We took a trip back in August with family to Glacier National Park in Montana. We have been to the Rocky Mountains a handful of times before but never in Montana. The plan was to meet up with our family from Spokane, WA and spend a little over a week in the park. Rather than our typical stay in a cabin or hotel we would be camping in a campgorund, Fish Creek Campground on McDonald Lake.
We chose to do something a bit different and rent an overlander vehicle from Paradise Overland. We did a bit of research and realized that an overlander was going to be our most comfortable option (cost too). It just happened that the rental company we chose was out of Bozeman. The Bozeman airport is about 5.5-6hrs away from Glacier National Park. We had never been to Montana so we took it as an opportunity to see more of the state.
After landing and picking up our rental on Friday we headed out with our itinerary in hand.
We arrived just as it was starting to get dark.
Setup of our campsite was super easy and the truck came with everything you need! It was a great choice and the rooftop tent worked very well keeping us warm even on the coldest morning (38 degrees).
We spent Saturday walking around the campground and relaxing until our family got to the campground that afternoon. Our minds became more free and our pace began to slow as we adjusted to campground living. THIS was our reality for the next week and we were going to soak in every minute of living in nature.
Sunday was a rainy one and we all opted to take a drive that day to Polebridge Mercantile and the surrounding area. We stocked up on fresh pastries for the week. They were just what we needed in the morning around the campfire with a hot cup of coffee.
Monday we hung around the campground and took a short ~1 mile hike to Rocky Point and back to Fish Creek.
Tuesday was our big hike day. We hiked Mt Gould off the Going to the Sun Road. Mt Gould (9,553′) is the highest peak on the Garden Wall. We chose the only logical route, the West face route, a class III hike. The hike is about 7 miles total and 3,793 ft of gain, which proved later to be mostly all in the first and last mile.
We arrived early in the morning, leaving before light to get the the trailhead expecting trouble parking later in the day. Hiking at this time in the morning when the sun is just coming up is a beautiful time to hike. Once getting all geared up we heading straight up the climbers trail in the area directly above our truck in the picture above. This part of the trail climbs straight up for about 3/4 mi to it’s intersection with the highline trail. Once we reached the highline trail it was a relatively flat section of trail up to haystack pass.
As we walked along the Highline Trail we came out of the treeline and scanned the surrounding area to see a grizzly bear on the far side of the trail. You can see in the picture, he/she is right below the trail as it makes its way up the hill. We stopped and watched the bear for 30mins as it weaved along the trail not allowing us to continue our hike for 30 minutes. This is when groups of people started hiking up behind us. As time began to pass we can only guess people got impatient and they began to walk towards the bear, saying things like, and I’m not kidding, “Bears don’t eat rocks we can just get on the rocks” and “it says to stay back 40 feet.” It was truly one of those moments you hear about before sometime tragic happens. Luckily, the groups stupidity did not get someone hurt and the bear calmly walked away.
After about 45mins in all we felt comfortable and were able to continue on our hike.
Once making it to the pass the remainder of the hike involved little hiking and mostly scrambling. We used the book “Climb Glacier National Park” as a guide to find our way up this mountain. Gaining elevation quickly we were rewarded with increasingly vast views.
We continued on following the path up the mountain, but it became increasingly harder to find a safe path. Once making it past the major obstacle, a large 200+ cliff, we took a wrong path up and soon realized we had gone the wrong way. We found the correct way but we lost a lot of time. We decided to keep pushing even though we may not make the summit in time (our family was instructed to notify rangers if we were not back by a certain time). The hike became increasingly harder and more exposed, one slip would result in a long fall. After reaching a point and resting for a bit we decided that we were not going to make the summit with enough time to return. We took a few more pictures and headed back down.
The hike was the hardest mentally and physically we have done to date. We found our limit that day, how far we are willing to push it. Is the reward worth the risk?
Wednesday was our scheduled Red Bus Tour, riding from Lake McDonald to Swiftcurrent. We made multiple stops along the way to see different landmarks. We ended our tour with a superb dinner at Belton Chalet. We had everything from a beet salad to homemade pasta to bison meatloaf. Everything was amazing.
Thursday we hiked to Avalanche Lake on the Trail of the Cedars. It was a popular hike and we were greeted by quite a few hikers along the trail. The cedars were breathtaking. We reflected on just how long these trees have been standing. What have they seen? What would they say?
Friday we spent fly-fishing in the lower McDonald River.
Saturday we drove back and returned our truck before catching a ride to Bozeman. The 5.5 hour drive between Glacier National Park was beautiful and totally worth the drive. We could easily see why Montana is called “Big Sky Country.” Along our drive, we stopped to eat at The Farmhouse for a delicious breakfast.
We found a special place in our hearts for “Wonda” our overland vehicle and sadly had to return it. We checked in to The Lark in Bozeman and ate at Black Bird Kitchen. We devoured a couple wood-fired pizzas before calling it an early night. Sunday was spent traveling back to home sweet home.
Thanks for reading!