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Glacier National Park

TravelWhitney CarlsonComment
 Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean

Trip Date: September 2013

I must admit that I am having Montana withdrawals already!  I have never felt so strongly about a state before.  However, it was one of the three states that I always picked when playing M.A.S.H. when I was younger.  The other two were Wyoming and Maine.  The reason that I picked these states as a kid is because of the populations.  Someone once told me that Montana had more cows than people so it has always been my favorite state even though this was my first time traveling there.  We did stay in Jackson, Wyoming during our visit to the Tetons and I could live in Wyoming but I would still prefer Montana.

One of the best things of all was that we rarely had any cell service.  It was fantastic.

 Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean

Our trip was more than I could ever even attempt to describe.  I will break it into different posts that I can talk more about the hikes themselves but overall we hiked over 140 miles with an elevation gain of over 25,000 feet.  We were gone for 13 days, 11 of those days were hiking, 2 of those days were for driving to and from the airport.  We were in four different states and visited three different National Parks.  We put 2,800 miles on our poor rental car!  We had actually planned on hiking 160 miles but thunderstorms prevented us from completing a few of our hikes.

This was the basic outline of our trip:

  • Aug 31
    • Flew from ATL to SLC
    • Drove from SLC to Missoula, MT
  • Sept 1 – 5
    • Hiked over 60 miles in Glacier National Park (MT)
  • Sept 6 – 10
  • Sept 11
    • Hiked over 19 miles in Grand Teton National Park (WY)
  • Sept 12
    • Drove from Jackson, WY to Logan, UT
  • Sept 13
    • Drove from Logan, UT to SLC
    • Flew from SLC to ATL

These are not technical reviews – just my opinion and favorite parts!  This was a trip of a lifetime and well worth the 2 lost toenails.  A trip like this would have never happened if we hadn’t taken a HUGE step/risk back in May when I left my “day job”.  Now, on to the review {awesome pictures}!

Our Glacier National Park Recap:
Glacier Totals: 62.4 miles & elevation gain of 10,600 ft

Day 1 – Drive up from Missoula, MT & Lower Quartz Lake (7 miles, 1,100′)
Day 2 – Highline to Swiftcurrent Lookout and Pass (19.6 miles, 3,500′)
Day 3 – Grinnell Glacier (12 miles, 1,800′)
Day 4 – Pitamakin-Dawson Loop (19 miles, 3,500′)
Day 5 – Avalanche Lake (4.8 miles, 700′) & drive to Gardiner, MT

Scott spent a lot of time planning our hikes and our cabins.  I swear he picked out the MOST STRENUOUS hikes he could for each park.  These books helped with our planning: Glacier Day Hikes & A Ranger’s Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes. Also, this is an amazing website to check out if you are going to Yellowstone!

We flew from Atlanta to Salt Lake City.  We had to wake up at 3:30 AM in order to make our flight out of Atlanta at 6:00 AM (we live about an hour outside of Atlanta).  We boarded a plane to Salt Lake City, stopping for a layover in Houston.  We actually booked our plane tickets before we even knew exactly where we would be going for our trip because they were such a great deal and we knew we were going out west.  Anyway, after landing in SLC we stocked up at Costco on the way to Missoula, MT.  It was a seven hour drive but it was SO BEAUTIFUL.  We drove through Utah, Idaho, and Montana.  By the time we got to Missoula we were starving because there was NO FOOD {literally} on the way (we had to munch on the trail mix and beef jerky we bought from Costco for our hikes).  Once we got to Missoula, we went to The Good Food Store and bought a rotisserie chicken, quinoa salad, and kale salad and dug in at the store (it is kind of like a Whole Foods so there was a place to sit down and eat).  I felt really weird cutting up and picking at a whole rotisserie chicken but I was to the point where I didn’t care!  After eating we went to the hotel and crashed.

Day 1 – Drive up from Missoula, MT & Lower Quartz Lake (7 miles, 1,100′)

Sunday morning we woke up and headed out for Hungry Horse, MT where we were staying in a VRBO cabin.  The drive to Hungry Horse was absolutely breathtaking too!  We drove through Flathead Valley & by the lake.  After arriving at our cabin we quickly unpacked and headed to Glacier National Park for a quick “warm up” hike since we didn’t have enough time for the hike we had scheduled.  We did Lower Quartz Lake which I honestly wasn’t impressed with.  I actually ended up jogging (with a full backpack on) down most of the trail on the way back to try and get off the mountain faster!  However, the drive to the hike was definitely something to talk about!  It was a vary narrow (basically one way road), but with cars going each direction, for miles up a mountain.  Everyone had been telling us to go to the Polebridge Mercantile and get some of their baked goods. We didn’t really know what to expect…I mean, a bakery is a bakery, right?! WRONG! OMG!  We got a few of their huckleberry bars which were to die for.  It was a great choice for a “quick carb” after hiking!

 Polebridge Mercantile | He and She Eat Clean

Day 2 – Highline to Swiftcurrent Lookout and Pass (19.6 miles, 3,500′)

Monday was one of our big hikes.  It started out as Highline to Swiftcurrent Pass.  Highline was beautiful but also pretty flat for the most part which gets boring to me.  It was also very crowded at the beginning of the trail.  We took Highline up to the Chalet, which was absolutely stunning. The entire time we could see the Chalet in the distance I kept saying it looked like we were in a Christmas card!  When we got to the Chalet we had a few people tell us that we should hike the overlook too. We had already hiked 7.5 miles so we thought why not just do an additional 1.2 miles?!?!  It turns out that 1.2 miles is an elevation gain of 2,400 feet!  Yes, 2,400 feet in 1.2 miles! We hiked up to the staffed fire lookout where we noticed storm clouds rolling in.  We very quickly made our way off the lookout trail and onto the trail to Swiftcurrent Pass. It started sprinkling on us once we got down but nothing too serious.  Then it really started raining.  We put our rain gear on and trudged forward.  As we were walking down the mountain we spotted a moose.  I was so excited because we didn’t get to see a moose in Colorado when we went last year and I have always had a fascination with them!  After a few miles of getting down off the mountain (in the pouring rain), a very pretty and flat trail started.

This is a picture of the chalet off in the distance that we hiked to.

 Chalet in Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean

Below is a picture looking up from the trail to the overlook – I still can’t believe we thought that was a good idea…

 Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean

After this hike we actually had a cabin reserved in the park so that we didn’t have to drive 2 hours back to our normal cabin. I felt like I was back at camp when I was a kid – the cabin didn’t have a bathroom inside, only a shared bathroom that you had to walk to.  Thankfully we were only there for one night and we were too tired to care!

Day 3 – Grinnell Glacier (12 miles, 1,800′)

We woke up on the 3rd day to tackle Grinnell Glacier.  My feet were hurting me by now.  I made the mistake of not wearing hiking socks on the first day so I had blisters all over my feet but I didn’t want to miss anything so I wrapped them and kept going.  This hike 12 miles and you basically hike into a glacier.  It was stunning but very cold!  It also started raining on us again but we were able to see a moose (up close) & bighorn sheep!

 Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean
 Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean
 Moose in Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean

Day 4 – Pitamakin-Dawson Loop (19 miles, 3,500′)

Yes, 19 miles. Everyone we met on the trail were amazed that we were doing this as a day hike.  This hike was my favorite hike in Glacier.  It was absolutely beautiful at the top.  We went counter-clockwise (we did the Pitamakin side first).  After getting through the forest the climb started.  It was basically straight up and very difficult.  There was one section where it was straight up, without any switchbacks.  I told Scott that I was not going to stop – I wanted to climb the whole way without stopping.  I did it – climbed for 8 minutes (probably a 20% incline) without stopping until we made it to the top!  I didn’t think that Glacier National Park could get any prettier but it took our breath away!  It was unbelievable.  We spent a few minutes taking it all in and then continued our trek around and back down.  Part of this portion of the hike was pretty scary considering some of the ledges you walk on are very narrow with just a huge cliff on the other side! On the way down we saw a black bear, about 75 feet away from us.  We both had bear spray (geez…expensive stuff!) and I really wanted to see a black bear and grizzly bear but once we stumbled upon him I was kind of scared!  He was just eating plants and didn’t seem very interested in us!  After finishing this hike we headed back to our cabin to back up and head out to Yellowstone after our final hike in Glacier the next morning.

Day 5 – Avalanche Lake (4.8 miles, 700′)

We only had half a day to finish up any hiking before leaving Glacier and heading to Yellowstone.  Scott had a short hike that he wanted to do so that he could get some good pictures.  We started at the Trail of the Cedars, which was very pretty but crowded because it’s easy.  We finish up that trail and then, of course, Scott wants to add to our hike so we trek on up to Avalanche Lake. Once we got about a mile from the car it started pouring so we were sprinting to the car since we didn’t have our rain gear with us for this short hike.  We left Glacier for Gardiner, MT!

 Avalanche Lake | Glacier National Park

I came across this picture of the AMAZING huckleberry pie we had from Luna's Restaurant outside of Glacier.

 Huckleberry Pie from Luna's Restaurant outside of Glacier National Park | He and She Eat Clean

Items Packed:

– Whitney