.There are many reasons to travel to Glacier National Park including international relations, grizzlies, one of the most dramatic roads in the US, and the quickly receding namesake glaciers.
World’s first International Peace Park
In 1932, Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in British Columbia, Canada combined to became the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, the world’s first International Peace Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the mid 19th century there were an estimated 150 active glaciers within the park’s 1,000,000 acre (405,000 hectare) boundaries. Today fewer than 30 active glaciers remain. Some scientists believe they could all be gone by 2020, so don’t just sit there.
Many Glaciers Hotel, a classic wooden lodge inside the park, is a comfortable, atmospheric and enormous place overlooking lovely Swiftcurrent Lake. But why do so many of our national park hotels make us think of The Shining?
In 2010, TV animal guy Jack Hanna used pepper spray to fend off a grizzly cub in Glacier National Park while hiking on the Grinnell Glacier trail. Though Hanna says he’s been carrying pepper spray on hikes for nearly two decades, that was the first time he’d ever used it.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2011 17 people were charged by grizzlies in Glacier National Park. We were certainly on the lookout for them when we hiked the popular Grinnel Glacier trail.
As the steep trail curved and ascended up, up, up (it was extreme enough to inspire a bit of muscle-memory of our best treks in Nepal), we kept our eyes and ears open and one hand on our pepper spray.
It wasn’t until we returned to the Many Glaciers Hotel and flopped down on the big patio that we saw a lone grizzly slowly munching her/his way across a hillside about 300 yards away from us. As happens when the word grizzly gets whispered, a crowd soon gathered.
It’s not a road, it’s an experience
Glacier National Park is also home to one of the most amazingly-engineered and romantically-named roads. The 50 mile (80 kilometer) Going to the Sun Road hugs the mountains, winds through tunnels, and tops out at 6,646 foot (2,000 meter0 Logan Pass, as it crosses the Continental Divide. It’s all even more spectacular when you realize that it was built, largely by hand, more than 75 years ago. The road is not open year round. For current road conditions and closures check out these real time road status updates.
Glacier National Park travel tip
The grizzlies of Glacier National Park emerge from their winter dens in April and May, so make plenty of noise as you hike. A startled bear is a cranky bear.
Here’s more about travel to US National Parks & Monuments
Here’s more about travel in the USA