This was the very first national park I visited after moving to US.The park is located in the state of Montana on the United States – Canada border and spreads across Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.The Canadian side of the park is called Waterton National Park.The park is diverse in flora and fauna.The park is full of black and grizzly bears,mountain goats and deers.
How to reach here?
It is one of the remote regions in US.You can take flight to Missoula, Montana.Hire a car at airport and drive to the park.Its a 2 hr 30 mins drive from Missoula.
We drove from Seattle, Washington and it took us 9 hrs to reach the park.
We decided to visit the park in early June which marks the beginning of summer and park is not crowded.Around this time you will find most of the accessible roads inside the park under maintenance which gives you extra edge to explore the park.Rangers would help you with all the inaccessible paths and hidden trails to explore.For ex when we visited the park, the famous “Going to the Sun” road was closed for maintenance inside the park.We took few hikes recommended by Park Rangers which had similar views (sometimes even better views) of all the vista points.
There are many entrances to the park.We took West entrance and stayed in Apgar village campground.Its a huge park and a week was not enough for us to explore everything in the park.We couldn’t explore the Northern end of the park which touches the Canadian border.
Below are few highlights from our trip.
Day 1 – Lake McDonald Valley & Going To the Sun Road
If you are entering the park from West Entrance, you will come across one of the largest lake in GNP which is Lake McDonald.Going to the Sun road parallels with the southern shores of the lake.
Day 2 – Avalanche lake, Trail of the Cedars,North Fork and PoleBridge
The hike to Avalance lake begins from the Trail of the Cedars.Its a 4.5 mile loop hike which goes along Going to the Sun Road. The trail starts with walking in the woods ,passes through various creeks and finally in the end its a steep climb to the lake.
North Fork area of GNP is remote and extremely beautiful with lush green meadows.This area is so out of the way that many visitors rarely have time to make the 42 mile long gravel road drive up here.During our visit the area was destroyed by forest fire because of which the trees actually looked like poles.Fires are the natural recurring part of the forest life cycle as it resets the ecosystem.And if you are lucky, you will be able to see the double rainbow over the forks.I wasn’t able to take the picture as I was too busy watching the double rainbow:-)
Day 3 – Two Medicine
This area is considered as the most scenic area in the park although there is nothing much to do in the area except hiking.We camped in Two Medicine campground and it was the best site we have ever camped in.Lot of wild animals around.We encountered a black bear crossing the road.
We took couple of hikes around this area – Running Eagle falls and Scenic point hike.
Running Eagle fall is a short hike which takes you to the one of the waterfall coming out of the mountain.
The scenic point hike is considered as one of the best in the park as it takes you to the top of the mountain and you can see the entire lake from the top.The hike ends at a flat ledge which has 2000 feet straight drop off.
Day 4 – St Mary Valley and Many Glacier
St Mary is the eastern gateway to the park.Its a 1 hour 20 mins drive from Two medicine lake.The drive along the lake is serene with commanding vista points.The drive takes you to the heart of the park called Many Glaciers.Its a hiker’s paradise.Book the accommodation in the area well in advance.Always keep Bear spray when you are in this area of the park.We saw a group of giant Grizzly bear while hiking Grinnell glacier trail.
Rangers and scientists predict that all the glaciers in the park will be gone by 2030 due to climate change which will drastically impact the ecosystem of the park.