When we were in Glacier a few years ago we had wanted to do stop at the visitor’s center at the top of Logan Pass, but the parking lot was so packed we had to content ourselves with stopping at a pull-out further east and taking a short hike along a stream to find a spot to eat our lunch and enjoy the view. This time I was determined to make it to the visitor’s center and the popular Hidden Lake hike originating there.
So in our first attempt, not wanting to fight the parking, we planned to snag a seat on the 7am direct shuttle, but alas, waking at 0 dark thirty we both felt tired and off and ended up back in bed asleep. The next day we decided that we would just drive the pass and try to find a spot, figuring that arriving before 10am ought to do it. So I had our lunch all made and backpack packed the night before. When we woke up we ate breakfast, threw on hiking clothes and headed out by 8:30am.
Driving up Going-to-the-Sun Road in the early morning was nice. There were a several cars winding along the twisty narrow road with us, but it wasn’t jammed and since only a couple of cars were coming down we could hog the road instead of hugging the steep edge of the cliffs. By 9:45 we had wound our way to the top to find a full parking lot. As we circled we saw several people find spots as someone else was leaving, but after 30 minutes we had no luck and decided to give up and keep heading east. Also on my list was a visit to St. Mary, the eastern entrance of the park. So we continued on stopping by St. Mary Lake for lunch. Figuring the parking lot would still be packed, we continued east out of the park and turned north toward Canada. Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park were joined together in 1932 as Glacier-Waterton National Peace Park signifying the peaceful border with Canada. I had wanted to see Waterton as well so on we drove.
As we headed toward Canada we got a different view of the peaks. The tabletop of Chief Mountain was stunning and different from any of the views we had seen so far. Crossing the border here in the middle of nowhere was a breeze, no lines at all. As we continued along the smooth Canadian road we noticed cattle grazing on the shoulders. At one point on the way back we had to stop when a lost calf darted into the road and it’s mother charged bellowing down the center line and stopped in front of us so her baby could nurse.
In Waterton we walked through Prince Wales Hotel, another stunning lodge situated above a lake with views of the peaks. This time though the feel was distinctly Scottish as the waitresses bringing out the afternoon tea wore kilts of tartan plaid. Since I couldn’t convince Chuck to sit down to a fancy tea, we headed into the small town to walk around. Although there are a couple of roads that go further into the park, the one here was closed and we didn’t want to drive further into Canada to get to the other, so after exploring a bit of the town we headed back.
This time we headed east over Going to the Sun Road enjoying a different view of Glacier’s peaks. Just before arriving at Logan Pass the Red Jammer Bus in front of us slowed to a stop. As I searched the upper hillside for what they were all looking at, Chuck noticed the big horn sheep right out our side window. What luck! Indeed, we were getting luckier because as we arrived at Logan Pass we immediately found a van pulling out and snagged their spot. We went into the small visitor’s center and then headed out to hike the trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook.
This trail starts out as a boardwalk that climbs through the alpine meadow. Again the views in every direction were postcard perfect. We stopped to view a group of bighorn sheep as tiny specks in our binoculars and even a few far off mountain goats. Little did we know that if we just kept going we would have close up views of mountain goats right on the path! Part way up a waterfall gushing out of the snow gave us a cool breeze. At the top we peered down into Hidden Lake, which is supposed to have a beautiful turquoise color, but with the cloud cover and raindrops falling it was but a dull gray. Still the views were awesome and this hike was a great ending to our day of exploring the park.