West Glacier National Park

  • Post last modified:August 21, 2021

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Going to the Sun road was closed! Actually only the middle section was closed. I’m just trying to get your attention! We had to spend the first day on the west side of the park and drive around the park on US Highway 2 in order to see the east side the next couple of days. Murphy’s law, traveling can be unpredictable. Be prepared to make changes on the fly! Before and during your trip, fully check out road closures, park restrictions, weather forecasts, etc. The closure showed up on the West Glacier National Park website and I didn’t notice it. Shame on me.

West Glacier National Park
Clouds and rain at Glacier National Park

West Glacier National Park

Because construction closed the middle section of the Going to the Sun road, only the first 14 miles on the west side were open. So, we drove that stretch and stopped for various views and short hikes. The weather was cool and rainy but when sightseeing outside, you just go with Mother Nature’s work! Still, the clouds, fog, and rain make a great picture as well as when it’s sunny!

West Glacier National Park
Guess I have to show a picture of the entry sign!

For new visitors, Glacier Park appeals to hikers more than many parks do. There are very few roads except for Going to the Sun road. However, there are over 700 miles of hiking trails. And, there are both grizzly and black bears in Glacier Park, so be careful! Actually, bears are not the biggest danger in Glacier Park. Since there are nearly 3000 miles of streams and over 600 scenic lakes in the park, falling into water is the biggest hazard.

Glacier Park West
West Section of Going To The Sun road

Much of West Glacier looks like the picture above. Since the elevation is lower and the climate is warmer and wetter on the west side, more trees and other vegetation exist. Since I’m focusing on scenery, here is a link to the previous post about the scenic drive getting from Coeur d’Alene to Glacier Park. As you will see in my next post, the scenery is different on the east side of the park.

Lake McDonald

Overcast, gloomy day at Lake McDonald

As I said earlier, outdoor activities are subject to whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Of course an overcast, rainy day greeted us. But, for nature lovers, you put up with whatever happens. Each type of weather brings out nature’s beauty in different ways. Above, very low hanging clouds shroud the mountains. And the heavy overcast gives the view a dark, “brooding” look. By the way, the above picture is a panorama created using Adobe Lightroom.

Glacier Park West

Another mountain around Lake McDonald shrouded in clouds. Lake McDonald is the largest lake in the park. The lake originated as the last glaciers receded. Now the lake stretches for 10 miles (16 Kilometers), about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) across and is nearly 500 feet (152 meters) deep. The surface area is 6,820 acres (27.6 square kilometers).

And if you want to see live views, click on this link for several webcams. Of course, you will see only darkness if you are looking after dark Mountain Time (GMT -7)! On the winter soltice, Glacier Park only gets slighter over 8 hours of daylight. At this writing clouds and fog block much of the view. When you click at other times, you might see sunshine! As I continue to update this post, now it’s a sunny day! And to ensure you see more detail about the lake, click on the link to Lake McDonald.

Trail of the Cedars

The Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail lie at the temporary end of the road when we visited. Actually, these are two separate trails but Avalanche Creek starts within the Trail of the Cedars. The Trail of the Cedars is a one mile round trip on nearly level ground. Avalanche Lake trail is 1.9 miles one way and gains 500 feet (152 meters) elevation. I walked the Trail of the Cedars and took the pictures above. Again, this trail veers off the Going to the Sun road at the point where Glacier Park West was cut off from the east side by road construction when we visited.

McDonald Creek

Glacier Park West

McDonald Creek feeds into and flows out of Lake McDonald in Glacier Park West. Along the creek, waterfalls and rapids occur often. The last picture in the group of three above is very similar to other rapids near this waterfall. When you’ve seen one rapids you’ve seen them all! McDonald Creek flows into the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The river then flows into the Clark Fork River and is part of the Columbia River drainage system. Click on the link to another view of McDonald Creek.

Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge, built in 1913, is a Swiss Chalet style building. Eighty-two guest rooms include the main lodge, a row of cabins, Snyder Hall and the luxurious Cobb House. The property has three eating places to curb your appetite. Other activities include bus tours, boat cruises, horseback rides, evening ranger programs, and many other things to do. For more detail, click on this link to the Lake McDonald Lodge website. There are three other places to stay in West Glacier National Park as well as more places just outside the park.

Visitor Center and information – Glacier Park West

Glacier Park West

And a link to the west entrance visitor center. The webcam output appears on monitors around the visitor center. The east side visitor center holds webcams as well. It’s great to have these views when going into the park. The Glacier National Park webcams not only show weather but also the major parking areas to know if you are likely to find a parking place.

Glacier Park Weather information

Glacier National Park weather tends to extremes. Average high temperatures range from 84 F (29 C) in July to 55 F (13 C) in October. Record lows reach below 0 F (-20 C) in October with record highs nearly 100 F (38 C) in July and August. And temperatures vary quickly in the park, especially at higher elevations. In other words, wear layers of clothes! Average snowfall reaches 137 inches (348 CM) a year. Click on this link for more detail. While it’s not typical, measurable snowfall can occur as late as early June and start again in late August. And, not to leave out winter, average highs in December are around freezing (32 F, 0 C). And all-time record low in western Montana is -70 F (-57 C).

West Glacier National Park Summary

Since the Going to the Sun road was under construction, we only saw Glacier Park West on the first day. Great views and a “fun” day. By the way, click on this link for information on driving the Going to the Sun road. The next two days will be spent on the east side. To be sure, I’m referring to East Glacier and West Glacier. It’s all one park, but with the Going to the Sun Road closed for the middle 16 miles (26 kilometers), most visitors must drive around the “bottom” of the park on US highway 2 if they want to see both sides. By the way, here is a link to my “pillar” or “cornerstone” post about the full trip.

Glacier Park West demographics

Additionally, Glacier Park is over one million acres in size, with over 175 named mountains, 762 lakes, 563 streams, over 200 named waterfalls, 25 named glaciers, and over 745 miles of maintained hiking trails. To clarify in metric, one million acres is over 4000 square kilometers. Glacier Park lies entirely in the US state of Montana. The park’s northern border is the Canadian province of Alberta and Waterton Lakes National Park. Entry into Canada from the US on the west side of the park is on US Highway 93 to Alberta Highway 93 and the border crossing is open 7/24. The eastern crossing is on US Highway 89 to Alberta Highway 6 and the border crossing is open from 7 AM to 11 PM. When traveling, check for border crossing times as they may have changed. Click on this link for more information on border crossings. And you may want to see more information on all National Parks. Here is a link.

Classic Rock Recollection

“Gotta Travel On” by Bob Dylan

Done laid around, done stayed around this old town too long
Summer’s almost gone, winter’s coming on
Done laid around, done stayed around this old town too long
And it seems like I’ve got to travel on
And it seems like I’ve got to travel on

Written by: P. Clayton, L. Ehrlich, D. Lazar, and T. Six
(Bob Dylan doesn’t record very many songs he didn’t write!)

Please let me know if you see any connection to Glacier Park West
with these song lyrics!

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