MT – Glacier NP – Going to the Sun Road . . . where 2 are better than 4

Experiencing Glacier National Park has been tops on my list for the past few years. While I wasn’t planning an April visit, it seemed destined. When it became apparent Utah’s tourism season had arrived, I escaped to the north spending time in Wyoming visiting Flaming Gorge NRA, Wind River RangeGrand Tetons NP, and Yellowstone NP before continuing onward to Montana and eventually to Glacier NP. First stop was Lake McDonald.

Crews were working hard to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but with it still closed I had limited options for early season camping and hiking. Apgar is only open to tent camping and since I planned to sleep in my car, Saint Mary was my best option. It took me a couple hours to reach the northeast side of the park.

You won’t hear any complaints from me when you have near solitude and this great “dinner with a view” lakeside seat. 

This was a pretty great campsite. How about going to sleep and waking up to this scene?

While wondering around I came across this lily. According to my research, this lily is not native to Glacier and may have been planted as a joke. I took this photo with my phone and I believe it was a solo plant. Is this really a Fawn Lily aka White Beauty (Erythronium californicum)?

The next morning I hiked the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It was mostly clear of snow and obstacles. I was a little jealous of the cyclists cruising the pavement but in other ways it was nice to take my time and enjoy views along the shores of Saint Mary Lake. 

The flat light and gray skies may have reduced the drama of these spectacular mountains, but they didn’t dampen my spirits. I know I’ll be back to capture these images with a pack on my back and feet on real trail.

The 2003 Roberts Fire may have left a 135,000 acre scar; however, it opened up views once hidden by vegetation.

Are you St Mary or Virginia Falls?

Are you Gunsight Pass? Are you Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers?

With all the snowmelt, water was plentiful. Who needs recorded music when you have nature’s soundtrack?

As much as I wanted to make it to Logan Pass, I decided it best to turn around after 7.5 miles at the Jackson Glacier Overlook. My decision was reaffirmed when I met a guy on his bike who said he was blocked by snow at Siyeh Bend, not far from my turnaround point.

The burned trees were a sad distraction.

I’m looking forward to returning another day when I can experience the beautiful colors of these mountains. 

Making my way back to the Saint Mary Lake campground. 

When I wasn’t tripping over my feet staring in awe at the big mountains, I found a few wildflowers, including Eastern Pasqueflower (Anemone patens) and Yellow Avalanche or Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum).

I just loved the pasqueflower. I’ve seen them frequently in the post-bloom stage when they look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book, but never in this soft pastel lavender fuzzy stage. 

Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) and Spring Beauty (Claytonia lanceolata)

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Darkwoods Violet (Viola orbiculata)

? Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

Rocky Mountain Clematis (Clematis occidentalis).

A good reminder to carry bear spray and be bear aware. ‘Tis NOT the season to surprise a hungry bear, especially a mom with cubs. 

Date(s) Hiked: April 22, 2016

Road Trip Day(s) #64 out of 88

Tips:

  • The hike from Mary Lake Campground to Jackson Glacier Viewpoint is about 15 miles round trip with 2,000+ feet elevation gain/loss.
  • The only campgrounds in the park open during the winter/early spring season are Apgar and St Mary
  • Come prepared with grizzly bear spray or buy at Visitor’s Center upon arrival
  • Microspikes or YakTrax are a good option for early season travel.

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