Leader and Author:
Staley, Meghan Lockard, Mandy Silva, Lauren Balcken, Ellen Kress
did Glacier’s fantastic North Loop, one of the most sought-after
routes in the park. Apparently people used to be guided on this
route on horseback, and there were chalets along the way. Most of
the route is between 5,000’-7,000’ in elevation, with most of the
lakes at about 5,000,’ the two passes at about 7,000’, and the
highline trail at about 6500.’ The route was 53 miles long, not
including various side trips. We all had blisters by the end and a
sense of accomplishment.
On Sunday August
23rd we rendezvoused at the St. Mary Campground and met
each other and got our gear together. The next day we drove to the
Many Glacier trailhead where we left our vehicles. We hiked 10
miles to Elizabeth Lake. There was a side trip to Iceberg Lake that
Megan took, which she said was very scenic but there were a lot of
people there. We hiked over Ptarmigan Pass, made possible by the
Ptarmigan Tunnel, built by the CCC in the 30s. The high point of
the day was when we went through the tunnel and popped out on the
other side. The trail is blasted into steep rock walls and the view
was incredible. We could see Elizabeth Lake below, which looked
close but was really 5 miles away. There were lots of day hikers
going up to the Tunnel, but none after that.
Lauren below south
side of Tunnel.
On Tuesday, we hiked 9
miles, mostly flat, to our campsite at Mokowanis Junction. We
passed a cool waterfall, Dawn Mist Falls. One of our party took a
wrong turn, adding two extra miles and another waterfall to the
route, but we were able to wait for her at a trail junction and she
caught up with us.
Dawn Mist Falls
Wednesday was a rest
day and everyone hung out and relaxed. There were two lakes, Glens
Lake and Mokowanis Lake, near the campsite. Also there is a
spectacular waterfall above Mokowanis Lake, which Martin, Ellen, and
Thursday was our
killer day of 14 miles and 4200’ elevation gain. We went up and
over Stony Indian Pass, down into the Waterton Valley, then up out
of the valley to Fifty Mountain campground on the Highline Trail.
We started early to make sure we would all have time to get there
before dark. Stony Indian Pass had incredible waterfalls on the
east side and a nice lake on the west side. The view from up on the
Highline was incredible, with a wide open bench and many peaks
visible. On the way up to the Highline, it was a hot and exposed
hillside, and Mandy and Ellen started feeling like they were getting
some heat exhaustion. They recovered in camp and felt better the
before Stony Indian Pass.
On Friday, we hiked
12.5 miles along the Highline Trail to our campsite at the Granite
Park Chalet. The trail more or less contoured along the west side
of a ridge. Meghan did a side trip up to the ridge to see Sue Lake,
and Martin and Ellen did a side trip up to the ridge at Ahern Pass,
where Elizabeth Lake was visible (where we camped the first night).
We saw bighorn sheep at Ahern Pass, and mountain goats on the ridge
between Ahern Pass and Granite Park Chalets.
the Highline Trail.
On the last day, we
hiked out to Many Glacier where our cars were. Our intended route
via Swiftcurrent Pass was closed due to bear activity. At this
point our group cohesion broke down. Mandy hiked out via
Swiftcurrent Pass despite the closure, Meghan and Lauren hiked out
on the Highline Trail to Logan Pass, and Ellen and Martin hiked out
on the Granite Park trail to the Loop on the Going-to-the-Sun road.
Meghan and Lauren saw mountain goats close up. As we got near the
trailheads, the trails were suddenly swarming with day hikers like
they were the first day. Everyone who hiked out via an alternative
route was able to take a shuttle to Many Glacier, then hitchhike to
Many Glacier. It worked out fine although I would have preferred us
to be able to do our planned route. We all said goodbye and started
on our drives home.