Glacier National Park, Montana
The Great Road Trip of 2015
(*Text taken and compiled from NPS.gov.*)
“Known to Native Americans as the “Shining Mountains” and the “Backbone of the World”, Glacier National Park preserves more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The landscape is a hiker’s paradise that is traversed by more than 740 miles of maintained trails.
Glacier National Park’s varied climate influences and its location at the headwaters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Hudson Bay drainages have given rise to an incredible variety of plants and animals. Its diverse habitats are home to nearly 70 species of mammals including the grizzly bear, wolverine, gray wolf and lynx. Over 270 species of birds visit or reside in the park, including such varied species as harlequin ducks, dippers and golden eagles.
The park is named for its prominent glacier-carved terrain and remnant glaciers descended from the ice ages of 10,000 years past. Bedrock and deposited materials exposed by receding glaciers tell a story of ancient seas, geologic faults and uplifting, and the movement of giant slabs of the earth’s ancient crust overlaying younger strata. The result of these combined forces is some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet.
In 1932 Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park, across the border in Canada, were designated Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This designation celebrates the longstanding peace and friendship between the two nations. Both parks have since been designated International Biosphere Reserves and together were recognized in 1995 as a World Heritage Site. Clearly this resource is deserving of world-class recognition.”
“Most people visit Glacier National Park because of its scenery. The combination of vertical, glacier-scoured banded mountains, pristine turquoise lakes and streams, dense ancient forests and an unrivaled assemblage of plants and animals makes superlatives inadequate. Glacier is big, wild, majestic, awesome, and spectacular, but visitors seeing it for the first time — when their open mouths begin working again — often say something profound, like “wow”.
Glacier Park has glaciers, of course. A few can be seen from roads, tucked into cirque amphitheaters. Their blue ice and crevasses distinguish them from the hundreds of snowfields above timberline. They, and the colored bands of rock striping the mountains, remind us of the park’s antiquity, and perhaps our own origins.
Getting behind the scenery requires hiking some of the 747 miles of trails in Glacier. The deeper we walk into Glacier, both literally and figuratively, the more interesting and fascinating it becomes. From putting our noses close to tiny insect-eating sundews in the wetland fens, to beaver-watching at dusk in the east-side aspenlands, to startling as a ptarmigan explodes from an alpine willow thicket, to watching groups of black swifts emerge from their nests at dusk from behind raging waterfalls, the word is still “wow”.
Add to that the probability that wolves, cougars, lynx, wolverines, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, moose and grizzly bears watch us from their hidden places most of the time — sometimes we get to watch them back — and hair refuses to lie down on our necks.
Glacier’s permanent inhabitants probably don’t take the park for granted either. Occasionally a Clark’s nutcracker, moving from whitebark pine seed-gathering at timberline to one of its thousands of burying spots, goes into a dive down a narrow canyon. It loops at the bottom of the dive and its wings roar. It sounds much like “wow”.”