Cow Moose in Fishercap Lake Glacier National Park 1 header

Glacier National Park: Many Glacier, many sights

We always make big plans.  BIG.  ALWAYS.  I mean, we plan out where we’ll hike, sights we’ll see, maybe where we’ll dine.  We will craft an itinerary and stick to it comfortably.  This keeps us low stress and with all of our resources in place.  If you recall from our post about the forest fires we encountered in eastern Montana, we were limited to access Glacier National Park via the Many Glacier entrance only… which was totally NOT the plan.

The Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park is the best place ever to be stranded with kids. Know why? 2traveldads.comWe love Glacier National Park for the wide variety of activities all across the park.  We love Glacier for its wildlife and getting to closely watch the mountain goats in Logan Pass.  We were genuinely saddened at our prospects of being stuck and having to abandon our grand plans in Glacier National Park.

We made the most of our limited access for several days though… and had an awesome time!  Why was it so awesome if we were rather stuck in just one portion of Glacier National Park?  So much to do and see!!  Even in this one tiny area with only one road?  Yep!

Anatomy of a National Park

National Parks are usually pretty big, offering a variety of sights and experiences.  Sequoia National Park is full or forests and canyons.  Yellowstone has mountains, canyons, geyser basins… Seriously, they encompass a lot of features.

If you’re not familiar with how a National Park works, here’s the scoop (and it applies to most National Parks and many National Monuments):

LittleMan Stamping National Park Passport 2most parks have several entrances accessible by road in a variety of areas, but not all roads go through or connect to another  *in Glacier National Park it’s the Going to the Sun Road

there are usually 2 or 3 big attractions within a park, but some have many more, such as Yellowstone or Glacier National Park

Visitor Centers and ranger stations are dotted around the parks to provide information (interpretive centers, hiking permits), resources (groceries, first aid) and safety (police, rangers)

The only thing the Many Glacier area was missing was a Visitors Center.

Anyways, where we found ourselves was at the end of a dead end road with no idea how to spend a week in one spot.  We’ve talked about it before with traveling Europe, sometime you must throw a plan out the window and relax.  So we did.  Here’s how we occupied ourselves for five days in the same place (and why we recommend you do the same).

Tip:  if you cannot get to a Visitors Center in a National Park for any reason but still want to be sure to get your National Park Passport stamp or complete the Junior Ranger Program, check at the local ranger station, as they may have both programs available.

Glacier National Park Vintage map

Hiking in Glacier National Park, Many Glacier

Rob Taylor and Dudes at Bullhead Lake Glacier National ParkWhen you have kids you learn that even your best night’s sleep doesn’t equip you with the same amount of energy that THEY get from a 30 minute power nap.  That’s okay though.  What you don’t get from sleep you’ll pull from the mountain air and the energy of the world around you.  I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.  Many Glacier is an amazing area of Glacier National Park for hiking (see Hiking blog post).

There are all skill levels of trails available, including flat gingerly strolls on pavement.  This proved very helpful to us across many days.  If there was a little extra energy to burn before bed we said “Let’s go on a hike!”…which was really just a nice walk and exactly what we needed to spend the last bits of the day.

Tip:  Fishercap Lake is an easy 10 minute walk from the Swiftcurrent Inn/store, 12 minutes from camp ground.  You get fresh air, scenery and wildlife in that short time.

Porch Sitting

LittleMan on balcony at Many Glacier Hotel Swiftcurrent LakeI know, that sounds like a retirement activity, but it’s not.  When the many National Park lodges and inns were built, they all we crafted with amazing sitting areas.  The Swiftcurrent Motor Inn has a nice, long deck that’s shaded and looks out at the mountains.  The Many Glacier Hotel has benches at lake level or a deck where you can enjoy tasty beverages (and balconies if you’re staying there).  The Glacier Park Lodge has a lobby and lounge corridors that are full of comfy chairs… There are so many reasons to go porch sitting.

Tip:  National Park Lodges are very welcoming of non-guests and will happily help you and even make you comfortable.  I swear, 80% of the people at NP lodges aren’t guests, but just people who love the rustic architecture and who need a good sit.

Tip 2:  there are usually puzzles to do when it’s raining…or if you just don’t want to leave yet and you know you need to.

Boating in Glacier National Park

Glacier Park Boat on Lake Josephine Glacier National ParkDoesn’t that sound odd?  Boating in a National Park when you didn’t even bring a kayak?  Yep, it’s possible.  At Many Glacier (and at St Mary, Two Medicine and Lake McDonald) the Glacier Park Boat Co gives lake tours on vintage passenger boats (see boating post).

True, you can hike around the lake, you can drive for some nice views, but seeing the Park from the water is amazing, especially with the Many Glacier Hotel resting at the water’s edge.  And if you don’t want to go touring, you can rent a canoe, single or double kayak, or even a rowboat.  Really, there’s no reason to not spend a little time on the water.

Tipdoing the boat tour takes you to a few different trail heads.  Beyond Swiftcurrent Lake, if you hike for five minutes, you get to Josephine Lake…and another boat tour to the Grinnell Lake trail head.

Tip:  STROLLER ACCESSIBLE.  Boom.  This experience/trail isn’t wheelchair accessible, but you can do a stroller.  True, there is a little bit of stroller rodeo that must happen, but it’s not bad at all!

Wildlife

Cow and Calf Moose in Fishercap Lake Glacier National Park 1Shall I just list the animals we’ve seen in the Many Glacier area?  Okay:  bull moose, mama moose, baby moose, black bear, grizzly bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, beavers, eagles, marmots… This small section of Glacier National Park sees fewer visitors than the Logan Pass or Lake McDonald areas, and I think the animals know it.

That being said, they’re no less dangerous.    There’s not really a recommendation for where is best to see any of these, as they roam and we’ve genuinely seen them all over.

You might spot a moose along the river as you’re driving into the Many Glacier area even before you get into Glacier National Park.  Recently we saw, at different times, a bull and also a mama and baby moose all on the Swiftcurrent Pass trail, not even ten minutes into hiking.  Walking through the parking lot to get ice at the little store, we saw a grizzly on the hill in front of us.  On the Ptarmigan Falls trail we encountered face to face a bighorn ram… Seriously, you can see wildlife anywhere.

Bighorn Sheep in Glacier National Park 1Safety and wildlife

DO NOT APPROACH WILDLIFE.  If they come towards you, that’s another thing.  Be aware of sudden movement, as it’ll spook a creature into running away OR it’ll think you’re going to attack and charge you.

Tip:  take a look at our article on Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park for more safety and spotting tips.

Observation

Mountain Goat in Glacier National Park 1Enjoy the sight of a moose by snapping a quick photo and then just watch.  Same with a bear.  In the latter situation, you would want to be sure that you’re aware of ALL bears in the area first, but do take that moment to appreciate the creature.  If you encounter bighorn sheep, give them distance before sitting to watch them, as they are fast runners even if they seem reallllllly chill.

Tip:  talk to a Park ranger about bear safety and get recommendations of how best to protect yourself wherever you are.  That’s what the rangers are there for.

As you can see, we had plenty to do an enjoy in our time “trapped” in the Many Glacier area of the Park.  Throwing out the plan and just relaxing helped us focus on our kids and their experiences.  It allowed us to actually rest and enjoy the sights instead of just go go going.   Staying in one place for several days isn’t a bad approach to take, and if you’re forced into that situation, eh, make the most of it.  We sure did and now we’re convinced it was the best way to experience Glacier National Park with kids.

14 Comments

  • Hannah

    Amazing pictures here. Even with limits being imposed as a result of the forest fires, there’s still so much to see. The expanse of glacier national park makes it such a desirable place.

    November 6, 2015 at 11:09 am
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      Agreed! Come to think of it, we’ve never been to Glacier when there HASN’T been fires somewhere and have never been bored.

      November 17, 2015 at 8:23 am
  • Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs

    Glacier NP is one of our preferred parks. The Logan Pass, Ptarmigan Tunnel, Many Glacier – just gorgeous! Watch for the wind though – so strong at night it broke some poles of our poor tent! Did not get to sleep at all, tent crashing all night long!

    February 19, 2016 at 2:36 pm
  • Jessica

    This looks so beautiful. If I’m stuck porch sitting somewhere, this’ll do. 🙂

    February 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm
  • alexa

    We planned a trip to Montana a few years ago to visit glacier and the entrance was closed. Have a back up plan in place for locations that depend on weather conditions. Need to head back soon and try again.

    February 20, 2016 at 6:54 am
  • Ami

    Oh, you are so right about kids being energized within 30 mins of a power nap…I get a headache if I sleep so less :(. Tons of options of things to do here. Seems like an interesting place.

    February 22, 2016 at 12:22 am
  • Elizabeth @ Compass & Fork

    We went to this park many year ago and it has been one of our favorites. I hope we make it back there some day. Your pictures remind me of our trip (our is pre digital pics, so I’d have to go find an old fashioned album to find ours!

    February 22, 2016 at 3:00 am
  • melody pittman

    OMG, Montana is so up there on my USA bucket list and your cover photo is simply marvelous!! The mountains, snow, moose (I presume), and trees…that is what my dreams are made of. 😉

    February 22, 2016 at 12:59 pm
  • Renne Simpson

    Wow this national park looks amazing. I love how all the animals are roaming free and not being bothered by the humans 🙂 Very good tip about not approaching them. They are called “wild”life for a reason.

    March 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm
  • Cathy

    I am in love with this park! I had no idea you could see that much wildlife and so close to the trail! Beautiful video, very sweet.

    March 3, 2016 at 3:17 pm
  • Voyager

    This is wonderful, love these national parks, had a great time when we were in Yellowstone National Park couple of years ago.

    March 3, 2016 at 9:00 pm
  • Heather

    National Parks are a great way to teach kids about wildlife and conservation

    March 4, 2016 at 1:17 am
  • mark

    Love the old style map of the national park its fantastic, i love maps especially old or quirky ones. The scenery and wildlife look amazing Rob. I could see myself sitting on that porch with beer in hand soaking up the view.

    March 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm
  • Katrina

    Wow, really amazing photos. Our nature loving sons will be thrilled to glimpse some of those creatures. Thanks for mentioning the lake trip, we will be sure to look into it.

    April 20, 2016 at 11:52 pm

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