Glacier National Park Part 1: September 2016

After spending the summer in Washington State, le mister and I headed out on our first real grand adventure to Glacier National Park. I had completed a bunch of work on the RV, spent a ton of quality time with my family, and we lived through our first 1-2 night boondocking trip in the rig. So the She-Beast was ready to roll on her first real, big adventure!

The plan was originally to visit GNP and then send le mister back to the southwest via plane when he needed to be back to finish projects, and I would stay up north to explore. After experiencing how cold it already was in September, plans changed and we decided to make a grand tour through multiple National Parks back to Las Vegas. I’ll cover those later.  For now, enjoy this picture-heavy post of our trip to Glacier National Park!

But First…. RVing can never be easy.

When we first tried to take off, we stopped for gas at a gas station literally a quarter of a mile, maybe half a mile, from my parents’ house. Le mister was checking tire pressures and POP-HISSSSS….. a tire valve had popped off (the rig is 25 years old, after all) and the tire quickly went flat. So we had to call AAA, argue about our coverage (again), wait a few hours, and go back home to try again in the morning. At least it was sunny and I could enjoy the RV bed in the gas station 🙂 We were so close to home still that I was able to take Trixi for a walk there and pick up a rug and a toy we had forgotten.

 

ONWARDS!

Heading East

On the drive from Western Washington to Glacier National Park, which would take us through Idaho and to Montana, we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls.. home of the best pancake mix in the world. (No, really. I used to take bags full with me from WA to CA when I was in college, and the TSA always treated me like I had blocks of cocaine. But it was worth it! Ha!)

We also spent some time at a gorgeous rest area with a free dump & fill station. Epic! This is why Washington is the best state.

And of course, the Columbia River Gorge.

After a lot of driving and a couple of Walmart stays, we arrived at the west end of Glacier National Park

Apgar Campground
Our campsite at Apgar Campground on the west side of GNP


Miss Trixi was quite sick of driving by this point.. as you can see by her pointed glare in the side mirror. But the wiggle butt brightened up once she saw Lake McDonald.

Waves, waves, oh my, waves! She has always been scared of ocean waves, but these were small enough that she enjoyed trying to bite them each time one would roll in.

At the Apgar Campground Ampitheatre, we watched an interpretive ranger presentation about the nighttime environment in the park. We sat at the back because we had Trixi. Le mister couldn’t stop laughing under his breath because the ranger kept repeating a single phrase in between every sentence.

Trixi was pretty well behaved but let out a hilariously loud hack that caused everybody to turn back to look at her and laugh. 😛 For the rest of the trip we kept impersonating that noise and it was cracking us up!

The next day (I think…) Lake McDonald was much more peaceful and calm, as the sun had come out and the wind had died down. After a chill evening at the campground, it was time to adventure through the park!


 

Clearly…. Trixi likes to make herself comfortable. Oh, and even though I usually think dog clothes are silly, she gets very cold and needy so cute sweaters like this help. 🙂 Isn’t she adorable?!

The front passenger seat is all hers, whether someone is there or not. She flips out if we try to make her ride in the “back.”

Hiking Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake

We drove as far as we could eastbound on Going To The Sun Road, and stopped at the Avalanche Creek Transfer Stop to park the RV and explore. We ended up going on quite the hike on Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake.

The bears here are no joke! My Facebook friend had been in the park just weeks before, and many of the trails were closed due to bear activity. At one point she walked right up onto a black bear and had to turn around.

This photo above was actually a bit earlier in the day at a pull off.. but fits right in.

The water on the hike was so blue, it was mind boggling. The photos barely do it justice.

Le mister and his ginormous camera 😛

Look at that tree trunk!

We made it!

After a couple of miles we made it to the beautiful Avalanche Lake. I wish it had been sunnier, but this was still a nice introduction to the beauty that Glacier National Park offers. After a snack and a bit of resting, it was time to head back down the trail.


Hiking Back Down

Something had been there before us!

Can you see the forest through the trees?

The mountains surrounding us were breathtaking.



On the drive back to Apgar Campground, we stopped at an upper portion of Lake McDonald and enjoyed some of the sun. (And, of course, bit some more waves.)


Next Up: East Glacier

After a couple of nights on the west side of the park, we headed to the East side of the park for a few days.

For those unfamiliar with Glacier National Park like I was, there is essentially one road through the park, which we couldn’t go on because the RV is too long – the road has a 21 foot limit. Then there is a road that borders the edge of the park from the west side, around the south side, and to the east side. We had to take that long route around the park, which was over an hour long drive. The park is much bigger than you’d think!

It goes through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation which was remote and beautiful, yet desolate in some places. The south side was breathtaking.

The road above is also a road that we weren’t supposed to be on, but I didn’t know it until it was way to late to turn around. It really wasn’t that bad and I figured since we have such a short wheel base in comparison to the length of the rig, it would be fine. It was! The only iffy parts were some portions of the road that were very slanted towards the dropoff on the left.


St. Mary Campground and Lake

We arrived at our next campground, St. Mary, and picked a spot with an incredible view. What’s better than blueberry pancakes in the midst of majestic mountains, you ask? Nothing!!

Also note my nice ‘Merica decal that I left on the RV from the previous owner 🙂


Exploring East Glacier NP

The weather on the East side of the park was a bit more extreme than the West side. The wind was incredible. It rocked and howled around the RV all night. Even when it was sunny, it was chilly. But the park was ripe for exploring, so we hopped back onto Going To The Sun Rd on the East side to head as far West as we could.

The views were just incredible. I know I’m going to repeat that hundreds of times on this blog, but that’s all there is to it! They were just heavenly.

We drove through every type of weather on the way up the road: rain, hail, snow, sun, and fog. It changed from minute to minute and around each turn.

At the top of Logan Pass, we reached the visitor center. We were actually not supposed to go this far in the big RV, and a ranger scolded us and told us we couldn’t go any further when he saw us pull into the visitor center. But he allowed us to park and walk around for a bit.

The wind was blowing the clouds by so fast that the view changed from moment to moment. Just look at the photo from the visitor center overlooking the parking lot, which is the direction we had just come up. Have you ever seen such a wild parking lot!?

The sky started to clear on the way back down, and little things like the sides of the roads were just as beautiful as anything else in the park.

Back through the tunnel

If I remember correctly, this is Saint Mary’s Lake. Our campground was on the very east end of this.

Wildfires Abound

Surrounding the lake were many pieces of evidence of a previous fire. Wildfires happen quite frequently here and there are signs of past fires everywhere. Many of the tree lines simply look like hoards of matchsticks standing up together, covering mountainsides, from miles away.

The damage in this photo is probably from the Reynold’s Creek Fire.

If you want some extra reading, I highly recommend this link: “Firestorm! The Story of the Heaven’s Peak Fire of 1936” which will give you chills! I would love to see it made into a movie like Dante’s Peak.

Ok ok, sorry for the nerdy birdwalk, back to the adventure. 🙂 The water, again, was incredibly blue and would light up like a gem when the sun hit it the right way.

 

Interpretive Presentation Numero Dos

One night at St. Mary campground, we braved the freezing air and bear poop to appreciate a fascinating presentation made by an interpretive ranger. I found it completely fascinating and it was totally worth it.

It really was freezing with the air whipping all around us.

These are the skulls and pelts of a wolverine (yes, wolverine’s are freakin’ real, ya’ll. I had no idea), a wolf (I think), and a baby grizzly bear. Wolverines are apparently small and ferocious – not to be messed with. Wolves have not been fully reintroduced to National Parks after a massive kill-off authorized by the government a while ago. The grizzly bear’s fur was shockingly rough, much rougher than I would have imagined.

Final Thoughts

Up next: the Grinnell Glacier Hike! I think I will cover that in a separate post as this one has already gotten quite long and picture heavy.

Let me know if you enjoyed this post and would like to see more! Have you been to GNP before? Would you like to go? Do you have any questions about traveling there in an RV? Let me know in the comments!

XO

Author: Hannah

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3 thoughts

  1. I love your article a wonderful pictures. We are going to Grand Teton NP this June for about a week then on to Glacier NP . What road did you take? I have a 30′ class A and try to avoid as many steep grades as possible. Being from the Florida flatlands it can be a bit challenging. We are towing a vehicle to do the road trips. How is the campground you are staying at?
    I look forward to seeing more of your pictures and reading your story.

    1. Hi Craig, thanks for stopping by! That will be an amazing trip! Are you heading through Yellowstone as well?

      If you’re asking about the road I mentioned that we probably weren’t supposed to be on, I believe it was Looking Glass Road. It was on the east side of the park into St. Mary. No hugely steep grades, just uncomfortable turns and tilted roads. When we went from GNP to the Grand Tetons, I believe we took I-15 South, stayed in a Helena MT Walmart for a night, and then went east on I-90 until we hit Livingston. Then south to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons from there.

      Most of the steepest grades on this trip were west of the park, crossing Idaho and into Montana. I also vaguely remember one in Montana that was pretty scary but can’t remember exactly where.. though it may have been just before Helena.

      Best of luck on your travels, and hope to see you around the blog again!

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