Glacier National Park has always been high on our bucket list, so when I was trying to pick a place we could explore for an entire month, I figured it would be a good choice. Under normal circumstances, I would have booked a week or two on the east side of the park and then a week or two on the west side of the park so we’d have plenty of time to see everything, but given our current goal of keeping things simple, we decided to just pick one campground for the entire month. I found a commercial park on the west side, booked a month, and figured we were all set.

Unfortunately, however, just a few weeks before our planned arrival, the National Park Service announced that it would be closing half the park for the Summer.

The entire eastern side of the park borders the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. In consideration of the toll the pandemic has taken on various reservations across the country, the community’s tribal council decided they did not want to open their entrances this year. GNP’s management amended the park’s operations to respect the tribe’s wishes.

So, this was (and is) the park’s operational status:

Glacier National Park operational status map for Summer, 2020

Sadly, some of the park’s most beautiful scenery and best known hikes are on the East side, but such is life. As you can see, the Going to the Sun Road, which is the main scenic route that traverses the park, was open almost the entire way, and that road provides access to plenty of excellent trails.

In addition to losing access to half the park, visitors also lost access to the shuttles that typically ferry tourists and hikers between various scenic locations and trails. That meant everyone who came to the park was left to vie for a limited number of parking spots at trails, overlooks, and other points of interest.

In practice, this meant the park’s Twitter feed often looked like this:

Glacier National Park Tweets

Not only were parking lots and roadways routinely shut down for overcrowding, but, oftentimes, they were shut down early in the day. Notice the time stamp on this tweet:

However, thanks to Kevin & Laura’s patented “All ‘Yay!’ No ‘Boo!” National Park Exploration Strategy,” our experience was more like this:

Nobody on the road…

Empty scenic road view at Glacier National Park

Nobody on the beach…

Lake MacDonald at Glacier National Park

I feel it in the air…

Kevin looking at Heavens Peak at Glacier National Park

The Summer’s out of reach.

Empty lake…

St. Mary Lake

Empty streets…

The sun goes down alone…

Mountain goat walking along Going to the Sun Road

…except for this goat, whom I have named “Hal.”

Go. Late.

That’s it. That’s the whole trick.

Do the exact opposite of what everyone will tell you you HAVE to do when visiting this (and every other) national park:

Sign saying "Visit GNP early"

and, instead, go late.

Honestly, the number of people who will give you the polar opposite advice that we will give you is astounding. If you visit NPS’s website or Twitter feed, their staff will tell you to go early. If you talk to your campground neighbors, they will tell you to go early. If you read reviews of trails, hikers will regale you with tails of just how early they got to the trail and how crowded the parking lot was when they left.

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Everyone, and I mean every one, will tell you you HAVE to get to the park at the crack of dawn in order to avoid complete and utter misery.

But listen to me:

These people are crazy and they’re going to ruin your life.

Roadside view of sunset on St. Mary Lake at Glacier National Park
This picture brought to you by: ignoring everyone’s advice

The problem with the “get up early” devotees is they think people want to get up early.

They do not.

No one wants to get up early.

Even if you’re a person who naturally wakes up early and likes mornings (a personality type I will never understand), who the hell wants to schlep out at 5:00 a.m. to go for a hike?

No one. That’s who.

Late afternoon views of mountains along Going to the Sun Road
Late afternoon views along Going to the Sun Road

Additionally, the “get up early method” is like a drug. It starts small, but then the need grows and grows and grows until you’ve lost all control.

One minute it’s “we’ve just gotta be in the park by 9:00 a.m.” Then, it turns into “we just gotta be in the park by 8:00 a.m.” Then it’s 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and pretty soon, people are sleeping in their cars trying to be first on the trail.

Not only does this advice make for miserable mornings, but it makes the whole problem worse! With everyone showing up within a couple hours of sunrise, parking lots are packed, trails are overrun, and everyone ends up unhappy.

Jackson Glacier – one of the few glaciers that still exist in the park.

Hogwash. All of it.

Here’s our time tested and clinically proven advice: Go to bed and when you wake up the next morning, look at your clock, and, no matter what time it says, smile, roll over, and go back to sleep.

You can thank us later.

Mountain scenery along Going to the Sun Road

The thing people never seem to appreciate about Summer in the North is that it’s light out REALLY late. During our visit to this area (July/August), it didn’t get dark until after 10:00 p.m.

Take advantage of it!

Depending on where we were going, we would head into the park between 2:00 p.m., for hikes on the far side of the park, and 6:00 p.m., for sightseeing on the near side. (Keep in mind it takes almost 2 hours to drive from one side of the park to the other on the Sun Road.)

Waterfall along Going to the Sun Road
A roadside waterfall…

Of course, it goes without saying that you have to research the area you’ll be visiting, you need to know your hiking pace, you need to pay attention to the time, and you need to be prepared with appropriate food, gear, and supplies (including flashlights) should anything go wrong. There is, admittedly, more risk with our methods, but at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that plunging to one’s death from the side of a cliff while hopelessly lost on a mountaintop in pitch blackness is a small price to pay if it means you don’t have to drive in circles for three hours looking for a parking space.

The Highline Trail

So, what does listening to our advice get you when it comes to hiking? Well, first, you won’t be grumpy because you’re sleep deprived and still feeling the effects of road rage. But second, you’ll enjoy fabulous views, lightly trafficked trails, and great light for photography.

The Highline Trail is typically a point to point trail where hikers start at Logan Pass – which is the highest point along Going to the Sun Road – hike about 12 miles, to a place called the Loop, and then take a shuttle back to Logan. None of that was possible this year, so park officials turned the two ends of the trail into out and back hikes.

Logan Pass Continental Divide marker

The thing is, unlike so many trails that require a lot of trudging before you get to the great views, on the Highline Trail, the scenery is stunning from the first moment you step foot on the trail.

Mountain views at entrance to Highline Trail

The only downside of this trail is it’s a bit unnerving if you’re afraid of heights. There’s one section at the beginning where hikers walk along a path carved into the side of the mountain. The path is reasonably wide and there’s a cord to hold on to if you want it.

Kevin walking along cliff side trail on Highline Trail at Glacier National Park

but it is, admittedly, a rather long way down…

Highline trail suspended above the road at Glacier National Park

The nice thing was, as usual at the national parks, many visitors avoid challenging hikes, and those that don’t avoid them usually start earlier than us, so as we headed away from Logan Pass late in the afternoon, the crowds thinned while the views kept getting better.

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We hiked about 3.5 miles out to Haystack Pass and then came back for a total of 7 miles. The other option was to hike to Granite Park Chalet, which is about 7 miles from Logan Pass, but turning the hike into a 14 miler would have required us to leave much earlier, which would have required us to deal with a lot more people. We were happy to give up some additional views in exchange for peace and quiet on the trail.

Hidden Lake

Speaking of peace and quiet, or a lack thereof, the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is on the “must see” list for just about every visitor to GNP. That means there are a ton of people, even if you go late in the day.

Visitors on the boardwalk of Hidden Lake Trail at Glacier National Park
This was around 7:00 p.m.

There are so many people, the goats help with directing traffic:

Goat walking in front of tourists on Hidden Lake Trail at Glacier National Park

while sheep patrol the parking lots:

Big Horn Sheep walking through parking lot at Glacier National Park
Notice how there are parking spaces available when we go late in the day? See? See?????

It’s not a long trail, just 3 miles total, and the elevation isn’t particularly tough either. The trail starts on a series of boardwalks before transitioning to open fields…

The Hidden Lake Trail at Glacier National Park

The challenging part is those open fields are covered in snow throughout much of the Summer.

Because the snow melts and refreezes every day, it’s basically slushy ice which can be extremely slippery.

Hikers crossing snow fields at Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park

Reading about all this beforehand, I picked up a set of hiking poles which were incredibly helpful. If you don’t already have some, I’d suggest grabbing a pair for this hike (assuming there’s snow when you visit). If you lose your footing and go sliding down one of these slopes, like this guy did, you’re gonna have a bad day. On the other hand, if you were born part mountain goat, like Kevin, you won’t need them.

Speaking of which, it is endlessly amazing to me how hard it is for people to prepare for a visit to one of these parks. Behold:

“Hmmmm, what should I wear today for our big hike? Sadly, there are absolutely no resources available to help me learn about this trail, so I must guess as to what the terrain and weather might be like. Luckily, I know that Montana is known for its subtropical climate and I know that the entire state has been paved over for easy walking. Jean shorts and flip flops it is!”

Anyway, assuming one of these yahoos doesn’t crash into you and send you careening off the mountain, you’ll get to enjoy gorgeous landscapes, friendly wildlife…

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and, eventually, the hidden lake in all its glory.

While this was one of the most crowded trails we visited while at Glacier, it was absolutely worthwhile. If we were to visit again, we’d simply make a point of going even later in the evening.

Siyeh Pass

Located on the east side of the park, the Siyeh Pass Trail is a tough but rewarding 10 mile trek. It has three relatively distinct sections. In order to get to the Siyeh trail, hikers trek a portion of Piegan Pass first. That trail begins next to a creek before heading up into the forest.

This whole section is a reasonably do-able, consistent, upward incline.

Walking next to creek on Piegan Pass Trail

Siyeh Pass then breaks off from Piegan and transitions into a wonderland of wildflowers and beautiful mountain views…

Fields of wildflowers on Siyeh Pass trail in Glacier National Park

So many flowers…

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Finally, it becomes a joyless, barren, hellscape of endless switchbacks that made us hate our very existence and question why we don’t just sit on our couch eating potato chips like normal people.

This is the view as you transition from the meadows of flowers to face the mountain you’re about to climb. If you look really closely, you can see part of the trail carved into the rock face.

On the way up the mountain on Siyeh Pass Trail

As you start climbing, the greenery turns to brown-ery.

See the people in the middle?

The views looking back are very nice

But pretty soon, you’re in switchback purgatory…

and because there’s no vegetation up there, you have no frame of reference for where you are… Every time you think you’re at the top, you turn the corner and there’s another godforsaken switchback.

The preceding two photos were taken 15 minutes apart. And there’s a reason I took two pictures of the same boring trail – because I couldn’t believe after 15 minutes of huffing and puffing and swearing and griping, that I was still looking at the exact same thing. After a while, you start wondering if you’re just walking in circles because nothing has changed and there’s no end in sight.

Somehow though, eventually, we made it to the top and there was this view…

View from the top of the Siyeh Pass TrailWhich was, objectively, pretty impressive.

Of course, as we’d been starting our ascent up the mountain, we’d run into another hiker who was on his way back down. He strongly suggested that when we reached the top, we keep going a few hundred yards to check out an additional viewpoint. By the time we got up there, we were ready to be done, but we figured “we hate everything right now; why not hate something else?” So, off we went… more ups and downs…

Walking along ridge of the Siyeh Pass trail in Glacier National Park

…until we got to another viewing area where we could see a small glacial lake hidden among the mountains.

Kinda “meh,” if I’m being honest.

The views on the way back were made better by the setting sun…

We took one last look at the incredible wildflowers….

and headed for home.

Of course, looking back, it was a pretty great trail and we’re glad we did it. The end really was a tough slog, but the fields full of colorful flowers and the views at the top made all the gasping worthwhile. Plus, we only ran into a handful of other hikers – none of whom were wearing crop tops.

Next Up

In part II of this Glacier National Park round up, I’ll share some info about our “honorable mention” trails, a couple great finds outside the park, our less-than-stellar campground, and our most important hiking app.

Until then, stay well and enjoy your extra shut-eye.

57 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! Stunning pictures as always! Ok. So thank you to the nod to “The Boys of Summer.” I told Jeremy I know where your sarcasm comes from and he claims he’s not sarcastic 😳 unmmmmm ok… anyway, great post!!

  2. Glacier is on our bucket list as well. Was a month about the right amount of time to be there? I love the roadside waterfall and the wildflowers! I always get a kick out of some peoples clothing choices – doesn’t everyone hike in flip flops?

    • I think a month is great for any of these larger national parks, especially if you can divide time between regions. As you know, getting your normal life stuff done in some of these places takes more time, so giving yourself enough days to explore and relax is never a bad idea. The west side has a lot of other stuff to see and do (restaurants and touristy stuff), so it might be worth a little more time than the east side which, as I understand it, is really just about the hiking, but however you divide it up, you won’t be bored.

    • Thanks! It was a tough slog, but we hate quitting even more than we hate switchbacks. That doesn’t mean I won’t whine about it, though. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jennifer! I hope you’re doing well. Maybe when this whole debacle is over, we can all show up at David’s house and demand he throw a party.

  3. Glad to hear you found a way to work with the crowds. “Late afternoon” – noted! Glacier is a stunning sight to see and I love all those wildflowers. Yeah, those flip-flop hikers never cease to amaze me.

    • It’s not just that it happens, it’s that it happens all the time!! And never before in history has it been easier to find answers to all of life’s questions… If anything, I spend too much time researching things beforehand, but I’d rather waste time and be over prepared than under-prepared. Ah well, what do I know??

  4. This is a brilliant post! If only I could get Eric to heed your advice. He falls in the camp of ‘the earlier the better,’ which has led to some of our more memorable fights. Have you ever noticed that early risers are so damned self-righteous, hahaha?? I mean, I like to get up early, but I don’t wanna rush out the door for a hike at 7 a.m. Sorry. You touched a nerve here. 😂

    Your photos are stunning, and the proof of your excellent plan is evident in the lack of people on the trails. And all of those wildflowers! You were in Glacier at the perfect time. We’ve been skunked every time we’ve tried to go to Glacier (wildfires have kept us away) but it’s still on our list. Thanks for your review of the Siyeh Pass trail. I hate switchback purgatory, so I’ll just stay in the wildflowers and enjoy your photos from the top.

    • Well, next time Eric starts in with his self righteous crazy talk, you just whip out this post and tell him he’s “completely and hopelessly wrong about everything.” That kind of response usually goes over super well with people and they instantly stop arguing with you. 🙂 But seriously, we do this at every national park we visit, and it always serves us well. Let everyone else fight for parking in the morning. Afternoon is just as good and so much less stressful.

      We were very worried about wildfires throughout our trip, but nothing major materialized while we were there. However, the damage from past fires in the park is stunning and heartbreaking. I know it’s a normal part of the cycle there, but it’s just so sad to know these places won’t be back to normal for decades.

  5. Fabulous pictures Laura! I don’t think I can pick just one favorite. I like your philosophy, it fits well with my own. We most often leave Beluga right after an early lunch, or take one with us and we rarely find crowds. But then we rarely head anywhere that crowds are predicted so…..

    • Yeah, it would be a lot easier if we focused on staying away from the crowds entirely, but some of these places are worth the aggravation. And, fortunately, none of the NPS units have ever let us down. The lesser known ones are often just as impressive as the more popular ones (North Cascades comes to mind). Sometimes the key is just getting there before they become more Insta-famous.

    • Thank you, Terri! These ridiculously beautiful places, and the crazy people who visit them, give bloggers lots of great material to work with. Travel life is never dull, that’s for sure. Hope you are doing well!

  6. We always went in after work, so after 5pm. We always saw Bears and goats…everything that would hide all day. The sun sets so late that you can see everything in the evening and it’s empty. There were a few times I went in during the mid day and it was a shit show. We always used the employee entrance and employee parking, but if I was a normal person I’d be sitting in line forever just to get in.

    • Maybe that’s why NPS suggests everyone go early. They know people will follow the advice and then employees can have peace and quiet in the evenings! Maybe it’s all part of their brilliant plan!

      The late evening light is just such a treat. I get when people have kids who need to eat and sleep on a schedule, but for people like us, it’s just such a fantastic way to explore without the crowds. I really don’t understand why more people don’t take advantage of it. Oh well… more space for us!

  7. “I think we can all agree that plunging to one’s death from the side of a cliff while hopelessly lost on a mountaintop in pitch blackness is a small price to pay if it means you don’t have to drive in circles for three hours looking for a parking space.”

    It’s logic like this that keeps me coming back for more! 🙂

    Beautiful pictures and I honestly do like your contrarian thinking. Thanks for the work you put into sharing your experiences.

    • LOL. Thanks for reading and thanks for your kind comment, Tom. I appreciate it. Hopefully among all the sarcasm and griping, people find some actual helpful information. Stay well!

  8. Ok, we’re here right now! We did the Hidden Lake trail (with hundred of others) and there was not one tiny bit of snow left anywhere near the trail. I’m amazed at the difference. The crowds here are still crazy. And yes, we were the ones that got up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the St. Mary Falls trailhead. We were the third car there. We got to see the sunrise (which I never see) and the trail was awesomely quiet; especially after the Hidden Lake experience. We kayaked on Lake McDonald late in the day, which was awesome. We got to see hundreds of cars heading home on the Goint to the Sun Road from the comfort of our kayaks. We never did do the Highline Trail. The row of hundreds of tiny antlike people going on the cliff face nixed it for us. The wild flowers here are on steroids! It’s like springtime. But I’m sure winter is just around the corner.

    • Wow, that is surprising! When we visited, it was in the 80’s and even 90’s in West Glacier, so I figured if the snow at Logan Pass hadn’t already melted, it was going to take a very long time. But I guess not! It must have been a muddy mess in the interim! The one place I do wish we had put in the effort to go see early in the morning was St. Mary’s Lake. There’s a beautiful viewpoint there that I would have loved to photograph in the morning light, but it would have been such a crazy early start coming from the west side, there was no way. You guys are troopers (or, insane), that’s for sure! 🙂 The Highline Trail is one of the most trafficked in the entire park, so that’s why we opted for the late start/short version. There was no way I was navigating that section on the cliff with hundreds of other people around.

  9. Just gotta say, I love Hal. 😉 Stunning pictures as always. And, I love your idea about going later. We need to start doing that. Not that we ever get an early start, but always end up everywhere mid day instead. Yup, definitely going to start going later.

    • We have visited national parks late in the day for years now. Actually, I can’t think of any that we’ve visited early in the morning. Of course, it’s easier in the summers when the days are longer, but it has always served us well. We definitely avoid the middle of the day (10 to 2) because that time period is always crazy busy and usually hot, but after that, it just gets better and better. And yeah, Hal was a pretty cool guy – just heading home from another long day at the office! 🙂

  10. Well, you just let our top secret Glacier (and most national parks) tip out of the bag. Thanks for that!! We were in Glacier the last week of July and first week of August and almost every night around 5:30 we would leave the campground to head in to either Polebridge or Logan to bask in the lack of traffic and revel at the availability of parking spots, the multitude of critters and cooler temps. Only downside is getting back to the coach at 10:00 as the last of the summer light fades…makes for a long day.

    We agree that the park is a great place to hike – Hi-line is an all-time favorite – with amazing views around every turn, followed by a more amazing one around the next. Too many people don’t leave the road and miss those opportunities in GNP and most national parks. Glad you guys don’t fall into that category.

    And while your pics of GNP are awesome, they still don’t do it justice. It is a scenic wonder that far exceeds any description and was the biggest surprise of all of our national park visits, and we only have 3 left to visit in the lower 48.

    Keep up your entertaining posts and maybe our paths will cross one of these days.

    • I know, I know… I always struggle with whether or not to share some of these things because it just contributes to the problem, but really, if people just spread out across the day, everything would be better. I am intrigued to see what happens with some of these time ticketing systems the national parks are trying out. I hate the idea of having to plan yet another part of our life, but I do think it would reduce some of the strain on these parks and make everyone’s experience better. We’ll see!

      And you’re absolutely right about the photos. When you’re standing there snapping away, you think “These are gonna be great!” Then you get home and flip through them and it’s like “crap, crap, crap, crap…” Nothing quite captures the experience. The scenery is just epic!

      Speaking of epic, only 3 left? That’s incredible! I haven’t kept count, but I know we’ve only barely scratched the surface. So cool!

  11. I can start the day with a smile when your post shows up in my inbox! Beautiful photos and trail descriptions, we did the Ice Fields Parkway followed by West then East Glacier, the entire month we were surrounded by ‘Obscene Beauty’ – Fran’s words. We carry a little ‘twist’n’go’ scooter for our toad, hence parking has never been a problem for us.
    Sorry you’ll have to miss East Glacier this trip, it’s awesome too!

    • Thanks, Jeff!

      Our original pre-pandemic plan had us traveling up the ice fields parkway on our way to Alaska, so I figure some day, we’ll do that and see East Glacier at the same time. You’re completely right about obscene beauty. I mean, how do you top Glacier and Banff and Jasper all at once? I cannot even fathom it!

      The scooter sounds like a fantastic toad! You can get anywhere and fit in any parking space. Now that you say it, I’m surprised we don’t see more people traveling with that option!

  12. Fantastic account and photos. I truly love your sense of humor as well. All so relatable. 🙂

    The summer we planned to visit Glacier NP, wildfires were raging on the west side, which – we’d read and heard – was the “best part”. That side was closed, so we didn’t take the out-of-the-way drive to just visit the east side, hoping we could go enjoy the entire park one year. Not sure whether that’ll ever happen. Wildfires are always a possibility and so are other – unexpected – deterrents (like Covid) or closures.

    Thanks for the tips and taking us along on your hikes!

    • Yeah, we saw the damage from some of the previous wildfires and it was just jaw dropping. But I read that Glacier basically experiences some type of wildfire just about every year. It’s just part of the deal there…and I expect with climate change accelerating, it’s only going to get worse going forward. We held our breath throughout our visit, and lucked out. I think you just kinda have to go and hope for the best. It’s certainly worth it, and even better for you guys because you can easy stay in the park’s campgrounds.

  13. Your strategy of late afternoon visits obviously paid off handsomely in relatively open parking lots and empty trails. But I doubt we will try it because we are creatures of habit and I couldn’t deal with the unusual schedule. People in our household get very cranky when dinner is late. 🙂 So glad you were able to see much of the park, even with the eastern side being closed. It’s one of our favorites, with so many spectacular views, abundant wildlife, and stunning wildflowers all summer long. Having the place mostly to yourself must have been even more special. I’m working hard not to give in to intense jealousy right now.

    • Hey, half the reason we were so bummed about missing out on the east side was your posts from there. So, if it makes you feel any better, we were equally jealous of your experience! Trust me – Covid travel is not the same as regular travel. Not by a long shot. 🙁

      We have both always been extremely nocturnal, so waking up late and staying up late and eating meals late is just natural for us (and worked well when Kevin was working crazy law firm hours). There are certainly times I wish we were morning people to take advantage of certain things (photography, etc), but this is one of those things that just works well for our natural schedule.

  14. Sorry Laura, but I won’t heed your advice 🙂 Watching the sunrise, breathing fresh morning air, feeling quiet in the still morning, fewer people, more wildlife sighting, less pollution, and most importantly the coveted parking spot. Well, at least that’s our routine, especially when visiting national parks. Old habits never die, and during our 8 years of travel, I could not recall us going out hiking in the afternoon.
    Your fabulous photos brought back so many wonderful memories of GNP.
    It is too bad the Eastside was closed but then again you would have spent lots of time selecting a photo for your blog for the area will keep your camera on overdrive too.
    Had this been ordinary time, I would have urged you to cross the border there and the scenery keeps on coming.

    • Haha. You sure you’re not convinced???

      I will admit that the very few times we have been up very early, for one reason or another, it is quite nice. Like you said – the air is fresher, it’s quieter, and more peaceful. However, no matter how much we enjoy it at the time, we then go home and take a four hour nap and wreck our schedule. We just suck at mornings… that’s all I know. 🙂

      Some day, we will get back there and see more of the east side as well as all the beautiful parks in Canada. I know it is some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and it will remain on our to-do list for when things go back to normal. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

      In the meantime, enjoy your early mornings, crazy lady. 🙂

  15. Looks like you two cracked the code, went on some great hikes and took some incredible pictures. We went in the fall of ’16 over Labor Day and stayed a total of 5 hours. Way too crowded for our taste!

    • Ooof, Labor Day? I cannot even imagine getting close to one of these big national parks on a holiday weekend. I don’t think I’d last 5 minutes, forget 5 hours!

  16. Well, I’m not one for sitting on the couch eating potato chips, but sitting at my computer laughing at your post and looking at your stunning photos seems like a pretty great option in lieu of actually going there and doing all that huffing and puffing myself. Thanks again for another virtual travel experience. Irv and I will get there one of these days – it’s on our list. And now Irv has the senior lifetime pass to all the national parks! (He would kill me for telling you that — he was a little in shock when he realized he qualified).

    • OMG – the senior pass is AMAZING! You know what you need? I know, I know… but hear me out… You guys need an RV! Seriously! You guys can be vanlifers! Hippies traveling the blue highways! Camping under the stars! Doing yoga on the roof!!! Do it!!

      Alright, fine. But you’re missing out. I’m just saying. 🙂

      And yes – y’all need to see Glacier. You’d love it. You could easily do a multi-week loop from Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Glacier. It’s gorgeous stuff and it’s right up your alley!

      • Have been to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, so we could combine Glacier with seeing some other parts of Montana. Tips on that welcome.

        • It kinda depends on how much time you want to spend, how much driving you want to do, and what your priorities are. One place we haven’t been yet but which is consistently recommended is Bozeman. It’s, apparently, a very cool college town with a nice mix of outdoor activities and shopping/restaurants, etc. Here’s a good overview article:

          https://travelpast50.com/visiting-bozeman-montana/

          You could fly into there, then drive up through Helena, head to the east side of Glacier for a couple days (and cross the border to see Waterton Lakes in Canada), then drive to the west side of Glacier and explore that, before heading south by Flathead Lake (which is enormous and beautiful) and finish up in Missoula.

          Alternatively, if you’d rather see more ridiculous scenery, you could visit Glacier and then cross the Canadian border and drive up the Ice Fields Parkway to see Banff and Jasper. Everything up there is jaw dropping.

  17. Glad you found a strategy that worked for your hiking style and were able to make the most of the limited access. I don’t know if having half the park shut down made the crowds bigger on the west side than they’d normally be, but knowing Glacier’s one of the Top 10 most-visited NPs, I’m guessing maybe not. Beautiful though it is, it’s not on our personal Top 10 list because of that unfortunately, so we appreciate the gorgeously-photographed virtual tour!

    There really are people who joyously greet the early morning, but we’re not looking to increase our numbers, so you’re safe 🙂

    • Last I checked, overall visitor numbers for the park are down for the year, but given the closure, and especially the lack of shuttles, I think the overall experience on the west side was more crowded than normal. From everything I’ve heard, the east side is the better option. There’s not much to see or do outside the park, which is why tourists tend to stay on the west side, but the hiking and scenery are fantastic. The really tough thing about Glacier is the climate up there. Their season is truly short.

      As for morning people, I honestly thought that as we got older, we’d just naturally start waking up early, but, alas, our nocturnal nature appears to be truly hardwired. Who knew??

      • Hmmm, OK, we’ll keep an eastside visit in the ‘possible’ column. I like the sound of hikers-only and little touristy stuff!

        I think it’s a huge win that you’re equally matched with your preference for going later. Opposite schedules are too hard so you guys got it good!

  18. Amazing pictures as usual Laura! Well I am one of those people that loves to be out walking/hiking when the sun rises but I will head your advise if we ever have the chance to visit this national park 🙂

    • Haha! I know… your sunrise pictures have often made me think “Man, I wish I was an early riser…” but I am not. Thankfully, you keep a steady stream of gorgeous photos coming my way, so I don’t miss out.

      I hope you guys will eventually be able to visit Glacier. You’d absolutely love it and trying to capture it in photos is truly a fun challenge.

  19. Can I gett this on a t-shirt, because it’s kind of 2020 to me: “These people are crazy and they’re going to ruin your life.”

    Seriously, though, love your start late advice and the reports of hiking trails. Someday, if I ever escape the Southeast, I’m heading to Glacier. Saw a little bit when I was driving across the country to pick up my Alto but it was end April, so kind of cold and snowy. And me in a car, no RV yet.

    Hope you’re having fun adventures on the road, wherever you are.

    • Glacier is awesome and they have plenty of Alto-friendly campgrounds inside, which will give you easy access to all the good stuff. I would absolutely put it high on your list, but you may as well wait until this craziness is over and you can get the full experience.

      And yes, I like your t-shirt idea. Actually, I’d be happy with one that says “These people are crazy.”

      🙂

  20. Your photos are stunning! We can’t wait until the girls are a bit older so we can explore our parks. But, I’ll always be a morning person and you’ll always love me nonetheless!

    • I have loved you in spite of your many faults for years! What’s one more?? 🙂

      The girls will love the parks. They can enroll in the Junior Ranger program and get sworn in at every park they go to, collect stamps, and work through age appropriate workbooks. It’s an awesome program for kids!

  21. Thanks for taking me back!! Glacier is such an amazing NP. So glad you were able to hike the best part sof the Highline Trail. The loop isn’t actually fun. Once you pass the cabin, it is ALL down hill and very steeply…miles and miles!!! My shins hurt so badly by the time we reached the van. So you did the most important parts. We never spent much time on the west side since it is so crowded. Now you have a wonderful reason to return and hike the east side which is amazing. I had so enjoyed your photos. The wildflowers were gorgeous.

    We have discovered that on most of our hikes if we leave around 9:30 – 10:00 and hit the highligh part or our turn around point around noon we are almost always alone. Most people seem to do early, early morning or head out around 2:00. You certainly hit the jackpot for timing your hikes. Good to have those long daylight hours.

    • Hey!

      That’s great to hear that we hit the best parts of the hike. I had read a couple reviews on Alltrails that indicated the same, but you just never know. On the other hand, we definitely did not want to be with hordes of people, especially on those ledges, so it seemed like the right thing to do. We will absolutely head back someday and see the East side. I know there’s so much great stuff there, plus fewer crowds. I’ve also heard wonderful things about Waterton, so once we’re allowed to leave the country again, we’ll want to check that out. And yes, the long daylight hours of Summer make us happy for many reasons – not least of which it allows us to give in to our nocturnal nature. Winter is tough for people like us!!

  22. Okay cracking up at your plea for sleeping in. Totally get it and we have often used this strategy when visiting places in Asia such as Angkor Watt which also gets a huge amount of visitors and many of them will go early to see the sights. But we have found like you mention, that going against the grain works well when avoiding people, which is what we strive to do as well. Anyhow, hilarious writing…

    I had to look up where his was on the map as we have done almost no explorations in the US of national parks. We always chose to go international whenever we could as we yearned for the cultural experience, but now I see, we have missed a lot of beautiful nature. I was still surprised that it was Montana… Have never been there, but if and when we do go, I will come back to this post for all the good tips and advice.

    Gorgeous photography of the lake and mountains. Spectacular.

    Peta

    • Thanks, Peta. I can’t remember where you guys lived while you were in the U.S., but the west is full of incredible scenery – mountains, deserts, coastal – all of it is stunning and well worth some exploration. And we’ve found that the National Park Service does a phenomenal job not only of making these parks accessible, but educating visitors on the cultural heritage of the lands they protect. In addition to enjoying so much natural beauty and learning about our country’s history, we’ve learned a lot about the process of historic preservation – a focus at places like Mesa Verde National Park, and climate change – a focus of just about every national park at this point. There is a lot to see and a lot to learn and NPS really does a good job increasing their visitors appreciation and understanding of these issues.

  23. Great pics (and sound advice to avoid the crowds). Glacier is our favorite place! Don’t forget drinking adult beverages sitting on the porch of the Many Glacier Lodge. Big fun!

    • Oh man, that does sound fun! Sadly, anything in the Many Glacier area has been put off to our “next time” list. But there will most certainly be a “next time.” We loved our visit to this park and will absolutely be back when things open up again.

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