park in June and were all excited to hike a ton of trails, only to find that 90% were still closed due to snow.  Snow is a reality of Glacier National Park, and it takes quite awhile for it to melt each year.

And when you arrive in Glacier National Park, make sure you ask a ranger at any visitor center, ranger station or backcountry office about the status of the trails you’re interested in so you know what the situation is for each of these Glacier Park Hikes.

Click Here for details on all the Glacier Park day hikes.
Click Here for details on all the Glacier Park multi-day hikes.

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