Thursday, August 5, 2021

8-mile hike to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier NP is a real world-class treat!

Many Glacier Lodge is quite the classic place to stay!

Hi all, 

I had to take a business trip to Priest Lake last week, and since I was way up in the northern tip of the state, I checked with my dear friends, Don and Sue Lewis, old room-mates from the U of Montana, to see if they might be open to a visit at their beautiful home in Whitefish, MT. And lucky for me, they invited me to come. 

Whitefish is about a 3.5-hour drive from Sandpoint, so that was a piece of cake. Don and I used to do a ton of skiing, backpacking, peak-bagging, river trips, biking trips and all kinds of camping in college. And you know what? He hasn't changed a bit, and neither have I!!! Ha! 

Balcony view from the Many Glacier Lodge. Just a light smoky haze.

So Don being Don, he dished up an awesome itinerary for a couple days of non-stop fun! We did a 25-mile bike ride last Thursday from the top of the Blacktail Ski Area to one of his favorite brew pubs in Kalispell. They call it Foys to Blacktail on the mountain bike sites, riding from town up to the ski hill, which would be a REALLY tough ride. We rode it from the top to the bottom, but the middle part of the ride scaled up and down a very long high-elevation ridge, which reminded me of the Bear Pete Trail in McCall. You'd need to do that Blacktail to Foys ride with a local to make sure you don't get lost, but I'd highly recommend it ... took us about 4 hours or so to complete the ride with Don's friend, Dow, and his daughter, Emily. Big fun! 

Map courtesy National Park Service.

On Day 2, we did a major day trip to the east side of Glacier National Park to hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail in the Many Glacier area. It's a gorgeous hike, and I'd highly recommend it! Just know that you'll be hiking with lots of other folks unless you do the hike in the off-season. The hike was about 8 miles round-trip, featuring a steady climb of 2,500 vertical feet on a very well-maintained hiking trail to a great lunch spot next to Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Glacier Lake. 

Boat shuttle is a great way to cut off a few miles of the hike. 

We took the boat shuttle from Many Glacier Lodge across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine to shave three miles off the hike. Highly recommend the boat ride. Very scenic and beautiful. 

Don reserved the 11 a.m. boat ride for us in advance. Because of bear activity, the trail to lower Grinnell Lake was closed, as was the trail to Redrock Lake. So that focused most of the humans on the Grinnell Glacier Trail. 

We packed bear spray with us, but it was hard to get too concerned about grizzly bears with that many people on the trail! There was a steady stream of people coming down the trail while we hiked up to the glacier. It's a gorgeous trail with sweet views in all directions along the way. I often marveled at the bright emerald-green Grinnell Lake shining in the afternoon sunshine as I walked up and down the trail. I was mainly looking for a griz down there, but never saw one.

Sue Lewis enjoys the cool shower provided by a waterfall on the trail.

About half way to the glacier, there was a great waterfall pouring over the top of the trail. It felt super cool to get a shower of cold water in the heat of the afternoon.

The trail is very well-engineered, climbing along the right wall of the canyon at a very consistent uphill pitch until you top over the ridge to Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake. Just being next to the mostly frozen lake brought a chill to my spine. And I was ready to eat my lunch!

Bighorn ram did not let the tourists get in the way of his afternoon snacks.

As we were walking over to find a place to sit down for lunch, a giant bighorn ram came by me while it was grazing on some leavy bushes in the area. That ram had no fear of humans; it was amazingly aloof! I must have been only 2-3 feet from him at one point ... he brought his head up, with his giant rack, and looked at me with its big yellow eyes. I did not take a picture at that point, or he might have lowered his head and charged, sending me flying! I backed up a bit to keep a safe distance and marveled at that guy's regal beauty! Nothing like tons of tourists to turn a bighorn ram into a savvy streetwise critter that doesn't let the people get in the way of his afternoon meal. 

Grinnell Lake.

It took us something like 4.5 hours to do the hike, and then we returned to Lake Josephine to catch our evening boat shuttle back to the Many Glacier Hotel at 5:15. We had some time to burn, so we took a swim in the cold waters of Josephine Lake and sat in single file to form a line of sorts for the evening boat shuttle. There were at least 100 people waiting. The first boat filled up pretty quick, and we were lucky to jump aboard the second boat. 

A welcome sight ... the shuttle boat comes to pick up tired and dusty hikers at the end of the day.

And then we drove back to Whitefish via the Going to the Sun Highway. A road construction project left us stuck on the park exit road from Many Glacier Lodge for almost 45 minutes, so that sucked. Luckily, Don had packed a cooler of beers for us to sip on our way home. We finally got back to their place in Whitefish at about 10 p.m.; we left at 5:30 a.m. Big day! All worth it for sure! 

A trip to Many Glacier in the slack season in the fall might be just the ticket!
- SS

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