My family has stopped giving each other gifts for birthdays and Christmas. While this makes us seem like we are all a bunch of selfish uncaring Grinches, it is actually a good thing. Instead of giving and receiving gifts that people may or may not want, the money that would have been used for those gifts goes towards a travel fund. The money is to be used for activities and other costs during family get togethers. This past week we were in Glacier National Park for a family get together where we all had the chance to use the travel fund money to do some exciting activities. I thought I might share some of the activities we did.
There are some great opportunities for rafting around Glacier. Rafting is available on the Middle and North fork of the Flathead River. We choose to go on a half-day guided rafting trip on the Middle Fork with the Montana Rafting Company. The half-day trip along the Middle Fork has around 10 class 2 and 3 rapids and is perfect for anyone 7 years or older. There are plenty of opportunities to get wet with the ice-cold glacier melt and possibly see some of the areas wildlife, so the trip is far from boring. There were several calm areas along that river that one can go swimming, if you dared. The water is definitely cold, ranging around 50 degrees, and Sydney was brave enough to jump in 3 times. I, however, had no desire to jump into the water even with 90-degree weather. We had a blast whitewater rafting and it was definitely worth the money we paid.
The Red Bus Jammer Tours
Our neighbor in Portland is from Montana and before we left he recommended going on the Red Bus tour. This was on our list of things to do; after all if a local is recommending it and has actually taken the tour, it’s got to be great right? Well it was. Even though it is expensive, I would highly recommend taking the Red Bus Jammer Tour. The Red Jammer Bus Tour was started in the 1930’s and is an open top bus that offers several scenic drives through the park. We choose to take Going-to-the-Sun Road tour. This tour takes approximately 4 hours and makes several stops along the way including Logan’s Pass. The views are phenomenal as it is an open top bus, no car top to limit the views. Having someone else drive also allows time to soak in the scenery without the worries of trying to drive the road. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is very narrow with many curves and sheer drop offs, which can be a bit unnerving. The Red Bus is a marriage saver, as it will eliminate all conversation about being too close to the edge or taking the curves too quickly. The driver provides narrative along the way, pointing out interesting views and facts and is knowledgeable about the park history. At Logan’s Pass, we were able to see wildlife that I thought I would never see and Sydney enjoyed playing in the snow, and of course throwing snowballs at family. If you are planning on taking this tour definitely bring water, coat, and a hat as temperature varies from cool to hot.
There are lots of options for horseback riding in and around the park. We choose to go horseback riding inside Glacier National Park through Swan Mountain Outfitters. Swan Mountain Outfitters have several stables in the park with many ride options ranging from 1 hour to whole day rides. We choose the 2-hour McDonald Creek ride, which left from McDonald Lodge coral. The ride winds through an old cedar forest and then crosses over McDonald falls. The views are great and it was cool under the forest canopy despite the 90-degree heat. However this is also a typical nose to tail ride. Don’t except to trot or be able to go off on your own. It was not nearly as much fun or cheap as our free spirited Costa Rica horseback adventure last year. The wranglers are knowledgeable and the horses are well taken care of, unlike many we have seen in Mexico. As I have not done a lot of horseback riding, 2 hours was plenty. I found that after the ride, it was not my bottom that hurt but my knees. Walking after horseback riding is always comical.
Glacier offers miles and miles of trails for all levels, but unfortunately, we only had a limited amount of time and did not get to go hiking as much as we would have liked. We were able to hike the popular trail to Avalanche Lake. Avalanche Lake is a 4-mile round trip hike and is a gradual uphill climb to the lake. This hike is great for all levels as the trail is well maintained and does not have a huge elevation gain. Avalanche trail starts at Avalanche Creek, which then winds through cedar forest and ends at a beautiful glacier fed lake. There are multiple waterfalls cascading into Avalanche Lake and the water is that unique blue color caused by glacier flour (ground rock.) Sydney enjoyed wadding into the lake and we also had a nice lunch at the water’s edge. Though there are many hikers along the trial, wildlife can be seen. On the way out we talked with a forest ranger who said that there had been a Grizzly bear spotted around the lake earlier that morning. The hiking is free, but it cost $25 for a one-week pass to enter the park.
Alpine Theatre Project
This was a surprising delight and well worth checking out. Alpine Theatre Project is located in Whitefish about 30 miles from West Glacier. Alpine Theatre puts on productions ranging from classical music to dramas. What makes this theater unique it that the actors are from Broadway and other major theaters around the US so the acting is amazing. The theater is small and every seat in the house is a good seat. We decided to see Little Shop of Horrors and everyone enjoyed it. After the play, someone tapped me on the shoulder and offered for Sydney to go up and see the plant, Audrey 2. She was able to open the plant’s mouth and sit in it. I was also excited to learn that the next play will be Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Hedwig, though not children appropriate, is one of my favorite movies. Unfortunately, I have not been able to talk Jason into driving back to Montana to see it.
Glacier was a beautiful place to visit with many fun activities to do. Pictures cannot even begin to capture the beauty and awe inspiring sights. This is a must see place and we could have easily spent several more weeks exploring. Sadly, we only saw a small fraction of the Park and were sad to say goodbye.
Sounds like you were able to hit the highlights of the park in a short time! Next visit (and I’m sure you’ll be back!), be sure to spend time in the Many Glacier area. That’s considered the best area for hiking with the most popular trails being Iceberg Lake (where you usually see bears) and Grinnell Glacier. From the Logan Pass visitor’s Center, there’s a short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook where there’s always mountain goats. So many beautiful areas to see in the park…so little time. Glad your family had a fantastic experience!
Thanks for the suggestions! Unfortunately we never made it to St. Mary’s area which looked like it had some great hikes. We did try to walk the overlook to hidden lake, but the trail was snow covered and very slick to walk on. I gave up about 1/2 way there. Sydney and her cousin did have fun trying to make snow angles.
We encountered snow on the trail HIdden Lake last year too…near the end of August! Fortunately, we were able to make it to the overlook.