Glacier Park Hikes: We Feature Them All!

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Glacier Park Hikes: We Feature Them All!
We are proud to announce that is now featuring all of the Glacier Park Hikes available to the public, including all Glacier Park Day Hikes and all Glacier Park Multi-Day Hikes. These Glacier Park Hiking Trails cover all 734 miles of maintained Glacier Park Trails, as well as many miles of primitive “climber’s trails”.  So if you’re interested in hiking in Glacier Park, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve Hiked Them All…. More Than Once.
We’ve hiked every trail in Glacier National Park, most of them more than once, and many of them dozens of times. But the challenge was properly photographing all of these Glacier Park Trails to make our website useful to our viewers.  So even though we have boxes of old, film photos that than we would need to transfer to digital, we decided instead to start all over with a high quality digital camera. We also made sure that the lighting was good and the skies were clear for nearly every trail. If the weather didn’t end up how we wanted, we’d hike the trail again on a better day.

We also tried to be at certain points along the Glacier Park Trails at specific times of day to provide the best possible photos for our Glacier Park Hikes pages. This of course takes a lot of time and patience, and we are thrilled to have reached our goal. Our viewers now have the most comprehensive and useful guide to Glacier Park Hikes found anywhere in the world.

As we were re-hiking all of these Glacier Park Hikes, we also climbed over a 100 Glacier Park Summits. We did this for three reasons: One reason was for pure enjoyment.  The second reason was to take photographs from these incredible summits.  The third reason was to photograph many of the Glacier Park Hikes from these summits. We have found that photographing the low valley trails didn’t really help hikers understand where these trails were located with respect to their surroundings, because all we were photographing much of the time were trees. So by getting on top of certain summits, we could give hikers a “bird’s eye view” of their Glacier Park Hikes, which is tremendously more helpful to our website visitors in our opinion.

Click Here … to visit our Glacier Park Hikes page.
This page includes all of the Day Hikes in Glacier Park, all of the Multi-Day Hikes in Glacier Park, as well as everything else you need to know about vacation and hiking in Glacier National Park.

Waterton Lakes National Park
We have also spent a lot of time in Waterton Lakes National Park through the years, and we have hiked all of the Waterton Lakes National Park Hiking Trails. We have photo-documented most of them, and have now published our Waterton Lakes National Park section, which includes Waterton Lakes Hiking Trails, as well as the “Top Ten Things To Do In Waterton Lakes National Park“, and much more.

To visit our Glacier Park Hikes page, click here.
To visit our Waterton Lakes National Park Hikes, click here.

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Glacier Park Hikes: Our Favorite Short and Easy Hikes In Glacier National Park

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Glacier Park Hikes: Our Favorite Short and Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream come true. This amazing park provides hikers with an incredible variety of hikes that include the entire range of levels of difficulty, ranging from long, strenuous 6 to 7 day overnight hikes that cross 5 to 6 mountain passes and tens of thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss, to short and easy half mile hikes. Many Glacier Park Hikes are considered world-class, and are among the best hiking opportunities in North America.

This article will focus on the classic Glacier Park hikes that are considered to be short and easy, and do not require a lot of energy. We will share with you our favorite short and easy hikes in Glacier Park that will provide you with outstanding views and scenery without requiring you to hike 20 miles and climb 3,000 feet in vertical elevation.

Get Out Of The Car
One of the most magical things about Glacier National Park is you will literally be surrounded by pristine beauty by only taking about 10 steps off the road…. and that’s a point we want to make before we give you the list of easy Glacier Park hikes. A fair amount of Glacier Park visitors will drive the Going To The Sun Road and enjoy the views and have a great time, but they never get out of their vehicles and get INTO the scenery. By taking just a few steps on an easy trail, you will be surrounded by pristine beauty just as if you hiked for 4 days into the backcountry. So we HIGHLY recommend that if you’re at all physically able, get out of your vehicle and enjoy a short simple Glacier Park hiking experience, even if you only walk 100 yards.

The “Magic” of Glacier National Park
What we often see in Glacier National Park is that the “Glacier Park Magic” creeps into people- of all shapes, sizes and ages, and this “magic” inspires them to start hiking. They are so inspired that they begin walking along the Hidden Lake Trail boardwalk intending to walk just a few hundred yards, and they find themselves a mile and a half up the trail standing on the Hidden Lake Overlook, enjoying probably one of the most incredible views they’ve ever seen in their entire lives. And we’re not kidding about all shapes, sizes and ages. We’ve seen it all at the Hidden Lake Overlook, and it warms our hearts. The “Magic of Glacier Park” is a powerful thing, and once you get out of your car, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

With this being said, below is a list of our ten favorite short and easy Glacier Park hikes:

1. Hidden Lake Overlook
The Hidden Lake Trail begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center on the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park, and is a short 1.5 mile Glacier Park hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook, and is among some of the some gorgeous scenery on the planet. Much of this trail is a boardwalk, and you can walk as far as you’d like, whether it’s a few hundred yards, or all the way to the Hidden Lake Overlook. The views are magnificent the entire way. This is probably the most popular of the short Glacier Park hikes.

2. Highline Trail (first few miles)
The Highline Trail is without question one of the most popular Glacier Park hikes, and is the gateway (or exit) of many of the remote northern overnight Glacier Park hikes. The Highline Trail is nearly 30 miles long and ends up at Goat Haunt Montana, but what most visitors of Glacier Park do is simply hike up the trail a mile or so to enjoy the amazing views and wildlife, and then simply hike back to where they began, which is Logan Pass along the Going To The Sun Road.  A very “thrilling” section of the trail is the “Highline Trail Cliff Walk”, which is found along the first mile of the hike. The trail works its way along the side of a huge cliff, with the Going To The Sun Road hundreds of feet below it. There is a cable to hang on to for those who are a little fearful of heights.

3. Trail of the Cedars
The Trail of the Cedars is located just about 6 miles west of Lake McDonald Lodge along the Going To The Sun Road. This is also a boardwalk, and is less than a mile in length. The entire hike is on flat ground, and you will be surrounded by an old growth cedar, hemlock and black cottonwoods. The trees are enormous, and the entire area reminds us of “Jurassic Park”, because of the moss, ferns and towering giants. At the far end of the boardwalk you will enjoy the famous Avalanche Gorge. If you’re so inspired, you can leave the boardwalk loop and hike to Avalanche Lake. The Trail of the Cedars hike is also one of the most popular of the short Glacier Park hikes.

4. Red Rock Falls
The Glacier Park hike to Red Rock Falls is located in the Many Glacier Area of Glacier National Park. The trailhead is located at the far west side of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot, and is part of the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. This 1.8 mile section (one way) of this Glacier Park hike is flat as a pancake, and the scenery is breathtaking. Along the way, you will pass by Fisher Cap Lake which is a favorite hang-out for moose, as well as Red Rock Lake. The hike to Red Rock Falls takes you through the middle of the famous Many Glacier Valley, with huge mountains towering above you on both sides of the valley. Red Rock Falls are not huge waterfalls, but are still very scenic, especially with the bright red rocks that form the waterfalls, and is a popular place to enjoy a lunch while the kids play on the red rocks. The hike to Red Rock Falls is definitely among the most popular of the short Glacier Park hikes.

5. Grinnell Lake Trail
The Grinnell Lake Trail is an extremely popular Glacier Park hike and is located in the Many Glacier Area.  This is a very flat hike that provides magnificent scenery. You can head out on this hike directly from the front door (facing the lake) of the Many Glacier Hotel, or you can take the popular Many Glacier Boat Tour to shorten your hike. Without the boat the hike to Grinnell Lake is 3.4 miles one way, and if you take the boat your hike is only 0.9 miles (one way) in length. Whichever option you choose, you will be surrounded by incredible scenery the entire way. The hike to Grinnell Lake is unquestionably among the most popular of the short and easy Glacier Park hikes.

6. Swiftcurrent Lake Loop Trail
The Swiftcurrent Lake Loop Trail is another of the popular Glacier Park hikes and is part of the Grinnell Lake Trail Complex, where the trailhead is located at the Many Glacier Hotel, and heads along the southeast short of Swiftcurrent Lake. This trail complex is again very level, and provides wonderful scenery and a host of wildlife viewing opportunities. The Swiftcurrent Lake Loop Trail is shaped in a “figure 8”, where you can either simply follow the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake all the way around, or you can also take the second loop that wraps around Lake Josephine and eventually takes you back to where you started at the Many Glacier Hotel.

7. Sun Point Nature Trail
The Sun Point Nature Trail is located on the east side of the Going To The Sun Road, just about a half mile west of the Wild Goose Island Overlook. This short Glacier Park hike is only about a mile in length (one way), and provides you with stunning views of St. Mary Lake with towering mountains lining the skyline.

8. Trick Falls (Running Eagle Falls)
Located in the Two Medicine Area of Glacier Park, Trick Falls (a.k.a. Running Eagle Falls) is a very short 0.3 mile hike and is very rewarding. Trick Falls is named as such because it is actually two waterfalls in one. There is the taller falls, and directly underneath these falls is a shorter waterfall that pours into the same pool. These amazing falls in the Two Medicine Area of Glacier National Park are best viewed early in the season, during the month of July. The later in the season it becomes, the less dramatic the falls are due to a seasonal decrease in water flow.

9. St. Mary Falls / Virginia Falls
If you like waterfalls, the hike to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls is definitely the Glacier Park hike for you! The trailhead is located along the east side of the Going To The Sun Road, just west of the Sunrift Gorge Turnout (about 10.5 miles west of St. Mary). This is definitely one of the most popular short Glacier Park hikes, and it provides hikers with not only two major waterfalls, but also many additional incredible cascades and shorter waterfalls along this amazing hike. The hike is 1.8 miles to Virginia Falls, which is the largest of the falls on this hike.  St. Mary Falls is the first falls you will encounter, which are 1.2 miles from the trailhead. The first part of the trail has a bit of a grade, but is usually not a problem for most visitors.

10. South (or North) Shore Trail, Two Medicine Lake
Located in the Two Medicine Area, this easy yet scenic hike follows the south shore of Two Medicine Lake. The trailhead is found at the boat dock, and along the way are some ponds providing great moose habitat. This trail actually keeps going to either Two Medicine Pass, or it also loops around Two Medicine Lake to the North Shore Trail, which then eventually takes you back to the Two Medicine parking area (via Pray Lake), however that is close to 7 miles in length. The hike to the west end of Two Medicine Lake is about 3 miles one way, or you can just hike a mile or so. No matter what you choose to do, you’ll enjoy this easy hike. (Equally scenic is the North Shore Trail, whose trailhead is located at the Two Medicine Campground along Pray Lake.)

This wraps up our article on short and easy Glacier Park hikes. Remember, even if you only hike up these trails a few hundred yards, you will be surrounded by pristine beauty, just as if you hiked 20 miles into the backcountry. That’s the wonderful thing about Glacier Park… And as we talked about before, if you get out of your car and take just a few steps on a trail, the “Magic of Glacier Park” will cast it’s spell on you, and who knows where you’ll end up!

For all the details on our favorite Short and Easy Glacier Park Hikes, click here.

For a list of other short and easy Glacier Park hikes that we did not mention in this article, click here.

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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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Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park Vacation Tip: Get Up Early!

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Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park Vacation Tip:  Get Up Early!
Whether you’re planning on taking one of the many Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes or Grand Teton hikes, or you’re planning a drive to look for wildlife or heading for a geyser basin, we strongly recommend that you get up early to maximize your enjoyment.

The reason I felt compelled to write this article is because Shannon and I notice that a fair number of park visitors get rolling about 10 o’clock in the morning, whether it be for day hikes, or heading up the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier Park, or visiting the geyser basins in “Geyser Row” in Yellowstone Park, or enjoying the
Highway 89 Overlooks in Grand Teton National Park or whatever else they have planned for the day.

Now of course it’s your vacation and you’re free to do whatever you want to do and however you want to do it.  If you want to sleep in and then enjoy a nice breakfast at one of the lodges, that’s great.  In fact, sometimes nothing sounds better than that… after all, vacations are for relaxing with no schedules.  However, we have found that mornings are the most magical and beautiful time of the day, and you are missing out on all this by getting a late start.  Below are several more reasons you may want to consider getting an earlier start in the morning……

1. Wildlife Viewing
The best time to see wildlife is early in the morning and late in the evening.  This is when animals are out feeding in the open before the heat of the day sets in.  About 90% of our wildlife photos are taken before 8 o’clock in the morning!  So if you want to see animals such as bears, wolves, elk, moose and many of the other incredible animals in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park, you might want to consider getting rolling around day break.

2. The “Golden” Hours
From the moment the sun rises until about 10 a.m., the sky is a vivid blue, the trees and grass are a vivid green, and the mountain lakes are usually completely calm displaying perfect reflections of the mountains surrounding them.  This time is known as the “Golden Hours”, and are a dream for not only taking incredible photos but also to simply enjoy the most visually beautiful time of day.  EVERYTHING IS MORE BEAUTIFUL IN THE MORNING!

Of course the scenery in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park amazingly breathtaking no matter what time of day it is, but after about 10 am, the scenery may not appear as colorful because the high sun begins to “washout” the colors.

3. Cooler Temperatures
Obviously the temperature in the morning is much cooler than any other time of day, and it’s a great time begin your Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes or Grand Teton hikes.  In fact, we feel the earlier the better.  By hiking in cooler temperatures, your hike will be far more enjoyable and you will need far less water.  Once the sun gets high in the sky, the heat can really take its toll on you.

4. Less Smoke During the Fire Season
During the August fire season in the west, the forest fires that are either buring inside Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park or Grand Teton National Park or in the surrounding areas, calm down significantly at night.  The flames really go down and the amount of smoke lessons dramatically.  Then as the temperature of the day begins to rise, so do the flames as well as the smoke.  By mid-day, the smoke can really interfere at times with the view of the landscape, even if the fires are in Oregon, Washington or British Columbia.  So to better enjoy the scenery, we recommend that you get up early before the smoke begins to interfere with your view.  Now please keep in mind that many times the wind is blowing in the right direction and the smoke is not a factor… but when the wind is wrong, getting up early really helps.

5. Less Busy Roads and Hiking Trails
As we said, many visitors enjoying Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and  Grand Teton National Park start rolling about 10 a.m.  If you get up earlier, you’ll “beat the rush” to places like Logan Pass along the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  This parking lot can fill up by 10 or 11 a.m., so by getting there early, you’ll have no problem finding a parking spot.

Also, the hiking trails have far less traffic early in the morning, so by getting up early, you’ll avoid the “rush” at the most popular Glacier Park hikes, Yellowstone Park hikes and Grand Teton hikes.

As I said before, if you want to sleep in a little, and then enjoy a nice breakfast before you head out on your national park adventure for the day, that’s great!  In fact, sometimes nothing sounds better!  But keep in mind, these amazing parks are the most “magical” in the morning, and you are missing this special “window” as you’re sleeping or eating breakfast.  I think you’d be amazed at what goes in the wild before 8 a.m., and you’d be shocked at just how beautiful the landscape is during these “golden hours”.  Plus, you’ll “beat the rush” to some the most popular places in Yellowstone Park, Glacier Park and Grand Teton National Park.

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The Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park

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The Going To The Sun Road
The Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park is unquestionably one of the world’s most scenic highways, and is an absolute “Must See” while vacationing in Glacier Park.  Located in the heart of Glacier Park, the 52 mile long Going To The Sun Road is the only road that actually runs through the park, which makes this iconic road one of the most popular destinations in all of Glacier National Park.  The Going To The Sun Road is also “Number 1” on our “Top Ten Things To Do In Glacier National Park” list.

Completed in 1932, the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park is an engineering marvel as it climbs thousands of feet from the valley floor to its highest point at Logan Pass.  Not only is the Going To The Sun Road a National Historic Landmark, but is also a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.  This is one of the only landmarks in the United States that are both.  One of the amazing features of this incredible highway is that it works its way up several thousand feet to Logan Pass, and then back down the other side, with only one switchback the entire way!

The Going To The Sun Road runs from West Glacier Montana, which is the West Entrance to Glacier National Park, all the way to the East Entrance of Glacier National Park at St. Mary Montana, 52 miles to the east.  The views from the Going To The Sun Road are magnificent to say the least, and we highly recommend that you not only take advantage of the many pullouts along the way, but also make sure you drive this famous highway BOTH WAYS.   Each direction presents a completely different view of the landscape, and are equally worth the effort to enjoy.  If you only drive one direction, you’re missing out on literally half the view.

Below is a list of the major Going To The Sun Road Pullouts:
(From West to East)

Apgar Village
Lake McDonald Lodge
Sacred Dancing Cascades
Trail of the Cedars
The Loop
West Side Smaller Pullouts
Weeping Wall
Big Bend
Oberlin Bend
Logan Pass

Logan Pass
Lunch Creek
East Side Smaller Pullouts
Siyeh Bend
Jackson Glacier Overlook
St. Mary Falls / Virginia Falls Trailhead
Sunrift Gorge
Baring Falls
Sun Point
Wild Goose Island
Rising Sun
St. Mary Lake Overlook
St. Mary Visitor Center

These major pullouts provide incredible views, as well as a place to stop the car and relax for awhile.

For details on these popular pullouts, CLICK HERE.

As we mentioned before, the Going To The Sun Road is one of the most scenic highways on earth, and is a 100%, absolute “Must Do” while visiting Glacier National Park.  And again, we highly recommend that you drive this famous road BOTH WAYS because the scenery is completely different each way.

Listed as #1 on our “Top Ten Things To Do In Glacier Park” list, you will never forget your journey through the heart of Glacier National Park along the world famous Going To The Sun Road.

For details on the Going To The Sun Road, CLICK HERE.
For details on the Going To The Sun Road Pullouts, CLICK HERE.

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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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