Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park was truly spectacular, a masterpiece of thick green forest, ice capped mountains, and vibrant blue and green water. Unlike Yellowstone or Grand Teton, Glacier remains mostly untamed and inaccessible by road; only the Going to the Sun Road bisects the park and while smaller roads do exist, they do not penetrate deep into the wild. We divided our days at the park hiking and seeing as many of the more easily accessible things as we could before we needed to get to Seattle. Our campsite was near Lake McDonald, a glacial lake framed by high peaks that glowed with warm violet light near sunset.

View of Lake McDonald near our campsite, Glacier National Park, MT

View of Lake McDonald near our campsite, Glacier National Park, MT

Our first day we hiked the Grinnell Glacier Trail, the trailhead of which is at the stunning Saint Mary Lake on the eastern side of the park. Like other lakes in the park, Saint Mary was carved out from glaciers long ago and so rests in a valley shadowed by the beginning on the Rocky Mountain range. The water ranges in color between a deep azure and rich turquoise but is perfectly clear to the extent that submerged rocks and logs can be seen from high up on the trail.

Saint Mary Lake near trailhead, Glacier National Park, MT

Saint Mary Lake near trailhead, Glacier National Park, MT

Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

We passed Saint Mary Lake as we started climbing and soon came into view of the smaller Grinnell Lake, most of which was an unvarying turquoise color, completely opaque from suspended glacial silt. Near the end of the trail our path was blocked by unmelted snow fields and rushing glacial runoff so we never did see the actual Grinnell Glacier though the gorgeous views made that fact inconsequential.

Grinnell Glacier Trail overlooking Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

Grinnell Glacier Trail overlooking Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

Grinnell Lake with glaciers in background, Glacier National Park, MT

Grinnell Lake with glaciers in background, Glacier National Park, MT

Snow cave on Grinnell Glacier Trail from retreating glacier, Glacier National Park, MT

Snow cave on Grinnell Glacier Trail from retreating glacier, Glacier National Park, MT

Glacial outwash on Grinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park, MT

Glacial outwash on Grinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park, MT

View from our trail ending point, Glacier National Park, MT

View from our trail ending point, Glacier National Park, MT

Beach of Saint Mary Lake where we went for a freezing cold swim on the return hike, Glacier National Park, MT

Beach of Saint Mary Lake where we went for a freezing cold swim on the return hike, Glacier National Park, MT

With all the glacial outwash, Glacier National Park was even more abundant in waterfalls and rushing creeks than other mountainous areas we had previously visited. The brilliant colors seen in the lakes were also present here; every waterfall a tour de force and every river a torrent of blues and greens. Many of these waterfalls cascaded over fissured rock, intensifying their magnificence.

Small waterfall in river flowing into Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, MT

Small waterfall in river flowing into Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, MT

Turquoise rapids flowing to Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, MT

Turquoise rapids flowing to Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, MT

Stunning coloration of river flowing to Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, MT

Stunning coloration of river flowing to Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, MT

Waterfall over fractured shale, Glacier National Park, MT

Waterfall over fractured shale, Glacier National Park, MT

Another waterfall over fractured shale, Glacier National Park, MT

Another waterfall over fractured shale, Glacier National Park, MT

Waterfall with cirque - or carved out mountain - in background, Glacier National Park, MT

Waterfall with cirque – or carved out mountain – in background, Glacier National Park, MT

View from near Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, MT

View from near Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, MT

Mountains with sedimentary strata, Glacier National Park, MT

Mountains with sedimentary strata, Glacier National Park, MT

View from our lunch spot along an uninhabited rock beach, Glacier National Park, MT

View from our lunch spot along an uninhabited rock beach, Glacier National Park, MT

Running Eagle Falls, Glacier National Park, MT

Running Eagle Falls, Glacier National Park, MT

Our third day we hiked the trail to Iceberg Lake which has endless views of the mountains and green valleys, abundant wildlife, and beautiful… everything. Lying in the shade of Mount Wilbur, the lake receives so little sun that plentiful icebergs calved from the glacier above still float in the freezing water in mid-July. It was quite warm and sunny the day of our hike, but the lake was freezing!

Small glacial outwash along Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, MT

Small glacial outwash along Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, MT

View of forested valley along Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, MT

View of forested valley along Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, MT

Approach to Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

Approach to Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

Iceberg Lake shaded by Mount Wilbur, Glacier National Park, MT

Iceberg Lake shaded by Mount Wilbur, Glacier National Park, MT

Me standing in Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

Me standing in Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

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