July 2018

Well, tell us how your trip went. We all want to hear about your special experience.

Moderators: Kathy, Tara

July 2018

Postby al_in_al » Sun Jul 29, 2018 7:50 pm

I was in the park July 18-25 this year for my sixth annual trip. I brought R with me again for his 2nd trip, and this year he was able to complete all the hikes I planned! This was earlier than almost all of my trips to the park, and I really enjoyed the great wildflower meadows!

Some quick notes first:

- Bugs were BAD this year. One ranger said it was pretty unusual. I always take bug spray with me, but this is the first time I’ve used it every day (mostly in vain, because it didn’t deter the flies). Worst was probably the Iceberg Lake trail - in the afternoon, the bugs didn’t let up for miles. And bees - lots of bees that eventually scared us away from every mountain pass we tried to relax at.

- There were a few snow field crossings on some of the trails, but none that I attempted seemed too dangerous. I was worried about the "big snow", but everything seemed to be melting out on schedule, as far as I could tell. Trails were dry and getting to the super dusty conditions we experienced last year. Looks like it might have rained some after we left, which might have helped.

- The camp stores no longer sell beer singles! This was pretty disappointing, as I like to relax with a beer on my balcony/porch in the evenings, but can’t keep a six pack cool for multiple days. I could get a beer from the lounge at Many Glacier, but was out of luck at Apgar and Rising Sun.


Wednesday

We arrived at FCA around 3:30pm, about 1.5 hours late because we had to wait for our arriving plane. Our rental car was through Dollar (offsite), and pickup was fast and easy. First stop was the Super 1, second stop was the Glacier Distilling Company (R and I both really like their North Fork whiskey and went for their big bottles to bring home this year). We also decided to eat dinner at Josephine’s Bar and Kitchen just up the hill. They have a small menu (casual, order at the counter), but the food is good, and they have interesting drink options using the distillery offerings.

We entered the park around 6pm, no line, and checked into our room at Apgar Village Inn. We had the option to drive up to Logan Pass for a short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook, but decided to pass and relax outside the room since our flight had been later than expected.

Image


Thursday - Firebrand Pass

We were up early to be first in line for breakfast at Eddie's when they opened at 7am. Service was great and very fast this year. I was offered a to-go coffee, which I thought was very nice (had to decline as I don’t want too much of a good thing before a long hike).

We took Highway 2 from West Glacier to the trailhead at False Summit. This felt like my first time on Hwy 2 since the only other time I drove it was in 2015 during the fires, with pilot cars driving through the areas that had been closed the day before. The views are pleasant and the drive is easy, but it doesn’t compare to the GTTSR.

We arrived to two other cars at the trailhead. One appeared to be backpackers, since we didn’t see them on the trail, and the other was a Glacier Institute bus, which looked like a guided hike of about 8 people who started out just before us. We started at 9:05 am, and it didn’t take too long for us to overtake the group and have the trail to ourselves.

Image

I really enjoyed this hike. There were several spots of overgrown trail that weren’t that pleasant (was glad to be wearing pants for sure). There were also two snowfields in the middle section of the trail that were easy to cross. The trail status hadn’t been updated for awhile, so I wasn’t sure what to expect since it still indicated dangerous snowfields. Really enjoyed the scenery once the pass came into view.

Image

There was a steep snowfield right before the pass, and I was worried that we would have to turn around there, but as we approached, there was a very obvious path in the scree that went below the snowfield and up to the pass. It was very convenient and definitely worth it to make it up to the pass for the gorgeous views.

Image

Image

We hung out at the pass as long as we could stand the bees before heading back. One solo hiker had joined us there (and the guided group), and we passed another on our way down the trail. So about 12 dayhikers on the trail that day - great option to escape the crowds if you want a longer hike.

No wildlife sightings to speak of on the trail that day.

Of course, we headed to Serrano’s in East Glacier Park for dinner. We got there pretty early and had to wait until the opened at 5:00, but it wasn’t too bad, gave us time to cool down and chat with other visitors.

Drove back to Apgar to check in again and watch another sunset. I just love the rooms here (though the wifi was quite bad this year).

Image


Friday - Piegan Pass

Since we had to end up in Canada this evening, R chose the Piegan Pass hike to do on our way there. We decided to go with the ranger, because why not.

On the way, we stopped at Lake McDonald Lodge for their buffet breakfast, which was quick and easy. On the drive up the GTTSR, I noticed plenty of parking still available at the Loop pre-8am. We also made a stop at Logan Pass to use the bathroom before hitting the trail - we arrived around 8am, and there were still spaces to be found. By 8:20 when we left, the lot was full, and a circling car got our spot. There was still plenty of parking available at Siyeh Bend in the 8:30-9:00 time frame, though a lot of people were parking there to shuttle back to Logan Pass.

The ranger hike started at 9 am, and after some introductions, we were hiking by 9:07. There were 8 of us on the hike - 4 adults and 4 kids, which isn’t a bad size for a ranger-led group (the ones in Many Glacier draw much larger crowds). While the trail was more crowded than Firebrand Pass, it’s definitely quieter than the more popular trails.

There were still three snowfields on the trail - the one right at the trailhead was definitely undercut and I was careful crossing it - in fact a portion of it has collapsed by the time we returned in the afternoon. The second 2 were close to the pass and easy to cross.

Image

We saw a couple of bighorn sheep in the valley after we emerged from the tree section, and a bunch of marmots at the pass.

Image

We were warned by all the passing hikers about how incredibly windy it was at the pass, which it was, but I felt it was overhyped. We crossed the pass and sat in the wind to eat our lunches and watch the marmots. I had done this hike in 2016 as a one-way down to Many Glacier, and I didn't take many pictures this day because the views were nicer back then.

We were off the trail around 3:00, and headed to Two Sisters Cafe for early dinner. Score - not crowded this early! They recently expanded their dining room, but haven’t added more tables yet. We ate, and got milkshakes to go for our drive to Canada.

Crossed the border around 5:00, got right through, no cars in line. Once in Waterton, we went right to the boat dock to purchase our Crypt Lake shuttle tickets for the next day (they don’t do online sales). We went for the earliest departure, and they made us select our return time in advance - we picked 5:30, because 4:00 sounded pretty “sporty”.

We checked into the Bear Mountain Motel (cheap and adequate - and free town wifi worked well) and had an early night.


Saturday - Crypt Lake

We walked to breakfast a Pearl’s Cafe, which moved (next door?) from the last time I was there. They were one of the few places I could verify would be open at 7am. It’s a small place, but food and coffee were good.

We checked out of the motel and parked at the boat dock. There was a long line for tickets, but since we already had ours, we walked right on to the boat at 8:15 am for the 8:30 departure. It was quite a large boat, and it was full when we left. Even if they sold out, there was another departure 30 minutes later.

Image

The ride to the trailhead was short. On the way, there was commentary about some of our surroundings, helpful tips for the hike and boat return, and lots of Canadian jokes. Since it was a busy Saturday, they said it was likely that the return boat would run continuously from 4-5:30, which was great.

When they let us off at the trailhead, I used the pit toilet and we took our time getting ready, letting most of the crowd go out ahead of us since we knew we’d be slow. We started at 8:56 am, and quickly gained altitude in the tree-lined switchback section.

Image

The following “flat” section was not - it turned out to be rolling up and down, but still a little bit of a break. Unfortunately we ended up with a group traveling at about the same rate as us. They make frequent stops where we would pass, then they would hike fast and pass us again. We tried in vain to let them get ahead of us, but we were doomed to hike with them for miles. When the switchbacks started again, the views opened up and were really enjoyable. We were able to see the tunnel at a distance and watch the crowds back up there.

Image

Luckily, we made it to the ladder-tunnel-cable section when there was no line. Ladder and tunnel were fun (tunnel was a little easier on the way back when I took off my pack and carried it in front of me), but the cable section was a little scary for me - it was short, so ultimately not bad at all. We did encounter return hikers on the cable section - I refused to let go, and they were fine going around!

Image

Image

At the lake, we sought out a place in the shade to rest and enjoy. We did end up moving to the sun when it got cold. We saw some people across the lake jumping from rocks. And a group getting in the water at the head of the lake that was annoyingly loud. I would have liked to have walked all the way around the lake, but we were running short on our 2pm deadline to start our return.

Image

We didn’t see any wildlife on the hike - I assume the massive amount of people on the trail scared anything away.

We made it back to the boat dock at about 4:50 - perfect timing for the 5pm boat, and even being at the end of the line we made it on. After a quick shuttle back to town, we headed to Weiners of Waterton for a quick dinner, and then headed back to the states. Again, no line at the border crossing, and no trouble coming back.

Image

Our next two nights were in a lakeside balcony room at Many Glacier. We arrived to a herd of bighorn sheep in the road right between the hotel and the parking lot. They were just passing through - it took longer for all the people who were watching to clear the road so we could go through.

As “luck” would have it, we got the exact same room we had last year (#258)! My only problem with it is that it’s right near the stairs, and they are so creaky you can’t help sounding like an elephant even with normal walking. It kept me awake last year, but I slept through any noise this year.


Sunday - Apikuni Falls

Finally, a day to sleep in! (After a quick sunrise shot from the balcony.)

Image

We had the buffet breakfast in the Ptarmigan Dining Room and had a lazy morning. Around 10am, we decided to head over to the Apikuni Falls trailhead, where there was still an available spot or two to park. This was a new-to-me hike, and I really enjoyed the flower meadow at the start.

Image

On the way up there were several nice viewpoints.

Image

The hike was very hot (especially given that the day’s high temp was supposed to be in the mid-60s), and I quickly shed my long sleeves.

Once you reach the nice viewpoint of the falls, the hike turns into a little bit of a scramble. There are a couple of spots to climb up, and the path is harder to see, but it doesn’t take very long to get up to the base of the falls.

Image

We cooled off in the spray before heading back down the trail. We did encounter people on this short hike, but I wouldn’t call it crowded.

Image

Image

We headed back to Many Glacier at noon, which of course was a mistake because the parking lot was full. We circled, but didn’t find anyone leaving, so we backtracked to the Many Glacier Road, and parked in gravel alongside the road. It wasn’t a big deal - we knew we could move the car back to the lot later.

We ate lunch in the lounge (definitely less crowded than I expected for prime lunch time - plenty of seats and we had fairly fast service), and then headed out to the boat dock to grab a rental. There are no lists or reservations - you can rent whatever is available when you walk up. There were some single kayaks, a canoe, and a rowboat - we chose the canoe. We spent an hour paddling around the lake. We saw some deer playing on the shore, and watched a grizzly and three cubs up on the hillside nearby - we had a nice close vantage point from the lake.

After we were done canoeing, we cleaned up and sat in the lobby (needed a break from the sun, and I tried and failed at using the internet for anything more than looking at the trail status update for the day). We had seats by a window that gave us a great view of the grizzly and cubs, and we watched them slowly make their way down towards the road. We could see people stopping to watch, and we could tell a ranger was monitoring the situation. Apparently I never tried to take pictures of the bears. Oh well. I didn't take any pictures of the bears near Rising Sun either.

We headed to dinner at ‘Nell’s at Swiftcurrent, and were stopped on the way by the ranger - it sounded like they were keeping people off a section of the road because they were waiting for the bears to cross (this was second hand from the visitor in the car at the front of the line). But I don’t think they ever did - after a few minutes, they let cars through again. It was still early (5 or 5:30), and we were immediately seated at ‘Nells. Also PLENTY of parking at Swiftcurrent - way more than I expected. Enjoyed the food here, though I do miss some of the items that were on previous menus (especially the pizzas - they only have large ones now, and they used to have individual sized). R wanted pizza, but I didn’t, so I promised we’d go to Rising Sun Pizza later in the week.

After dinner, we took a stroll to Fishercap Lake. Indeed there was a moose in the lake. Pretty well submerged, but we watched her eat for a while. Every time she went underwater to grab a mouthful of food, she would smack her head against the water. I say she because there were reportedly babies in the woods nearby, but we didn't see them.

Image

Image

When we returned to Many Glacier (no problem finding a spot in the lot in the evening), we went to the Jack Gladstone evening program. This was my first time seeing him perform, and I enjoyed it. We walked outside after to see the last bit of sunset and then back to our room.

Image

We were shocked to see people on our shared balcony - it’s the first time we actually saw someone out there. We were ready for bed, so we didn’t intend to go outside anyway.

Image


Monday - Iceberg Lake

I woke up early and walked along the lake for sunrise - hoping for some clouds but it was basically the same scene as the previous morning.

Image

Instead of bothering with the dining room, we got breakfast sandwiches and coffee from Heidi’s snack shop at 6:30 when they opened, and ate breakfast on our balcony. We finished packing, checked out, and headed to the Iceberg Lake trailhead. Lots of parking left in the small lot. I've done the hike before (R had not), but was hoping for lots of icebergs in the lake by going early. For some reason, I find it hard to get too excited about this hike.

We started just before 8am - our main goal was to get in front of the ranger-led group at 8:30. We saw a few people on the trail, but it was relatively uncrowded and made for a nice walk in the morning.

Image

Apparently, the Iceberg Lake trail “didn’t get the memo” on beargrass last year, because we saw a few sections with nice blooms.

Image

Image

There was probably a medium amount of icebergs in the lake. More than I'd seen on my late August hikes, but less than I was hoping for.

Image

We found a set of rocks away from most of the people (still could hear and see the attempts to get on an iceberg by other visitors), and watched the clear water and the surrounding cliffs for animals (didn’t notice any).

Image

We left the lake when more of the crowds started to show up. Lots of hikers to pass on the trail out. We saw a couple who told us they had seen a moose nearby, but it had apparently gone into the trees, and we didn’t see it. The bugs were bad on the hike out, and encouraged us to move fast.

When we left Swiftcurrent, there were still some parking spots open in the main lot, so I was surprised to see a ranger enforcing traffic control at the Many Glacier entrance. There were cars lining the nearby pullouts waiting to be let in. At least they had a nice view. Sherburne Lake was exceptionally blue today, with a nice view up the MG Valley.

Since we were too early for Rising Sun Pizza (opens at 4:30), we stopped at Glacier’s Edge Cafe for lunch burritos a little after 2, before continuing on to Rising Sun Motor Inn, where we had our final 2 nights booked.

Since we finished the Iceberg hike so early, we headed up to Logan Pass for the trip to Hidden Lake Overlook, a must-do every time for me. Still busy up there just after 4pm, but we found a parking spot right away. There were still lots of people on the trail, and it was anything but a peaceful hike. There were still several small patches of snow to cross. None were dangerous, but I took my poles to help prevent falls anyway.

We saw more mountain goats than ever on the trail. Including at least 4 babies.

Image

Image

Image

The big one was taking a dirt bath.

Image

We also saw a group of bighorn sheep hanging out on a rocky slope - fairly well camouflaged if we hadn’t seen their heads and horns over a ridge.

Image

Image

We also saw a ptarmigan and babies.

Image

Image

The view of the lake was lovely. The trail down to the lake was closed for the seasonal fish spawning/bears, so unfortunately we couldn’t spread out along the trail and enjoy the views, so we headed back.

Image


Tuesday - Triple Divide Pass

We were up early again to be in line for the Two Dog Flats restaurant opening at 6:30am. They are so slow at seating customers first thing in the morning. Eventually we ordered, got our food, requested our check early, and were able to leave when we were done eating without too much of a wait.

We drove down to the Cut Bank road/entrance - this was my first time to this area, and it was a gorgeous drive in in the morning! The gravel road is slow going, and it narrows a little as you get closer to the campground/trailhead, but I didn’t mind it at all. We saw a red fox running along the road and stopped to give it space until it headed out into the meadow.

Image

Image

Image

I was worried about the small parking area at the trailhead, but there was lots of space when we arrived. We were on the trail just after 8:30 am. Right after we pulled up, a group of backpackers arrived and started getting ready. We left before them, and managed to stay ahead of them, and didn’t see anyone until right as we were approaching the pass.

The meadow at the beginning of the hike was absolutely beautiful.

Image

The early part of the hike alternated between trees and meadows and stream views. Lots of up and down - most of the total elevation gain is saved until after you pass the campground.

Image

At the trail split I presented R the option of hiking to Medicine Grizzly Lake instead, but he wanted to continue on to the pass. It’s a decent amount of elevation gain, and mostly in direct sun the whole way - it was hot, but once the views open up there are great views of the lake and waterfalls flowing into it.

Image

This might be the only shot I got that included Triple Divide Peak!

Image

You can’t see the pass until you get right up on it, which lends a bit of mystery to the hike. We arrived at the pass to a bunch of marmots (one started actually screaming, not just chirping as I sat down).

Image

Image

The wind started to get really gusty, so we retreated to the Atlantic drainage side. It was calmer when we were taking pictures at the pass before leaving.

Image

We sat eating lunch while watching a herd of sheep (including babies!), and protecting our packs from squirrels and marmots.

Image

Image

We didn’t have the pass to ourselves for long as 2 sets of backpackers arrived. The bees arrived, too, and we headed back down the trail. We only passed one set of dayhikers on the return, and later a couple who looked like they were taking a shorter walk from the campground.

We hit up Rising Sun Pizza for wings, pizza, and beer - I ate waaay too much, but think I earned it. We relaxed outside our room for the rest of the evening.

Image

Clouds started moving in, so I went out to take sunset pictures at Wild Goose Island Overlook.

Image

Image

Heading back to the hotel, the road was closed for a helicopter evacuation! I never heard what happened, but I was able to get back to the room in time to watch the helicopter take off and head for Kalispell.


Wednesday

I set my alarm to get up for sunrise, but everything was clouded over, so I went back to sleep. We slept in a bit, and headed to breakfast a little before 7:30am - service was much faster today. Our flight left at 12:42pm, so I targeted 8:30 to leave Rising Sun. Everything was completely clouded over up to Logan Pass (weird, the same thing happened the day we were leaving last year). We didn’t go in the parking lot, but it was probably full. Clouds lifted almost immediately after we crossed the divide - despite conditions on the east side, it probably was a great day to do the Highline because what remained of the clouds on the west side would have been really neat to watch from the trail.

Image

The Loop was packed when we passed (maybe 9:15am?) with a line waiting for the shuttle. When we arrived at Avalanche, we decided to take a short walk if we found an open parking spot. Everything was full, but we did luck into someone backing out. We took a brisk walk to the gorge and back before we ran out of time.

Image

We were stopped for construction twice on the west side - once just west of the west-side tunnel, and once just west of Avalanche. Each took a few minutes of waiting. We made it back to Dollar and on to the airport right on time.

We had a very successful trip this year!
al_in_al
 
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2014 7:13 am

Re: July 2018

Postby thorn726 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:20 am

Fantastic photos! nice report sounds like a great trip... we were there July 15-20 and did Piegan Pass on the 16th, we were mostly on the west side. looks like you saw a ton of wildlife love the fox photos.
User avatar
thorn726
 
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2018 1:17 am
Location: Berkeley, CA

Re: July 2018

Postby Marmotman » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:25 pm

I saw that same fox walk right by me 5 feet away on the 20th at the Cutbank parking lot. He just walked by like he owned the place.
User avatar
Marmotman
 
Posts: 319
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2009 1:09 pm
Location: Kalispell, MT

Re: July 2018

Postby llholmes1948 » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:38 am

What a great report and photos and thanks very much for posting them. Sounds like things were busy at times but they didn't seem to interfere with your visit that much. It is good to see reports on Firebrand Pass and Triple Divide Pass which don't get much traffic. How many miles is Triple Divide and about how long does it take to do that hike?

Good to see a good review on Eddie's at Apgar. Some of the reviews a couple of years ago were not good. Thanks for your comments on the dining.

I take it that the ranger-led hike to Piegan Pass is an out and back from Siyeh Bend. I think that would be fine. I have done the whole hike from Siyeh Bend to Many Glacier (and I wouldn't be adverse to doing it again) but I found the portion between Piegan Pass and Many Glacier to be kind of uninteresting except for views of the two waterfalls (Morning Eagle and Feather Plume). When I hiked that section years ago there was a lot of high dense growth along that section of the trail after you descended from the Pass and headed toward Many Glacier and you really couldn't see that much. I think I did it in August and that section was hot and dusty.

Thanks,
Lyman
llholmes1948
Donator
Donator
 
Posts: 4930
Joined: Sun May 20, 2007 8:48 pm
Location: Maine

Re: July 2018

Postby al_in_al » Tue Jul 31, 2018 1:15 pm

Thanks for the comments!

The fox reminded me of a coyote from my first visit - it was running along the road around the Two Dog Flats area, and I saw it multiple days on my trip.

Triple Divide Pass was 14.6 miles and took us 8 hours (we're a little slow going uphill).

Yes, the ranger hike was an out-and-back to Piegan Pass. When I did the one-way to Many Glacier two years ago it was August, but it had snowed some the night before, and there was a nice dusting on the mountain tops that really enhanced the view. I remember enjoying the upper Piegan-to-Many side until we hit the tree part (I don't remember high growth, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any). The downhill portion really got to my legs that time.
al_in_al
 
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2014 7:13 am

Re: July 2018

Postby PeteE » Tue Jul 31, 2018 1:48 pm

Yes, nice report and good photos J!
I haven't done Piegan pass to Many Glacier in several years. Last time was in late August and there was a foot of snow on the upper 100 yards of trail on the MG side. :D
I going to try Triple Divide and the peak later this year.
Im not strong enough to do it as a day hike. Ill camp at ATL 2 nights and do them from there.
Nice report!

pete :wink:
User avatar
PeteE
 
Posts: 2218
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:20 pm
Location: Whitefish, MT

Re: July 2018

Postby llholmes1948 » Tue Jul 31, 2018 2:16 pm

What I recall about the east end of the Piegan hike was that at some point after you descended from Piegan Pass and headed to Many Glacier, the trail leveled off but entered an area where there were high bushes growing up on both sides of the trail and this seemed to go on for quite a ways. I don't recall another trail in the Park that was like this. Maybe those bushes have died off or maybe my mind has exaggerated the extent of them but I recall that they made the hike pretty uninteresting in that section.

Lyman
llholmes1948
Donator
Donator
 
Posts: 4930
Joined: Sun May 20, 2007 8:48 pm
Location: Maine

Re: July 2018

Postby Jay w » Tue Jul 31, 2018 4:27 pm

I agree, great photos and I enjoyed the report. It took me a couple days to get through to the end.

Thanks for posting.

Jay
The NSA...the only people in the government who listen.
User avatar
Jay w
 
Posts: 1503
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2007 6:17 am
Location: St. Paul, MN

Re: July 2018

Postby ND » Tue Jul 31, 2018 5:34 pm

Great trip report! I really enjoyed it.
User avatar
ND
 
Posts: 569
Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:52 am

Re: July 2018

Postby PJ » Wed Aug 01, 2018 11:16 pm

Thanks for posting - lots of good info!
PJ
 
Posts: 107
Joined: Sun May 27, 2007 6:54 pm


Return to Trip Reports

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron