Montana | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:51:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Montana | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 The Best Small Town Rodeos in Montana & Wyoming https://moon.com/2017/08/best-small-town-rodeos-in-montana-wyoming/ https://moon.com/2017/08/best-small-town-rodeos-in-montana-wyoming/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 22:36:02 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=15163 With more than 100 annual events on the calendar between May and November, it’s hard to drive through Montana and Wyoming without running into rodeo action somewhere. Stop. Buy a ticket. The bleachers are fine. These small-town rodeos offer a unique window into life here.

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With more than 100 annual events on the calendar between May and November, it’s hard to drive through Montana and Wyoming without running into rodeo action somewhere. Stop. Buy a ticket. The bleachers are fine. These small-town rodeos offer a unique window into life here: Locals wear their Sunday best, and no one seems to mind the dust. Sitting on a sun-baked wooden bench, a beer in one hand and a bag of popcorn in the other, is the best first date in small towns like Livingston, Montana, or Ten Sleep, Wyoming, where they show off their best without hiding what’s real.

A rider being bucked off the back of a horse at the Cody Nite Rodeo.

At the Cody Nite Rodeo in Cody, Wyoming. Photo © CGP Grey, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Montana Rodeos

Miles City Bucking Horse Sale (third full weekend in May)

http://www.buckinghorsesale.com/

Since 1914, the country’s best bucking stock—and the most ambitious cowboys—have been showcased at this world-famous event in Miles City. The party atmosphere follows the crowds from the rodeo into town and every bar throughout the long weekend for concerts, street dances, and a good old small-town parade. Don’t be surprised if you see cowboys, carrying their saddles, hitching a ride to this event: For horses, bulls, and riders, this is the place to get noticed.

Annual NRA Gardiner Rodeo (mid-June)

Just outside Yellowstone’s north entrance, in the shadow of Electric Peak, the annual rodeo in tiny Gardiner includes all the standards—bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and breakaway roping—with a timeless small-town charm.

Augusta American Legion Rodeo and Parade (last Sunday in June)

Held in the hamlet of Augusta, at the edge of the spectacular Rocky Mountain Front, this is the largest and oldest one-day rodeo in the state. The town throws its biggest party of the year with rodeo action, a barbecue, a street dance, and even an art show.

Livingston Roundup (July 2-4)

http://livingstonroundup.com/

Offering small-town charm and a big-city purse over the Fourth of July holiday, this festive event puts Livingston on the map with big-name rodeo action, a popular parade, nightly fireworks, and more than 10,000 spectators that flood this riverfront community.

Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede (second weekend in July)

http://www.wolfpointchamber.com/wolf-point-wild-horse-stampede.html

Montana’s oldest rodeo, the Wild Horse Stampede in Wolf Point, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, is a three-day event that includes professional rodeo, daily parades and a carnival, the famous wild horse race, street dances, and a kids’ stick-horse rodeo.

Wyoming Rodeos

Thermopolis Cowboy Rendezvous (weekend after Father’s Day)

http://www.thermopoliscowboyrendezvous.com/

From tailgate parties and a Western dance to a pancake breakfast and parade, the small-town rodeo in Thermopolis ushers in the pro rodeo circuit for the Big Horn Basin with plenty of action and family fun.

Cody Stampede Rodeo (July 1-4)

http://www.codystampederodeo.com/

With all the showmanship one would expect from a town named after Buffalo Bill Cody, this professional rodeo lets the town shine with all the classic events including bareback riding, roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and saddle bronc and bull riding. The rest of the summer, visitors can get a true sense of small-town rodeo at the Cody Nite Rodeo.

Ten Sleep Fourth of July Rodeo (two days over the Fourth of July)

With a rodeo history that dates back to 1908 and includes some of the biggest names in the sport, Ten Sleep boasts rodeo action throughout the summer. Special events at the annual Fourth of July shindig include a Pony Express Ride from nearby Hyattville, a Main Street parade, an old-fashioned rodeo, fireworks, and a sometimes-bloody wild horse race.

Sheridan WYO Rodeo (usually the second week in July)

http://www.sheridanwyorodeo.com/

This is the biggest week of the year for Sheridan. There is a golf tournament, art show, rodeo royalty pageant, carnival, Indian relay races, parade, and street dance on top of four nights of pro-rodeo action.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Montana & Wyoming.

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Wildlife in Glacier National Park: Safety Tips and Hot Spots https://moon.com/2017/08/wildlife-in-glacier-national-park-safety-hot-spots/ https://moon.com/2017/08/wildlife-in-glacier-national-park-safety-hot-spots/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 19:32:32 +0000 http://publishing.wpengine.com/?p=1877 Here are the key spots to see everything from grizzly bears to mountain goats in Glacier National Park, plus tips on staying safe.

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moose and calf surrounded by forest

Wildlife lovers can see 60 mammal species and more than 260 species of birds. Photo © sekernas/iStock.

Hot Spots for Viewing Wildlife in Glacier National Park

Glacier has 60 mammal species and more than 260 species of birds; bring the binoculars to aid in watching wildlife.

  • Inside Road: Spot elusive gray wolves on this uncrowded dirt road at dawn or dusk.
  • McGee Meadows: The North Fork Valley houses 196 bird species. McGee Meadows bustles with snipes, soras, and red-tailed hawks.
  • Avalanche Paths: In early spring, grizzly bears prowl for carcasses in avalanche slopes on Mount Cannon and the Glacier Wall on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
  • Logan Pass: Mountain goats and bighorn sheep wander through the parking lot at Logan Pass and frequent the Hidden Lake Overlook trail.
  • Two Dog Flats: In spring and late fall, elk feed in early morning at Two Dog Flats near Rising Sun while aspens attract woodpeckers, flickers, and owls.
  • St. Mary and Virginia Falls: These two waterfalls create perfect habitat for dark, bobbing American dippers.
  • Mounts Henkel and Altyn: Grizzly and black bears feed on huckleberries on these two peaks in Many Glacier in late summer.
  • Swiftcurrent Valley: A gentle hike runs through moose country to Red Rock and Bullhead Lakes. Listen for white-crowned sparrows, loons, Clark’s nutcrackers, and golden eagles.
  • Goat Lick: On U.S. 2, the natural mineral lick attracts mountain goats in early summer.
  • Waterton Lakes: Waterton’s Maskinonge and Linnet Lakes wetlands abound with ospreys, swans, and kingfishers.
  • Bison Paddock: The Waterton bison paddock houses a small herd of shaggy bovines that once roamed wild.
  • Kootenai Lakes: Hop the Waterton tour boat and hike to Glacier’s Kootenai Lakes to see moose and trumpeter swans.

Tips for Safely and Successfully Viewing Wildlife

  • Safety for you and safety for the wildlife is important. For spying wildlife up close, use a good pair of binoculars.
  • Do not approach wildlife. Although our inclinations tell us to scoot in for a closer look, crowding wildlife puts you at risk and endangers the animal, often scaring it off. Sometimes simply the presence of people can habituate an animal to hanging around people; with bears, this can lead to more aggressive behavior.
  • Let the animal’s or bird’s behavior guide your behavior. If the animal appears twitchy, nervous, or points eyes and ears directly at you, back off: You’re too close. The goal is to watch wild animals go about their normal business, rather than to see how they react to disruption. If you behave like a predator stalking an animal, the creature will assume you are one. Use binoculars and telephoto lenses for moving in close rather than approaching an animal.
  • Most animals tend to be more active in morning and evening. These are also optimum times for photographing animals in better lighting.
  • Blend in with your surroundings. Rather than wearing loud colors, wear muted clothing that matches the environment.
  • Relax. Animals sense excitement. Move slowly around them because abrupt, jerky movements can startle them. Look down, rather than staring animals directly in the eye.
  • Don’t get carried away watching big, showy megafauna like bears and moose only to miss a small carnivore like a short-tailed weasel.
  • Use field guides to help with identification and understanding the animal’s behavior.
  • If you see wildlife along a road, use pullouts or broad shoulders to drive completely off the road. Do not block the middle of the road. Use the car as a blind to watch wildlife, but keep pets inside. If you see a bear, you’re better off just driving by slowly. Bear jams tend to condition the bruin to become accustomed to vehicles, one step toward getting into more trouble.
  • Travel map of Glacier National Park

    Glacier National Park


    Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Glacier National Park.

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    ]]> https://moon.com/2017/08/wildlife-in-glacier-national-park-safety-hot-spots/feed/ 0 1877 Montana’s Best Road Trip https://moon.com/2017/07/montanas-best-road-trip/ https://moon.com/2017/07/montanas-best-road-trip/#comments Wed, 26 Jul 2017 21:02:30 +0000 http://moon.type5.co/?p=761 Montana is a big state, but for those who don’t mind doing some driving, it’s possible (indeed, exhilarating) to do a wide-ranging tour. Expect this Tour de Montana to take the better part of two weeks. If you really want to explore any particular area, add more time.

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    Montana is a big state, but for those who don’t mind doing some driving, it’s possible (indeed, exhilarating) to do a wide-ranging tour. Expect this Tour de Montana to take the better part of two weeks. If you really want to explore any particular area, add more time.

    Driving along the Going-to-the-Sun Road with a view of the mountains

    Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Photo © Jerryway/Dreamstime.

    Day 1

    Start your trip in Missoula, northwestern Montana’s cultural hub and an easy place to land. Spend the morning exploring downtown and walking along the Clark Fork River, which cuts right through downtown and is bordered by trails. When you’re ready to move on, head north up the Mission Valley, home of the Flathead Reservation to Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the West. Stop for a late lunch in bustling Bigfork, 100 miles from Missoula, then continue another 32 miles to Whitefish, the region’s recreational capital, for dinner and lodging.

    Day 2

    Eat a hearty breakfast at the Buffalo Cafe in Whitefish, then head 32 miles east to begin a tour of Glacier National Park. Your best bet (at least during the summer) is to drive through the park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Even a relatively deliberate drive along this 50-mile-long road can take all day, so plan to either spend at least one night in a park lodge or in the eastside border town of St. Mary.

    Day 3

    From Glacier National Park’s eastern edge just south of St. Mary, you can see the striking Rocky Mountain Front as you travel south along Highway 89. It’s about 140 miles from St. Mary to Great Falls, where visits to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center and the C. M. Russell Museum will easily fill a day. Dive into another sort of Montana culture with an evening visit to the Sip ‘N’ Dip, where bar-goers are visited by mermaids.

    Day 4

    From Great Falls, it’s just over 100 miles east on Highway 87 to Lewistown, which is small enough to give you the flavor of eastern Montana life. Lewistown is surrounded by places to hike, fish, or explore (including ghost towns and the Missouri River badlands). It’s another 125 miles to Billings, where you can get a taste “big” city life in the Big Sky state. Spend the night (there’s a vibrant bar and brewpub scene here).

    Day 5

    The next morning drive about 60 miles southeast from Billings on I-90 to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, where General Custer, along with many others, died. Head back to I-90 and venture west; at Laurel turn south on Highway 310 for about 10 miles, then southwest on Highway 212 for about 30 miles to Red Lodge (about 120 miles from the battlefield), at the base of the Beartooth Highway. Spend the night in Red Lodge, where there are plenty of restaurants and a good brewpub.

    Day 6

    Plan to spend a day driving the winding Beartooth Highway up to Yellowstone National Park, where you can stay as long as you like and never run out of places to explore. Though it’s only 120 miles from Red Lodge to Gardiner via the Beartooth Highway (Highway 212), it’s an all-day drive. When it’s time to leave Yellowstone, ease your transition by staying about 25 miles north of the park at Chico Hot Springs.

    a road alongside a river and mountains in Montana

    Missouri Headwaters State Park. Photo © Judy Jewell.

    Day 7

    After a morning soak and breakfast, travel north on Highway 89 for 25 miles to Livingston, which is a quirky hybrid of old and new West, with atmospheric old bars and high-end art galleries sharing Main Street. Just 26 miles west of Livingston on I-90 is Bozeman, home of Montana State University and the Museum of the Rockies (a dinosaur lover’s must-see).

    Continue on I-90 west as far as Three Forks (30 miles west of Bozeman), where at the Missouri headwaters, Lewis and Clark had to make some tough travel-planning choices. (As do you—if you’re running short on time, take I-90 west 173 miles back to Missoula.) Tiny Three Forks has a lovely state park at the headwaters, and an equally lovely old inn, the Sacajawea Hotel.

    Day 8

    To continue an exploration of Montana’s heritage, head south 62 miles on Highway 87 to Virginia and Nevada Cities, where frontier-era buildings have been preserved, and there’s a visceral sense of the ruggedness of gold-rush towns. For a true ghost town that’s remarkably well preserved, don’t miss Bannack, just south of Highway 278, west of Dillon and about 80 miles from Virginia City, on the edge of the expansive Big Hole Valley. For the night’s lodgings, you could backtrack 25 miles to Dillon or continue 30 miles to the Big Hole town of Jackson, where Jackson Hot Springs is full of Western spirit.

    Day 9

    Follow Highways 278 and 43 west over Chief Joseph Pass, and stop along Highway 43 about 30 miles west of Jackson to visit the Big Hole National Battlefield, where the Nez Perce, fleeing their Oregon homeland, were attacked by the U.S. Army.

    Once you reach the Bitterroot Valley, it’s an easy drive (about 100 miles north along Highway 93) back to Missoula.


    Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Montana.

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    The Best of Glacier National Park in One Week https://moon.com/2017/07/the-best-of-glacier-national-park-in-one-week/ https://moon.com/2017/07/the-best-of-glacier-national-park-in-one-week/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 17:11:29 +0000 http://publishing.wpengine.com/?p=1867 Exploring Glacier National Park, along with Waterton Lakes National Park—collectively the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park—yields indelible memories. Enjoy a two-nation vacation by staying in historic lodges. Plan ahead; you’ll need lodging reservations inside the park a year in advance.

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    Exploring Glacier National Park, along with Waterton Lakes National Park—collectively the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park—yields indelible memories. Enjoy a two-nation vacation by staying in historic lodges. Plan ahead; you’ll need lodging reservations inside the park a year in advance.

    boats Lake McDonald with mountains in the background

    Start your trip with a visit to Lake McDonald. Photo © Sean Xu/iStock.

    Day 1

    Meet Glacier by starting at Lake McDonald. Settle into the historic Lake McDonald Lodge for two nights and enjoy the lake with an hour of paddling, motorboating, or swimming. Dine early in Russell’s Fireside Dining Room in time to take the evening red bus tour to Logan Pass.

    Day 2

    In the morning, hike Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake to revel in the western forest environment. In the afternoon, don a life jacket for splashing down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River with one of West Glacier’s raft companies. A photographer captures your paddling in frothy Bonecrusher Rapid.

    car approaching a tunnel through mountain on a cloudy day in Montana

    A drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road is an experience in and unto itself. Photo © Teacherdad48/iStock.

    Day 3

    Get an early departure up Going-to-the-Sun Road to hike through the wildflowers of Preston Park to Siyeh Pass. Take in views of peaks and glaciers, too. Descending eastward on the Sun Road, stop at scenic pullouts and St. Mary Visitor Center. Head to historic Many Glacier Hotel for three nights.

    Day 4

    In the morning while the water is calm, rent a canoe or kayak to paddle around Swiftcurrent Lake, listening for loons. At noon, saddle up to ride horseback with Swan Mountain Outfitters. Relax on the hotel deck, watch for bears on Mount Altyn, moose in Swiftcurrent Lake, and the sunset over the Continental Divide.

    Day 5

    Hop the first boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine to hike to Grinnell Glacier with a park naturalist for a close-up view of one of the park’s remaining glaciers. The trail climbs above turquoise Grinnell Lake and along cliffs. Steep switchbacks ascend moraine to overlook Upper Grinnell Lake and the shrinking ice.

    gushing waterfall over red rocks backed by trees

    Red Rock Falls in Glacier National Park. Photo © Dean Fikar/iStock.

    Day 6

    Head out early to cross the international border into Waterton. Drive Akamina Parkway to Cameron Lake for a short paddle or lakeshore walk. In the afternoon, drive Red Rock Parkway to tour the interpretive trail around Red Rock Canyon. Settle into a lakeside room in the historic Prince of Wales Hotel and, by surrey bike, explore the Waterton Townsite.

    Day 7

    Take the Upper Waterton Lake tour boat across the border to Goat Haunt in Glacier. Afterwards, end your week on a high note by climbing Bear’s Hump. The two-nation view takes in the peaks of Waterton and Glacier.

    Plan your best trip with this one week itinerary of the top things to do in Montana's Glacier National Park.


    Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Glacier National Park.

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    Hike Grinnell Glacier Before It’s Gone https://moon.com/2016/08/hike-grinnell-glacier-before-its-gone/ https://moon.com/2016/08/hike-grinnell-glacier-before-its-gone/#respond Thu, 18 Aug 2016 12:13:24 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=45422 As one of the park’s namesake icefields, hiking Grinnell Glacier is an experience you won't want to miss. Here's your guide to getting to the top.

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    Hike Grinnell Glacier Before It's Gone

    Grinnell Glacier, like many of the glaciers in Glacier National Park, is heading towards the end of its life expectancy. Each year brings more melting, so much so that visitors in two decades may not have the chance to see the glaciers. As one of the park’s namesake icefields, hiking Grinnell Glacier is an experience you won’t want to miss.

    Grinnell Glacier tucks in a high cirque under the Continental Divide, a place where storms deposit hefty snow in winter and blocky Mt. Gould casts protective shade in summer. Despite the annual snow and sheltered location, Grinnell’s ice shrinks by 2-3 acres every year. In September 2015, the glacier’s demise sped up when a 10-acre chunk broke off to shatter into small icebergs in Upper Grinnell Lake.

    Above Grinnell Glacier, the cliffs house a rock shelf holding the smaller Salamander Glacier. In 1850, the two were connected, with Salamander spilling over the ledge into Grinnell. Today, they’ve melted back to where a 700-foot rock cliff separates them. Grinnell stretches around 115 acres while Salamander covers the shelf above with less than 40 acres of ice. Their movement has dwindled to a few feet per year. Since the 1930s, Grinnell Glacier has been melting into Upper Grinnell Lake. As the ice melts, the lake gradually grows larger.

    A hiker touches the glacial ice with her foot.

    Visit too early in the season and the glacial ice will be covered with snow. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    Hiking Grinnell Glacier

    Guides from the National Park Service lead an interpretive hike several times weekly to the glacier. There’s a short seasonal window when hikers can reach the glacier. A steep snowfield precludes access to it until mid-July, and snow returns to bury the upper trail by late September. To see the glacial ice, opt for late August or early September. Hikers going earlier may see what looks like a big snowfield instead of ice as the summer sun needs time to melt off the previous winter’s snow.

    The trail delights with brilliant color. Wildflowers burst open in purples, oranges, and yellows. Mid-summer, tall creamy beargrass yields to pink fireweed and green fuzzy-headed western anemones. Below wildflower slopes, Grinnell Lake shimmers with turquoise water, and the trail cuts through layers of red and green sediments. Frothing white waterfalls plunge down slopes, even spilling over a ledge above the trail to douse hikers.

    Water courses down rocky slopes on the way to Grinnell.

    Water courses down rocky slopes on the way to Grinnell. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    Wildlife frequents the trail. Moose hang around the lakes, grizzly bears forage for huckleberries, and bighorn sheep nibble flowers in upper elevation meadows.

    Hikers can reach Grinnell Glacier departing from two locations: Many Glacier Picnic Area and Many Glacier Hotel. Both routes add up to about 12 miles round trip. But until mid-September, the route can be shortened to 7.6 miles round trip by hopping a tour boat with Glacier Park Boat Co. (406/257-2426, reservations accepted).

    All routes converge to pack 1,840 feet of elevation gain into the last three miles.

    When hikers climb the moraine that marks the size of Grinnell Glacier in 1850, they usually utter one word at the top: Wow. Light dazzles off the icebergs floating in the teal-gray lake, and crevasses on the glacier reveal hint of blue. After reaching the glacier, soak your feet in its icy lake, take photographs, and explore. But do not venture out onto the ice, which can have snow bridges hiding deadly crevasses.

    Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park.

    Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    Guides from the National Park Service lead an interpretive hike several times weekly to the glacier. The hike is free, but takes advantage of chopping down the miles by using the boat (fee charged). Be ready to walk in a long parade as the guided hike often balloons to 30 people or more.

    Like 24 of its glacial cousins in the park, Grinnell is here today. But at its current rate of thinning and shrinking, the ice may not linger much longer.


    Travel map of Grinnell Glacier Trails

    Grinnell Glacier Trails

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    Hiking Glacier National Park’s Fifty Mountain https://moon.com/2016/08/hiking-glacier-national-parks-fifty-mountain/ https://moon.com/2016/08/hiking-glacier-national-parks-fifty-mountain/#respond Tue, 16 Aug 2016 17:50:13 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=45424 Hiking Fifty Mountain delivers sheer rugged grandeur. Grab your backpack to spend time in its wildflower meadows surrounded by glacier-carved peaks.

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    Fifty Mountain supposedly acquired its name from the number of snow-capped peaks visible from its immense wildflower meadows. While fifty might be a slight exaggeration, this remote backpacker heaven in Glacier National Park has an unrivaled 360-degree view that takes in a plethora of peaks.

    The name ‘Fifty Mountain’ designates the backcountry campground and wildflower meadows rather than a particular peak. The Livingston Range rises to the west, dominated by Vulture Peak and its two glaciers. Steep-walled Cathedral Mountain leads a long parade of mountains marching south along the Continental Divide.

    Vulture Mountain and surrounding meadows.

    Vulture Mountain and surrounding meadows. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    As the snow melts in the meadows, yellow glacier lilies bloom. Midsummer, the lilies give way to clusters of red paintbrush, white valerian, and purple fleabane. In late August, the meadows take on golds dotted with reds from tiny huckleberry bushes that often attract grizzlies nibbling the sweet, purple berries.

    Fifty Mountain is the site of an old tent camp on the Northern Circle horseback tour in the 1920s, and a stone foundation remains from a hiker shelter at the north end of the meadows. A fire ravaged the backcountry camp in 1998, burning chunks of trees, which now stand as silver sentinels amid surviving greenery. Six campsites tuck into the trees, and a food preparation area contains two bear boxes and food hanging poles. An adjacent seasonal stream supplies water, although it can dry up by late August. An outhouse sits down the hill.

    Red paintbrush flowers in full bloom.

    Red paintbrush flowers in full bloom. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    From the campground, a 1.5-mile jaunt climbs to a lofty viewpoint. The perch of Sue Lake Overlook adds on more summits, including Mt. Merritt and Mt. Cleveland, two of Glacier’s highest peaks. From the trail the view extends south to Logan Pass and the park’s central mountains. Fifty Mountain rivals crowded Logan Pass with alpine beauty, but offers solitude and quiet only to backpackers who make the long trek.

    Getting to Fifty Mountain

    Fifty Mountain has a short season of snow-free access. On early snowmelt years, backpackers can camp by early July. Following heavier winters, snow lingers in the campground until late July. By late September, snow returns to blanket the meadows for winter.

    The shortest routes to Fifty Mountain come from Goat Haunt (10.5 miles via Waterton Lakes National Park) or Packers Roost (12 miles). Strong hikers can get there in one day, but most will break up the route with camping at an intermediate backcountry site. These can also be exit routes from Fifty Mountain to create point-to-point hikes.

    The most dramatic access starts at Logan Pass. For 19.5-miles, the Highline Trail hugs the Continental Divide, skittering above tree line for stunning vistas. Most backpackers camp en route at Granite Park, completing loops in 3-4 days. Due to the high-angled Ahern snowdrift and the dangerous Cattle Queen snowbridge, this route usually opens in late July. Anyone hiking it earlier must be ready to skirt these obstacles via cliffs.

    Highline Trail in Glacier's Fifty Mountain region.

    Highline Trail in Glacier’s Fifty Mountain region. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    The historical route to Fifty Mountain follows the Northern Circle. The classic 5- to 7-day, 53-mile trek starts from Many Glacier. It stitches together high points of Ptarmigan Tunnel, Stoney Indian Pass, Fifty Mountain, and Swiftcurrent Pass with multiple lakes through the Belly River drainages.

    Permits ($7 pp per night) are required to camp in Glacier’s backcountry. Pick them up 24 hours in advance at the Apgar Backcountry Office or a visitor center. For Fifty Mountain trips launching on Aug. 1 or later, get advanced reservations ($40) online starting mid-March.

    Fifty Mountain delivers sheer rugged grandeur. Grab hiking boots and backpack to spend a day or two in its wildflower meadows surrounded by glacier-carved peaks.

    Hiking Glacier National Park's Fifty Mountain


    Travel map of Montana

    Montana

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    Hiking Across Nations: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park https://moon.com/2016/07/hiking-across-national-waterton-glacier-international-peace-park/ https://moon.com/2016/07/hiking-across-national-waterton-glacier-international-peace-park/#respond Sat, 23 Jul 2016 13:44:43 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=44677 The two-nation hike through Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, crossing the border between the USA and Canada, is unique. Here's how to do it.

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    Goat Haunt Ranger Station in Glacier National Park.

    Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park joins across the 49th parallel, forming the world’s first international peace park across the borders of Montana, US, and Alberta, Canada. Grizzly bears ignore the international border between Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park. So do moose, wolves, and mountain lions. But for humans, the border is a big deal. The 20-foot-wide unnaturally straight swath visibly bisects the mountains surrounding Upper Waterton Lake.

    Hikers can walk south from Canada to Goat Haunt, US. They can cross the boundary on foot without going through customs until reaching the Goat Haunt Ranger Station. In front of the station, a picnic table serves as the official desk for US custom’s officers to stamp passports.

    Descending to Bertha Bay.

    Descending to Bertha Bay. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    The Trail from Waterton to Goat Haunt

    Departing from the southwest corner of Waterton Townsite, the rolling trail follows the west shoreline for 13.6 kilometers/8.5 miles along Upper Waterton Lake. The route passes the Bertha Lake Trail cutoff before taking a short plunge to Bertha Bay. From there, hikers encounter creeks, small wildflower meadows, and mixed forests. The ease of walking the trail comes from minimal elevation gain.

    At the halfway point, the trail crosses the international boundary. Westward, the border swath shoots up the steep hillside of Mt. Richards. Eastward, across Upper Waterton Lake, the border rises vertically up Mt. Boswell. Two obelisks mark the boundary. They commemorate the Convention of 1818 and the Treaty of 1925 that settled boundary agreements. The border also contains a backcountry campsite on the Canadian side and a dock in Boundary Bay on the U.S. side.

    From the border crossing, views enlarge of Mt. Cleveland, Glacier’s tallest peak. The trail climbs a rocky precipice before intersecting with the Boundary Creek Trail and crossing Boundary Creek. It touches the shoreline and dodges back into the trees, where grizzly bear footprints appear in the mud. Near Goat Haunt, the trail cuts through with several junctions, including trails to Boulder Pass, Rainbow Falls, and Kootenai Lakes. After a swinging bridge crosses the rushing Waterton River, the route ends at the head of Upper Waterton Lake where hikers go through customs and hop the boat back up lake.

    Obelisks mark the border between Canada and the U.S. at Goat Haunt.

    Obelisks mark the border between Canada and the U.S. at Goat Haunt. Photo © Becky Lomax.


    Crossing Boundary Creek.

    Crossing Boundary Creek. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    How to Hike It

    Hikers can walk the trail spring through fall with a round-trip distance of 27 kilometers/16.8 miles. But early June to late September, Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. (403/859-2362) adds the option of walking down lake and returning via boat to the Waterton Townsite. Purchase tickets at the Waterton Townsite Marina prior to hiking and allot at least four hours to reach Goat Haunt on foot.

    Twice a week in summer, guides from Glacier’s National Park Service and Waterton’s Parks Canada team up to lead a joint walk on the trail. At the border, the group stops for a hands-across-the-border ceremony. The 7-hour Guided Peace Park Hike, which is limited to 35 people, usually takes place on Tuesdays and Fridays. With no advance reservations, the hike requires preregistration for the next scheduled hike at the Waterton Lakes Visitor Information Centre (403/859-5133) or the St. Mary Visitor Center in Glacier (406/732-7750).

    The two-nation hike through Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is unique. Walking across the border reinforces the shared ecosystem of the parks that UNESCO recognizes as Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites.


    Travel map of Glacier National Park

    Glacier National Park

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    Bicycling Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park https://moon.com/2016/07/bicycling-going-sun-road-glacier-national-park/ https://moon.com/2016/07/bicycling-going-sun-road-glacier-national-park/#respond Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:59:40 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=44659 Information on rentals, seasonal restrictions, full moon rides, and general tips on bicycling Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

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    Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road ranks high on bucket lists of most cyclists. The ride dishes up a challenge along with a heavy dose of big scenery. Biking offers a way to intimately savor all of the detail that created the country’s only road that is a National Historic Landmark and National Civil Engineering Landmark. Arches and tunnels access natural wonders of waterfalls, wildlife, and glacier-carved peaks.

    In summer, early or late daylight hours offer riding with fewer cars on the road.

    In summer, early or late daylight hours offer riding with fewer cars on the road. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    Riding the Sun Road requires stamina. Depending on launch points, it demands 16-32 miles of pedaling to reach Logan Pass. The western climb from Avalanche packs in 3,273 feet in elevation. The eastern ascent from St. Mary is less demanding at 2,185 feet. But either direction crams most of the uphill pedaling into 12 miles at a steady six-percent grade. It’s relentless enough to make the incline a contender with some of the Tour de France climbs.

    To compound the difficulty, the road throws obstacles at riders: grates, debris, wildlife, water, and sometimes ice. Vehicles can also be a threat as most drivers are gawking at the scenery rather than watching for cyclists. Cars whiz by rider elbows with the shoulderless road affording no place to veer to the side.

    The bicycle season launches mid-April when plows dig down to free the Sun Road of snow.

    The bicycle season launches mid-April when plows dig down to free the Sun Road of snow. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    Bicycling Going-to-the-Sun Road Through the Seasons

    Spring

    The bicycle season launches mid-April when plows dig down to free the Sun Road of snow. Locals throng up the road during the two-month or so season when the gate bars vehicles. As spring plowing progresses further into the alpine, riders push higher and higher each week. By late May or early June, cyclists can usually reach Logan Pass. In upper segments, intimidating stretches lack yet-to-be-installed seasonal guardrails. Snow bordering the road creates a refrigerator effect for a chilly descent.

    Once the west vehicle closure bumps to Avalanche Creek, a shuttle helps parking congestion by carrying bikes and riders from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche. Spring riding cranks up on weekends with Mother’s Day bringing out scads of families, parents pulling Burleys, and kids on trikes. To help with planning, find daily plowing reports and biking restrictions online at www.nps.gov/glac.

    Biking along Glacier National Park's Weeping Wall.

    Biking along Glacier National Park’s Weeping Wall. Photo © Becky Lomax.

    Summer

    In summer, cyclists and vehicles jockey for position on the Sun Road. The narrow roadway squeezes with cars mid-day, forcing a ban on bicycles on two west side sections. Between 11am and 4pm, July 1 to Labor Day, bikes cannot go either direction along Lake McDonald nor climb uphill from Logan Creek to Logan Pass. For that reason, most cyclists leave Lake McDonald Lodge by 6:30am to be able to grind up to the pass before the daily bike closure.

    In summer, early or late daylight hours offer riding with fewer cars on the road. Cyclists can pedal from one side of the Sun Road to the other and return via shuttles that can haul bikes.

    Fall

    After Labor Day, bicycling restrictions disappear, and vehicle congestion diminishes. Cycling takes on the golden season with cottonwoods and aspens turning yellow. Riding continues until mid-October when the road closes again to vehicles. As long as snow permits, bikers can still push as far as possible.

    Sunset along Going-to-the-Sun-Road.

    Sunset along Going-to-the-Sun-Road. Photo by Tim Rains/National Park Service.

    Full Moon Rides

    A local tradition, riders head up the Sun Road on full moon nights. Bikes must be outfitted with lights, but surrounding mountains glow by moonlight. The ride requires caution; at least one fatality has occurred.

    Bicycle Rentals and Services

    In summer, several shops in Apgar and West Glacier rent bikes. In spring and fall, find rentals only in Whitefish, about 35 minutes west of the park. To use your own bike when flying into the area, ship it to Glacier Cyclery (2406/862-6446), where they will put it together for your arrival.

    Travel map of Going-to-the-Sun Road

    Going-to-the-Sun Road

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    Flathead Valley Cycling in Glacier National Park https://moon.com/2015/09/flathead-valley-cycling-in-glacier-national-park/ https://moon.com/2015/09/flathead-valley-cycling-in-glacier-national-park/#respond Tue, 22 Sep 2015 20:24:08 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=29342 Oodles of two-lane highways and paved country lanes make long loops around Flathead Lake or short farmland tours for roadies, and there are many single-track and dirt-road choices for mountain bikers. Here's where to go for each, along with bike rental and repair shops in the area.

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    Oodles of two-lane highways and paved country lanes make long loops around Flathead Lake or short farmland tours for roadies, and there are many single-track and dirt-road choices for mountain bikers. For the best list of itineraries to suit your interests and abilities, check Glacier Cyclery’s website for popular area routes. The shop also maintains a ride board with recent trail updates.

    Several routes descend from the summit—the easiest is via switchback traverses, while the others drop on steep, hair-raising downhill descents.In Kalispell, the Great Northern Historical Trail runs 12 miles of paved bike trail from Meridian Street to Smith Lake in Kila. You can stop partway for lunch at Kila’s Cottage Inn (4220 U.S. 2 W., 406/755-8711). Another 12-mile segment links Meridian with Somers, where you can lunch at the Somers Bay Café (47 Somers Rd., 406/857-2660) and enjoy Flathead Lake. Find trailhead parking for both at Meridian Road and Derns Road.

    Cyclists ride up a gravel path in a pine forest.

    While you can mountain bike on some trails in the national forests, biking is not permitted on trails in the wilderness areas or in Glacier Park. Photo © itman47/123rf.

    In Whitefish, the expanding Whitefish Trail, at more than 25 miles, provides a curvy, multiuse dirt single-track trail with fun terrain for mountain bikers. Current maps to trailheads can be found at Whitefish Legacy Partners. For single-track lift-served mountain biking, Whitefish Mountain Resort (end of Big Mountain Rd., Whitefish, 406/862-2900, late June-Labor Day) hauls bikes and riders up its chairlift ($14-28, depending on your age and duration). Several routes descend from the summit—the easiest is via switchback traverses, while the others drop on steep, hair-raising downhill descents. Natural obstacles put both trails into the “have some experience first” category. Whitefish Mountain Resort has bicycles available to rent ($30-65).

    Bike Rentals and Repairs

    Flathead Valley also has multiple bike shops that rent, sell, and repair bikes. In Whitefish, Glacier Cyclery (326 E. 2nd St., 406/862-6446) rents touring bikes, roadies, hybrids, and mountain bikes ($35-55 per day). They can also equip you with car racks ($20 per day), utility trailers ($30 per day), and Burleys ($20 per week). In Bigfork, the new Montana Adventure Sports (439 Electric Ave., 406/837-3232) rents mountain bikes ($35-45 per day), convenient for touring Swan Valley. In Kalispell, closest to the rail trails, Sportsman (145 Hutton Ranch Rd., 406/755-6484) rents mountain and road bikes ($40 per day). All three shops include helmets with rentals, offer weekly rates, and do repairs.


    Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Glacier National Park.

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    GNP Flora and Fauna: North Fork’s Unique Creatures https://moon.com/2015/09/gnp-flora-and-fauna-north-forks-unique-creatures/ https://moon.com/2015/09/gnp-flora-and-fauna-north-forks-unique-creatures/#respond Mon, 14 Sep 2015 20:23:06 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=29340 Glacier National Park hosts a plethora of plants and animals; lots of usual suspects, such as bears, wolves, elk, and bighorn sheep, but also quite a few unique species. Most interesting among them are species of the North Fork, including incredibly tiny animals, some weighing even less than an ounce, and creative carnivorous plants. And with North Fork’s plentiful and varied bird species, birders will have a ball.

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    A Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) puffs its feathers on this cold and snowy day in April.

    A Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) puffs its feathers on this cold and snowy day in April. Photo by David Restivo, © GlacierNPS, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

    Glacier National Park hosts a plethora of plants and animals; lots of usual suspects, such as bears, wolves, elk, and bighorn sheep, but also quite a few unique species. Most interesting among them are species of the North Fork, including incredibly tiny animals, some weighing even less than an ounce, and creative carnivorous plants. And with North Fork’s plentiful and varied bird species, birders will have a ball here.

    Tiny Fauna

    The North Fork Valley is home to the rare northern bog lemming, a small, brown-backed, gray-bellied rodent that seeks mats of thick wet sphagnum moss for habitat. Weighing only one ounce (the same as one heaping tablespoon of sugar) but growing up to six inches long, the tiny cousin of the Arctic lemming is a relic of the Pleistocene ice age, which began two million years ago. Although it’s rarely seen, look for the small, neat piles of clipped grass it leaves along the mossy thoroughfares en route to underground nests. One study found that bog lemmings make up 2 percent of the pine marten’s diet.

    Glacier’s smallest predator, the pygmy shrew, inhabits floodplains in the North Fork Valley.Glacier’s smallest predator, the pygmy shrew, inhabits floodplains in the North Fork Valley. This tiny carnivore is one of North America’s rarest mammals. Shorter than 2.5 inches in length and weighing less than a quarter ounce, this shrew’s voracious appetite for insects, slugs, snails, and carrion puts larger shrews to shame. One study watched a female eat three times her own body weight daily for 10 days. Their high metabolism echoes their respiration rate—25 times more frequent than humans—and their hearts beat up to 1,320 times per minute when excited. To feed their high metabolic rates, pygmy shrews eat every couple of hours 24-7 year-round.

    Plants

    Carnivorous plants inhabit North Fork fens. The sundew attracts insects to its sparkling droplets, which look like morning dew. Sitting atop hairs lining its leaves, the sticky droplets, like wet cement, trap unsuspecting visitors. Slowly, the leaves curl around the victim as digestive juices work their magic. The bladderwort has also refined trapping. Buoyant bladders trap anything that swims by—from mosquito larvae to fish fry. When the prey passes, it brushes hairs that open a trapdoor that sucks water in along with the naive prey. Digestive enzymes make short work of the meal, with the trap reset in 15 minutes to two hours.

    Sticky leaves on a sundew plant.

    Sticky leaves on a sundew plant – a carnivorous plant that traps insects and digests them. Photo © petervick167/123rf.

    Birds

    Birders find a feast for the eyes and ears in the North Fork. With 196 species of birds documented—at least 112 nesters—the valley teems with avian activity. Migratory birds stop on their flight highways to wintering ranges or summer nesting. To help with identification of Glacier’s birds, pick up a bird list from visitors centers or on the park’s website.

    Raptors: Birds of prey find abundant food in the North Fork Valley. Numerous rodents, ground squirrels, songbirds, and carrion feed their appetites. The valley’s forests attract sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks. Bald eagles nest on Kintla and Bowman Lakes. Northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, goshawks, and American kestrels prowl above the prairies. At night, the hoots of large great-horned and pygmy owls haunt the air.

    Waterfowl: With the Flathead River, many large lakes, swamps, and wetlands, waterfowl have no shortage of suitable habitat. Herons, ducks, grebes, geese, loons, and swans migrate through or nest in the plentiful waters.

    Harlequin ducks migrate to Glacier's rapidly flowing streams in spring for nesting.

    Harlequin ducks migrate to Glacier’s rapidly flowing streams in spring for nesting. Photo by Jacob W. Frank, © GlacierNPS, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

    Songbirds: The North Fork could be considered downright noisy at times—not from auto traffic, but from the scads of songbirds flitting among its trees and cattails. American redstarts, warbling vireos, kinglets, nuthatches, crossbills, sparrows, and warblers are just a few of the neotropical songbirds that migrate annually into the valley. In winter, you’ll spot tree sparrows and redpolls.

    Woodpeckers: After fires, dead standing timber attracts the three-toed woodpecker, picking away for bugs. Watch also for the large red-headed pileated woodpecker looking for a favorite food—carpenter ants.


    Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Glacier National Park.

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