Glacier National Park, MT
Family of backpackers,
copyright Glacier National
If you only have one day to tour the park, the drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must. This paved, 52-mile-long National Historic Landmark through the heart of Glacier crosses the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. You'll be treated to breath-taking scenery -- roaring creeks, dark green forests, glacial lakes, windswept alpine tundra, and near-vertical mountain faces -- every mile of the way.
Prepare to make plenty of stops for photo ops. Here are some of the highlights:
- Lake McDonald. From the west, the road follows the shore of this 10-mile-long lake, the largest in the park. Behind it are the sheer, snow-topped peaks (even in August) of the park's highest mountains.
- McDonald Creek. Shortly after the road passes historic Lake McDonald Lodge, you'll begin climbing alongside McDonald Creek, a beautiful, frothy jumble of cascading water, rocks, and the occasional still pool.
- The Loop. At Mile 24, the road makes a sharp turn to the right and literally clings to a sheer mountainside with a vertical drop of thousands of feet on one side. Roll up the car windows as you pass the Weeping Wall, a gushing waterfall that spills onto the road.
- Logan Pass. You've gained 3,500 feet in elevation when you reach this dramatic alpine setting at Mile 32. Stop at the visitor center and follow the boardwalk to Hidden Lake Overlook. Along the way, you'll cross the Hanging Gardens, an area filled with lush meadows of wildflowers and surrounded by jagged peaks.
- Jackson Glacier Overlook. Stop at Mile 36 to get the best view of a glacier.
- Sunrift Gorge. A spectacular view of a water-carved gorge is just 75 feet from the Mile 39 pullout. Look for water ouzels in the creek; this slate-gray bird is often sighted along rushing streams as it forages for aquatic insects.
Other popular and highly scenic drives include the road along Lake Sherburne to Many Glacier, and the road to Two Medicine Valley, offering some of the most dazzling colors of rock and foliage in the park.