Member Trip Report



Glacier Backpacking, Glacier National Park, Montana

August 23-29, 2009

Leader and Author: Ellen Kress

Participants: Martin Staley, Meghan Lockard, Mandy Silva, Lauren Balcken, Ellen Kress

Ellen's' Slideshow: click here.      Map: click here.

Summary:  We 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.

Description:  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 Meghan visited.


Mokowanis Lake.

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 next day.

Waterfalls 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.


Ellen on 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.

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