Travel by Train to Glacier National Park
Have you ever seen the Crown of the Continent? With huge, jagged peaks and crystalline glaciers, fields of wildflowers and valleys brimming with glacial lakes, Glacier National Park is definitely a majestic site. It’s located in the Rocky Mountains of northern Montana, and extends for 16,000 square miles up and in to Canada. A World Heritage site, Glacier has multiple ecosystems with over 1,000 plant species and hundreds of animal species. ‘Breathtaking’ is a word that hardly covers it.
2016 is the centennial birthday of the National Park Service, and this is the perfect time to visit Glacier and bask in the beauty.
The link Glacier Park offers a guide on how to get to the park by car, plane, or train. If you go by rail, there are three depots at East Glacier, West Glacier, and Whitefish. From Whitefish, you can take a free shuttle to Grouse Mountain Lodge, or if you’re coming from East Glacier, the Glacier Park Lodge. (Editor’s note: If you travel with America by Rail, you will disembark at Whitefish and will be escorted to your hotel in nearby Kalispell.)
There are a variety of ways to explore the park. One great way is by Going-to-the-Sun Road. Completed in 1932, Going-to-the-Sun is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. It spans the entire width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.
To hit the road, you can take a Red Bus Tour. Glacier’s famous Red Buses are restored from the 1930s. The tour guide, a seasoned park veteran, will greet you with a roll call, a tradition that dates back to the beginning. Roll back the canvas top and take in the fresh air.
Your guide will then detail the history of the park and various landmarks. As you ascend to Logan Pass, which sits at 6,646 feet and is the highest point accessible by road, you’ll see multiple trailheads, campgrounds, visitor centers, and lodges. This will give you a good preview of further adventures to be had.
At Logan Pass there’s a popular visitor center open from mid-June through mid-September. Behind the Visitor Center, Hidden Lake Trail starts off as a boardwalk that protects the tundra from getting trampled. From there, you’ll ascend on a gravel trail leading to Hidden Lake Overlook.
The Hidden Lake Overlook is a favorite spot for mountain goats and tourists alike. You might spot Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, and Marmots—but watch out for Grizzly Bear! Actually, Grizzly sightings are rare. The trail goes for 1.5 miles and gains 460 feet in elevation (wear hiking shoes). You’ll find yourself overlooking the crystalline Hidden Lake. Bring your camera for ample footage of wildflowers, wildlife, and the gem of the lake.
The hike to Hidden Lake Overlook is just one of many magnificent hikes you can take. If you’re looking for something to do besides a hike, try the Many Glacier Boat Tour. It starts at Many Glacier Hotel, from which you take a wooden boat across Swiftcurrent Lake, get out, walk to Lake Josephine, and take another wooden boat across that lake, all accompanied by a guide. The tour takes about an hour and a half, after which you can choose to go hiking or head back to the hotel. You’ll get a first-hand experience of these pristine glacial lakes and plenty of chances for stunning photos.
There are tons of places to camp in the park. The National Park Service’s camping page provides important information if you’re going to go camping. You can make your trip one-of-a-kind by getting a backcountry camping permit, but get on it ahead of time because the permits are first-come-first serve.
Overall, no matter what you do, your time at Glacier National Park will be unforgettable. Whether you’re horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, camping, boating, camping, or just sight-seeing, you’ll be blown away by the natural glory here. Get out and see the glaciers while you still can, because the National Park Service reports that climate change rates will see them gone by the year 2030.
Submitted and written by: Daniel Matthews