Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bye-bye Glacier National Park

Going to miss the beautiful sea green/blue waters of the rivers
We are really sad to say goodbye to this area....this has been one of the most beautiful parks we have ever seen. Even with just one road going thru the park, the fifty-three mile long Going To the Sun Road was an exceptional driving experience. And even with the slowdowns in construction, it's still a National Historical monument to be treasured. The beautiful stonework, the arches, the bridges, and the scenery and the beautiful color of the streams and rivers are something to see. Did I mention that the color of the rivers comes from a stone or mineral called argillite, actually a sedimentary rock?

Glacier N.P. really seems to have it together in how they manage the traffic in the very short season for tourists. The new shuttle bus system that has a few kinks to be worked out, but it seemed to be quite efficient and a very popular way of getting around the park. That is a good thing for the environment in the park! We didn't see any bears, so of course, we're going to have to return on our next trip out west. Sparky almost went to the little Bear Park down the street but decided not to. See reference down below for more information. (She wouldn't have gone through the park with the windows closed as instructed, you can be sure of that, E. says, with a sigh of relief that she didn't go)...

Going to leave you with some tips and interesting tidbits in case you haven't read the previous blogs about our Glacier any regular readers, sorry for any repeated information!

1. Best time to see wildlife in the park and where--Logan Pass around dusk....lots of bighorn sheep and some mountain goats were there every time we visited Logan Pass at dusk (between 6:00-8:00 PM) on three different locations...they come into the parking lot to lick the antifreeze from the cars--ugh! BUT you get to see them...

2. Best tour--Red Jammer Bus Tour--awesome 1930's original buses with knowledgeable guides, well worth it and the best time of day, again, the later in the day tour, that leaves at 4:00 PM or 4:30 PM, a five hour trip at dusk through the park....

3. Take the shuttles to get around the park, you can get to the east side as well with a transfer. Beats sitting in your car waiting to get through hot, dusty construction...shuttles are new and VERY comfortable. These are not guided tours, just a way to get around. Leave your car at the Apgar Transit  Center, St. Mary's Visitor Center (on the east side), leave it at the campground or lodge and enjoy yourself!

4. Bear spray is #1 recommended deterrent if you are an avid hiker, but it's VERY expensive. Check around for possible rental of the spray canisters instead of buying one. You can rent them at Yellowstone, but we didn't check to see if we could at Glacier.  Bear bells are not enough, according to the rangers at the park, but they are better than nothing. Make noise on a trail, sing, talk loudly, clap now and then. Some of the most popular park trails are surrounded by excellent bear habitat. Be extra careful around streams, dense vegetation, around corners and going up a rise.

5. North American RV Park was one of the best parks, although it might be more expensive than some of the other RV parks in the area. We were comfortable and not jammed up against neighbors and it's a very nice park with a fairly big general store on the premises. The park is five miles from the west entrance of the park! It had the fastest free wifi anywhere in the west that we've experienced!

6. There is a Bear Park just south down the road from the NARV park if you need a bear fix. It's $8.00 a person to drive in and you are guaranteed to see some black bears. (You stay in your cars with the windows rolled up and moving at all times.) However, there are only 4 bears in the park, raised in captivity and the managers hide their food in the park for them to find besides providing a wooded, natural habitat. Closed Wed. and Thursdays, I believe. (We didn't go, but I just got some information out of curiosity.)

7. The two most popular hikes in the park are doable for all ages and family members--Trail of the Cedars on a wooden boardwalk (wheelchair accessible) and Avalanche Lake Trail--much harder but small children are capable of doing this hike despite the steep climb. A third hike that's wonderful, was the short hike to the St. Mary's Falls and then another short hike continued on the trail to Virginia Falls--don't miss any of these! No pets allowed on trails signs say....
one of our hiking views
8. Get to trailheads early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid big crowds on the can ride your bike in Glacier, but it's restricted during busy summer hours from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and we saw only two bike trails listed in Glacier, one short one at the Apgar Visitor Center area, the bike trail is less than two miles.

9. There were tons of bear sightings on the Canadian side of Glacier National Park in the Waterton Park section--but you'll need your passport to go there....

10. Good pizza and good food reasonably priced at Glacier Grill down the road from the NARV Park heading south towards Columbia Falls. There is a big Super Foods Grocery Store in Columbia Falls as well.

11. When traveling Go to the Sun Road, you can expect traffic stopping anywhere from as short as five minutes, to up to thirty minutes at a time more than once while traveling to Logan Pass. If we remember right, it's about 40 miles from the west entrance of Glacier to Logan Pass. Forty m.p.h. speed limit on the road, and it's enforced! Some guy in a big SUV flew around our red Jammer bus while we were on tour and the cops got him right away. (The NERVE of that guy to pass a historical red Jammer bus! fusses Sparky) ....and NO RV'S longer than 21 feet in length and NO TOW cars from Avalanche Creek onward through the park. If you insist on driving your RV thru the park, count on getting stuck somewhere on the main road, and getting a $1,000.00 fine like Mr. Anonymous, that happened a week ago.

12. Apgar Campground is the only campground that accepts big rigs (up to 40 feet), and it's no hookups.

13. If you love wildflowers, this is the place! Glacier lilies (bears love to eat them), trillium, beargrass (bears DON'T like to eat them), Indian paintbrush, monkey flower, calypso orchids, blanket flowers and many more....

14. The glaciers that you do see on a tour or from afar or on a hike just look like snowpack on the mountains. Don't be too disappointed to see that they aren't major glacier ice sheets like in Alaska or other parts of the world. Just be glad you get to see what's left of them while they still remain at this park! Estimates are that they will be totally gone by 2020 or 2030.

15. Lodgepole pines are the first trees to grow after a forest fire. They are short, scrawny pines with very tight little pinecones. When there's a forest fire, the pinecones literally explode with the heat, like little bombs. As they start to grow and gain some height, they provide shade for other species of trees to grow.

16. More than 350 structures in the park are on the National Register of Historic Places. 

And if you want to know more about your national parks, check out the Oh, Ranger website for lots of fun facts about these parks. They also have an app for the iphone, but not for the Android phones. (I knew I shouldn't have replaced my iphone with a Droid! laments Sparky) But who wants to traipse all over the country for an Apple store when the phone goes kerput! I sure don't, so Droid is it for me for now......besides I have a better camera than the iphone on my there!  (Eldy and I are always comparing notes on signal strength, apps, etc. He has the iphone 3GS)

Thanks for visiting Glacier National Park with us! We are heading to Missoula, Montana to catch up with our friends from In the Direction of Our Dreams, Sherry and David at the Jim and Mary's RV Park in Missoula. We'll be there for about four days, then on to Yellowstone! See you in Missoula.......


  1. I'm going to bookmark this post so when we can go there I can refer to your recommendations.

  2. question, which phone works best, the Droid or the Iphone? Thanks, and thanks for the great picture and your informative blog. I have been to Glacier and Waterton, but it was 35 years ago, 1976, it is time I went back.

  3. Thanks for the great tips on touring Glacier National Park. It's on our list so your suggestions will come in handy.

    Beautiful photos of the park!

  4. Wow, this is an excellent post! While I love seeing the beautiful photos, I have to say that I really appreciate the information you provided too. Thanks for taking the time to write such a great blog!


  5. Once again what GREAT pictures. I want to be the guy water skiing. But how cold IS the water?

    Great tips on Glacier. Having just been in Yellowstone, I'm not sure they rent the bear spray in the park but for sure they do in Jackson, just south of the park.