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Glacier National Park: A Natural Treasure

A Small-Group Guided Journey Through the Scenic Splendor and Wild Wonders of Glacier
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 retreat 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 across Two Medicine Lake reveals the grandeur that is Glacier as we glide across its sapphire waters. Later, we hike through winding Two Medicine Valley, bright with multicolored rock layers on the mountain walls and once a site for sacred Native American rituals. Our accommodations are at remarkable Glacier Park Lodge & Resort. Built by the Great Northern Railway in 1913 to attract visitors to the park’s wonders, the hotel lobby features log pillars over 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: 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. Our hotel, built in 1915, is 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: 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 / Home
This morning our Glacier National Park trip concludes as we get an early start back to Kalispell for flights home.



WATERTON LAKES ITINERARY


Day 1: Arrive 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.

Please note: If you are arriving prior to Day 1, you will need to make your own transportation arrangements to Grouse Mountain Lodge. Shuttle arrangements must be made at least 24 hours in advance and can be booked by calling Flathead-Glacier Transportation Co. at (406) 892-3390 or (800) 829-7039.

Day 2: Glacier National Park
This morning we drive east to Glacier National Park, commencing our retreat 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.

The next two nights we will stay at Glacier Park Lodge, an historic hotel located just two miles east of the park. Built in 1912–13 out of logs cut from cedar and Douglas fir trees that were 500 to 800 years old, the lodge is commonly referred to as the “Big Tree Hotel.” This magnificent property, steeped in the history and culture of the Great Northern Railway and the Blackfeet Indians, is nestled at the foot of Squaw Peak Mountain, providing a wonderful home base from which we can explore. The lodge has lovely gardens, a reading room, and a heated, outdoor pool, all with spectacular mountain views.

Day 3: Two Medicine Valley
Today we visit Two Medicine Valley, an area rich in Native American history. The valley, situated at the eastern edge of the park, borders the Blackfeet Indian reservation to the east. Our exploration begins with a scenic boat ride across Two Medicine Lake to reach the trailhead for our hike.

While our hike is moderate in grade, the breathtaking beauty of sheer cliffs and mountain peaks will surround us, placing us amidst awe-inspiring scenery usually reserved for the highest altitudes. We will keep our eyes peeled for the spectacular array of wildlife that is 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 majestic bald eagles, which share 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 magical backdrop to our day in the valley.

Days 4 & 5: Waterton Lakes National Park
We head north and spend the next two days exploring Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. As Glacier’s sister park, Waterton shares a border with Glacier and, in 1932, these parks became the first-ever International Peace Park. What better way to complement our experience than to stay at the historic Prince of Wales Hotel, while learning about the area’s rich cultural and natural history. Like the grand hotels of Glacier, the Prince of Wales was a pet project of James Hill—his architectural theme represented well in this unique structure—and its location is beyond compare.

The park itself is a continuation of Glacier’s impressive landscape, and opportunities abound for us to explore this less-visited region. We may stroll around the quaint town site, where deer and sheep often graze upon the lawns, or stretch our legs on one of the incredible trails in the area. Weather permitting, we may enjoy a cruise on beautiful Waterton Lake and an easy hike into Glacier’s more remote wilderness.

Days 6 & 7: Many Glacier Valley
With cameras ready, we enter one of the park’s iconic valleys: Many Glacier. 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.

Built in 1915, our accommodation for the night will take you back to a bygone era. The world-renowned Many Glacier Hotel is a Swiss, chalet-style lodge perched on the shores of Swift Current Lake. The location offers spectacular views of rolling valleys and towering rocky mountains, validating the region’s name as “The Switzerland of North America.” 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 8: Going-to-the-Sun Road
Few roads on earth offer the spectacular scenery that we will experience on Going-to-the- Sun Road. An engineering marvel completed in 1932, it twists and climbs around Glacier’s granite spine all the way to the Continental Divide, as glacier-carved valleys and mirrored lakes delight the eyes. En route, we will search the forests and open spaces for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and hoary marmots, stopping to view the wildlife as it appears. 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 9: Return to Kalispell / Departure
This morning our Glacier National Park trip concludes as we get an early start back to Kalispell to meet our departing afternoon flights.

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