When we planned this trip to Glacier National Park we did not expect there to still be so much snow at the park in July. However, about a week before our arrival the park got a dump of snow which meant some road and trail closures. You just never know with weather but we made the best of it.
Many Glacier Entrance
The first day we went into the Many Glacier Entrance. I think it must have been under construction because it was a very bumpy dirt road up until the entrance booth, which was deserted.
Our heart was set on taking two ferries across two lakes, hike to Grinnell Glacier and then hike the whole way back. This however wasn’t in the cards for this trip. We found that the Grinnell Glacier trail was closed due to snow. Folks were allowed to go partly on the trail but not far enough to get close by any means. We still thought it might be a fun adventure regardless so we drove to the Many Glacier Hotel where the boat docks were. Sadly, when we arrived at the docks there was already a very lengthy waiting list therefore we couldn’t get on. I put us on the waiting lists for the other times throughout the day figuring that if it worked out with our plans and we were lucky enough to be chosen, we would do it.
Instead of the planned hike, we were lucky enough to find a parking spot by the side of a road near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn at the intersection of 3 popular hikes. There were SO many people there. I think because so much at the St Mary entrance was closed everybody went to Many Glacier Entrance. By the size of the parking lots, this entrance wasn’t usually this busy. We took the Swift Current Trail which was a 3.6 mile hike that took us to Red Rock Falls at the turn around point.
The hike was a hot one compared to prior hikes on this trip. It was full sun in the 70’s which was warm enough for us to give the girls each their water bladder pack rather than just water bottles which they were excited about. It was a lovely walk through the forest and partly along a lake. The trail wasn’t deserted by any means but by the time we were hiking back it had thinned out a bit.
The Red Rock Falls were amazingly beautiful! There were so many different tiers of the waterfall and there was such power coming from the water! If someone were feeling brave and okay with very cold water, at the top tier of the falls there was a little place big enough for one adult to sit in a little calm eddy current just on the side of the pounding waterfall. I am not brave when it comes to cold therefore I did not pop in myself. Well worth the hike for that place and was an easy hike as well.
After the hike we treated ourselves to soft serve ice cream at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. It wasn’t just any soft serve it was “pour your own” soft serve. To Justin this meant, fit as much as you possibly can into a bowl! He filled the girls bowls according to his standards and happily ate their half eaten ice creams when they couldn’t finish them.
We finished with the hike and ice cream with enough time to potentially make it on the 3pm boat as we had originally planned on doing so we headed that way. After standing in line and waiting for our names to be called for standby we unfortunately did not make it. As a back up we thought it would be fun to rent a canoe so we could as least get out onto the lake. Our oldest daughter, however, was very much against the idea. She got it in her mind that canoe’s are very easily flipped and refused to go on one. It’s funny coming from the girl who goes off on her own paddle board. Of course then our youngest daughter decided she would follow suit and didn’t want to go on either. There was only one canoe available and we were first in line for it. Justin and I thought we could maybe just take turns with the girls on the boat figuring our youngest would change her mind. When we got up the booth we were told only 3 people can go in a canoe but we could rent one kayak and one canoe instead. By this time we were all getting pretty grumpy and the logistics were getting complicated. We just threw the idea out the window and headed back to the van (and endured a 20 minute meltdown on the drive back).
As parents we know that the girls are really only able to do one big thing per day and we had already used that pass for the hike. Game over for new big things that day.
St. Mary Entrance
Level headed Justin who doesn’t let his emotions get past his logical brain drove to another entrance of Glacier NP, St. Mary, just a half hour away. There we went straight to the Visitor’s Center to gather maps, the girls’ Jr. Ranger Books and read books like the good old days. There was a little gift shop and small museum at the Visitor’s Center. It was a nice break to read some park related children’s books in the corner of the store.
We drove up to the closure of Going to the Sun Road which was next to Gunshot Pass Trailhead. The road was closed 14 miles in for vehicles 22’ or under yet bikers and pedestrians were allowed to go 2.5 miles up to a view of Logan Pass. The girls and I stayed with Azul at Gunshot Pass Trailhead and made dinner while Justin hopped on his bike and went up to the bike closure. The mosquitos were pretty bad so we were in and out of the van as the mosquito’s came and went with the sun.
After we had filled our bellies with hot soup we stopped at various viewpoints along the road back. Sunrift Gorge was a little viewpoint pull-off with stairs that led down under a bridge, along a beautiful raging river and up to the gorge itself. The gorge was just wide enough to allow us to peak down its length to the sunshine on the far side of it and the water to pass through its depths. It was beautiful!
Sunpoint was our last stop along the road before heading back to camp. There was a short 1 mile loop that gave us great views of St. Mary Lake down below. It’s hard to get tired of beautiful snowy peaked mountains, lush greenery down below all mirrored in an icy blue lake. We presented this trail by telling the girls it was a short walk to a view, which was true but toward the end of the hike our youngest said, “Hey! You tricked us into doing this pretty hike!” This was partially true but they did enjoy it. It’s all about presentation. A good tip that I tend to forget if I’m tired.
Beaver Pond Loop
The next day we wanted to get an earlier start so we might have a better chance of seeing moose or beavers on the trail before the heat of the day. We went on the Beaver Pond loop located close to the St Mary entrance. It was a 3.5 mile loop which meandered by the northern tip of Saint Mary Lake, by various beaver dammed ponds, marshy areas as well as regrowing forested areas effected by the 2017 fires.
This was the only hike we planned for the day and since we started earlier than usual (for us now anyway) we could take our time on the trail. The trail was also mostly empty of other visitors so we decided to take some fun family photos. The reflection of the mountains in St. Mary Lake was crystal clear making a beautiful backdrop for us.
Though we didn’t end up seeing any wildlife other than some cute ground squirrels, chipmunks and various birds we did find evidence of them. We found wet moose tracks on the trail just near one of the marshy areas which looked like a moose paradise. We had just missed it! In the path there was also fresh bear scat but we didn’t end up seeing any bears, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing when we were on the trail.
We also passed by Beaver Pond which was, as you could guess, made by beavers. They had quite the dams there! It must have taken those sweet little beavers so long to make the massive structures we saw. I’m sure the moose thank them for all the lush green water plants growing there.
The end of the hike brought us to the old 1913 ranger station log cabin. It was the main living and working quarters for the rangers at the park. There was also a log barn built in 1926 as well which now stands next to the log ranger station. It made for the perfect backdrop for some cowboy pictures.
Village of Saint Mary
We spent some of the rest of the afternoon browsing around the shops in the village of Saint Mary. There were a handful of gift shops there. All of them sold about the same thing but it was a fun change of pace to walk around them anyway. The one place had a little outdoor gear section that wasn’t too bad. We also found a classic red Glacier NP tour bus to take a picture of the girls with. Very classy indeed.
This would be the last night we would have full hookups for a little over a week so I spent the rest of the afternoon baking gluten free banana bread and gluten free burger buns in Wobbles. It always surprises me when an oven that looks pretty much like an easy bake oven works in cooking real food!
Justin, myself and our youngest all played a card game while my oldest recorded herself telling stories. It was fun playing a game and when we were finished we all listened to the story our oldest made up. It was wonderful and was complete with voices for all the various characters. Such a good way to end the day.