Thursday, July 17, 2014 We had a good night’s sleep and woke up around 7:30. Randy got to try out the sofabed.
We had breakfast and got ready for a drive on the Going-To-The-Sun Road. It was sunny with a forecasted high of 90 degrees. We left the campground at 9:20 and waited in line to get in at the park entrance. With 3 lanes, it seemed we were always in the slow lane, no matter how many times we switched lanes to find a faster one. (Just like at the grocery store.) Once we entered the park we were on the Going-To-The-Sun Road (GTTSR). Going-To-The-Sun Road is a 52 mile road that runs from West Glacier to St. Mary through Logan Pass. Most people think that it got it’s name because it is so high up, but it is named after the mountain that the Indians named Going-To-The-Sun Mountain. We stopped to snap this picture of Lake McDonald showing the mountain’s reflections in the calm water. It probably wouldn’t look like that on the way back.
We didn’t stop to look at McDonald Falls or Avalanche Creek because we would do that another day. We wanted to get up to Logan Pass before the parking lot became full. Randy was the driver, I was in the front passenger seat, and Bob strapped himself into the middle seat in the back to compensate for his fear of heights. A beer helps calm the nerves!
We did make a couple of stops on the way up for picture ops, but it was very hazy and not the best conditions for a crisp picture. The forest fires here in Montana and the state of Washington were causing smoky/hazy conditions here.
The road followed the shore along McDonald Lake for about 10 miles and then along McDonald Creek for another 10 minutes. From there, we started to climb and the higher we went the clearer it got. This was our first view of Heaven’s Peak (8,987 ft.) and what a sight it was.
We passed through one of our first of a couple of tunnels today.
The road came too close to the edge at times, but all it took was a glance away to keep the fear factor down.
This guy better have some brakes left when he gets to the bottom. Bikers cannot ride on this road between the hours of 11:00-4:00.
The ride was beautiful! At times, waterfalls splashed right onto the road.
We pulled off to the side for this photo op of the Garden Wall, this jagged ridge which is part of the Continental Divide and separates the Many Glacier area of the park and the Lake McDonald valley.
There were waterfalls all around us….one more spectacular than the next.
Traffic wasn’t too bad on our trip up to Logan Pass. Going-To-The-Sun Road is longer from West Glacier to Logan Pass than from St. Mary to Logan Pass. The road is also more scenic on this side.
Being from California, Randy compared Glacier Nat’l Park to Yosemite and said that everyone says Yosemite has so many waterfalls and is so picturesque, but he says it doesn’t even come close to the beauty in Glacier. He thinks Glacier is by far, above and beyond more scenic than Yosemite. I am in awe of the beauty here in Glacier. This is Logan Pass from a distance.
We are so astounded at the idea that men built this road through the mountains back 1932 with 75 mule teams which would make single daily trips up carrying supplies. They did that for 11 years to complete the road. WOW! Just look at the construction of the road, built by craftsmen of the time. This is called the Triple Arches and it is made of stone.
There were still a lot of snowfields in the mountains which created waterfalls…..EVERYWHERE! We got up to Logan Pass around 11:00 and were able to find a parking space right away, even though the sign said “FULL”. Usually people wait in line for a space to open up. We were lucky! We started our trek to Hidden Lake…along with a lot of other people. We had to climb about 460 feet up stairs, over boardwalks, and snowfields.
It was a tricky climb at times just to stay on our feet and not fall in the snow.
It was a 3 mile round-trip hike to Hidden Lake which was still 1/2 frozen. It was a gorgeous lake and many people took the time to linger there. The trail normally continues down to the lake, but the trail was closed off due to bear activity.
We passed many mountain goats on the walk. Some were lounging in the sun in the snowfield. Other families of goats were just grazing along the path.
The hike, wildlife, and lake were well-worth the climb. What a view we had from the top!
On the way down, Bob spotted a whole herd of bighorn sheep almost completely hidden from view. What a find! You can see their famous rounded horns.
From the bottom, the hikers looked like ants. We couldn’t believe that we passed people walking up and down in flip flops and sandals. We passed a whole group of Mennonites or Amish taking the hike, but at least they had on tennis shoes.
Our hiking boots worked well for gripping the snow and digging our heels in so we wouldn’t slip. Some of the snow patches were actually covering the boardwalk and stairs, so when those melt, the hike will be a little easier. We got back to the car and found a scenic spot to eat our lunch. We could see the Going-To-The-Sun Road from where we sat.
We were on our way again at 1:30 with lots of cars waiting for our parking space. We continued on the Going-To-The-Sun Road for a few more miles until we encountered the start of the construction area and turned around. Traffic can get really clogged up around there. On the way back down, the sun had moved into the valley and we were able to get a better, clearer view. The road is on the left along the river.
Everywhere we looked, we saw multiple waterfalls.
We got a great view of the road that we had traveled on.
We could also see people walking along the cliff on the Highland Trail. If you look closely you can see a line in the middle of the picture. That is the trail. When we looked more closely, we could see about 3 mountain goats leading the way, followed by the hikers. That was so cool, but it looked kind of treacherous! We’ll have to see if we can find out more about the trail.
We found a snowfield that was partially melted, so we got out to explore. It came right down to the road.
Inside the “cave” of snow we discovered a waterfall. The melted water was freezing!
Driving farther, we encountered the “Weeping Wall” where multiple waterfalls were streaming down onto the road from steep dramatic cliffs. We drove our rental car under the waterfalls for a quick car wash.
We found another waterfall to play in along the way.
We all took turns playing in the ice cold water.
The view on the ride down was more clearly visible since the wind had picked up and cleared the air a little. This is a picture of the remarkable Birdwoman Falls.
We made more stops on the way down, especially to see the waterfalls and take in those amazing views.
Once we reached river level, we made another stop at the Red Rock Falls. We walked on the boardwalk to the observation area where we came upon some rapids.
The water there had that amazing aqua color.
This river came down a chute and emptied into a swirling pool of the aqua water. Absolutely gorgeous!
We got back to the campground around 3:30. We were all pooped and just sat around relaxing a little before dinner. We ate a little later and then took a walk with Auggie around the campground. Randy and I went for an ice cream afterwards at the ice cream shoppe in the campground. We all hung out until the sun went down and a chill entered the air. It still isn’t getting dark until about 10:00.
We put things away and went inside. Before long our eyes got heavy and we had to call it a night. We all agreed that Hidden Lake Trail was one of the best hikes we’ve been on so far.