I tend to have a Type A personality when it comes to traveling. That’s not to say I haven’t taken handfuls of trips where I have shown up in a new city, planning the day as I go, but for the most part I like to choose what I want to see and where I want to go before I embark on a new adventure. I think it’s important to have a balance between both Type A and Type B, and I do my best to be more relaxed when things don’t go according to plan.
With that said, you can imagine the spike of cortisol I felt when I discovered just days prior to my well planned trip to Glacier National Park, that a new entry system had been put into effect starting this summer. In order to enter the West Gate between regular park hours (0600-1700) I would need a special entry ticket. These tickets are available online one day at a time, 60 days prior to the week of entry, with 25% of tickets available every day for that succeeding week.
Needless to say, I did not have a ticket.
The odds of getting one of the elusive online tickets is much like finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket in a chocolate bar – nearly impossible. My copilot and I tried for days to get a pass for the week, failing each time. Thankfully there was another option. Anyone can enter the park before 0600 or after 1700, but having a ticket would have eliminated some of the stress of waking up at 0300.
My days of being a barista came in handy when my alarm went off before the birds began to sing.
We decided to stay in an Airbnb in Kalispell, Montana, putting us about 45-60 minutes away from the West Glacier entrance. Our first day in the park we planned to arrive at the gate by 0400 to ensure we could get in. Despite the fact I knew exactly what the ranger stations looked like after hours, as I had driven in and out of Yellowstone many times during these hours, I was nervous something would go wrong and we would not be allowed in.
Arriving at the gate with no other cars in sight and driving through the unoccupied ranger booth oddly felt like I was committing a crime (I wasn’t, this is totally legal.) I felt like an outlaw entering into foreign, inaccessible territory. I also felt relief, because the hard part was done. We made it inside, and we had no plans to leave until we were satisfied with our hiking endeavors for the day.
Arriving before the sun came up turned out to be the best decision we could have made. By the time we got to the parking area for our first hike, the lot had filled up. One of the trails on my list was Avalanche Lake, a very popular and easy 5 mile out and back hike to a beautiful engulfed mountain lake. The hike up was quiet, and per usual the hike back we saw the rest of the world had come to life.
If there is anything I love about early hikes, it’s beating the crowds (and the heat.)
We made it to the lake by 0530, and we were the only ones there for at least ten minutes. We sat, stared, and savored for about 30 minutes before heading back to the car. I don’t have anything crazy to report about this hike, it was beautiful and is a worthy hike, but it wasn’t anything that knocked my socks off.
With so much day left after this hike, we decided to do another one. Our options were limited because the main road within the park was still closed from the winter season, so we chose one I hadn’t heard of. Here’s an example of how I can be a cool kid, sprinkling my Type B personality all over the place. Hike number two was significantly more difficult, partly because we woke up at 3 am, partly because we had already hiked 5 miles, partly because by the time we started it was already VERY hot outside, and partly because the elevation gain was 1860′.
Apgar Lookout is a 7 mile out and back trail, starting in thick tree brush and opening into an exposed trail with expansive views. I loved this trail, and surprisingly felt great the entire way up. Slow and steady wins the race, especially when the sun gives no mercy to us cloud loving Washingtonians.
This trail was much less traveled, and we didn’t see anyone until we got closer to the top. The most memorable being a mom and her son literally running up the mountain. Running…up. We saw more people when we were coming back down, but far less than the previous hike. This one is a harder trail, meaning less people are inclined to hike it. What sold me on this trail was the lookout at the top. I am a sucker for a good lookout hike.
After reaching the top we sat on the lookout and savored the view with some squirrel friends.
By the time we got back to the car we had clocked over 12 miles for the day, and I was very pleased with our first of two days in the park. We drove as much as we could for a little bit longer before deciding to call it a day around 1400. It was too hot to do much more outside. We managed to see one bear for the day, immediately after we drove into the park around 0400. No bears spotted on the trails though.
I am incredibly thankful my partner in crime was up for two hikes in one day. We didn’t have a lot of time to visit Glacier, and with the 0300 wake up in order to get in I knew we would only get one more day after this one. The extra exploration made me very, very happy.
We spent the next day resting and reevaluating what our second day would look like. Thankfully most of the other entrances did not require an entrance ticket, but they were significantly further away from our Airbnb. Nothing worth having comes easy, right?
Q: Are you a planner, or a go with the flow-er. I do like a plan, but there is certainly beauty in readjusting plans to accommodate for ideas I might not have considered.
31 thoughts on “Glacier National Park – Pt. 1”
Thoroughly enjoyed this post and especially the gorgeous pictures! We missed going on a planned trip to Glacier eleven years ago due to a death in the family, and we just never planned another trip. Although, at my age now I’m not sure I could do any hikes. So glad you were able to get in, albeit a bit early! You should spend some time in Eastern Washington to get used to the hot sun, especially this summer!! 😂
I am a go-with-the-flow person and my partner is the planner, so I let her do all the planning and I just follow along!
Oh goodness, I am so sorry for those circumstances of missing the trip. Family first of course. The park itself has many beautiful sights accessible without hiking, and I hear the Going the Sun Road is beautiful to drive!
The brief encounter I had near Pullman on the drive to Montana was enough for me to know I much enjoy the west side of Washington. HA!
Beautiful views 🙂 Having the trail to yourself is a definite perk of an early start, though an 03:00 alarm would be a struggle for me!
I think I was soooo jazzed about getting into the park that I didn’t even care about waking up so early.
I passed on riding through Glacier on my 2018 cross country biking adventure. Another cyclists who I occasionally intersected with went there and said it was truly spectacular, high praise from a Swiss citizen. (He did admit to freezing his butt off, though.) I can’t say I was disappointed in my route though. Montana is one beautiful piece of this planet.
The Going the Sun Road was closed, but cyclists were allowed to access it. I wished I had my bike, because I can only imagine how amazing it would be to bike that main road without cars!
Martin, the Swiss rider, road the GTTSR. Froze but said it was spectacular. I recall a half dozen amazing roads from my 2018 and 2019 tours. I highly recommend you do a ride over the Northern Cascades someday.
I would love to!
I think if you check around you can get a lift to the top of Washington Pass. Ride down without touring gear would be quite a thrill. (I saw people doing it while I was slogging up from the east.)
I’m sure you know my answer already… I’m a Type A to the MAX. To the point that my family has an inside joke / one-liner about how I overplan vacations, which they use on me all the time. (In good fun though! I laugh every time. 😉)
You seriously have the PERFECT timing for this post too. My parents are going to Glacier next week!! (Did I say that already? In my last comment?? I can’t remember… July is a crazy month here. I can’t even remember what I did yesterday. 🙈)
Anyway… When I told my mom that you were probably going to share about your trip soon after your published last blog post, she specifically asked if I’d send the links to your blog posts. She’s SO excited to read all about what you did and what tips you have. My parents love hiking as much as you do, so I have a feeling they may retrace some of your steps… So a huge THANK YOU for sharing your adventure with us!! ❤️
I loveee your planning style. We would get along well traveling hahaha!
Your adorable mom commented on this post, highlight of my day!
She texted me as soon as she commented on it too!! 😂❤️
Brittany, I am amyshealthybaking.com’s mom and headed to Glacier in 4 days. Your blog is so incredibly helpful! (We do have a reservation and since I have no barista experience, I don’t know if I could do the 0300 wake up!) Thanks for sharing all of this useful info. Beautiful photos, too!
Hi Cyndi! I am SO glad you were able to get a reservation. You are going at a much better time than I did too, because the Going the Sun Road is now open!
The other hike my partner and I did was at the Two Medicine entrance, and it was called Scenic Point. I hope to share a post before you go, but if I don’t I highly recommend that hike! Of the three I managed it was hands down the best! Have so much fun!
Thanks! Will look at Scenic Post now!!
Wonderful trip report and photos. Glacier is a national treasure!
I find I’m actually BOTH a planner and go-with-the-flow type person. More a planner on events and trips I’m familiar with, but definitely a go-with-the-flow person when it comes to new stuff. Nothing highlighted this more than a Europe trip in 2017. I had everything meticulously planned out and once I got into London, all bets were off and I just chose the most random stuff — and had a fantastic time.
I totally relate. Sometimes it’s so freeing to show up in a new European city and take the day as it comes! I’ve had some of my most wonderful experiences doing that.
Beautiful pictures of what looks like a fab trip! You did very well to get up so early and it sounds like it paid off!
I’m definitely an avid planner but I’m trying to get better at being more spontaneous! Not always easy though and often ends up with me stressing about whether I’ll get a ticket/table/seat without weeks of pre-planning! 😁
I’m glad we decided to get up early, there have been very few times in my life when I have woken up early (aside from work) where I have regretted it!
These hikes sound amazing and the pictures… 😍 I’ve been to the park in 2017 with my parents, it’s a shame we mostly drove through it instead of walking. Nice to read about it from someone else, I’m looking forward to part 2 😉
Looks like you need to revisit! 🙃
I have often had to schedule hikes way ahead to not conflict with family plans. But when we hike I just want to enjoy the trip. I hear you that you have to employ A & B to equal a perfect balance.
Have a great weekend,
Balance is the goal, but doesn’t always happen! I don’t fail until I quit trying though. 🤪 Happy weekend to you too!
I like to have a bit of planning with room for random exploration👏👏
I’ve let go of the aniexty to push for a definitive , I tend to let myself enjoy the journey more now…… 😊
It’s much more enjoyable. I look forward to going with the flow with you again somewhere in Europe!
I love hiking. Wonderful places and images.
The SAD Creative
Just read all your latest hiking adventure posts and I’m so jealous! It looks and sounds absolutely amazing. Like a dream! 😊
I wish I could rewind and do them all over again! 🤗
The SAD Creative
I can see why!
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