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.
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.
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.
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.
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!