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A Photographic Exploration of Glacier National Park

Billy is a hiking and outdoors enthusiast. He is also the Owner of Ravenshire Creations and host of the YouTube channel Gecko's Trails.

Glaciers through the pines

Glaciers through the pines

A Great Vacation Traveling to Glacier National Park

My wife, Michelle, took a travel nursing assignment at a hospital in Billings, Montana, so that our family could visit some of the most beautiful places in the United States. We were able to visit Yellowstone National Park with our two teenage girls, Kieran and Dorthea, but they eventually had to go back to Texas for the start of band/color guard camp.

The next time my wife had a long weekend off, we decided to go see Glacier National Park by ourselves. We packed up our minivan and made the drive across Montana to the park. We drove west on I-90 through Bozeman then turned north on I-15 and went up through Helena. Just past Wolf Creek, we turned onto Highway 287 and kept driving north all the way to Choteau and hopped onto Highway 89. We kept driving north until we reached St. Mary, where we entered the park.

History of the Park

The area that is now the park was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before it came under the control of the United States and the National Park Service. Upon European arrival to the continent, the Blackfeet inhabited the eastern parts of the park and the Flathead resided in the western regions. The area is currently still home to the Blackfoot Native American tribe—their reservation is located just east of the park—and they call the St. Mary Lake "the Backbone of the World."

The park is often referred to as the Crown of the Continent for its impressive mountain ranges, lakes, hundreds of animal species, and its over 1,000 species of plants. It was named a national park on May 11, 1910, the country's tenth designated park. As of 2021, it is the tenth most visited National Park with just over three million annual visitors.

Billings, Montana, to Glacier National Park

It takes about six hours to drive from Billings, Montana, to Glacier National Park. Billings is located in the southern, more central portion of the state, while the park is up north, right at the Canadian border.

Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road

From the town of St. Mary, we entered the park. We stopped at the Visitor's Center and learned a lot of interesting information about the park, the mountain range, and the glaciers. We also learned about some of the local history and more about the wildlife found in the park.

When we left the Visitor's Center, we traveled west on the Going-to-the-Sun Road through the park. The first attraction we drove past was St. Mary Lake.

St. Mary Lake

The lake is ten miles long and what you can spot along its shorelines depends on the season you're visiting during. During the fall, the mountainsides burst with orange and yellow leaves on the aspen trees, and during the spring and summer, there is ample lupine grace and Indian paintbrush plants to gaze upon. During the winter, visitors can spend their time snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Pay attention to wildlife you may spot along the lake as well; there are elk, mule deer, and both grizzly and black bears in the area.

Back to the Drive . . .

For many miles, we climbed in elevation, all the while navigating switchbacks and tunnels until we made it to the Logan Pass Visitor's Center. The views were absolutely stunning even though there was a lot of haze from forest fires in the region. There were plenty of pullouts to park on, flowers, roadside waterfalls, and wildlife to see such as marmots, ground squirrels, mountain goats, and deer.

Saying Goodbye to Glacier National Park

We made it down out of Logan Pass and drove our way past Lake McDonald. Eventually, we ended up out of the park in Kalispell, where we spent the night at the Red Lion Hotel downtown. It was a very beautiful hotel.

When we left the next morning, we got to see how smoky it really gets when there are forest fires in the region. While driving out of Kalispell back to Billings, Montana, the smoke was so thick you could barely make out the vehicle driving in front of you. All in all, though, our trip to Glacier National Park was absolutely amazing and I can't wait to go back to explore the rest of the park.

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© 2019 Billy W Mitchell