GLACIER PARK ITINERARY - 7 Days
Please Note: This 7-day itinerary travels exclusively within Glacier National Park and does not include Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.
Day 1: Kalispell, Montana
Arrive in Kalispell and transfer to our hotel in nearby Whitefish, where our Glacier National Park tour begins with a welcome dinner this evening.
Days 2 & 3: Glacier National Park—Two Medicine Valley
This morning we drive east to Glacier National Park, commencing our foray into one of the United States' most treasured natural landscapes, where glacially carved valleys and dramatic mountain peaks beckon. Glacier boasts the most intact natural ecosystem left in the lower 48 states, and we'll have abundant opportunity to view many of the species that call it home, including the mountain goat, the park's emblematic animal. We learn about the Lewis Overthrust fault and the region's tumultuous geological history, studied by scientists from around the world.
A boat cruise on Two Medicine Lake reveals Glacier's sweeping grandeur as we glide across the jade-green waters to reach the trailhead for our hike into Two Medicine Valley. Situated on the eastern edge of the park, the valley borders the Blackfeet Indian reservation. As we walk through winding valley, once an important site for sacred Native American rituals, we admire the multicolored rock layers on the mountain walls. While our hike is moderate in grade, the breathtaking beauty of the sheer cliffs and mountain peaks surrounding us offers scenic rewards usually reserved for more strenuous efforts. We keep our eyes open for the great array of wildlife frequently seen here. Moose, elk and deer graze on tall green grasses and wildflowers in sunny meadows, while grizzlies, black bears, coyotes, wolves and mountain lions seek refuge from the summer heat in shady aspen groves. We may also spot bald eagles, which share Glacier's intensely blue skies with a wide variety of other bird species. In fact, up to 230 distinct bird communities call this mix of aspen, prairie, and coniferous forest home, and their many different calls and songs provide a delightful backdrop to our day in the valley.
We stay at majestic Glacier Park Lodge, one of the country's most famous national park hotels. Built by the Great Northern Railway in 1913 to attract visitors to the park's wonders, the hotel's grand lobby features log pillars more than 40 feet high and 40 inches in diameter, crafted from Douglas fir trees hundreds of years old. The Blackfoot Indians, awed by the size of the timbers, called it Omahkoyis
, or 'Big Tree Lodge.'
Days 4 & 5: Glacier National Park—Many Glacier Valley
At Many Glacier, we enter one of the park's iconic valleys. Scoured into a broad U-shape by rivers of ice that retreated some 10,000 years ago, Many Glacier features granite crags, waterfalls glissading from icy ledges high above, and alpine lakes set like gems in the rocky backdrop. We readily see why the Blackfeet gave the name 'Backbone of the World' to the greater Glacier Park ecosystem. Keep an eye out for black bears and grizzlies feeding among the bushes in avalanche chutes, mountain goats and bighorn sheep perched on cliffs, and elk grazing in the meadows. Many Glacier Hotel, where we spend the night, was built in 1915 as a grand Swiss-style chalet meant to complement its setting in the 'American Alps,' in the vision of the rail barons who constructed it. It sits regally on the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake, overlooking a panorama of crenellated peaks. Walks, hikes and boat rides take us right into the natural environs and close to an active glacier, an experience that future visitors may be less likely to have as global climate change hastens the melting of the park's permanent ice features.
Day 6: Glacier National Park—Going-to-the-Sun Road / Lake McDonald
An engineering marvel completed in 1932, Going-to-the-Sun Road twists and climbs around Glacier's granite spine all the way to the Continental Divide. Waterfall spray creates rainbows as streams pour off rock precipices, while serrated peaks poke the blue sky. On the summit at Logan Pass, we wander trails through alpine tundra thick with white bear grass and avalanche lilies, listening for the whistle of marmots darting among the rocks. Cresting the divide, we descend to the wetter west side of the park, where thick forests of fir and cedar hug the mountain flanks and fern and mosses grow in their shadows. At Lake McDonald Lodge, another historic hostelry evocative of Swiss alpine architecture, there's time to relax in front of the soaring stone fireplace and muse on the week's wonders.
Day 7: Kalispell / Depart
This morning our Glacier National Park trip concludes as we get an early start back to Kalispell for flights home.