Glacier National Park is located in the U.S. state of Montana, bordering the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia to the North and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to the East. 2010 marks the 100th Anniversary of Glacier National Park.
The park encompasses over 1 million acres, with 300 lakes, more than 1,100 different species of vascular plants, 400 species of moss and hundreds of species of animals. Glacier National Park contains two mountain ranges which are sometimes referred to as the southern extension of the Canadian Rockies. Comprised of multi-hued summits and peaks carved out by ancient glaciers, the mountains of Glacier National Park rise abruptly from gently rolling plains. Some 762 lakes, dozens of glaciers, and innumerable waterfalls glisten in forested valleys. A scenic highway crosses the park, making the surrounding beauty accessible to the casual traveler.
A bill designating Glacier National Park was signed by President Taft on May 11, 1910. The park fell to the management of the National Park Service upon the agency’s inception in 1916, and it is still managed by the U.S. National Park Service. In 1932, Canada and the United States declared Waterton Lakes National Park and neighboring Glacier National Park the world’s first International Peace Park. While administered as two separate entities, the park’s two sections cooperate in wildlife management, scientific research and some visitors services.
Like many people, we wonder how long the glaciers will continue to exist, whether you agree with the Global Warming and Al Gore scenarios or not. I definitely saw the receding glaciers in Torres del Paine. It is not a pretty sight, no matter how you feel about Al and his merry men and women.
There are very few roads within the boundaries of Glacier National Park, in order to maintain the primitive/unspoiled beauty of this very special area. The only exception is a 52 mile stretch called, “Going-to-the-Sun” road. This time of year, only a portion of GTS Road is open due to snow and on going repairs and upgrades.
The famed Going-to-the-Sun Road, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, traverses through the heart of the park and crosses the Continental Divide, allowing visitors breathtaking views of the rugged Lewis and Livingston mountain ranges, as well as dense forests, alpine tundra, waterfalls and two large lakes. Glacier officials formally opened the road in a special ceremony on July 15, 1933. At that event more than 4,000 folks gathered to celebrate the road.
Going-To-The-Sun Road is the only road that spans the park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, is open from late May or early June until mid-October, depending upon the weather. Going-to-the-Sun Road is usually crowded in the summertime, especially in July and August.
Along with the Going-to-the-Sun Road, five historic hotels and chalets are listed as National Historic Landmarks, and a total of 350 locations are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Some people would prefer to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Going-To-The-Sun Road from the passenger seat rather than the driver’s seat. Leave the car at the Apgar Visitor Center and hitch a free ride on the new, environmentally friendly shuttle bus that stops at various locations along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Or hop aboard a historic red bus instead—a 25-foot-long coach with a canvas roll-back top that offers views from an entirely new perspective. We could only reach about twelve to fourteen miles into Glacier on the Going to the Sun Road. The middle part of the road is closed for repairs.
Glacier National Park provides an array of different wildlife habitats, and as a result of this there are many different varieties of animals that can be seen inside the park. Throughout the Glacier National Park area, there are as many as 70 native mammals and 272 species of birds. Grizzly Bear is among the most famous animals in the Glacier National Park which most visitors hope to see. One of the highest densities of grizzlies in the United States is in the Glacier Park region. Open meadows, river valleys and the forests are the best chances. Grizzlies are active mostly in the mornings and evenings.
However, Glacier’s wildlife extends far beyond just bears. Habitats like alpine meadows, forests and lakes host diverse wildlife such as wolves, mountain lions, wolverines, pikas and bison. The steep slopes around the Continental Divide have mountain goats and bighorn sheep. A short trek into the forests provides the best chance of seeing mule deer, elk and bear. Also, the pine trees offer good bird habitats for species like woodpeckers, finches, hawks and even eagles. The Hidden Lake Trail may expose marmots sunning themselves on the rocks. The hardest animal to spot is the elusive wolverine along this trail.
With the exception of the Logan Pass, generally more wildlife can be seen on the eastern side of Glacier National Park than on the western side. Get here before 2030 when the glaciers are gone, gone to graveyards everyone.