A Pedacito of Glacier National Park
Updated: Jun 19, 2022
On a crisp spring morning, packed to the brim with raincoats and light jackets, we made our trip to Glacier National Park in the shoulder season, just before the park opened its doors wide to the rolling crowd of tourists that flash their phone cameras and marvel at its beauty.
I had always been fascinated by this place, with tall, intimidating snow-capped mountains and vast stretches of untouched land. So it was prudent that we visited it at a time when there were fewer visitors.
We took a flight to Kalispell and rented a car to make the hour-long journey from this quaint little town to the national park entrance. Just beyond it was our stay for the next three days; Belton Chalet. Typical of the Swiss-chalet-like buildings that span the park, Belton has gabled roofs and exposed beams but is smaller in size.
It’s almost like we were living in someone’s home. The rooms are small but well-appointed, decked in vintage charm. It’s also rumored that the hotel is haunted, much like the other chalets in the vicinity. But we don’t experience anything during our stay, thankfully.
First, we headed out towards Lake McDonald and walked up the pier to take a look. It was a cloudy evening and the air was still. The pebbled bottom of the lake was disappearing quickly as clouds began to gather above the waters. At a distance, behind a thick curtain of clouds was an endless chain of towering mountains.
But we couldn’t get a clear look so we decided to just take in the scene before leaving for the day. The Lake McDonald Lodge is one of the biggest and most popular ones in the area, and we walked in to look around at its hunting-lodge interiors. Taxidermied wildlife look down on you from their mantles on the walls and thick trunks of wood hold the place together.
The evening had just begun and the chandeliers light up the room in a warm, orange glow. It also helped that a guest took enthusiastically to the piano to play covers of popular Coldplay songs.
On the second day, we began with a hike to Avalanche lake, through the Trail of the Cedar, which is a couple of miles from McDonald lodge. The hike follows Avalanche creek on and off for 2.5 miles and ends in Avalanche lake, which sits at the base of an ethereal set of mountains, The Bearhat Mountain and Little Matterhorn.
It rained the entire time and we hiked with ponchos thrown over us. I have to admit that the clouds followed us everywhere during this trip and it rained more often than not, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The constant drizzle kept the air crisp and smelling of fresh earth while we feasted on the sights and sounds around us.
We also managed to visit Polebridge that day, a tiny town in West Glacier that has just about four buildings in total, and drive on the Going-to-the-Sun road, although only a small stretch of it was open for the season. We did end up catching Wild Goose Island on the way; both the road and the island became popular after they featured in the opening scenes of the Stanley Kubrik classic, The Shining.
Our final hike at Glacier National Park and the last thing we did, just after a peak at the incredible Two Medicine Lake, was the St. Mary Area Waterfalls Hike on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. As its name suggests, it features three waterfalls in the course of the hike and I would pin it down as one of the most memorable hikes I've been on so far.
Not only do the waterfalls increase in size but the final climatic falls you get to at the end of the first leg of your journey are absolutely spellbinding. And the hike itself, surrounded by the peaks of many of the parks’ most popular mountains is picturesque. It rained in spurts through the hike and made everything seem all the more beautiful.
We left Glacier National Park feeling heavyhearted that the trip had already come to an end but also with a certain kind of humility that envelops you when you are in the midst of some of nature’s grandest creations.
National parks are a great way to immerse yourself in the natural landscapes of a new place. Read about experiences in national parks from our other storytellers all over the world!
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