My 6 day trip to glacier national park

My company shut down this year July 3rd through 11th. I picked Glacier national park because I wanted a dramatic enough change of scene from the Raleigh-Durham area, given that 2020 was usurped by the Rona. It needed to be just Glacier and not the Canadian side to Waterton lakes National Park because Trudeau didn’t want our cooties till July 21st. I was burnt out working remotely and living in the same apartment for a year. I lost my cat I had for 8 years (she was 10) in January 2021. The Rona had restricted me to road trips but no long flights.  I was hoping to recreate fond memories of hiking in the pacific north west and the calm I felt after.
I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April. Airport and flights still require masks at all times. In short, this time I sought:

  • a different terrain from the usual  ✓
  • food for my Seattle nostalgia  ✓
  • an escape from my home/ office/ prison  ✓
  • a domestic place that is best to visit during my July break  ✓
  • adventure  ✓
Avalanche creek waterfall

Our itinerary ended up being:

Day 1:

  • check in
  • hang out at Village Inn at Apgar

Day 2:

  • trail of the cedars
  • lake Avalanche
  • lake McDonald

Day 3:

  • Logan pass – some of the hidden lake trail
  • Wild goose island lookout over st. Mary’s lake
  • Swift-current lake
  • lake Josephine
  • lake Grinnel

Day 4:

  • Fishercap lake
  • Red rock falls
  • Jackson Glacier overlook

Day 5:

  • Iceberg lake

Day 6:

  • Oberlin falls
  • st. Mary’s falls
  • Virginia falls
lake Avalanche

Our first black bear sighting at GNP was at lake avalanche. Sorry no bear pictures because we cared more about getting the hell out of there. We did walk ahead of the trail a bit. It was doing its own thing. We informed the others as well. Even if the bear is minding its own business, there will be idiots getting too close which might provoke them. This hike was a good one to start with.

Logan’s pass

We drove to Logan pass next morning. We just like the flexibility of having our own vehicle as opposed to using the shuttles and staying on top of their schedule. It took us an hour to park. We got there around 9. We circled the same parking lot, watched people walking toward their car and followed them. Part of the hidden lake trail was sealed off due to a bear sighting.

We saw goats as promised!

goat at Logan’s pass

Our favorite was the wild goose’s lookout over st. Mary’s island

Goose island viewpoint at st. Mary’s lake

The hike to iceberg lake took the whole day. In addition to some absolutely stunning views along the way, iceberg lake had bright turquoise waters and snow floating on top.

Iceberg lake

We spent a few evenings dipping in lake McDonald in the featured image. The water was clear with the view of the mountains across the lake from village Inn at Apgar. We stayed there most days. I referred to the full suitcase blog to plan my initial itinerary and how to pack. I installed the Glacier National Park iPhone app. I eventually ended up referring to this app for my 5 day trip plan, general information and guidance. Offline apps are a must here. There are places with no wifi here. Several restaurants were closed because COVID. Road construction caused delays we were warned about the year 2021.

Red rock falls

Planning this trip was particularly challenging the year 2021. It is worth going if you have an entry ticket to Going-to-the-Sun-road (GTSR) especially your first time. They are worth $2 per day and sell out very quickly 2 months in advance when 75% of them are released. More release a week before. Usually, I book flights before booking stay but I needed to hustle for this pass before planning anything further. If you book a stay or activity along GTSR, the entry pass is included. The activities include some guided hiking and horse rides. Pedestrians and bikers don’t need one either. More information here. There are there entrances to the park but this is the popular one during a popular time we were visiting that was notoriously jammed.

So my strategy was this: I book a stay at any of the lodges along GTSR the week of my break. Even if I get one day, I take it. So I did at village Inn at Apgar. People kept canceling more days of the week there and I kept booking them. I booked end of May for July 6th. I would have had an easier time had I started earlier. I looked up their website several times a day till I had July 6th through 10th booked. We had a different type of room each day but it didn’t matter. We stayed one night at Many Glacier hotel because we couldn’t find a room at village Inn at Apgar. We don’t need an entry ticket to going to the sun road after hours via West Glacier, St. Mary’s and Camas road. Regular hours are 6:00 am to 5:00 pm.

I was quite pleased with myself 🙂 We booked return flight from Raleigh-Durham airport to Kalispell. Another fun fact from my co-worker was the rental car shortage in 2021. Semiconductor shortage -> Car shortage -> rental cars sell out. I paid around $200 for my car each day in advance. This was an expensive trip. The vehicle pass for the park can be taken while entering or in advance. A private vehicle seemed like a better option than wrestling bears. Staying on trail and following camp site rules do not reduce the likelihood of running into bears. These aren’t one-off sightings. Bear sprays are strongly recommended at all hiking trails. Just do not leave them in your car overnight.

Swiftcurrent lake

The hikes here, though gorgeous have several bugs and flies all along even at higher altitudes. We needed to boost our bug lotion several times. They still got us.

My packing included Gatorade tabs for electrolytes. I forgot my water filter I purchased especially for this trip. I removed the medical kit as it was old. I removed my Swiss knife and fire starters for the flight. I packed solid perfume, shampoo and conditioner so never need to expose liquids. It’s a non-issue now but I still have the advantage of these items giving me way more washes for the same amount of weight and space. The eco-friendly floss breaks too easily, is too thick and still not practical for me. I don’t like the idea of toothpaste bits. The recyclable David’s charcoal toothpaste was too large to carry on. Also, my travel buddy told me, it polishes the enamel to whiten as opposed to hydrogen peroxide so I don’t think I’ll get the charcoal one next time.
In addition to the usual camping gear, I packed my minoxidil and night appliance. Hello mid-thirties. I also packed a full plastic water bottle and a plastic bottle of vegan nutrition powder that lead my items to be searched again. The powder made it through. Granola bars should work better. We had enough time. Our options were to let go of the bottle or to walk back through security with it. Drinking the water there was not an option. So my travel buddy walked through it again. Problem solved and lesson learned.

Jackson Glacier overlook

Airport security didn’t need us to remove shoes or expose liquids. We just needed to expose electronics. Airport security just upgraded their systems.

Virginia falls

Overall, this trip felt hard core outdoorsy but totally worth it. We weathered bugs, bears, wifi and food shortage, road construction delays and arduous hikes. We ran into our second bear on our hike back from Grinnell lake right before it rained. Some finger taps on the bear spray got it off our trail. As recommended, I am glad, I did not hike alone.

St. Mary’s falls
Oberlin falls

We had to skip the 2 medicine area completely due to shortage of time. We wanted to soak in the places we ended up selecting.

Fishercap lake

If you like Huckleberry, GNT is your paradise. You’ll find tons of huckleberry products. The food quality ranged from moderate to terrible. The best food we had was at la Casita close to village inn at Apgar.

I am so glad I made this trip! Glacier national park was stunning as the reviews say and gave us some much needed exercise. My motto has been plan well and all should go well up until this trip. But my travel buddy changed my mind. More than packing the right gear and the usual basic navigation, as ridiculous as it sounds, educating oneself about bears and alert response to wildlife was most important. I planned and booked everything. He read up the average sizes and weights of black and grizzly bears, their attitude toward and possible interaction with humans, attack style, speed, sprays, possible problems with sprays, the fact that it could blow toward you if the wind is in your direction, minding the direction of the wind when we hike and the list goes on. It was as intensive and very critical for our safety. I suggest you do too and have a safe trip 🙂

P.s.: I would love to hear about your wildlife encounters in the comment section.

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