There was an indescribable anticipation in the air as soon as we crossed the Montana state line. Heading east for the first time of our summer road trip, we were driving straight towards uncharted territory for the both of us. I had technically been to Montana when I was too young to remember, and Alex had never been either – but we knew that in this state we would both be pushed out of our comfort zones. The most scenic views were no longer easily located via perusing the instagram explore page and the tallest peaks did not have downloadable trail maps ready for us on AllTrails. It was time to dive into our own, unique journey and we were so ready for it. Though our summit for the state of Montana was towards the southern part of the state, we absolutely could not pass up on the opportunity to spend a weekend in Glacier National Park. In two and a half days, we did pretty much every single thing we had time to cram in – so whether you like a jam packed weekend like us or want a four day more relaxed trip, this guide might just lead you to some of our favorite spots of the entire trip.
5.7 miles |748 ft elevation gain
Our trip to Glacier wasn’t actually three full days – it was closer to two and a half! We arrived through the West Entrance on a Friday afternoon, prepped with which hike we could squeeze out of the daylight we had left. The mellow hike to Avalanche Lake is an absolute must-do. Chatting away the relatively flat miles, we came around the final bend to this.
Since we were a bit on the later side, we were fortunate enough to miss most of the crowds! If we had gotten there a bit earlier, it may had been warm enough to take a dip but we decided to snap a few shots and soak in the last few rays of sunlight from the shores instead. We had planned our biggest day for Saturday, so we headed back to a campsite right outside the west entrance on the early side and rested up for the Highline Trail.
11.2 miles | 1,466 ft elevation gain
We had heard high reviews from this stunning one-way hike, but seriously had no idea of the treat we were in for. We got to the parking lot at Logan Pass promptly at 8 am (which we thought was sufficiently early) and it was already SO crowded! After scoring a spot we hit the trail, singing a song about our desires to see a Bighorn Sheep. We asked, and Glacier delivered. Less than a quarter mile into our hike we came across a mountain goat blocking the trail, he did not have ANYWHERE to be! We snapped a few photos and continued along through the meadow. After a few miles, the crowds began to thin as the views expanded. We couldn’t help but laugh and skip along the trail at some points, we had never seen anything quite like the dark, plateaued mountain layers contrasting the fresh green grass we were walking through.
We completed the trail as a point to point, taking the shuttle back to Logan Pass. Whether you do a shorter out and back, point to point, or any stretch of this trail it will absolutely blow you away.
Part Two: Soaking up the Sun at Lake McDonald
On our first drive through Glacier on Friday afternoon, we knew that we needed to stop by the massive lake right at the entrance and take advantage of an alpine swimming opportunity. We finished the Highline Trail in the early afternoon, giving us plenty of time to soak our feet, tan our skin, and swim around in the cool water.
After our long hike in the morning, this pseudo ice bath was seriously the best way to recover and relax!
3.0 miles | 600 feet elevation gain
Because we had scored tickets for the star gazing party back at Logan Pass that night, we figured we’d head back up early to enjoy our dinners in the best way possible. We walked through a crowd of Bighorn Sheep and up to the overlook of Hidden Lake, where we set up to soak in the views.
After packing up our dinner, we were treated to arguably the most memorable sunsets either of us have witnessed. The sky was dancing between the most shocking shades of pink and orange, reflecting itself in every small puddle. The entire way down, we couldn’t stop turning to each other and asking how in the world this could be real.
*note: This link shows the full 5.3 mile trail. About 1.5 miles in is where we stopped, at the overlook for the lake!
9.3 miles | 1,450 feet elevation gain
The trail for this lake was located in an entirely different entrance to the park which absolutely cannot be missed! Even though it was a bit of a drive to get to the trailhead, nature rewarded us in the most simple way: a calm, glacial lake sitting at the base of shocking peaks. The gradual, 4.5 mile trail up was beautiful and woodsy but when we got about a half mile from the lake we couldn’t contain our excitement. We came across a field of wildflowers – yellow, red, blue and purple dots against the bright green grass. Thinking that it couldn’t get any better, we pranced along the trail the last few minutes and were stopped dead in our tracks as the full view slapped us in the face. “Oh my GOD!!” I was immediately shushed by a few fellow hikers trying to get a shot of the deer grazing in the meadow nearby (sorry), but I was simply stunned.
After soaking up a bit of sun and Alex jumped in the water (no thank you from me)!, we packed our daypacks and started on the trail again. We spent a few moments right at the spot where the full view first appears, just to see others’ reactions to one of Montana’s many gems. Watching the faces of those who have spent their day to be surrounded by beauty experiencing the shock of the serenity of Iceberg Lake filled us to the brim with gratitude. We turned on a bit of music and sang and danced the entire way down the trail, earning us a couple of questionable looks but even more compliments about our music taste. After just three days in Glacier, Montana had completely won us over.
Our weekend in Glacier was a bit of a detour from our climbing destination in Montana, but it 1,000% could not have been missed. I’m fairly certain both of us are already scheming as to when we’ll make it back there. After that last afternoon in Glacier we re-packed the car and started to head south – blissfully ignorant to what awaited us in the Beartooths.
To read our story about our summit attempt of Mt. Wood in Montana, keep your eye out for next week’s blog post, as well as another vlog post from Washington! Also in the near future, expect to see EVERYTHING you ever needed to know in order to prepared for the John Muir Trail. Looking through all these photos and recalling those most beautiful moments while settling back in life in San Diego tugs a bit at the wanderlust spirit in both of us, but having the time to create these next few months is a challenge we’re welcoming.
In case you missed last week’s video recap of our one day summit of Mt. Adams – make sure you check that out!