May 13, 2013 at 8:12 am #1302875
The family will be heading to GNP this July 13 for a week and I've been reading up on the countless trails and hiking opportunities. There is no way to do all I'd like in a week, but I've narrowed down the list and wanted to get some opinions and or suggestions about what to add. Basically, I am hitting the more popular trails. Thanks in advance.
DAY 1 – Top on the list is the Hightline Trail to the Loop. I plan to hike into The Chalet for lunch. From there, I want to hit quick excursions to Grinnel Overlook, Swiftcurrent Pass and Swift Current Lookout. I intend to park at the loop and catch the shuttle back.
Day 2 – Hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel. If I am reading the maps correctly, I can start this hike off with the Ranger led hike to Iceberg Lake. At the junction/Y, I can split off and head to Ptarmigan Falls. Farther down the trail, I should come to The Tunnel. I will look for a cozy spot on the way to have lunch.
Day 3 – So far, this is a recovery day. All I have is hiking to Grinnell Glacier. It's fairly short and Ranger led. If we are tired enough, we can take the boat ride back. Anything else around the area?
Day 4 – We will be making our way to the West side at the end of the day, so I've planned to hike out of Two Medicine Lake area. The hike to Dawson Pass sounds like a must. We can take the boat ride to cut off several miles, then pick up the trail to Two Medicine Lake and on to Dawson Pass. On the way back, I would like to check out Twin Falls and Upper Two Medicine Lake.
Day 5 – White water rafting and fishing the Flat Head.
We will be staying at a cabin in the Babb area. I am considering switching Day's 3 and 4 so I can drive the GTSR to the other side of GNP. From what I can tell, these are somewhat challenging trails. My wife and I are 40, work out and are in good shape. Our two boys are 9 and 11. I've been dragging them up mountainsides since they were 5 and 7. They hiked a 14 mi round trip in Yellowstone two years ago, so I think they can handle this. Again, any suggestions or comments are welcome. What have I left out? What do I absolutely have to see? Thanks again.
adamMay 13, 2013 at 9:11 am #1985745
You've certainly done your homework–to me, the Many Glacier area is the pearl of GNP.
Another, maybe better, way to do the Highline trail is to leave your car at the Swiftcurrent Lodge, and take the Park shuttle to Logan Pass. Then hike to Granite Park, have lunch, and go up to the S'Current lookout, then over S'Current Pass and take the long, beautiful descent down to the S'current Lodge. If you would rather do the Loop instead, then you can blow off S'Current Pass, as there are no views there. Besides, the lookout provides you with perhaps the best view in the Park. You are looking at a long day of hiking either way.
The ranger-led hike to Iceberg Lake is a very slow and pokey hike, since the ranger will stop a lot to show you the flowers, etc. If you are quick hikers, you can take your own hike to Iceberg Lake, and then return to the junction and head up to the Ptarmigan tunnel. That would be a another long day, but it sounds like you are fit enough to do it.
The four valleys in the Many Glacier area (Grinnell glacier, S'Current, Iceberg/Ptarmigan, and the route to Cracker Lake) are some the finest hikes in the Park. Keep in mind that this area also has the highest density of griz, so make sure that the 2 adults each carry pepper spray and know how to use it. Your timing is good though, as the huckleberries probably won't be ripe yet, and the bears will likely be elsewhere finding their meals.
As for the Dawson Pass day, be sure you do that side trip to Upper Two Medicine Lake–it's a most beautiful place. Twin Falls isn't that cool, but since it's right off the main trail, you might as well check it out.
My favorite post-hike tradition in the Many Glacier area is to park at the Many Glacier Hotel's parking lot (above the hotel, just to the east) and take two cold beers to the little rocky knoll between the hotel and parking lot. This is maybe the finest view in the Park that you can drive to. I like to sit against a tree and stare at the valleys of Grinnell, S'Current, and Ice/Ptarmigan, just watching those beautiful mountains erode.
The best reasonably priced dinners can be had at the Swiftcurrent Lodge. In/near Babb, the Cattle Company has pretty good food, as does the Two Sisters restaurant a few miles south toward St. Mary. I like breakfast and lunch at the Babb cafe, probably because my childhood friend owns it (and also the gas station, the motel, and store).
Hope you have some good fun. GNP is a wonderful place.May 13, 2013 at 9:19 am #1985748
DAY 1 –
>> An extremely popular hike for a reason. It will be a stout day with all the side hikes you've planned. If you plan on parking at the Loop in the AM get there very early (before 830) to make sure you get a parking spot). If you plan on parking at Logan, get there before 9 to avoid the traffic. Make note of when the shuttle stops running up to Logan and don't miss it, many people get stranded every year. If you can swing the logistics, I'd look into hiking down Swiftcurrent and finishing in Many Glacier rather than going down to the Loop. Not much longer (esp if you're already up at S-current Pass), no harder, and more scenic.
Day 2 –
>> If you'll be in Many the next day I'd skip this and hike up to Gunsight Lake instead. Take the spur trail up into Jackson Glacier basin.
Day 3 –
>> Best hike in Many. Good plan.
Day 4 –
>> Commit and do the full Dawson-Pit Loop. Take the boat early in the AM to cut off miles.
Day 5 – White water rafting and fishing the Flat Head.
>> What stretch are you booked to float? The generic Moccasion-West stretch on the Middle Fork is pretty lame whitewater, and gets fished out. The West-Blakenship trip is also rather lame and gets tons of traffic. Various upper stretches on the Middle are not whitewater, but much prettier and a more representative experience. I'd ask if you could book Bear Creek to Paola. I don't know if anyone guides the Cedar Flats to Spotted Bear stretch of the South Fork (its a two hour gravel drive from West Glacier) but for scenic value it is very much worth the effort.
From what I can tell, these are somewhat challenging trails. My wife and I are 40, work out and are in good shape. What have I left out? What do I absolutely have to see? Thanks again.
>> Hiking out to Iceberg while at Logan is obligatory. Honestly the thing you're missing is a backpacking trip. If that isn't on the table the above is good as any itinerary.May 13, 2013 at 9:23 am #1985750
Forgot food. Very important.
I'm going to disagree with Gary. The Two Sisters and especially Cattle Baron are massively overpriced and just generally middling to crap food. I cannot emphasize this enough: the only place worth eating on the east side at the Two Med Grill. Serenos and the Firebrand are ok. A good rule of thumb in Glacier or any comparable area: ask if the place is open year round. If it's not, ask what place is and go there.May 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #1985767
Thanks for both responses. I'm glad to hear that I'm on the right path to planning what I know will be a great hiking trip. I will definitely look into both your recommendations regarding the hikes.
I haven't booked the rafting yet. I have no clue where to find whitewater and I know when I call an outfitter, they will sell me on their trip! LOL So would I, but I want to actually have somewhat of a whitewater experience. I was thinking of a float and fish trip. Any suggestions on who to call is greatly appreciated.
As for dinner time, we have a tradition of cooking in. We will be making an initial grocery run on the Kalispel side. The first four nights will be spent at the Stone House Lodge on Duck Lake in Babb. The lodge is fully furnished and the owner is the entertainer at Many Glacier Hotel. We will have dinner their at least one night. The final two nights will be in a condo at Whitefish Skii Resort. The area seems to offer some nice joints to fall in to.
Thanks again for the great advice.May 13, 2013 at 10:24 am #1985769
Gary, you mention griz population and feeding habits. This is of great interest to me. My prior encounters have been at safe distances – 100+ yards. Will the park begin to publish info regarding frequent citings? How would one find out where grizzlies are spending more of their time during the time one plans to arrive? You could imaging my wife's concerns! Spray will be a must. But, not walking into their kitchen would be prudent. Any advice?May 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm #1985808
Maybe the first piece of advice I would offer about griz is to read Steven Herero's book, "Bear Attacks–Their Causes and Avoidance." He's the definitive expert on the griz. But the rangers will have good info to share, just inquire at the S. Mary visitor center, or at the backcountry office by the Many Glacier campground. They most always post a notice if bears are seen on the trails. In fact, they will sometimes close a trail completely if a bear is spending a lot of time in an area (which is a bummer if they close a trail you've wanted to hike). But keep in mind that they will warn people about bears being a possible danger at all times!
My only up-close-and-personal encounter with a griz was 2 years ago on the Iceberg Lake trail. There was no warning by the Park service, either the day before I started the hike, or for several days afterward (even after I made my report).
My personal habit is to sing songs, repeat silly phrases, clack my hiking poles together occasionally, etc. I hike solo, by the way, so I have to make all the noise. I tend to be constantly glancing in every direction, all the time. I always am looking for ways to get off the trail, uphill, in case I come across a bear (or a moose). I believe that by giving them wide berth, talking softly to them, and not looking them directly in the eye, you'll be perceived as less of a threat. Who know what really works? I just think that if I was charged by a bear, I'd totally freak out. They say you should lie face down on the ground curled up into a ball, and hope the bear goes away. I doubt that I'd have the guts to do that, and I'd probably just empty my spray can in his face and hope for a miracle.
Probably the best advice I could give is for your group to constantly be making noise–talking fairly loudly, singing songs, etc. This is especially important when hiking next to a noisy stream, or when in a brushy corridor that limits your vision. Bear bells don't really work, but hiking noisily in large groups does.
Re: food. Dave is probably right about the prices/quality of the two restaurants I'd mentioned. The thing is, there aren't that many places to eat in the Babb area. I think the "good ones" he mentioned are all located in East Glacier, too far for a Babb-based person to drive.
Anyway, I think you should have a great time in GNP. Be sure to have some backup hikes in mind, in case they close your prefered trails.May 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm #1985811
"My only up-close-and-personal encounter with a griz was 2 years ago on the Iceberg Lake trail."
Isn't that next to one of the off-trail bear management areas that is routinely closed?
Instead of singing songs and repeating silly phrases, you could tell the bears some great titanium stories.
–B.G.–May 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm #1985819
I think the Iceberg/Ptarmigan and Grinnell Glacier trails are the ones that get closed most often. Also, the grassy slope next to the Granite Park chalet is considered the fairway of the big bears. Another of my high school buddies was once the chalet's host. He mentioned that they would see griz and cubs a couple times a week, coming down in the morning to find something to eat and then back up toward S'Current Pass in the late afternoon. I don't know where they sleep, but I sure would hate to meet one on the steep descent off the pass down to the S'Current Lodge. Horrible exposure, and no way to get off the trail.
Yeah–I'll tell them titanium stories from now on. That'll put them to sleep in no time. Talk about an ultralight bear sedative!
Actually, I have a very soothing set of words I use when I come across big animals, to sound less threatening to them. I took some linguistics classes in college, and some words are far more soothing than others. But I'm too shy to print it out on these forums…the ladies will think I'm crazy, and the guys will think I'm a dork.May 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm #1985821
"Also, the grassy slope next to the Granite Park chalet is considered the fairway of the big bears."
Is that south of the chalet, or east of it?
–B.G.–May 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm #1985824
The entire Many Glacier complex is a Griz kitchen. If you're going to hike there you should know that.
Years ago I was headed up the beginning of Swiftcurrent Pass when a Griz shortcut down onto the trail a 1/2 mile above me via one of the steep gullies. He had two groups of four people, one on either side, each 100 feet away. He continued downhill, the direction he wanted to go anyway, as the family of four backed away faster and faster. The teenage sun panicked and went into a full sprint after 30 seconds of that. Thankfully as soon as the cliffs relented the bear escaped down into the brush and that was that.
Point being, if you don't have a cool head in a crisis you shouldn't hike in Griz country.
And remember Bob, the trails in Glacier are closed anyway.May 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm #1985827
"the trails in Glacier are closed anyway."
David, I believe the original poster was asking about the week of July 13.
Some trails will be open by then.
–B.G.–May 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm #1985830
Both, Bob. It runs along the east side of the chalet and extends down to the south quite a ways. It's actually a long grassy/rocky corridor that starts up at the pass. I've not hiked from Granite to the Loop, so I don't know how far the corridor runs.
Remember that prior to 1967 the chalet was "unofficially encouraged" to use a garbage pit, so that the senators and other tourists staying at the chalet could watch a nightly grizzly show. Then, as a result of "the night of the grizzlies," when two ladies were mauled on the same night by different bears (one near Granite Park CG, the other at Trout Lake west of L. McDonald), the NPS stopped that practice. However, it might be that the route was passed on by the bears from generation to generation, and they still tend to frequent the area (I'm speculating here).May 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm #1985832
I tend to be in Glacier earlier in the season, so more of the trails are closed. If the Highline Trail from Logan Pass is still closed, what about the trail that goes from the Loop up to the chalet? There aren't any steep places with hand cables or anything, so I wouldn't think that there would be any more obstacles than some snow patches.
–B.G.–May 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm #1985945
Backpack JackBPL Member
@jumpbackjackLocale: Armpit of California
Don't mean to highjack the thread, but Bob Gross please PM me I have some questions for you.
Thanks, JackMay 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm #1985951
"some questions for you"
There is a place to leave comments on my web site.
–B.G.–May 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm #1986439
I'm going to have to disagree with Dave a bit on the food situation on the East Side.
First, he's right: Two Medicine Grill in East Glacier is hands down the best thing going. I consider Two Sisters, while somewhat over-priced, to be in the above average category. I eat there a few times each season, and I usually stick to the burgers and breakfast, which they do well. Firebrand is a little above average, but keep in mind that the local palate plays it pretty safe.
I won't even bother with Serrano's. It may be better than the Mexican food you can find in the Flathead (the closest to the park is Los Caporales in C. Falls, which is simply awful), but that means nothing. It is also far too crowded and overpriced to make it even worth the effort after a long few days. I'd rather drive to West Glacier or C. Falls than stop there after a trip. Likewise, I would avoid the Park Cafe (over-priced, below mediocre, no matter what people tell you about their pie–they're paid to say that), the Snow Goose Grille (also simply mediocre), and just about anywhere else. Given how remote the East Side is from any real competition, it seems that the restaurants out there are in a race to the bottom in terms of quality. I've found that on the West Side, competition from C. Falls and Kalispell make them step up their game a bit. Which still isn't saying much–you don't come to Montana for the food.
Otherwise, I pretty much concur with the general trend of the comments above. Enjoy the trip.May 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm #1986458
El Topo Cantina in Bigfork is the best Mexican we have found in the area. Not saying it is amazing, just good relative to the options available. (Street cred–born and raised west Texan). Agree on Los Caporales being crap.May 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm #1986472
El Topo is on the same level as Serrano's–overpriced, bland, and boring.
FYI, also born and raised in Texas, in the Piney Woods out East. The best Mexican I've had up here is in our kitchen. Again, still not saying too much.May 15, 2013 at 3:54 pm #1986480
you have to dramatically lower expectations if you are in Montana, I admit.
But we could start a real war here over whether East Texans even have a clue about Mexican food.
EDITED: To be clear…the above is in jestMay 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm #1986485
Oh, and what we do is catch a big load of whitefish, then cook up a big pot of of stewed fish tacos. Not exactly a TexMex standard, but got to spend time in Baja and learned a recipe form an old Mexican grandma there.
So you are correct. If you want good stuff in Montana cook at home. Maybe Missoula or Bozeman have better pickings.
Not sure how we got off on talking about Mexican food on this thread. But it can be a passionate topic for some.May 15, 2013 at 4:04 pm #1986488
"But we could start a real war here over whether East Texans even have a clue about Mexican food."
Indeed. Though, we could say the same about you boys. But living in Montana really gives you the chance to appreciate the local cuisine of anywhere along the border.
What I really miss about Texas–and this is pretty much the total list–is the white cheese dip that we could get from the Mexican restaurants that actually cooked like they do down in Mejico. I've tried getting that recipe any number of ways and with all kinds of "authentic" ingredients, and I've not been able to replicate it yet.
Like I said, you don't come to Montana for the food. Of course, if you can get some big game, that does help.
EDIT: Well, losing good Mexican food is the only meaningful downside to living up here. Thankfully, family down in Texas keep us supplied with what we can't find up here.
I occasionally make it down to Missoula, but the best I've found there is on par with the more or less mediocre stuff that I've found in East Texas. Of course, after a long drought, it tastes pretty good.May 15, 2013 at 4:30 pm #1986505
Half my family is from Nuevo Mexico, food from which is actually more my passion. Here is a trick to surviving when afar. Mail order a case of El Pinto roasted green chili. It was one of the few things that allowed me to survive living for many years on the East Coast.
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