That time of year.
I try to make the most of winter, but it never fails – Every January I start thinking about summer, either planning trips for next summer or pondering memories of past trips. As far as I am concerned, no summer is complete without at least one trip to Glacier Park. Most of my outings there have been day-trips, but several years ago my friend Murray introduced me to the awesomeness of backpacking in Glacier Park. Murray and I, and our friend Greg have taken three backcountry trips there over the last four summers. They’ve all been great, but the best one was a 6-day trek from Waterton Lake to Many Glacier in the summer of 2014.
Better late than never.
I didn’t get serious about hiking until I was in my mid forties, and only had ONE backpacking trip (a single-nighter) under my belt when I decided to join Murray and Greg for this adventure at age 55. So to have my first real backcountry trip be a 6-day trip through some of the most gorgeous country on the planet was pretty amazing. Including our hike the day before setting off into the backcountry, plus the afternoon side-trips, we ended up logging 65 miles. Fortunately, Murray handled the permitting process, and he and Greg (both experienced backpackers) took good care of me. It was an epic week! (Photo Tour)
Trip summary – 65 miles in paradise.
Thursday, July 31, 2014 – I left Helena at 5 am, and drove 225 miles to meet Murray and Greg at Johnson’s Campground near Saint Mary. Then the three of us did an 8-mile loop hike from Going to the Sun Highway up through Preston Park, over to Siyeh Pass, and then back down to the highway via Sunrift Gorge.
Day #1 of the backpacking trip – That Friday morning we drove a vehicle to Many Glacier, left it there, and then drove another car to Waterton Lake in Canada to begin our walk. On the way to Waterton Park we stopped in Cardston, Alberta to visit the Remington Carriage Museum. That afternoon we drove to Waterton, and then rode a tour-boat across Waterton Lake back into the USA to the Goat Haunt Ranger Station. After we cleared customs, it was an easy 2.8-mile hike to our first night campsite at Kootenai Lakes.
Day #2 – We hiked 5 miles to our next campsite at Stony Indian Lake. After setting up camp we walked up to Stony Indian Pass to have a look around, then returned to camp and we went for a brief swim in the icy waters of Stony Indian Lake.
Day #3 – It was all downhill to our next campsite on the north end of Glenns Lake. On the way we took a side-trip to explore Pyramid Falls. The hike from Pyramid Falls to the lower end of Glenns Lake was rainy, as was our evening at the Glenns Lake Campsite. This was the only time that showers put a damper on our fun.
Day # 4 – We packed up our wet gear and headed to the upper (southern) end of Elizabeth Lake. After setting up camp and laying our gear out to dry in the sunlight, we hiked up to Helen Lake, which is the headwaters of the Belly River.
Day #5 – From Elizabeth Lake we hiked up to Red Gap Pass where we enjoyed lunch, and then down to Poia Lake where we spent our last night in the backcountry. That evening we took a short hike to a ridge overlooking the lake, and then returned to the lake where we were entertained by several busy beavers.
Day #6 – We hiked out to a trailhead in the Many Glacier area, loaded our gear into the vehicle we had left there, retrieved the car in Canada, and then drove back to Helena.
- Photo Tour – Amazing scenery!
Trip completed in August 2014.
- Map of the part of Glacier Park we hiked through.
Zoom in to see more detail.
- Backcountry Camping in Glacier Park
Everything you need to know about applying for a permit.
Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.
Those mountains must have been unforgettable. That’s a pretty big intro trip!
Nice breakdown of the hike. Photos are spectacular as usual. I think it is getting harder and harder to get back country camping permits in Glacier? What is your experience or do you have any tips? Thanks BigSkyWalker.
I’m not sure what the secret is. 2014 was the only year were able to get the long trip that we put in for. The other two years we stayed at a campground near St. Mary and did a few day-hikes. Both of those years we were able to “walk-in” to the visitor center early in the morning and nab permits for shorter (2-night) backcountry trips.
I was raised in Havre in the 1960s. I am enjoying the read on your GNP backpack. Like you I didn’t start seriously hiking until I was 52 and even then I didn’t even know what backpacking was. Well now I know and it’s particularly fun to go back to Glacier and see it thru a hiker/backpacker’s eye. (I also used to live in Whitefish and Gt Falls, live in Phx for the last 37 years).
I am gonna take a look at your trip to Lost Lake as I did that back in 2013 after the Romain 100th Homestead Reunion south of Chester. I didn’t know a thing about Lost Lake when I lived in Montana. Thx for sharing your hikes/backpack adventures.