A Crown Fit for a Continent

Glacier National Park Mountains Landscape

It is often called the “Crown of the Continent,” and for good reason too. With vaulting granite peaks soaring two miles high and ice carved valleys bejeweled by 762 lakes that sparkle like diamonds and sapphires in the mid-day sun, Glacier National Park is every bit a crown fit for a continent.

Glacier shares this stretch of the Rocky Mountains that runs from central Montana to southern Canada with neighboring Waterton Lake National Park just across the border in Alberta. Limited roadways, however, make travel between the two parks more difficult than their close proximity suggests. Only after our arrival did we discover that reaching Waterton from our location at Glacier’s western entrance required a nearly six hour round-trip drive (we’d have been much closer had we set up camp in the east; note for next time).

Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Three Arches

The “Three Arches” of Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road

Even getting around Glacier can be challenging due to a near-perpetual winter season. Going to the Sun Road, the one and only thoroughfare crossing the park, is closed nine months out of the year because of weather. Logan Pass can accumulate as much as 80 feet of snow and take work crews until late June to clear. But once opened, the drive is spectacular.

In addition to sprawling mountain vistas, some of the park’s abundant wildlife occasionally makes a roadside appearance. On our climb up the western slope toward the continental divide, we had the good fortune of being repeatedly greeted by a family of mountain goats, the park’s official symbol.

Glacier National Park Mountain Goat Wildlife Landscape

But to really experience Glacier, you need to get out of your car and on to the park’s 740 miles of hiking trails. Here you’ll experience everything from a cliff hanging adventure on the Highline Trail . . .

Glacier National Park Highline Trail

The Garden Wall section of Glacier’s Highline Trail

. . . to a quiet stroll through “spooky” woods on the Trail of the Cedars.

Glacier National Park Trail of the Cedars

Along the same 10 mile trek to Iceberg Lake we encountered both wildflowers . . .

Glacier National Park Wildflowers, Mountains, Landscape

Mountain wildflowers along Glacier’s Iceberg Lake trail

. . . and snow, although we were told the lake’s namesake icebergs were much smaller than usual for our visit. In fact, all of the ice is smaller than usual these days. The park once boasted 150 named glaciers. Today that number has shrunk to just 25. By 2020 scientists expect they’ll disappear altogether, leaving Glacier National Park glacierless.

Glacier National Park Iceberg Lake

See them before it’s hot: Glacier’s disappearing glaciers

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48 Comments on “A Crown Fit for a Continent”

  1. Honie Briggs November 2, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    I think I need to get my hiking boots on next year and get out there!

    Like

  2. Exquisite. To be in such an environment must be overwhelming. We see the smallness of ourselves in the face of nature. Awesome.

    Like

  3. myuzickman November 2, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Absolutely stunning!!!!!!

    Like

  4. tiny lessons blog November 2, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Wonderful pictures, and a sad fact that the glaciers are disappearing.

    Like

  5. leemajors November 2, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Amazing ! ooh.. amazing 🙂

    Like

  6. CulturalRites November 2, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Fine post. Have been to Glacier, and your descriptions are apt.

    Like

  7. Katie Glenn November 2, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Your pictures make me want to go there!

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      I hear “Road Trip!”

      Like

  8. Jane Lurie November 2, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Wonderful photos. I especially like the mountain goat and cedars. Beautiful work!

    Like

  9. Kongo November 2, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    I love these photos but how did you get that goat to pose for you?

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Ha! Like all wildlife photography it required speed, patience, and a heaping helping of good fortune.

      Like

  10. travelgalart November 2, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    I just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying reading about all your adventures. Much respect to you both!!

    Like

  11. Lisa Carollo November 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    You guys are such an inspiration! My partner and I just bought an RV and plan on hitting the road this spring 🙂

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Good for you! Always glad to hear about people taking the plunge. Happy Travels.

      Like

  12. awesomeodysseys November 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Beautiful pictures! I have to take my kids to Glacier NP.

    Like

  13. Gunta November 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    Glacier… definitely in the Top Three of my favorite national parks. Sad to hear the glaciers are disappearing so fast.

    Like

  14. Pat Bean November 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Fantastic photos. You got the Wondering Wanderer’s Bean’s Pat for the day. Check it out at http://patbean.wordpress.ccom

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

      Thanks for shout-out Pat. Always an honor.

      Like

  15. kgrahamjourneys November 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I haven’t been to Glacier National Park but I’ve been to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. On the Crypt Lake Hike (which is one of my all-time favourite hikes) we actually crossed the border into Montana but there was a huge mountain range preventing any ‘illegal’ crossings 🙂

    I would love to get to Glacier NP one day. The Highline Trail looks amazing. Thanks for sharing your photographs!

    Like

  16. denisediscovers November 3, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Awe-inspiring photos! It’s sad to hear about the glaciers disappearing, and a bit scary too, thinking about climate change.

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      Scary indeed. Mother Nature, as they say, bats last and she always bats 1,000. Best not to piss her off.

      Like

  17. Pat Bailey November 3, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Brian, thank you so much for this post. We had contemplated visiting Glacier when we were in the Canadian Rockies but we were running out of time. It was a bit too far off our path. I really enjoyed seeing it through your lens and it is on our “to do” list now.

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      We had the same issue – contemplated getting up to the Canadian Rockies but we were running out of warm weather and it was a bit too far to go. Next time, I guess.

      Like

      • Pat Bailey November 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

        I’m a little older than you and am wondering if my life span is long enough for all the “next times” I have accumulated. 🙂 But until “next time” I am so happy I have found so many talented bloggers.

        Like

        • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

          That may well be true, but how sad it would be to have plenty of life left and nothing remaining on the wish list.

          Like

  18. RedRoadDiaries November 3, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Glacier was a favorite spot to visit, it is sad the crown is losing its jewels due to climate change…We got another wake up call this week in the northeast, perhaps this will spur some action (I can dream can’t I?)

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      We can certainly dream. But unfortunately we awaken to an entire presidential election season where the issue wasn’t raised once by either side. Seems like a huge step backwards from even four years ago.

      Like

  19. Debra Kolkka November 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Amazing! I love the goat.

    Like

    • Brian November 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      The mountain goats were highlights of ours too.

      Like

  20. IshitaUnblogged November 4, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    Your adventures are so overwhelmingly exciting… do you actually revisit a place or is it everywhere once?

    Like

    • Brian November 4, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      It’s mostly (but not entirely) “Everywhere Once.” I generally feel that revisiting a place is a missed opportunity to go somewhere new. A few places are evergreen, though. Paris comes to mind. We’ll be back there again and again. On our eventual trip back east we’re looking forward to hitting New Orleans and Key West again, too. But that list of places is pretty short.

      Like

      • IshitaUnblogged November 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

        Absolutely agreed on the ‘missed opportunity’ part. But then again some places demand a revisit!

        Like

  21. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad) November 4, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    It looks amazing – the colours and the fresh air! Gorgeous 🙂

    Like

  22. Allie November 5, 2012 at 2:27 am #

    Absolutely gorgeous!!

    Like

  23. Arizona girl November 11, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    What a beautiful place! We still haven’t managed to make it up that far… Thanks for sharing the pictures and providing a little inspiration!

    Like

    • Brian November 11, 2012 at 10:19 am #

      Thanks, as always, for following along and sharing your insights.

      Like

  24. cityoftheweek November 16, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    woooow, amazing shots! just got a thirst for a new adventure! 🙂

    Like

  25. 26dot2withToddler December 18, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    I spent a summer working at Many Glacier Hotel. Best summer ever and GNP is my #1 favorite place. As always, stunning photos.

    Like

  26. Sally Martin May 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Hi Brian. We are on a road trip (9 months so far), summering in Newfoundland/NovaScotia/Labrador (www.zippitygoglobal.com)
    We expect to hit Waterton/Glacier in the Fall. Coming from the East side, what is the ideal route to “see it all”? Thanks for your feedback. We are enjoying your photos a lot.

    Like

  27. gallivance.net July 2, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Glacier truly is a beautiful park Brian, and your photos are gorgeous! The Going to the Sun Road is a drive I’ll never forget. We camped there last summer and had similar mountain goat sightings, but our most memorable animal encounters were the freeloader mice we picked up in our camper. 🙂 ~Terri

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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