Glacier Park Lodging

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Glacier Park Lodging
There are several wonderful lodges, hotels, motor inns and cabins to stay in while enjoying your Glacier National Park vacation, and below is a brief summary of these Glacier Park Lodging options.

Many Glacier Hotel
Located in one of the most scenic and awe-inspiring spots in North America,  the historic Many Glacier Hotel is the largest lodge in Glacier Park with 208 rooms.  The Many Glacier Area is known as “The Heart of Glacier National Park”, and the Many Glacier Hotel rests in the center of it all.  Built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railway, this Swiss style lodge is a National Historic Landmark, and has a restaurant, snack bar, lounge and gift shop.   Just outside the doors of this famous lodge is Swiftcurrent Lake, which is home to the popular Many Glacier Boat Tour.  Also just beyond the Many Glacier Hotel are several of the most scenic and popular hiking trails not only in Glacier National Park, but in all of North America.  The deck just outside the main lobby provides a jaw-dropping view of the incredible Many Glacier Valley.  View landscapes anywhere can rival this magnificent backdrop.   So when it comes to Glacier Park Lodging, the Many Glacier Hotel is definitely an extremely popular destination for Glacier Park visitors.

Swiftcurrent Motor Inn
Just up the road from the Many Glacier Hotel is the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, which is yet another popular Glacier Park Lodging opportunity.  Nestled in the Many Glacier Valley with towering mountains on each side, the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn offers 88 rooms and private cabins.  There is also a camp store, gift shop, laundromat, restaurant and public showers.  This popular Glacier Park Lodging destination is right next to the trailheads for Iceberg Lake and Swiftcurrent Pass, both of which are world-class hikes.  The parking lot at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is a great place to watch grizzly bears eating berries on the open slopes of Altyn Peak, which is directly above the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.  Rangers will often times provided spotting scopes for visitors to use to watch these amazing animals.  Across the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot is the Many Glacier Campground, which is one of the most popular campgrounds in Glacier Park.  The Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is another excellent Glacier Park Lodging opportunity.

Glacier Park Lodge and Resort
Known as “The Big Tree Lodge”, the amazing Glacier Park Lodge has HUGE Douglas Firs lining its great lobby.  Whenever a visitor first steps into this incredible space, their jaw always drops in amazement.   Located in the tiny town of East Glacier, Montana, the Glacier Park Lodge was completed in 1913 by the Great Northern Railway and is a National Historic Landmark.  Located next to the historic Glacier Park Depot, Amtrak brings visitors from all over the country to this special place.  Hiking opportunities are endless just 11 miles north of the lodge in the Two Medicine Area of Glacier Park.  With 161 rooms, restaurant, snack bar, lounge, swimming pool, golf course and gift shop, the Glacier Park Lodge and Resort is yet another popular Glacier Park Lodging experience.

Rising Sun Motor Inn
Located along the Going To The Sun Road in the St. Mary Valley, the Rising Sun Motor Inn is still another good Glacier Park Lodging choice.  Only about 6 miles inside the West Entrance of Glacier National Park.  There are 76 motel rooms and cabin rooms, as well as a restaurant, camp store, gift shop, public showers, and just across the Going To The Sun Road are enjoyable boat tours of the famous St. Mary Lake.  Just next to the Rising Sun Motor Inn is the Rising Sun Campground.  The mountains of the St. Mary Valley tower over the Rising Sun area, which makes this place a very scenic Glacier Park Lodging experience.

Lake McDonald Lodge and Complex
Located along the shore of the incredible Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald Lodge and Cabins is another wonderful Glacier Park Lodging destination.  This charming lodge was built in 1895, and was constructed of large cedars.  Originally a hunting lodge, the Lake McDonald Lodge has become a very popular destination for Glacier Park visitors and is a National Historic Landmark.  Nestled in the Lake McDonald Valley just off the Going To The Sun Road and along the south shore of Lake McDonald, the view of the lake and mountains are spectacular.   The Lake McDonald Boat Tour is located here, and just up the Going To The Sun Road about 6 miles is the popular Trail of the Cedars.  The Lake McDonald Lodge and Complex has 100 rooms total in the main lodge, cabins and nearby motor inn.   There is a restaurant, pizzeria, lounge, gift shop and camp store also located on the premises.   The deck along the lake side of Lake McDonald Lodge provides a gorgeous view of the lake and the boat dock, which is a very popular place to spend time on a warm summer evening.  The Lake McDonald Lodge and Complex is another wonderful Glacier Park Lodging option during your Glacier Park vacation.

Apgar Village Lodge
Located in Apgar Village along the west shore of Lake McDonald, the Apgar Village Lodge is another Glacier Park lodging option.  This is a privately owned lodge that has 48 units, with 26 kitchenettes.  Each room has showers as well.

Village Inn at Apgar
This 36 room motel located in Apgar Village is yet another popular Glacier Park lodging option for those vacationers wanting to spend time on the west side of Glacier National Park.  Each room has an incredible view of Lake McDonald and the towering mountains of Glacier National Park as a backdrop.  Gift shops and a restaurant are located nearby.  The Village Inn at Apgar is also literally on the beach of Lake McDonald, and is a popular place to swim due to the warmer shallow water located here.

Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet
These backcountry chalets are both National Historic Landmarks, and provide a rare opportunity to spend time in the backcountry of Glacier National Park without having to pack your own tent!  For details on these incredibly charming and historic chalets, please click the following links:

Granite Park Chalet
Sperry Chalet

We hope this brief summary of the Glacier Park Lodging options will prove to be helpful to you as you plan your Glacier National Park vacation.   And remember to book your reservations early!

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Grand Teton Hikes in Late Spring and Early Summer

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Grand Teton Park Hikes In Lake Springs and Early Summer
There are many amazing Grand Teton Hikes for you to enjoy, but several of the classic day hikes and overnight hikes in Grand Teton National Park are not going to be clear of snow until at least the first or second week in July, if not later.

Grand Teton National Park receives heavy snowfall each and every winter, and it takes a really long time for the snow to melt off, especially snow along the continental divide.  And several of the classic day hikes and overnight backpacking hikes that involve getting near or crossing the divide, such as the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop Trail, Paintbrush Divide, Hurricane Pass Trail, Death Canyon / Static Peak Divide Trail, will have snow on them probably into late July or early August on a typical year. These trails may seem OK at the beginning of your hike, but the higher they gain in elevation as they work their way towards the divide, the deeper the snow will become, and conditions may become treacherous as these trails approach the divide early in the season.

May Is Really Early For Grand Teton Hikes
May is actually too early for most Grand Teton hikes due to the amount of snow that is still on the ground. Even the low elevation trails such as the Taggart Lake Trail or the Jenny Lake Trail to Hidden Falls will have a lot of snow during a typical year.  Any backcountry trails will be completely covered in extremely deep snow, and only those hikers who are experts at self-arrest techniques with a mountain axe (a.k.a. ice axe) should attempt these higher altitude Grand Teton Hikes.  Spring avalanche danger is also a factor this early in the season.

June Is Still Quite Early for Higher Altitude Grand Teton Hikes
Many of the low altitude trails such as Taggart Lake Trail, Two Ocean Lake Trail, Jenny Lake Trail to Hidden Falls, etc. will be open and mainly snow-free in June.  However, any hikes that involve crossing the divide, or even getting near the divide, will be completely covered in snow during the entire month of June during a typical year, and more than likely will continue to be covered in snow far into July.  These trails include the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop Trail, Paintbrush Divide, Holly Lake, Amphitheater Lake, Hurricane Ridge Trail, Static Peak Divide Trail, just to name a few.  All of these trails involve higher altitudes (above 9,000 feet), and/or the crossing the divide (10,000+ feet).

This always seems to surprise many Grand Teton National Park hiking enthusiasts because most of the park is completely snow-free, and snow is the last thing on their mind.  But as the trails gain in elevation, such as the Grand Teton Trails leading to Holly Lake, Paintbrush Divide, Hurricane Pass or Amphitheater Lake, snow not only starts appearing on the trail, but it becomes deeper and deeper… eventually becoming treacherous in many places along these popular Grand Teton Trails.

Late July / Early August Is Your Best Bet For Higher Altitude Hikes
If you don’t want to navigate through alot of snow while undertaking the Grand Teton Hikes that involve higher altitudes including the divide, your best bet is to enjoy these Grand Teton Hikes in late July or early August. Usually on a typical  year these trails are fairly clear of snow by then.

Anyone hiking early in the season on these higher altitude Grand Teton Hikes, we strongly recommend that they are expertly trained in self-arrest techniques with a mountain axe (a.k.a. ice axe). Steep snow fields can be extremely dangerous and possibly life-threatening if a hiker does not know how to adequately stop his or her body from sliding down these slopes.  So if you’re not an expert in self-arrest, please do not attempt these higher altitude Grand Teton Hikes until they are adequately clear of dangerous snow fields.

Ask A Ranger
If you are wanting to attempt some of the higher altitude Grand Teton trails fairly early in the season… even during the entire month of July and possible into early August, make sure you ask a ranger at one of the Grand Teton National Park visitor centers about the conditions of the trails. They will be able to tell you exactly what you’re up against so you can make the best decision as to which trail seems to be the safest bet, if any.

You Can Always Turn Around!
If you’re OK with turning around, what many hikers do early in the season is begin their hike up Paintbrush Canyon (for example) towards Holly Lake and Paintbrush Divide, and once the snow gets too deep or treacherous, they simply turn around and head back down.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this at all! You’ll enjoy a great hike and see some incredible landscape, and you don’t have get into any risky situations.

Grand Teton Hikes provide some of the most incredible mountain access in North America, and are well worth pursuing during your Grand Teton National Park vacation.  But as you’ve just learned from the above article, snow can linger on many of these trails into July and and sometimes even into August, especially the Grand Teton Hikes that involve higher altitudes and/or the divide.  Make sure you are adequately trained and proficient at self-arrest with a mountain axe if attempting these more advanced hikes early in the season.  If not, it is best that you wait until August when the divide for the most part is clear of hazardous snow fields.

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Glacier National Park Glaciers: Past, Present and Future

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Glacier National Park Glaciers: Past, Present and Future
Glacier National Park is located in the northwest corner of Montana, and is well known for its numerous alpine glaciers that are found throughout the park. Much of the focus lately has been the rate of melting that is occurring with these Glacier National Park glaciers, so I just wanted to write an article that discusses Glacier National Park glaciers in general, and the history of these iconic masses of ice and snow. I have always been extremely interested in the geology and glaciation of Glacier National Park. In fact, in college I studied geophysics and geology for over three years prior to switching directions and instead becoming a Doctor of Optometry.

Glacier National Park’s Name-Sake
The incredible landscape that you presently see at Glacier National Park for the most part has nothing to do with the present alpine glaciers that rest on the northern and eastern slopes of the park’s mountains. Rather, the mountains and valleys of Glacier National Park were sculpted by massive glaciers known as “valley glaciers” over ten thousand years ago during the last major Ice Age. These gigantic valley glaciers acted as giant bull-dozers that excavated the land, creating deep U-shaped valleys and incredible mountainous landscapes. These massive glaciers were nearly 6,000 feet thick, and as they moved downward due to gravity, they cut and formed the rock like a knife on butter. This created deep valleys with incredibly tall vertical walls on each side. Once these valley glaciers melted away nearly 10,000 years ago, today’s world-renowned landscape of Glacier National Park was the result.

Glacier National Park was named after this unbelievable excavation by these monstrous valley glaciers of the last Ice Age.  Absolutely every square inch of Glacier National Park shows obvious remnants of this amazing glacial event, which serves as a textbook example of the effects of glaciation for all to see.

Besides the deep U-shaped valleys, these valley glaciers created classic examples of ice age glaciation, such as matterhorns (a.k.a. horns). There are many classic examples of horns in Glacier National Park, such as Reynolds Mountain and Flinsch Peak. These peaks rise thousands of feet into the sky with nearly straight up and down walls on all sides, leaving a very small summit. Horns are a result of three (and sometimes four) valley glaciers cutting away the rock on each side of the mountain, leaving only a very tall, narrow mountain that looks almost like a tower once the glaciers melt away.

Another common formation found after the valley glaciers of Glacier National Park did their work are what is known as aretes. Aretes are long and extremely narrow ridges, that seem to be almost paper-thin. A classic example of an arete in Glacier National Park is the famous Garden Wall which is found near Logan Pass along the Going To The Sun Road.  Aretes are created by two valley glaciers that are located side-by-side. All that is left after these massive rivers of ice melt away are these extremely narrow ridges that are thousands of feet high.

Yet another formation that is a classic sign of glaciation, are what is known as cirques. Cirques are basically huge “amphitheaters” created by incredibly large glaciers that scoured out the rock like a giant ice cream scoop. There are hundreds of these cirques found throughout the park, and many of them ended up being the home to the smaller alpine glaciers that came into the seen after the colossal Glacier National Park glaciers of the most recent ice age retreated.

Valley glaciers are known as “rivers of ice” because they actually flow like a river down the valley due to gravity. The endless cycle of melting and re-freezing occurs over and over again at the bottom of the glacier (known as the foot), and this action acts like a conveyer belt that piles this rock debris into what’s called a glacial moraine. These moraines resemble large gravel piles, and if you look closely you’ll see all sizes of rocks within these moraines… some rocks being the size of a house, others the size of a small pebble.

Today’s Alpine Glaciers of Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park glaciers of today are distant cousins of the great valley glaciers of the past ice ages. Known as “Alpine Glaciers”, these smaller glaciers formed approximately 7,000 years ago, where many of them appeared in the large cirques that were previous excavated during the last ice age. These small alpine glaciers developed in and around the 8,000 foot elevation mark, and are most commonly found hugging the north or east slopes of the cirques. The 8,000 foot elevation is where most of the snow accumulates in these cirques, and the north and/or east slopes receives the least amount of direct sunlight. Huge amounts of drifting snow due to the high winds of winter also seem to accumulate the most at the 8,000 foot level. Any higher in elevation, the snow is blown off the slopes due to these high winds, and also the rock walls are often too steep to hold snow once you get beyond about 8,300 feet.

These alpine glaciers act as “ice cream scoops” as they cut away the rock as they slowly slide downhill due to gravity. And through the endless cycle of melting and freezing at the foot of these glaciers, glacial moraines are found at the base of all of these glaciers. Some of the rock is ground so small that glacier silt is formed, which is known as “glacial flour”. This glacial silt ends up suspended in streams and lakes, which results in the amazing turquoise color of many of the lakes in Glacier National Park, such as Grinnell Lake and Cracker Lake.

As these glaciers melt during the warmer months each year, the water from this melting is extremely cold as it flows into the streams, rivers and lakes of Glacier National Park, making it very conducive to many forms of cold water aquatic life, such as the native bull trout.

The rock excavation from these small alpine glaciers are a small fraction of the tremendous excavation of the ice age glaciers. It’s like comparing a tiny Tonka toy truck to a giant bulldozer. There really is no comparison. But even though these alpine glaciers do little to shape the landscape, they are still part of an important process in the ecosystem of Glacier National Park.

The Future of Alpine Glaciers in Glacier National Park
The present day Glacier National Park Glaciers have been shrinking at least since the Civil War, and will more than likely keep shrinking until they are no longer considered to be true glaciers. According to the most recent research, Glacier National Park had 150 alpine glaciers in 1850, and now there are only 25 active glaciers. And what is meant by “active” is that the glacier is moving and cutting rock.

One thing that somewhat muddies the water is that the “definition of a glacier” has changed through the years. Presently, the USGS Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems Program has established the definition of a glacier as a moving mass of snow, rock, ice and water that is at least 25 acres in size and 100 feet thick. This wasn’t the definition of glaciers in 1850, so there is a bit of a discrepancy occurring here. But the overall picture hasn’t changed and one that has been quite consistent, and that is the fact that these alpine glaciers have been shrinking since the Civil War in the mid 1800s, and are continuing to shrink in size as we speak.

An example of a glacier that has been demoted, even though its size had not changed, is Gem Glacier. Gem Glacier is located above the Grinnell Glacier in the Many Glacier Area of Glacier National Park, and it rests on a huge vertical wall on a small shelf. Gem Glacier looks the same now as it does in the photos of the late 1800’s, but since it is not 25 acres in size (and never has been), Gem Glacier does not fit the modern definition of a glacier and was therefore demoted.

A great example of an “expired” glacier is the snow mass directly below Clements Mountain on Logan Pass. As you hike up the trail to Hidden Lake Overlook, you will see a giant glacial moraine directly to your right, which is located just below the east base of Clements Mountain. If you hike to the top of the moraine, you will see a giant snow field between the moraine and the base of the mountain. This was an active glacier until the 1930’s, when it stopped moving due to its shrinking size. It is now simply a large, permanent snow field.

Once a glacier is no longer heavy enough to be moved by gravity, it is no longer considered a glacier. It is then called a permanent snow field or permanent ice field. My wife Shannon and I climbed over 130 summits in Glacier National Park through the years, and we have explored nearly all of the backcountry regions of Glacier National Park. We’ve observed every location where the retired glaciers are found, and what is now mainly in their place are permanent snow and ice fields. Actually there are a few locations where the snow fields disappear completely by late September of each year, but re-appear during the late fall and winter as the snow begins to fall. These snow fields once again slowly melt into the streams, rivers and lakes until they disappear again in late September of the following year.

Seasonal Snowfall
Glacier National Park receives a TON of seasonal snowfall each autumn, winter and spring, and a fair amount of this snow really piles up in certain areas throughout the higher elevations…especially where there were once alpine glaciers. This creates massive snow fields that quite often survive until late September, if not all year long. That’s actually how all of the mountains of the Rockies operate. The Rockies receive a lot of snow during the fall, winter and spring, and this snow slowly melts through the 3 months of summer, feeding the streams, rivers and lakes with this water. This cycle of seasonal snow fall repeats itself year after year, and is mainly what feeds the streams, rivers and lakes of the Rocky Mountains.

Glacier National Park is a great place to observe the effects of colossal glaciation that occurred over ten thousand years ago during a series of ice ages, and is also a fantastic place to observe the ever-changing alpine glaciers that are found throughout the park. Glacier National Park glaciers are fascinating to see and to discover, and I highly recommend that you come to Glacier National Park to witness them first-hand… The landscape and the grandeur of this amazing place will help you’ll quickly understand why Glacier National Park is known as “The Crown of the Continent”.

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