Glacier National Park Day 1: Of Snow and Lakes

It’s so hard to get back into the swing of real life after a great vacation! A month has passed since we returned from our trip, and I still find myself thinking, “Wait, didn’t we just get back?” with regard to work, email, and other real life responsibilities. Oops, not so much!

This year’s trip began with a 3 hour drive to Moses Lake, WA after an early evening touch down in Seattle. Our original plan was to drive 4.5 hours to Spokane to decrease our drive time to West Glacier the next day, but considering how exhausted we were, I’m glad we opted to stay in Moses Lake instead. We were only there long enough to enjoy late night pizza at Guido’s and an evening at the Interstate Inn, but we enjoyed our time in this quiet little town nonetheless.

The next morning, we drove an hour and a half to Spokane to stock up on groceries and supplies at Walmart and Trader Joe’s before tackling the 5 hour drive to West Glacier.  I loved the ever-changing scenery through Coeur d’Alene, Flathead, and Kalispell.

Trader Joe’s, Spokane–oh, what I would give to have a TJ’s in HI!

Knowing we had two weeks of camping ahead of us, we decided to splurge on a one-room kamping kabin at the West Glacier KOA for the night. What a treat this was! It was so nice to be able to unload our sleeping bags from the car and call it a night. We all enjoyed the pool, playground, and porch swing before drifting off in our comfy bunks.

One-room kamping kabin, West Glacier KOA
Organized chaos. At campgrounds with swimming pools, we have our priorities straight. 🙂

We checked out bright and early to get a jump on our first day in Glacier National Park. After a brief stop at Apgar Visitor Center for Junior Ranger booklets and bear spray, we traveled the much-anticipated Going-to-the-Sun-Road. GTSR is a 32-mile engineering marvel that connects West Glacier and St. Mary, hugging sheer cliffs and winding through majestic mountains that overlook glacially-carved valleys. Glacier has been on my bucket list for ye-e-e-ars, and I’ve googled every image and video of the park available, but nothing could prepare me for the grandeur and incomparable beauty that is Glacier in-person. Standing along the bank of Lake McDonald, admiring the expanse of crystal-clear lake before me, I felt my eyes fill; I had to swallow to keep from embarrassing myself. The placid, mirror-like lake seemed to have a similar effect on other travelers, whose raucous shouts and laughter in the parking area faded to reverent silence upon reaching the lake.

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park
Seamless reflection, Lake McDonald
GTSR, LakeMcDonald

At the time, I was convinced that Lake McDonald would remain the highlight of GTSR, not realizing that each new twist and turn in the road would reveal more awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping beauty than the last. I’ve never seen so many cascading waterfalls, snow-capped peaks, and verdant valleys in my life! GTSR truly is a feast for the senses.20160630_11121220160630_111628 - Edited20160630_111745

20160630_11122420160630_111848_Richtone(HDR)20160630_11301420160630_112703_Richtone(HDR)20160630_113113Located at an elevation of 6,600 feet, Logan Pass marks the highest point along GTSR, as well as the start of numerous hikes in Glacier National Park. It is also the most popular and crowded stop on GTSR. As the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot can be somewhat of a nightmare to navigate, we were happy to secure a parking spot and set out for Hidden Lake without having to circle too long.

Hidden Lake Overlook trail is a short and sweet 3-mile out and back hike that begins on the west side of Logan Pass Visitor Center. While there is usually an option to continue an additional mile past the overlook to the lake itself, this portion of the trail was closed due to high bear activity that day. The announcement put us slightly on edge as a man had been killed by a grizzly a mile away from our campground a day earlier, just an hour before our arrival. My bear concerns, however, took a backseat once we got to the top of the stairs at the trailhead and were greeted by this looming wall of white:

Where’d the boardwalk go? Beginning of Hidden Lake trail

I quickly scanned the area for the “easy boardwalk” path I’d read about. Turns out, Hidden Lake boardwalk and 85% of the trail were hidden under winter snow and recent snowfall from the previous two evenings. Visitors paraded past by the dozen as my eyes flitted between our flimsy hiking shoes, woefully unequipped with microspikes or crampons, and the dirty blanket of snow before us. Hikers tromped up the hill in a motley assortment of swim shorts and Chacos, tank tops and flip flops, unfazed by the wall of white that was no doubt as familiar to them as tropical sand and surf are to us. Their confidence only served to reinforce the singular thought looping through my head: we are not a snow people. The farthest I’d ever walked through snow was maybe several hundred yards. During a snowball fight, no less!

We had no business leading three kids through 3 miles of snow.

And then my youngest squealed, “Ooh, I can’t wait to hike through snow! This is going to be the best hike ever!” and just like that, we found ourselves squelching through icy puddles, crunching our way up that slick initial climb. The going was slow–two steps forward, one giant sli-i-i-de back–but the husband and kids could not have been more delighted by the novelty of it all. They hiked circles around me, running ahead, then sliding back down to where they’d left me behind with my cautious turtle steps. “C’mon, mom!” they’d yell. “Go faster! You have to embrace the slide!” Me, on the other hand…I was just trying to remain upright. Which I wasn’t all that successful with to begin with, but I was pretty sure going faster probably wasn’t going to do me any favors in that department. 😀

Cautious first steps before all the fun ensues; Hidden Lake Trail
Having the time of his life, Hidden Lake Trail, Glacier National Park

20160630_122429Our trekking poles definitely came in handy for navigating the slippery slopes and ice. And the 360 degree views on this trail? Simply STUNNING. I was so glad my phone was dangling in a waterproof case from my neck, because I found myself reaching to take pictures nearly every second. About ten minutes from the Hidden Lake overlook, we were thrilled to come upon a family of mountain goats, baby kid safely shepherded between mom and dad. Clearly habituated to humans, the shaggy, snow white trio paid us no heed as they ambled across the trail to graze. It was a thrill to come so close to these beautiful creatures.

Views along Hidden Lake trail
Majestic and expansive; Glacier National Park
Gorgeousness from every angle, Hidden Lake Trail at Logan Pass
Hidden Lake trail seriously showing off 🙂


Finally, a respite from the snow, ten minutes from the overlook
Almost there! The beauty of this rest stop made it feel like a destination unto itself
Ten minutes before the lake, signs of summer returning
Family of mountain goats!
We moved off the trail to give these beauties space to cross; they must have come within 20 feet of us, which was amazing to behold.

After all of the fun we’d experienced on the trail, I wondered whether the journey might prove more exciting than the destination itself, but I needn’t have worried. Hidden Lake did not disappoint, its beautiful sapphire depths punctuated by chunks of floating ice. Photos and words do no justice in capturing the tremendous scale and beauty of this lake and Glacier National Park. We sat at the overlook for almost an hour, sketching and absorbing the stunning view before reluctantly turning back. Once we hit the snow, trekking poles were key for the descent; I can’t imagine having navigated some of the sketchier sloped sections without them. Once we completed these portions, though, the kids tossed their poles aside and ran/slid their way back to the trailhead.

Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park
Talk about lunch with a view! Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park
Incomparable beauty, Hidden Lake
Sapphire blue, Hidden Lake
It’s hard to imagine a better view 

They had such a great time; you couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces! We all agreed: Hidden Lake was one of our favorite hikes ever. It was an amazing beginning to our explorations in what was to become one of our new favorite parks. With Hidden Lake behind us, we made our way to St. Mary to set up camp for the night, excited and full of anticipation over what the next three days in Glacier had in store for us.





21 thoughts on “Glacier National Park Day 1: Of Snow and Lakes”

    1. Thank you; we had the best time! Loved reading your recent post about Hidden Lake, too…so many great memories. Looks like we may have visited at a similar time of year…hoping to be able to hike past the overlook like you someday. Enjoyed seeing it through your eyes!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So happy that you’re back and excited to read about your family’s adventures! Loved this post, sounds like you had an amazing trip if day 1 of Glacier was any indication. Your posts always inspire me to visit places and this one was no different. Your pictures of Glacier NP were soooo beautiful! I love that you worried about taking your kids through snow on the Hidden Lake trail and they only had excitement. Kids keep us young I tell ya! OMG, your statement, “We are not a snow people” cracked me up (still laughing)! Hidden Lake trail is another one I put on my list, thank you!

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    1. Thank so much! So happy to be following along again on your family’s adventures, too! Glacier was incredible; I’d give anything to be able to visit again and stay longer. The kids keep us young–okay, that’s a stretch…-ish, lol, for sure. They’d probably dangle from ledges Mission Impossible style if I let them; I’m the fun killer, always thinking about practical stuff like death and dismemberment. So glad you get my demented sense of humor! 😀

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  2. We plan to go there next summer. Can’t wait! You have some fabulous photos here, especially the panoramas. However, even a Minnesotan shivers when seeing those bare arms and legs. Now that’s an adventure to be proud of.

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    1. I think you’re going to love Glacier…very excited for you! Can’t wait to read about it when you go. For all the snow there was up at Logan Pass, it was actually fairly warm–mid 60s, I think. (Though all the falling on our bottoms kept us plenty cool. :-D)


  3. This is so timely as we are at Glacier right now! We hiked to Hidden Lake 2 days ago, and all that snow is gone. It was really interesting to see your beautiful pictures with all that snow. It’s still just as beautiful, but looks very different now. It was definitely our favorite hike so far. We drove Going to the Sun Road yesterday (the Hidden Lake day we rode the shuttle bus). So many of your pictures of that road look like pictures I took yesterday. Two other hikes I want to make sure we do before we leave are Avalanche Lake and Grinnell Lake or Glacier. I hope you’ll post more about your time at Glacier soon so I can read it while we’re still here and be sure not to miss anything. Thanks for this great post!

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    1. Ah, I wish I could be there with you! I miss Glacier so much. Isn’t it incredible? I’ve seen some recent pictures of Hidden Lake on other blogs and can’t believe how different the trail/lake looks in just a matter of weeks (wildflowers where there was snow!). I’m going to try my best to post again before you leave, but in case I don’t, we loved hiking Iceberg Lake, which you can do with a ranger (I think it’s called Heart of Glacier?). We also hiked to Grinnell Lake since Grinnell Glacier was closed due to snow; it’s very pretty, but given the chance, I would’ve loved to have done Grinnell Glacier instead. Unfortunately, Avalanche, Piegan Pass, and Highline Trail were also closed (salty tears!) when we were there (snow and/or bears), so we combined Sun Point Nature Trail, Sunrift Gorge, Baring Falls, St. Mary Falls, and Virginia Falls into one longer hike. It was lovely, but if any of the “bigger” trails are open, I think I’d opt for those instead. If you love waterfalls, though,the falls hike was beautiful and secluded. Also, we rented a rowboat ($15?) on Swiftcurrent Lake outside Many Glacier Hotel after hiking to Grinnell Lake and had the best time rowing across the water. Your family might enjoy that, too. Have a wonderful time and enjoy the rest of your stay! Can’t wait to read all about it!

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  4. It’s been so long since you left for your trip, I was beginning to get worried about you. Glad you guys had such a wonderful time. I can’t wait to read the rest of your upcoming posts. I can only imagine in my mind how inadequate pictures are of Glacier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? It’s been a while for sure. I guess I went on a mental vacation after the physical one, lol. Glacier surpassed every expectation and photo I’d seen; truly breathtaking. I’m looking forward to catching up with your adventures soon!

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  5. Beautiful pictures! I knew you’d love Glacier. We just returned from our 12 day Glacier adventure and will post soon! I could relate to your emotions upon seeing such beauty , and the desire to capture it on camera . Jealous of your encounter with the mountain goats!
    Looking forward to hearing more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! Ah, I’m the envious one…12 days in Glacier? That must have been INCREDIBLE! We’d love to return later in the season someday and backpack through the park. The mountain goats were on our wish list, so we were excited to be able to see them up close. Can’t wait to read about your Glacier adventure!

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